Can you afford a free software evaluation? (Part 1)

You’re in the market for a new car. Wait, not just a car… you want a luxury automobile. Yep, you’ve done well for yourself. Time to step up to that BMW or Mercedes. You’re in luck, the telephone rings and a luxury automobile salesman just happens to be calling!

“Hello Mr. Smith. This is Rodney McFly with Diamond BMW here in Clearwater… I was wondering if you’ve ever considered making an investment in a quality motor vehicle.”

“Actually, yes. I have just decided it’s about time I step up”, you say.

“That’s great news, Mr. Smith. I have a fully loaded 760Li for $125k that will be perfect for you… I’ll personally deliver it after lunch and you can sign the contract”, says McFly.

“Hold on a second, partner, I’m going to need to test drive it first.”

Right? Right? Of course. If you are buying any car, you will take it for a test drive- be it a brand new Bentley or beater ’85 Buick. I’ve been on both sides of the CAE sales fence in the last decade. As a green General Motors youngster, I damn well demanded free software evaluations. The vendors always tried to resist… which immediately made me question the quality of their products and the sincerity of their salespeople. If they pushed me too far, I’d  show them the door and say, “I wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it… so I’m certainly not buying your CFD software without trying it first.”

Karma sure is a ruthless beast…  

After hopping the fence to the vendor side of things, I had to listen to this automobile analogy thousands of times from equally frustrated prospects. Just like the younger me, they were always certain that a free trial license was essential in selecting CAE tools. Further, they tended to paint me with the “dirty salesguy” brush when I pushed back.

Full disclosure: no CAE salesguy wants you to take a test drive. He wants to get your order on the books… today! Now that this dirty little sales secret has been completely exposed, let’s take a closer look at the implications of free evaluations. Forget about why they are bad for the vendor. CAE software trials are usually bad for you.

There are lots of cases where trials and evaluations make sense. Certainly buying a car in North America qualifies- because anyone over the age of 18 has already mastered 90% of the driving skills they’ll ever have. If you drive to work everyday, you are already an expert at automobile operation and civil transportation law. You might not be the top expert out there, but you certainly qualify as reasonably expert when compared to any non-driver.

You can hop into pretty much any vehicle and make it from A to B without much heavy mental lifting. Right? What about a motorcycle? Tractor trailer? 15 ton earth mover? Airplane? It is likely that you aren’t yet qualified to test drive at least one of those modes of transportation. Could you get there? Of course. You might even have the cash and need to make an investment. But, a test drive probably won’t be highly weighted in your selection process.

If I wanted to get really boring, I could probably construct one of those famous, very studious looking quadrant graphs to show groups of products that should (and should not) be chosen through test drives. It would include factors such as effort (ie, human investment) required to evaluate, time lost evaluating, solution ROI, and benefit magnitude. Ouch, I have a headache already… Let’s hold off on those details for the moment. For now, just open yourself to the idea that free test drives are not always appropriate or even useful. In fact, over the course of this 3 part series, I hope to help you understand that they often cost you more than they are worth.

Read on:
Part 2 | Part 3



  1. […] Click here to read “part 1″ of this article. Click here a look ahead at some actual cost calculations in “part 3″… […]