What is our primary use case?
I create Windward templates for the Otis Elevator company. These templates are for complicated specifications and proposal documents that our sales reps use for selling elevators. The end result of these Windward templates are documents that perfectly fit the concept of "putting your right foot forward."
Our primary use is for the sales reps to build these documents, based upon XML files created in the background on our document server. Our secondary use is for the public to be able to generate elevator specifications from Otis.com.
How has it helped my organization?
We used another process for doing this, previous to Windward that was absolutely terrible and support was practically non-existent. The documents used by our sales force are critical and examined very closely by our customers. They need to foster confidence in our product and company.
Previously, our reps had to spend a lot of time tweaking/fixing an imperfect document and fussing with nested tables. Thanks to Windward, our documents need very few tweaks and are usually "customer-ready" right out of the box. Most of the tweaks are only to make the documents unique to an office.
What is most valuable?
One of the valuable features is Functions, which helps make it possible to generate grammatically correct sentences from XML data.
The quick preview is another useful feature. Our previous system required a sever upload before changes could be previewed.
With Windward, we are able to build tables where elevator floors are represented "right-side-up," with the first floor being at the bottom of the table and the highest floor, being at the top. This reverse sequence of rows is something our previous software company said was impossible. Because of this, our reps were forced to rearrange the word tables, themselves.
What needs improvement?
I do coding, so I often think that it would be nice to have subroutines, in separate templates, that could be shared among other templates. However, I understand the limitations of Word Field codes.
I have to deal with VERY long lists of properties contained in our XMLs and it would be nice if Windward offered a way to alphabetize this property list. I understand that we could alphabetize our XML and this would happen automatically, but I think this would be a useful tweak for many users. At least if they have to deal with a lot of data like we do.
For how long have I used the solution?
We have been using Windward Studios for three years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
I consider it to be very stable. I have had a few issues in other places because of the fact that we are using a 64-bit operating system, but still using a 32-bit version of Microsoft Office. The Windward team informed me that this is responsible for infrequent Word crashes that occur while building Windward templates. However, these crashes are only a minor nuisance.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
Our elevator specs and proposals are very complicated documents; however, I have barely used the full spectrum of what Windward offers. I've got some ideas for using Windward to assist in generating some of my training PowerPoints.
How are customer service and technical support?
Windward product support is very good and the response time is excellent! Normally, I'll get an email response, with a solution, within an hour or the end of the day at the latest. I like to send detailed emails explaining my problem and they return with very thorough answers, even suggesting alternative solutions.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We used another solution prior to this one, and it had almost no tech support. Font styles, sizes, and paragraph spacing would change, for no apparent reason. Sometimes, the field codes would appear, instead of the data that they were supposed to bring in.
How was the initial setup?
The utilization of Windward was very straightforward and I had a very good relationship with a few of the Windward support staff. Any complexity was purely a result from our end, as might be imagined when considering that I'm just the North American counterpart and all of this has to be coordinated with many servers across different countries.
What about the implementation team?
It was a little of both. In-house, the offshore team had to make sure that the location where the templates would be uploaded allowed proper connection to the latest XMLs and that the Windward templates could be discerned from the older, non-Windward, templates.
The vendor team was the Windward support team, itself. This started out with a combination of teleconferences/NetMeetings and evolved into my asking questions, via email. Most of my questions were answered within an hour.
What was our ROI?
This would be hard to put a number on. Our Proposal and Specification documents, generated by Windward templates, are right on the front-line of sales, making them critical documents that will either give a good or bad impression of the Otis Elevator Company. Just about anything that makes this process run better is worth significant investment.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
I created a VBA version that would build Excel spreadsheets, formatted so that PDFs could be created that looked identical to what might have been created in our old software. However, many users needed to have Word-formatted versions of these documents.
What other advice do I have?
This was purchased by those higher up the food chain than myself. However, the Windward process works very well and is very reliable. There is a learning curve, but it's not too bad, especially considering all that it does.
There are plenty of tutorials, but nothing teaches better than actually creating documents and getting feedback from the users. Nearly all of the problems I have encountered were solved quickly and were the result of me doing something wrong, rather than a problem with Windward.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?
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