New office technology is useless if you don't know how to use it. Here are my tips for getting more from your investment:

Training is not a onetime event. Most users don't learn software without using it often. Even after a day-long training marathon, your staff won't remember every button, menu, and function if they only use the program once a month. Your training dollars are better spent on periodic mini-sessions that address specific issues.

First things first. Make sure your staff is familiar with the basics before you buy advanced training. Send remedial users to introductory Windows classes before the real training starts.

Do your homework. In-person live training is expensive. Make sure every minute counts. Compile and submit your users' questions to the trainer well before the session. Review the training materials so you can suggest changes to the program. You don't want to pay a trainer to cover what your staff already knows.

Live online. A live trainer can guide your people via an interactive Web site. While not the same as having the expert in your office, Web-based training has its advantages, including zero travel expenses and more control over the schedule of sessions.

Use basic resources first. Use the no-cost/ low-cost resources many software makers offer. Self-guided manuals, CDs, or Web-based training are an inexpensive way to hone your users' skills and supplement live sessions.— Joe Stoddard is a process/technology consultant to the building industry. He can be reached at