The balance between training and documentation depends on context, scope, and value, for both the supplier and the user base.
Eventually, though, these two efforts begin overlapping more and more (Figure 1). The documentation starts to evolve from functional description to application tasks, and the training migrates to smaller and more focused task flows and delivery vehicles.
At this point, are we talking about training or documentation? Part of the product, or an add-on? End-users don't really care, since all they want is an answer to their immediate need to know, so they can continue with the rest of the job. However, EDA companies do care, since we somehow have to realize an ROI for the effort we invest in our products, training, documentation, and their support.
Evolution of training and documentation
From a product perspective, I think that the answer depends a lot on market dynamics. For new products, extensive training may be a necessary investment in the adoption of the product. If a product implements a new application or functional area, the documentation needs a rich set of examples, and training is probably a necessity.
For a mature and widely-adopted product, where many users are already familiar with the fundamentals of the functionality, the customer will likely do some or all of the training themselves. Still, customers can only teach what they know, so it is important to offer additional training when new or enhanced functionality is introduced.
However, in these days of cost-cutting, even that level of self-training may not happen, and we have to find other ways of reaching our end-users to ensure that they can make the best use of all the educational avenues to which they have access.
In this case, it may be appropriate to analyze your users' typical knowledge base, and provide a range of compact instructional content targeting specific functionalities that can enhance productivity and usage of the tool.
This analysis could be as casual as talking to your users about the problems they encounter most frequently, or as formal as analyzing your technical support requests and responses to identify topics and measure results.
In the end, the balance between training and documentation depends on context, scope, and value, for both the supplier and the user base.
— Joe Davis is director of product marketing for Calibre interfaces at Mentor Graphics. His career in IC engineering, consulting, and management spans over 20 years.Prior to joining Mentor, Davis managed the yield simulation products at PDF Solutions, and directed yield ramp projects at leading semiconductor fabs around the world.