Many Microsoft customers think training costs are too high, few courses are relevant with users forced to pay for training out of their own pocket, according to a survey for the vendor's $1800-a-head TechEd developer conference on the Gold Coast last week.
Market researcher Impact Communications surveyed 50 Microsoft developers and the results, a copy of which Computerworld has obtained, shows widespread dissatisfaction with training, and customers' rating the usefulness of vendor offerings to user groups.
Asked what was "the main barrier to undertaking further training to enhance your skills," 43.3 percent of respondents named cost, with the next most important factor being time, which stopped 30 percent of users.
Some 40 percent of respondents said they paid their own way, while employers paid for 43.3 percent.
Only 20 percent of respondents said they go to vendors for training. Users, it seems, prefer peer input in the form of an "industry association or user group" which, according to respondents, accounted for 30 percent of all training in the past year, with universities providing 20 percent and TAFE and colleges 10 percent.
The results are no surprise to those at TechEd this year. Darwin-based Wayne Smith, system administrator for Charles Darwin University, said conferences are as much about forging network connections on like interests as the vendor's technical sessions.
"Up in Darwin you don't get to speak to a lot of fresh faces," Smith said, adding he found sharing experiences and knowledge with other users the main benefit of TechEd.
However, Smith said that he found this year's conference somewhat lacking in facilities for users to meet informally to network after sessions.
"There's not really any forum to get together," he said. Nonetheless, Smith referred to TechEd as "a bargain because of the range of people you can speak to", adding his (university) employer had paid around $1000 for attendance, rather than the $1800 asking price.
Others are less generous. Guy Griffin, IT manager for Waverly Council (NSW) did not go to TechEd, but has strong feelings on training nonetheless.
Griffin said product or systems trainers should be vendor-neutral and that he would rather send staff to learn from a systems integrator about products.
"We do very little vendor training. I guess most of the vendor training is done by the vendors to create awareness of their products," Griffin said.
Barry Dinham, information services manager at Hawkesbury City Council (NSW), said the main reason the council will not consider vendor training is the expense. Dinham said only as a last resort would he consider sending staff on vendor-sponsored, product-specific training and would consider TAFE a better option for study.
"We encourage staff, especially those without a diploma or a degree, to go to TAFE and we will either pay for or contribute to that cost ... a semester course, in the long run, is more beneficial than an expensive, one-day course with eight people attending.
Technical marketing manager for Microsoft Australia, Ben English, said TechEd prices were "extremely competitive and affordable" and that people chose to attend "based on value not cost".
(With Julian Bajkowski.)