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Needed: Training — Lack of Training Biggest Hindrance to Software Success

By: Randy Collins
President of The Strategies Group

In an industry crazed with training, certifications and continuing education, contractors often fall short with regard to internal processes, including software. Contracting firms may be good at allocating dollars to maintain professional licenses or keeping up with the latest OSHA requirements, but they often overlook the need to train accounting and estimating personnel. The software these professionals use can easily be considered the backbone of a contractor’s business. By realizing the importance of training these employees and by understanding how to implement an appropriate training program, firm owners can reap the rewards of more effective employees and a more profitable bottom line.


One of the biggest mistakes owners make is not providing adequate training for accounting, estimating or CAD software systems. This lack of training often occurs due to misconceptions about the software. For instance, many people mistakenly believe training isn’t necessary to operate the software. Approximately 30 percent of the companies evaluating software ask if training on a new system is an option. The answer is (and always should be) a resounding “No!” Buying a software package that is vital for business operations and not investing in initial training is like buying a new airplane without taking flying lessons. It looks good sitting on the runway, but it will never get from point A to point B without someone trained to fly it.

Some companies may train employees when a new software system is installed but fail to train new employees when turnover occurs, believing that current employees can adequately train new hires. While this appears to be a frugal option, it most often fails. The people who are originally trained in the software may only remember 70 percent of its functions. These current employees train new users based on what they remember about the program, and over time, many of the software’s functions and features get lost and unused.

Similarly, contracting firms often provide initial training when the software is installed but then offer no new training on the latest features in the new version. Again, in this situation, the user is not operating the software to its full potential and is not entirely effective. However, if contractors realized the dollars they miss due to inadequate training, they would soon realize that training easily pays for itself.


Though a training class can seem expensive, when compared to the amount that can be saved by increased efficiency, the cost is negligible. For example, consider the case of an estimator who has received inadequate training for his estimating software. If this estimator’s salary is $80,000 per year, by the time benefits are included, the company may be spending close to $100,000 per year on this employee. At 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, the estimator earns approximately $50 per hour.

If the estimator attends a $400 training class, he can increase his efficiency by a conservative estimate of 20 percent. The company gains roughly 300 hours – or $15,000 — of his time throughout the year. Plus, the estimator can use his extra time throughout the year to work on culling new business for the firm. The cost of the class quickly pays for itself.

When the numbers are considered, training becomes a no-brainer. And once firm owners make a commitment to providing adequate software training, they must also be able to implement an effective training program. To get the most out of a training program, firm owners need to ask the following questions:

  • When should I provide training for my staff?
  • Who should provide the training?
  • How should the training be delivered?
  • How much training is necessary?


Initial training for staff should always be performed as close to the “go live” date as possible. Training completed too early in the implementation process will be forgotten by staff members who must keep the company’s current system running while implementing the new and improved solution.

A firm that knows not only the software, but also the challenges of the specific industry, will be the best training provider. Training that involves only an explanation of which buttons to push without an understanding of why they are being pushed has proved very limited in its success. In other words, look for a training service provider who has experience with the construction industry. If the training source doesn’t understand how you do business, this provider won’t be able to help you use your software to its full potential.

Training can be delivered in several different ways. Not every method of delivery is right for every training need. The least expensive method is remote, Web-based training. This training is valuable when a small amount of information needs to be delivered to the end-user. For example, training on a specific task or new feature is tailor-made for this method. However, this method becomes tedious when large groups need to learn an entirely new office automation tool. Attention spans wane when Web content is delivered in more than two-hour increments.

The next most cost-effective method of training is classroom-style training. This method gives students hands- on experience during the session, as well as the ability to interact with others learning the same thing. Classroom training is usually a fairly effective way to communicate basic concepts to the end-user.

The most expensive method of training is on-site training, which consists of an instructor dedicated to training your staff at your location. This method is more complex to deliver and often results in higher costs.

The obvious benefits are individual attention to your staff and the ability to use your data, both of which increase retention of the concepts taught. New software implementations should employ a variety of these techniques to maximize your training investment.


The necessary amount of training ranges dramatically, depending on the type of system purchased and the ability of the staff to grasp the concepts being taught. The best way to plan for this expense is to prepare a training plan jointly with the software provider. This training plan should take into consideration the staff’s knowledge of basic industry concepts and willingness to learn new concepts, location of classroom training and costs associated with travel, cycle time of the implementation (can the “go live” date be altered to allow on-site training with converted data?), and the company’s computing and training space, if on-site training is necessary. With this plan in place, training budgets should be fairly accurate.


As contracting firms plan for software-training programs, it is vital that they partner with service providers who are interested in a long-term relationship. In order to manage the long-term needs of the client, many innovative service providers are allowing companies to register a position, not a person, for the company’s training needs. For example, if the controller leaves the company, the new controller may receive training free. This type of plan allows contracting firms to have easy and economical access to training through- out the life of the software.

Firm owners must realize that purchasing software is just the beginning of the financial commitment to its use. When making such a critical investment, it is simply foolish to think it’s a one-time purchase without any ongoing investment. Firms should budget for software training when preparing annual budgets and then follow through by providing the appropriate training – training that will help them become the most effective employees that they can be.


Founded in Charleston, S.C., in 1984, Strategies Group is the Southeast’s leading provider of software and hardware business solutions for the construction, real estate and A/E industries. Their partnering approach allows them to implement solutions that increase efficiency and maximize profitability for customers. Strategies Group has partnered with industry-leading software and hardware providers to offer a suite of solutions to accomplish this goal as efficiently as possible. With more than 20 years of experience and 1,200 active clients, Strategies Group offers some of the top-name products in the industry, including Timberline Office, Field2base, Equential, Event1 and Axium’s Ajera.

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