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What do you think of the new NI logo and marketing push?


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2 hours ago, Antoine Chalons said:

I was wondering if anyone has seen similar situations?

I haven't, and my initial reaction is that I would quit a job like the one you described.  The closest I came was when my boss sat me down to show me his 5 year plan for the group since he heard I was planning on quitting soon and he hoped his new road map would inspire me to stick around.  I thanked him profusely for showing me his plans, because it meant that I knew I was making the right decision leaving.  I quit, he started steering toward an ice burg, then he was fired about a year later.  I was contacted by a head hunter saying this job opportunity was a perfect fit for me.  I had to inform him I had that job and listed reasons why I wouldn't come back.  Someone else that was still there tried getting me to come back, only to realize they were one of the reasons I left.  Things have not sounded all that great since.

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The core of our business has changed. Fewer users are developing their own test applications; instead, they're buying something off the shelf like  TestStand. Fewer users are developing their own data

The more I look at the center logo, the more I believe it captures exactly the kind of excitement generated by the whole operation.

Thanks AQ, you are the first to actually spell this out in words that make sense to engineers. Not sure too many here are going to like it though! ps: I liked your post due to its honesty an

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On 6/18/2020 at 4:54 PM, Aristos Queue said:

The core of our business has changed. Fewer users are developing their own test applications; instead, they're buying something off the shelf like  TestStand. Fewer users are developing their own data acquisition software; instead, they're buying something off the shelf like FlexLogger. This trend alters significantly the role of LabVIEW (CG and NXG) in the NI ecosystem -- it becomes far less important to support whole application development (though, of course, we still do and will) and far more important to support "just a bit of customization" when the pre-built tools fail. A lot of software has an endless array of switches and options, but LV provides the ability for a user to write a custom routine to specify the behavior they want in some corner niche of a product. Think like Signal Express, able to generate sine wave, square wave, triangle wave or "pick a VI that generates the wave that you need" wave. 

What's funny about this is that although the app devs are growing rarer, they're also individually growing more profitable for NI as a whole because the companies still paying to develop custom software are the ones that are generally buying a lot of hardware to do something unique in the world (or not in the world, in the case of SpaceX, Blue Origin, Ad Astra, etc.). So I don't expect the big scale parts of LabVIEW to vanish, but I do expect them to be driven by specific requests from megascale customers rather than from the massed collective. The massed collective will be driving more of the IDE developments. At least, that's my suspicion at this time based on the presentations I've seen. 

It appears that NI is a hardware company rather than a software company. LabVIEW is developed to drive sales of hardware. This is similar to Apple, OS X, iOS, etc, are all developed to drive sales of hardware.

mcduff

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10 hours ago, mcduff said:

It appears that NI is a hardware company rather than a software company. LabVIEW is developed to drive sales of hardware. This is similar to Apple, OS X, iOS, etc, are all developed to drive sales of hardware.

NI has always been quite open with me about that over my entire 15 years of using LabVIEW: LabVIEW was developed to drive hardware sales.

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Sure, the focus of NI has always been on hardware sales, and that has directed where much of the development effort in LabVIEW goes, and how it is marketed.  I often think that in this respect the customers of NI show more respect to the power of LabVIEW/G than NI does. There is an underlying uncertainty in the use of LabVIEW due to this - and the growth of LabVIEW and G as a programming language is perhaps limited by it. It goes both ways though; the hardware sales has also supported the continued development of LabVIEW - and LabVIEW draws strength from the ecosystem it is part of.

I would not be surprised if NI now (wrongly) thinks that they do not need LabVIEW to make their hardware unique (spending so much time and money on NXG might make it all look like waste...). I hope I am dead wrong though, and that they consider themselves just as much a software company ("the software is the instrument" after all!).   If not, I hope they at least spin off a separate company soon enough that will. The latter would be riskier for the future of LabVIEW/G than the former (having to establish a different sustainable business model), but might also leave us developers with a higher reward. Especially if the alternative is a dwindling LabVIEW / NXG that is geared towards configuration only.

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20 minutes ago, Mads said:

I would not be surprised if NI now (wrongly) thinks that they do not need LabVIEW to make their hardware unique (spending so much time and money on NXG might make it all look like waste...). I hope I am dead wrong though, and that they consider themselves just as much a software company ("the software is the instrument" after all!).   If not, I hope they at least spin off a separate company soon enough that will. The latter would be riskier for the future of LabVIEW/G than the former (having to establish a different sustainable business model), but might also leave us developers with a higher reward. Especially if the alternative is a dwindling LabVIEW / NXG that is geared towards configuration only.

I would say NI is becoming more and more software oriented.  Just look at their latest acquisition (Optimal+).  But all of the software I have seen are still geared toward hardware sales (FlexLogger to DAQ hardware, Instrument Studio to PXI instruments, InsightCM to cRIO, SystemLink to PXI test systems and cRIO, DAQExpress to DAQ, a lot of tools to the VST).

 

And I don't see a spin off happening that would work well.  All of the NI software tools are using a core stack now (reuse!).  I saw evidence of this when I got a demo of VeriStand and it looked just like NXG (this was when NXG was still only in CABs).  I don't think LabVIEW 20xx is attached in the same way.  So I think there is an argument that LabVIEW 20xx could be spun off into an open-source project.  But NXG is too ingrained into the MCP to be broken off without taking everything else with it.

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On 6/23/2020 at 9:42 PM, Antoine Chalons said:

Funny enough I've seen the opposite situation where an alliance partner company has been using NI HW+LabVIEW for years (rather successfully) and a new CTO was hired to give a new dynamic to the company, but he (the new CTO) thinks NI HW is too expensive and LabVIEW is slow and unstable by nature and definitely not a good tool for any industrial application ; so the lad is slowly but surely pushing his team to use some "real programming language".

I was wondering if anyone has seen similar situations?

Nope. This situation would lead to either me or that other person getting fired because I'd call out their obvious ignorance on the subject immediately. I know about the fundamentals of human psychology and programming (which are kind of the same thing, just viewed from different angles and different problems to solve) to be willing to risk my job proving that person wrong,

For me a CTO who is ignorant on the technical level of things to this extent, letting their own personal beliefs lead their technical decisions is a reason to quit anyway. So I would just accelerate the process by causing a direct confrontation.

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Slightly related topic:
I wonder what the trend looks like for the share of questions  in the NI discussion forums marked as resolved. Based on my own posts there, it seems to get harder to find a solution to the issues I run into.  I am not sure if that is just because the things I do in LabVIEW are closer to the borders of regular use / getting quirkier though, or if it is a sign of declining quality in the products involved. I suspect it is a mix of both.

It would be cool if such statistics were readily available. A trend of the posting rate per forum/tag for example could reveal shifts in the interests of the users (the mentioned shift towards configurable turnkey solutions vs general application development for example) and/or the quality of the product. The latter might partially be possible to separate from the former by looking at the mentioned share of resolved issues; adjusted for the number of years of experience the questionnaires had (which perhaps could be inferred by how long they have been registered at ni.com and/or the number of posts or solutions made by that user...).

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For anyone interested in the business future of NI, I recommend viewing the "Virtual Investors Conference" from a few days ago. You can find it at www.ni.com/investors. There is a lot more useful and actionable information in these presentations compared to the re-brand event.

Summary of what I took away from the investors conference:

-- Flat spend on new product development for next 3 years (classified as "R&D").

-- Product price stability for next 3 years (flat gross margins expected).

-- Focus on year-over-year revenue growth (including a lot more revenue from systems and software).

-- Slash G&A to ensure net profit growth in case that whole revenue growth thing doesn't work out. 

I'm not really sure how revenue is going to grow with flat spending on engineering and sales. I guess they're just planning on doing everything a lot better? Unclear to me....

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13 hours ago, Reds said:

I'm not really sure how revenue is going to grow with flat spending on engineering and sales. I guess they're just planning on doing everything a lot better? Unclear to me....

A software team can produce the next version of the software with the same staffing as the previous version. There’s no requirement to keep ramping investment other than pay raises. But if the employment environment is sufficiently non-competitive, not giving raises doesn’t lose devs. 
 

I presume hardware has similar economics, but I’ve never dug into that. 
 

In short, flat R&D can still provide continuous growth in revenue, as seen during 2001 and 2008 downturns at NI. 

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5 hours ago, Aristos Queue said:

A software team can produce the next version of the software with the same staffing as the previous version. There’s no requirement to keep ramping investment other than pay raises. But if the employment environment is sufficiently non-competitive, not giving raises doesn’t lose devs. 

I agree with that general premise. But that same engineering team, with flat spend, is going to have to start working on new products that differentiate, or doing things a lot more efficiently or better. R&D is not going to be able to help NI drive revenue growth if it just continues to do all of the same things it's been doing for the last four years.

I'm also baffled at how NI expects to maintain 75% gross margins on systems and services. Ask any alliance member if they have 75% gross margins, and they'll peel over laughing. But that's a whole 'nother conversation I guess.

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Not all R&D work leads to the same change in revenue. If you can better prioritize what you are working on, you can get more out of the same amount of work.

On the second point, I'm not an accountant but doesn't gross margins only account for the cost of the physical goods so that can get skewed heavily by including software and services in the "system" price?

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23 minutes ago, jacobson said:

On the second point, I'm not an accountant but doesn't gross margins only account for the cost of the physical goods so that can get skewed heavily by including software and services in the "system" price?

That's a very common misconception. But it's actually not right. Service businesses definitely do not have 100% gross margin. "Cost of Sales" is a more accurate term than "Cost of Goods Sold" for a services business. But otherwise, it's the same calculation.

Services businesses should be calculating gross margin by figuring out how much they pay an engineer directly for every hour that engineer bills. If you pay an engineer $50/hour, you'll need to bill him at $200/hour to get a 75% gross margin. And he's going to need to bill 40 hours every week. If he's not billing 40 hours every week, there won't be enough money to pay for sales, marketing, and G&A overhead.

If you're a one-person company (i.e. a single person alliance member), you will need to be so damn good that you can support your own salary on 2 billable hours per day if you want to hit 75% gross margin.

This is a great conversation. I hope we can have more business conversations like this on LAVA.

 

 

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