Monday, August 3, 2009

Can the EDA industry truly leverage Social Media?

I just got back from the 46th Design Automation Conference (DAC) held in San Francisco, California. Having been out of the Electronic Design Automation (EDA) industry for a little over a year now, I was coming back in with an outsider's perspective. My time outside of EDA was spent in new areas of Consumer and Enterprise Mobile Applications, Social Media (SM) and it's relevance and applicability to the high technology industry. I was intrigued to find out that Synopsys, one of the leading EDA companies had created "Conversation Central" at DAC. This was an area where they had some invited speakers and sessions to educate SM newbies and discuss SM techniques.

I had met and networked with karen bartleson of synopsys via twitter and was very interested in finding out what EDA companies were doing with adopting SM methods. I attended a few of the sessions and did run into some very interesting people and differing opinions. I wanted to talk about the general areas that I see as barriers for EDA's adoption of SM techniques.

From my EDA experience, for too long the EDA industry has been clouded in secrecy and justifiably so. We shall not discuss the reasons for that in this blog. EDA customers have generally precluded EDA companies from talking about their relationship. The amount of Non Disclosure Agreements signed between EDA companies and their customers would only make attorneys happy. EDA companies on the other hand have rarely discussed issues about their applications openly on the Internet other than to use it as a platform for press releases (PR). This is in stark contrast to social media methods where open honest conversations are what it's all about. Many EDA vendors would like to help their consumers openly share and discuss issues with applications. However they are comfortable doing so only under a controlled atmosphere such as a users group (UG) community. While these UG forums have helped the user community, the information however remains within that small forum and the larger group of application users do not generally have access to that information.

For the EDA industry to truly leverage social media techniques, whether it be blogging (regular long form blogs) or micro-blogging (twitter, utterz etc.,) it will need an audience. This audience will be mostly comprised of engineers who are always on a time constraint. Any reading material that they might consume must be far from marketing and more closely related to FAQ's and other helpful hints. They are always looking to save time and avoid techniques that could get them in trouble. For this to happen, EDA companies have to make themselves more vulnerable by openly talking about issues without fear of being targeted. by the competition. When I met John Cooley (ESNUG & Deepchip founder), way back in 1999 he said, "My audience is only interested in hearing about bugs in the software, workarounds and what's being done to fix the bug. This material they will consume, any others they are not interested". John has found significant success by offering a moderated discussion platform where people email him the results of their experiences with EDA tools and he gives people the identity cover (anonymity) so that they will be more open with their posts. This has resulted in good information exchange for engineers much to the angst of the EDA companies, because their dirty laundry is openly discussed out on his forum. On occasion, EDA companies find themselves having to defend themselves from baseless accusations when people post anonymously under the guise of protecting themselves from retaliation. However, in my book, I have always had the opinion that there is no value for anonymity on the Internet. If you are going to state an opinion on the Internet, then the only way that it can carry value is for you to identify yourself. For EDA companies to leverage SM, they will have to make themselves more vulnerable by talking about issues that their audience cares about. If they use SM for just PR, then they risk alienating the audience.

The other areas where I see some burden to leveraging SM techniques are the following.

# User behavior: Can you force people within the industry to change and adopt the above mentioned needed behaviors to dabble in SM?

# Protocols: How do companies moderate the discussion when their people start to leverage SM techniques. Do people know what to do? Many large companies have introduced so called "social media rule book" which can run into pages. These guidelines themselves can be daunting to a new user and can deter some real creative ones. Most times, all that it requires is common sense on what you can say and share. The simple rule is, don't say or write things that you will regret later. Remember, there is no "UNDO" button on the Internet. My two rules for corporate social media users especially twitterers. Don't tweet yourself out of a job and Don't tweet yourself into an SEC investigation.

# Generational Diversity: With respect to information, what the last generation regarded as private, the current generation regards as public. In the EDA world this translates to what is shareable and protected information. How do you overcome this hurdle when this dichotomy exists within organizations where both view points are valid? For large multi-nationals where the company is spread across many countries, there is an additional layer of cultural behavior to contend with. What may be acceptable for open discussion in one country may not be perceived so in other countries.

# Listening v/s dispensing: One thing is that SM is all about listening to the customer rather than dispensing marketing information or press releases. SM also enables companies to track consumer trends. While this may work readily for other industries, the EDA industry in it's current state may not be the most appropriate industry. One thing is clear, EDA companies need to understand that SM techniques should be used to gauge customer sentiment and avert any potential public-relations disasters. The key question is, are there enough customers leveraging SM techniques to talk openly about EDA products.

# Quantitative: Finally the key question that will need to be answered is, Can SM techniques provide any measurable return on time and dollar invested. This will be especially hard because of the initial difficulty in understanding what metrics need to be measured to enable one to objectively measure the ROI on adopting SM methods for EDA given all the hurdles.

One thing is for certain, media as we know it, is changing. With what I call the "now-media" generation that readily records and posts events, articles and blogs to the web for others to consume, the EDA industry may be forced to adopt SM techniques sooner rather than later. In ending I want to note the EDA people who I met at #46DAC are some of the people to watch in EDA for SM adoption. Karen Bartleson, Robert Dwyer, Daniel Payne, JL Gray, John F Macdonald etc.

1 comment:

Automation engineering controls systems said...

Yes Electronic Design Automation (EDA) industry has mechanical advantage gained by social keep going