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Sharing Tool Expertise

In my last post I talked about using modeling and simulation to preserve design and technical expertise within a company. This seems a valuable methodology for preventing technical ‘brain drain’ within a corporation. Recently, however, I ran into another simulation dilemma related to sharing simulation knowledge: how to share simulation expertise between companies.

Often when I talk with potential customers, they want to know how other companies use SystemVision specifically, and multi-physics, mixed-signal modeling and simulation generally, to improve development processes and reduce product development and lifecycle costs. Always good questions. Unfortunately, the answers usually aren’t easy to come by. It’s not that the SystemVision crew doesn’t know how design teams use our family of tools — we do, but we don’t share such details without permission. Our challenge is that companies benefitting from the power and flexibility of SystemVision are typically reluctant to share expertise and methodologies. Why? Key among several reasons is technology leaders often consider their design methods an important part of their competitive advantage. Yeah. I get that.

As an Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tool vendor, Mentor Graphics markets the value of our modeling and simulation tools as an important addition to an effective and efficient system design flow. But the perceived value of design tools, particularly those in SystemVision’s class, is a bit industry dependent. For example, the value of modeling and simulation is well understood in the electronics design market, particularly for complex SoC development. It’s often called ‘virtual prototyping’ — a term originally coined and liberally used in the EDA industry. Virtual prototyping in the mixed-signal, multi-physics systems market is less popular. Such systems are often designed as independent sub-systems, then integrated on a lab testbench using hardware prototypes. When we talk to potential customers, it is precisely these types of system modeling and analysis examples they want to see before investing heavily in design tools – an investment they may not be 100% sure will pay off. Despite the many cool and detailed examples we’ve developed in the SystemVision group, customers are often more interested in what others in their industry are doing. There is comfort in knowing your company is not the first to adopt what may be a new tool or methodology. Yeah. I get that too.

So back to my dilemma: customers requesting design methodology details that I either can’t share or don’t have. Even though design methodologies can be a competitive advantage, I think there is value in companies sharing at least general details on how they use design tools. In my case, such sharing would inevitably result in “Wow! I didn’t know SystemVision could do that!” comments. I’m not advocating divulging trade secrets, but I think sharing tool use experiences and expertise could be mutually beneficial. For me, even more companies and engineers would undoubtedly benefit from using SystemVision. And existing users would find more ways to get value from their tool investement. A win-win deal.

What do you think about sharing information on design tools and techniques? Do you look to other companies for pre-adoption validation of new methodologies and tools? If so, how do you get the information you need? And if your company tends to set standards in adopting methodologies and tools, do you share your expertise with other companies? If not, do you think you should?


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About Mike Jensen

Mike JensenMost career paths rooted in high technology take many interesting (and often rewarding) twists and turns. Mine has certainly done just that. After graduating in electrical engineering from the University of Utah (go Utes!), I set off to explore the exciting, multi-faceted high tech industry. My career path since has wound its way from aircraft systems engineering for the United States Air Force, to over two decades in applications engineering and technical marketing for leading design automation software companies, working exclusively with mechatronic system modeling and analysis tools. Along the way, I’ve worked with customers in a broad range of industries and technologies including transportation, communications, automotive, aerospace, semiconductor, computers, and consumer electronics; all-in-all a very interesting, rewarding, and challenging ride. In my current gig, I work on technical marketing projects for Mentor Graphics' SystemVision product line. And in my spare time I dream up gadgets and gizmos, some even big enough to qualify as systems, that I hope someday to build -- providing I can find yet a little more of that increasingly elusive spare time. Visit Mike Jensen's Blog

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