At 12:18 PM 9/18/2003, Matt Pobursky wrote:
I'm a reasonably smart guy having many years (20+) of experience with
engineering software in general.

With similar experience or more, I find that I don't learn nearly as quickly as I did when I was younger.

 I figured more like 1-2 months to come
up to speed on DXP and become anywhere near as efficient as I am with
99SE (primary rule of engineering management: engineers are eternal
optimists when it comes to time estimates! ;-)).

I very much doubt that DXP will take that much time to learn. I used it, just a little, in Beta. Sure, there were some different things. But if you have the DXP list to fall back on, I'd incline to Mr. Wilson's estimate of a few days. And those would not be unproductive days, just slowed down.

I presume you have someone paying for your "seat time", i.e. you have
an employer that's issuing a paycheck whether your jobs are completed
or not and also continues to pay you while you are "going up the
learning curve" with new software.

That's an assumption that I don't think is true for Mr. Wilson.

 I'm an independent contractor and I
don't get paid unless the job gets done, so any time I spend learning
new software and struggling with a learning curve are "on my dime".
This is a significant cost to me -- a week of "learning time" costs me
~$3000 in billable work. There has to be an awful lot of productivity
increase in DXP vs. 99SE to make it a paying proposition for me.

The math seems good but is probably misleading. If you are working full-time, day-in and day-out, you are either (1) seriously overworked and should probably be thinking about finding someone to do your Protel design for you, it can be done and done well by an expert engineer for less than your hour rate -- or (2) you don't really work full-time on design, it just seems that way.

One thing that is quite true which is brought out by this post: training time is usually a more serious cost than the actual cost of the software. However, Protel 99SE is ultimately a dead end. It's a very useful tool that has not reached the end of its life, but DXP will be the future of the tool, or whatever replaces DXP.

Bottom line, if you are going to stay in this business, you are going to need to adjust to newer tools anyway. So your cost-benefit analysis was not complete. The real question is whether you retrain now or later.

It is a separate question when you choose to upgrade. The smart time to upgrade with Protel is when the price of the upgrade seems like it will be the lowest. Usually this is early in the product cycle. Rarely Protel has held an upgrade special, for example the P98 upgrade to P99 was $1000 at the beginning, but was sold for $700 on special for a short time. However, Protel never held an upgrade special for P99SE to DXP and the price has now gone up to $2495. Let me guess it is not going to go down.

However, if you aren't going to use it, there is no sense buying it immediately. Rather, wait until Protel announces that the price is going up. They've always done this with plenty of notice, as they did this time. Then buy it even if you aren't ready to retrain.

On the other hand, an argument could be made that you should just upgrade at first release of the new version, but I won't go into the reasons....

You've got to think of the upgrade price as Protel's equivalent to maintenance. It is, you know. And as such, it tends to be among the lowest maintenance prices in the industry. P99SE to DXP was announced at $1995, and that was after almost three years of support without charge.

Once you have the tool, you will find an appropriate time to retrain.

I upgraded to P99 at the $700 price. But I did not start using it until the SE release, which removed many of my inhibitions. For example, P99 used only the DDB system, you couldn't use the old so-called Windows File System. I didn't like the DDB idea, it seemed like too much trouble and definitely too hazardous.

But once I was using 99SE, I quickly abandoned my old habits and ended up using the DDB system exclusively. A small bit of trouble sometimes and much help most of the time.... Protel has done this a number of times, dragging users into the future kicking and screaming. I've lobbied for better communication. Sometimes they goof, as do we all. Remarkably, however, they've been known to backtrack and reverse decisions, such as the ATS fiasco.

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