Being in product marketing for much of my career, I’m often insulted by the software tools I run across that are all style and no substance. They look good, but they don’t do a whole lot. As a seasoned product manager as well, I’m just as often disappointed with the products that are all substance with zero style. This category of products is functionally powerful yet embarrassing from a usability standpoint.
The most rewarding experiences of course are when we get it right: powerful products with intuitive workflows—style AND substance. This simple-to-understand, but difficult-to-execute scenario is exactly what I challenge my product managers to specify and my product marketers to demand.
This perfect balance of style and substance isn’t always worth the extra effort of course—if you need to design a ‘file’ menu, no need to innovate on the power or ease of use vector, just create your File>>Open options and move on. However, the software areas that stand to offer significant productivity to those applications and domain experts that need it absolutely deserve the research and rigor to get it right. I believe the current area in engineering that needs this level of attention is system design.
From a Wikipedia standpoint, “system design” is the process of defining the architecture, components, modules, interfaces, and data for a system to satisfy specified requirements. In our world of engineering and science, this overlaps with systems engineering and system architecture roles in many companies. But the tools and technologies here are far from where they need to be as we look into the not-so-distant-future. The Internet of Things will add system design complexities like we’ve never seen—from security systems to distributed nodes, data centers to timing engines, co-simulation to deployed prototypes—we need a system design tool and view to manage heterogeneous, distributed, intelligent systems. And to be blunt,what you’ve got today won’t cut it.
What you’ve got from NI won’t cut it. What you’ve got from the math vendors won’t cut it. What you’ve got from the box instrumentation vendors won’t cut it.
Today, NI asks you to leave your development environment to discover, configure, and manage your hardware systems. Math vendors take a simulation only or simulation-centric view that doesn’t make sense for real-world prototyping or deployments. Test and measurement vendors take a narrow approach to system design, perhaps only focusing on the physical layer or wireless systems with no inclusion of necessary implementation flows or supporting I/O. Industrial vendors appear to be closer to providing a visual representation of your hardware system only to let you down once you try to act on that information through compilation or application logic. Each option today fails you in style, substance, or sadly sometimes both.
Your systems will soon require more. You deserve more. Fortunately, we understand these needs and have a rich roadmap to address the substantial gaps we see today.
The future of system design delivers style and substance…stay tuned.
Today’s Featured Author
Shelley Gretlein is a self-proclaimed software geek and robot aficionado. As NI’s director of software marketing, you can find Shelley championing LabVIEW from keynote stages to user forums to elevator conversations. You can follow her on Twitter at @LadyLabVIEW.