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Archive for February, 2010

Mistakes? Let’s call them lessons learned!

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Recently I returned from an AWR company event that was very informative on a variety of levels. And now that I’m back in the LA office, I’ve had a number of people ask me, “what’s next?” or rather, “what did I learn there and how do I apply those lessons learned/wisdoms uncovered in the coming days/weeks/year?”

This, of course, got me thinking about the recently re-published article, “Top 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing RF EDA Tools” by How-Siang Yap of Agilent, which is hosted on the Microwave Product Digest site.

I must admit that I had a déjà-vu moment reading it and after a few minutes I uncovered the original I recalled reading, but with a 2004 dateline. There is a lesson to be learned here on reuse and repurposing and giving credit to the originator of ideas. However, the reason I see this piece as timeless and worth talking about now is that we as humans make mistakes. What makes us better as we age/mature (I hope) is the ability, wisdom, and humility to learn from our mistakes.

So…let’s use Agilent’s title of  Top 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing RF EDA Tools and try to repurpose it under the guise of “applying lessons learned.”

Mistake #1   Choosing a company without a proven track record

Lesson: Past vs. present vs. future.

Information needs to be put into the proper perspective. A sales tagline comes to mind… “What have you done for me lately?”

AWR was founded on innovative technology and has continued to produce a steady stream of new technologies ever since, most recently our patent-pending Multi-Rate Harmonic Balance (MHRB™) product.  But it’s not just about innovating, it’s also about the value those innovations bring to customers to help you create your designs better and faster.  While industry leadership is nice in and of itself, choosing a company with a history of service and support of its innovations is likely a better strategy.  Industry leadership as measured by market share obtained through mergers and acquisitions does not guarantee a culture of innovation. For that, look to a company that is gaining market share by being the best at helping its customers succeed.

AWR has dozens of customer success stories and quotes about how our products have helped customers and what excellent customer services and support we provide.  But don’t just focus on past performance.  Make sure your vendor is committed to the MW&RF market and not just there as a matter of convenience.  Our commitment to the MW&RF space has never been in question and goes all the way to the CEO, an ex-MMIC designer.

Mistake #2 – Buying for today, without anticipating future expansion

Lesson:   Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul.

Yes, very true!  AWR has consistently proven that our unified open framework approach is superior at providing all the technologies required for every facet of design.  With AWR’s Design Environment, everything can be orchestrated / simulated / done—within a single framework and single UI. See our AWR.TV videos for a demonstration.

Mistake #3 – Overlooking the contribution of test and verification to design success

Lesson: Peripheral vision…a must!

Test and measurement is without a doubt an important component to the design process. However, there seems to be a conflict of interest for a representative of a test and measurement company to place its importance so high on this list.

Nonetheless, Agilent makes excellent test equipment and many AWR customers use its products quite successfully alongside our software. AWR is dedicated to the development of simulation software – period. We’ve always focused on the customer’s needs and ability to have freedom of choice in order to build the best possible tool framework and software design flow.  To this point, we make sure our RF EDA software links with any vendor’s test equipment, whether it be Rohde & Schwarz, Anritsu, Tektronics, National Instruments or Agilent. See our latest white paper, “Hardware in the Loop,” and learn more about our “AWR Connected” joint solutions with R&S WinIQSIM2  and Anritsu VNA products.

Mistake #4 – Failing to understand the difference between low-cost and cost-effective

Lesson: Cost vs. value

“Low-cost vs. cost-effective” reminds me of a few expressions… “a sale isn’t a bargain unless you need it,” “you get what you pay for,” “there’s a reason it’s free.” Bottom line to me is that people want to pay for only what they value and not be charged for extra things that they won’t use. So here the concept of creating software bundles that are properly priced for specific customer segments, as AWR has done since 1998, is the lesson to be learned.

Mistake #5 – Choosing a non-integrated tool


Lesson: Play well with others.

When it comes to a company that is open and values working with third parties, AWR is the industry leader.  From our inception, our belief has been that customers need to be able to choose from a broad set of tools to get their job done.

We have over 18 third-party tools integrated into our framework and continue to grow the list.  For instance, way back in 2003 AWR pioneered its EM Socket™ interface, which enables integration with the industry’s diverse set of EM tools.  Similarly, we offer integrated verification flows with Cadence, Mentor, PolyTeda, and Ciranova, to  name a few. We are a founding member of the Interoperable Pcell Library (IPL) project and are cooperating with vendors such as Mentor and Synposys to develop iPDKs. Most recently, AWR co-founded the OpenWaveforum.org, an alliance of RF and microwave firms formed to collaborate, create, and promote a unified and transparent data exchange format for large-signal simulations, measurements, and models.

With the power of the Internet and Google these days, it’s easy to uncover if your vendor is actively working with other partner firms.

Mistake #6 – Forgetting about the foundry and component vendors

Lesson:  No man is an island.

Absolutely!  You need foundry and model vendor support, which is why commercial GaAs foundries support both Agilent and AWR. Request rates for AWR kits have grown over the years, as has customer adoption.  From AWR’s perspective, we don’t just tick the box and move on with foundry support, we want to make sure the designs that come out of Microwave Office are clean and right the first time.  We work closely with foundries to implement our latest features such as iNets, ACE, AXIEM, etc. into our kits (see our latest press release on UMS PDKs).

As for models, they are key as well.  AWR offers lots and lots of models and incorporates them into the software via an XML library, which provides measurement-based models and footprints accessible from the software so that any vendor model updates are ready immediately.

Mistake #7 – Focusing on software and not on services and support

Lesson: The Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated!

This point must have been written with AWR in mind.  To us, providing good customer support means having people in support who have actually designed circuits for a living, so they understand the problems about which they are being asked.  We offer 1-800, email, Internet, and open (password free) knowledge base access, free on-line training and more.  AWR consistently ranks at the top of user surveys in customer service and support. Today more than ever before, software vendors absolutely need to focus on support. Call AWR’s hotline today and ask a question. You’ll be favorably impressed.

To sum it all up, mistakes are more often than not the way many of us learn.  The only way to avoid repeating them in the future (besides denial) is to take the lessons learned to heart and apply them. Perhaps the most important lesson we can all learn when buying software, or anything else, is to look for a vendor dedicated to the industry and the products it provides, and, most importantly, dedicated to the customer.

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