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Archive for May, 2015

The Marketing Budget is an Investment, Not an Expense

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Nanette Collins

I recently learned that a CEO I long respected, considered marketing a necessary business expense. This individual thought it was of questionable value and not a long-term investment. Whenever there was extra budget, the CEO opted to spend it in sales, hiring  AEs or bringing on a new sales manager.

That explains why the charismatic leader, who should have been featured regularly and prominently in industry and business onlines, was largely absent from any coverage, as was the company. Evidently, Public Relations, a vital component of any marketing plan, was not considered a strategic investment either.

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common occurrence. In many companies, marketing’s value appears to have diminished to the point where it’s almost irrelevant and sales is the all-important component of a company’s success. The focus is on creating a highly optimized mobile-enabled website for search and leads generation, while the rest of marketing is overlooked.

It’s unlikely anyone would argue that leads generation isn’t important. After all, without sales, a channel and a sales pipeline, the company will go bust. Yet, overlooking the marketing effort could ensure the company goes bust, too. Just not quite as quickly.

Marketing is as important as sales and sales should be able to rely on marketing’s expertise for leads generation and much more. Nothing’s worse for a sales manager who gets the all-important meeting with a project team that’s never heard of the company. Sales managers have to know what they are selling, who they are selling against and the value to the prospect without spending the time to figure this out themselves. That’s were Marketing can help build awareness and provide ongoing industry research and competitive analysis.

When a company invests in a new product, it should invest in the whole product ecosystem to make it successful. Marketing managers, presumably, did market research and validation to understand they need a product with the right features to solve a problem. Because it needs a pre- and post-sales support team who can understand the product, the company should invest in training and support materials. It needs a market ready to accept a product as well, which means investing in brand recognition. That’s marketing and not sales.

Marketing should be considered a critical part of the holistic product ecosystem, making it an investment similar to product R&D, not an operational expense or the cost of sales. It will last as long as the product itself.

The importance of marketing’s role in a product launch cannot be understated. Good marketing drives the brand awareness and perception, generating leads from various programs, such as events and Public Relations. An experienced marketing group will develop a plan that begins by conditioning the market for the new product, rolling it out at the right time and exhibiting it publicly at tradeshows, seminars and webinars. While some of these tactics seem straightforward, make no mistake – not everyone has good communications skills and the ability to take a technical concept and simplify it into a useful and salient message. And, let’s not overlook boothmanship skills. Few of us can step into the company’s tradeshow booth for the first time ready to engage with potential customers. Most of us need training on booth etiquette, which means, no chewing gum or eating, being friendly and making eye contact, among other dos and don’ts.

Ah, and then there are the companies who claim to know all the companies and all the engineers who would buy their products. Well, technical companies need to think more like consumer companies and their customers’ buying patterns. Consumers like to be reminded that they purchased their goods and services from a winner, which often is why consumer companies spend lavishly on advertising and other forms of marketing.

No, I’m not suggesting a tech company’s marketing department needs a lavish budget. But consider the CEO, like so many others, who sacrificed a long-term play to invest in marketing for short-term gains. It’s a mistake many companies are making as executives see marketing as an expensive and not an investment. A company needs to be to set apart and differentiated from its competitors it. Marketing’s job is to come up with the strategic initiatives, based on a continuous study of the marketplace.  I recommend that the marketing department be allocated a reasonable yearly budget to build, maintain or enhance the company’s awareness and visibility.

About the Author:

Nanette Collins is a marketing and Public Relations consultant in the semiconductor, EDA and IP market.  She received the 2013 Marie R. Pistilli Women in EDA Achievement Award.

Bob Smith Selected as EDAC Executive Director

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Gabe Moretti, Senior Editor

The Board of the Electronic Design Automation Consortium (EDAC) has selected Robert (Bob) Smith as executive director, following the retirement of long-time Executive Director Robert Gardner.

Bob Smith, a seasoned industry veteran as well, joins EDAC from Uniquify, where he was senior vice president of Marketing and Business Development, and will continue as a consulting advisor. Prior to that, Mr. Smith worked at many early stage companies, including IKOS Systems, Synopsys, LogicVision, and Magma Design Automation. He commented, “I am excited to continue growing the EDA Consortium as we address the new challenges and opportunities facing the industry today. ”

“We look forward to continuing to expand the work of the EDA Consortium in support of the entire industry,” said Lip-Bu Tan, co-chair of EDAC and president and CEO of Cadence Design Systems. “On behalf of the entire EDA Consortium Board of Directors, we welcome Bob to EDAC.”

A Possible Future

To be fair to history, the last few years have not seen any expansion of EDAC, either from the point of view of new initiatives or increased influence of the consortium on the EDA industry.  In a phone interview with Bob Smith I instead found a person with fresh ideas and the enthusiasm to explore new opportunities as well as to strengthen existing roles and relationships.

It is clear to me that Bob Smith fully understands that the semiconductor industry depends critically on EDA and that the relationship between EDAC and semiconductor consortia needs to be expanded and strengthened.  After all an industry with revenue over $300 billion critically depends on the viability of a $6 billion industry employing a reasonably dated revenue generation scheme.  EDA revenue are generated almost entirely by licensing, another word for renting, tools to developers of semiconductor products and semiconductor manufacturers, a scheme that offers very little room for diversification.  A closer relationship with both the SIA and the GSA consortia may yield insights into a new way to support customers and open further revenue possibilities.

It is frustrating to me to hear from everyone in the industry how the Internet of Things (IoT) offers such significant opportunity for growth while at the same time notice that almost no one, especially no one at EDAC so far, ever mentions the MEMS Industry Group (MIG) consortium.  MEMS devices are playing a key role in the IoT and yet only one of the EDAC Board of Directors companies (ARM) is a MIG member.  I forgot to mention this fact to Bob in our conversation: EDAC should be a MIG member.

If it seems like I am excited about a change of leadership at EDAC is because I am and I think that its board has made a very good choice in Bob Smith.

HoT Love IP Event at DAC

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Gabe Moretti, Senior Editor

Jim Hogan, a man with many visions, both technical and social has created an organization Heart of Technology (HoT) that provides a vehicle for high tech companies and individuals to give back to their community by supporting worthy causes.  On the occasion of DAC, Monday evening, June 8, from 7 to 11:30 HoT will hold a party to Love IP and through the generosity of sponsors and even attendees raise money to support the San Jose State University Guardian Program.

The location of the party is Jillian’s at 145 4th Street in the city.

Jim Hogan said: “we thought it was an excellent organization to support. Serving 35 to 50 youth emancipated from foster care, wards of the court, and homelessness, our goal is to bring awareness to this vital program and raise funds to support these young scholars as they transition to become the next scientist, engineer, health care professional or even Silicon Valley entrepreneur. We appreciate your help to make this happen.”

As many as 23 corporation in our industry have step forward to sponsor the event, too many to list them all.  But if you would like to see their names go to http://heartoftechnology.org/love-ip-party-at-dac-2015/love-ip-party-sponsors/.

If you make a donation of $50 or more, you will receive immediate entrance to the party and a special event t-shirt. You will also be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card.  Otherwise get invited by one of the sponsors r register for the IP track at DAC.  At the party you will find:

  • Fabulous food and open bar with 17 microbrews on tap
  • Performances by The Sonics and Groovy Love Band
  • A billiard tournament hosted by Atrenta
  • Heads or Tails Game with the Big Kahuna
  • A Summer of Love Costume Contest
  • A silent auction featuring sport and rock and roll memorabilia

This party in a city like San Francisco, attractive but expensive, is the best deal in town on that Monday evening.  Visit the website for further information: http://heartoftechnology.org/love-ip-party-at-dac-2015/

New Innovative Chip Designs Mean Big Challenges for Chip Designers

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Dr. Bruce McGaughy, CTO and SVP of Engineering, ProPlus Design Solutions, Inc.

The semiconductor industry is moving forward with new and innovative chip designs. Who couldn’t be impressed with the newest Apple products, newly emerging IoT applications, and the way in which large companies are moving into datacenter storage? With these bold moves, come big challenges for project teams.

Several challenges currently are vexing circuit designers. One of the most common is process variation and it will only become more pronounced as we hit the atomic level. With shrinking supply voltages, margins will be far less at the atomic dimension. It’s a complex and difficult problem, made only more so as designs become more robust.

Circuits are larger, margins are less at the atomic dimension and designers are looking for ways to squeeze performance and yield. One important consideration is accurate SPICE models that designers often request of the foundries.

However, model accuracy is subjective and depends highly on the application. Models are becoming complicated, as models must cover uncertainties of various process variations, including layout dependent systematic variations, statistical process variations, and temporal variations such as bias temperature instability (BTI)-induced reliability effects. Designers then need to look for statistical analysis and yield prediction software able to optimize parametrical yield and trade-off with power, performance and area (PPA) for this new challenge.

Reliability and yield are hard problems, especially as the margins left in the design are shrinking to almost zero. That means covering various process variation effects has become equally as important as modeling accuracy.  Furthermore, yield needs to be considered across the whole system, considering various blocks have different contributions to yield based on their replication factor. It’s not enough just to look at the bit cell, but the whole critical path must be considered, including interactions across blocks. Getting it right has never been more significant. Modeling is a process in itself today as circuit designers break through the barriers and need better accuracy. Mask sets are more expensive and no company can afford a mistake. Designers are required to have a good understanding of the process platform, SPICE model libraries, and the impact to their designs, in order to achieve a good design and competitive chip products.

Designers are desperate as well for simulation and verification tools that will guarantee what they simulate is what they get. They’re simulating huge circuits now and the need to capture accurate leakage and other small currents is critical for low supply voltage applications. Correlation is a term that will be heard throughout this year and well into the future. For advanced low-power designs at 28nm and beyond, inaccurate simulation tools may predict leakage and other small currents wrongly with orders of magnitude differences. This easily will cause chip failure and waste time and the cost of tape-out. A typical example is to use a traditional FastSPICE tool, which sacrifies accuracy for performance, in verification and signoff of memory chips or embedded memory for large SoCs. Accuracy is the most critical of requirements throughout the entire design flow, in particular for characterization, post-layout simulation, verification and signoff.

These characteristics are some of the drivers for low power and more robust power supplies, an emerging area as we move into the more portable aspects of the Internet of Things.

About the Author:

Dr. Bruce McGaughy serves as the chief technology officer and senior vice president of Engineering of ProPlus Design Solutions, Inc. He was most recently the chief architect of Simulation Division and distinguished engineer at Cadence Design Systems Inc. Dr. McGaughy previously served as a R&D vice president at BTA Technology Inc. and Celestry Design Technology Inc., and later an engineering group director at Cadence Design Systems Inc. Dr. McGaughy holds a Ph.D. degree in EECS from the University of California at Berkeley.