Posted on 12/6/2012 2:27 PM by AnnMarie

By Molly Klimas for Configura

The role of the designer at office furniture dealerships is changing, no question -- that’s the consensus of the 130 industry leaders and attendees at the 5th annual CET Designer User Conference, held in Las Vegas in October.

“The designer is spending more time with the client up front, as opposed to behind the scenes handling technical specifications,” says Designer/Trainer Cate Sword of Michigan-based Cate Sword Consulting + Design.

Software such as Configura’s CET Designer is facilitating this natural and inevitable evolution of the designer/specifier/salesperson role.

Canfield, a Haworth dealer based in South Dakota, has a hybrid model in which designers and salespersons are one in the same.

“Our designers are cross-functional and client-facing, in day-to-day dialogue with clients,” says Steve Schwartz, chief operating officer of Canfield, who facilitated an audience discussion on process change during the user conference. “Software is helping the industry to adjust to changing roles -- and be strategic about it.”

Schwartz admits that when his dealership first signed on with CET Designer, the solution wasn’t readily embraced internally -- for reasons ranging from people being set in their ways and roles, to some early technical issues with the software, which have since been resolved. The company and its designers also weren’t sure of the software’s capabilities.

“We struggled with ‘is this a spec tool or a rendering tool?’ -- of course, now we know it’s all of the above,” Schwarz says.

2011 was a turning point for how Canfield used CET Designer. More importantly, the software became a catalyst for changes in business processes at the dealership.

 Canfield designer Tammy Christopherson, a conference presenter, says she uses CET Designer from beginning of a project until its completion, including to collaborate with the A&D firm that may be involved and/or the end customer.

“I can quickly produce a number of options, budgets and renderings for customers,” she says. “I can email them files, discuss online and even work onsite with them. The design-development phase goes much quicker. Decisions are easier.”

This was exactly Configura CEO Johan Lyreborn’s intent when he, along with two others, founded the company in 1990 in Sweden.

“It’s about simplifying complex selling processes. And simplifying means changing,” Lyreborn says. “Companies must decide how they want to position themselves to deliver service. When companies have figured this out, they need to identify processes so they can deliver service in an efficient and appropriate way. When processes are identified and decided on, it’s time to look for the software that is needed to support the processes.”

Jason Lund, IT director for Minnesota-based Target Commercial Interiors, said it’s about using the right tool for the job. Those who remain rooted in an old tool may find themselves becoming obsolete, he said.

“One of the challenges with platform change is you have some components that may or may not be better [than the old way], but the aggregate is better,” Schwartz says.

View videos and PowerPoint presentations of user conference sessions on Configura’s post-user-conference website at www.configura.com/userconference/2012.