Bubbles, Loners and Slaves
“It’s all about training!”
Professor Topo here for my first blog of 2018–ok, ever–I’d like to start with some thoughts on support and the relationship we form with our customers. From the beginning we realized that to be successful we would need a different approach to training. The old model of scheduling annual training at considerable cost is no longer valid. Training has to be continuous, personal and always available. Today the TopoDOT team spends some portion of every day responding to specific questions about tools, techniques and workflows. Truth be told, we enjoy helping our customers. Moreover we learn a lot from them. Their challenges become our challenges and we work on a solution together. That’s just one reason why TopoDOT is so damn good!
Yet despite our dedication and unique online support program, I am continuously amazed how often customers don’t exploit this service. Time and time again, we find customers who have struggled for days, weeks, months even years with sub-optimal productivity; when a simple 45 minute online session would have dramatically increased their efficiency. Over the years, I’ve found the reasons for this are several and can be roughly categorized as follows:
The Bubble Tech
This technician learns the basic skills needed to extract the CAD product required at the time of his training. From that time forward, his head goes down and rarely looks up again. Retreating into a bubble, the same basic tools are applied the same way over and over again. That works just fine until the situation changes and new types of data and/or CAD products are required. The tech in the bubble applies the familiar tools and methods to every situation oblivious to unknown buttons, workflows and new TopoDOT developments. The TopoDOT team is not far away–virtually–and we’d be thrilled to hear from him or her. But the Bubble Tech never calls.
We can’t always be too hard on the Bubble Techs because often they don’t have a relationship with the TopoDOT team. This typically happens when a person trained by the team in turn trains others. Say the supervisor learns TopoDOT and trains his team. These new TopoDOT users may in turn train others. Now each of these techs may be very talented, but the training is “watered” down at each level. Often the original trainee moves on and what’s left are the “loners” with no direct connection to the TopoDOT support team. They view calling any tech support with the same enthusiasm as going to the dentist. Thus they muddle their way through as best they can unaware that a friendly, knowledgeable voice is just minutes away.
The Schedule Slave
This is in essence a management problem. The Schedule Slave is continuously given assignments and expected to produce according to a schedule based on past performance. Production makes money, so continuous production maximizes revenue–but does it really? The continuous deadlines based on the Schedule Slaves current capability allow little or no time for continued learning or creativity. The typical result is that workflows, knowledge and the level of productivity stagnate. Moreover the Schedule Slave hesitates to contact the TopoDOT support team. Will his manager understand his spending two hours with us trying to improve his productivity? Of course in his mind there’s no guarantee that he can make up the time with new tools or methods as he immediately risks falling behind a tight schedule. It’s just not worth it to him–he can’t get in trouble for doing what he was told to do.
A short anecdotal story will serve to illustrate my point. I noticed the TopoDOT usage of a local survey/mapping customer was very much below the average for supporting their type of equipment. We invited the customer’s processing team across town to our office for a visit. I’d say these were a group Bubble Loners. They were trained by a person whom we trained several years ago. They didn’t know us personally and simply applied a few tools to their processing in the same way over and over again. Automated road extraction has long been a TopoDOT strength. They had never seen it. Upon demonstrating a 30 second road surface extraction, they remarked that the same amount of work would have taken them 3 days using their current approach. So management just kept assigning them projects to do the same way over and over—slaves to the schedules they could never seem to meet. .
I’d hope that no one takes offense to my characterization of these challenges. For the most part they are quite understandable. My intent is to help our customers become aware of the excellent training services at their disposal and how they might exploit them to improve their productivity and increase their revenue. Fortunately the majority of TopoDOT users make full use of our training and support resources. It is no coincidence that these very successful customers have seemingly constant lines of communication with the TopoDOT team. Model extraction taking too long? We share their screens, see what they are doing and often in 20 minutes or so show them a more productive technique, a new tool or reinforce that they are doing it correctly. A difficult data set? New type of deliverable? Just send us a sample and we’ll make a video of the best way to tackle the problem. Got an entirely new application? We typically develop and turn around new tools in a day or two.
Finally in addition to these services, there is the annual TopoDOT User Conference or “TUC”. TUC 18 will be our third conference held May 7-10 at the Rosen College campus in Orlando, FL. The TUC technical and management training programs featuring state-of-the-art facilities are unique in the industry. Hundreds of attendees representing DOTs, utilities, engineering, construction and survey/mapping companies from around the world increase their business and technical performance in this rapidly emerging technology. The ability to network with industry leaders, exchanging ideas, experience and knowledge is unrivaled. Once again, we consistently find that our most successful customers invest in a big presence at TUC. Above all, we take great pride when some attendees who might fit into one of the aforementioned categories leave TUC with confidence in their abilities, a relationship with us and a dramatically higher level of skill and productivity. So if you can attend, we’d be thrilled. For those who can’t, don’t despair. We’re never more than an online video conference away.
Or Call Dawn, Fabian or Jenn on US +1 407 248 0160
In the UK? Call Elaine on +44 7825 517 850 or email firstname.lastname@example.org