STEM newsletter

FREE trial linked to STEM client survey

30 April 2009

Prospective customers completing the survey now will be entitled to a FREE, one-month trial evaluation.

The STEM newsletters for October 2008 and January 2009 were shelved due to overwhelming project commitments (the best of ‘operational reasons’). In their place, we conducted some primary market research on STEM, Excel and other modelling tools, and how these products relate to our clients’ work on a daily basis. The feedback is summarised below, and will directly inform our future product strategy, as part of our ongoing commitment to continually improve the functionality of STEM and its integration with other tools.

The shape of the survey

We asked a few questions about the nature of our clients’ work, and the modelling tools that they use on a regular basis. Current users of STEM were asked some additional questions exploring their views on our software and support services. Finally, we invited comment on the STEM newsletter and related pages on our Web site.

Summary of responses

Here is a headline summary of responses to date:

  • No one is modelling anywhere near full time; but STEM was cited as the main tool by 80% of respondents…
  • …which is perhaps why the ability to create models quickly is the top priority.
  • STEM’s light, manageable format, is clearly a benefit (avoids Excel ‘bloat’), but the current tight integration with Excel remains a vital capability and may be improved.
  • Transparency and transferability to colleagues are key issues which should be addressed (partly by increasing awareness of existing functionality, partly through innovation).
  • Only a minority see STEM as essential to achieving deadlines; probably because the headline saving/efficiency is undermined by not using the software every day.
  • Cost is a barrier except where the benefits of the tool directly facilitate a business solution.
  • However, a majority believe that five or more colleagues could benefit from STEM, especially if the known issues were addressed.
  • Demonstration of a new tool is twice as popular as ‘just trying it’.

There is universal demand for more case studies, as a constant stream of current material is necessary to demonstrate relevance to newcomers.

Provisional conclusions

Our initial conclusions from the above points are as follows:

  • STEM’s consistent, pre-validated modelling approach, with results available out-of-the-box, is an attractive proposition and time-saving and confidence-building in practice.
  • This core proposition is not always readily understood or exploited to its full potential, and a major spring-clean of existing functionality and review of the user experience is now underway to create a more compelling solution to the regular problems experienced with Excel.
  • A specialist tool like STEM won’t sell by itself; punchy technical demos which illustrate real user benefits will continue to be key ingredients of success.

To differentiate a future STEM from its present implementation, the new offering would combine a (potentially free) desktop application with access by subscription to a hosted solution, including IM-access to support as part of the value add. A range of interactive model micro-sites and pre-recorded demos would be available to encourage self-service evaluation and better viral marketing. We remain committed to a vision of better working practice than the current, familiar ‘spaghetti code’ in Excel.

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