With the new and "IMPROVED" U2U it appears that Mentor has abandoned PCB design in general and BoardStation in particular. Are there any U2U sessions in the near future dealing with PCB design in general and BoardStation in particular? I would like information on CES, I/O designer, BoardStationXE, DMS, Windows (MWE) issues, roadmap, etc. I miss previous broad range U2U (and MUG) conferences for the networking and exposure to other products that I might not find out about from infrequent contact with our sales person. To me the new format of U2U is a FAILURE!!!
Mentor Graphics' presence and investment in PCB design is greater now than it has ever been.
We now supply more of the tools needed for PCB design than ever before, increasing our solutions space continuously and significantly over the past 10 years. We developed major new PCB design technologies such as real-time, PCB layout collaboration with XtremePCB, a truly integrated, concurrent, constraints-driven design flow, real-time collaboration between PCB and mechanical design domains to name just a few. Further, we have grown our market share over the past decade both through acquisitions as well as internal growth. We are far and away the largest supplier of PCB design tools, and we plan to continue our growth. Finally, we will continue to work with customers and the industry to anticipate and meet the growing needs in the area of PCB design. In fact, we don't see any other company doing anywhere near as much as Mentor Graphics to further the state of PCB design. The fact that we are having this conversation through the PCB Community is another aspect of Mentor’s increasing presence and focus on PCB design.
Board Station continues to get attention and we are close to completing the 7.9.1 release with many new capabilities and fixes as you can see from the list of planned enhancements available on SupportNet. Roughly 10 years ago we announced to our customers our Board Station XE strategy would bring them new PCB design technology until they migrated to our newest PCB design flow, Expedition Enterprise. We have invested heavily to help Board Station customers get access to new PCB design technology through our Board Station RE products, Board Station XE products, and tools to migrate to Expedition Enterprise. So, really, Board Station customers have more choices than ever before because Mentor Graphics has increased its focus on PCB design!
With all of that said, you still need/want information about the Board Station products, issues roadmap, etc., as well as interaction with other users. I think this is all available to you, but in a different medium than before. We now supply a tremendous amount of product information on SupportNet in the form of Release Highlights, tutorials, and roadmaps in addition to the typical support-related information. We strongly support the PCB Community to provide real-time discussion among users. And finally, we developed the MentorIdeas site to allow users to collaborate on input to us about new things you’d like to see or things you need in our products. These mechanisms are superior to the traditional User2User conferences of the past because they expose more users to the information and are available 24/7/365. I believe the amount of user to user (and user to Mentor) interaction has increased as a result of all this.
I wanted to let all our customers know we have not abandoned PCB design in general. The new regional conferences are targeted to our customers in a particular area due to the economy and the cut in travel budgets. We are treating these as drive by events where we try to reach as many customers as we can in a particular city. With that said, the product tracks are determined by our customer base in that city. We also don’t want to exclude customers so we are alternating cities each year to make sure we reach as many customers as possible.
Our spring conferences in San Jose, Boston and of course MARLUG (Columbia, MD) had PCB represented at each event. They were extremely successful and well attended. The PCB tracks contained information regarding High-Speed, CES, Expedition, etc. Our upcoming Denver conference on October 19th contains a PCB track that hits on the topics you are interested, however, traveling for 1 day is hard which is why we consider these drive by events.
For information regarding U2U please visit - www.mentor.com/user2user
Great job at U2U Denver yesterday! Outstanding user presentations! Hello to all the users and old friends I was able to spend time with and THANKS for the feedback on our products, service and docs!
When the E-Mail discussion groups went to web based forums and now "Communities" the traffic answering questions and the visibility of questions you didn't know you had went down SIGNIFICANTLY. I find the current environment MUCH less helpful. The same thing happens when mingling with other users (and developers) of Mentor tools at a users conference. You get answers to questions you didn't know you had. You also find out about products you didn't know were available or didn't know you needed. Even though I am a long time user (since 1984) I do understand change (I've endured some painful ones with Mentor) but change just because something is new and different does not make it good. Not being in one of the "Hot Spots" for Mentor it is difficult to get information about products which might help our process flow. We have struggled for years with poor support from Mentor Sales people even when we were trying to buy products. The User Conferences have been our connection to where the tools were headed and what other users were doing.
I miss the old format of U2U. The biggest benefit to these was the interaction with other users and learning what they were doing with the tool. Some of the best resources I have today are people that I have meet at U2U.
Since I am not in a location that will ever host one of these smaller conferences, it is hard for me to justify the expense for a one day event.
I totally agree, I am a huge fan of the old style conferences, a big part of my network
consists of people I met on those happenings, I allways left with more knowledge and
new contacts. Talking to people over a meal or a cold beer brings out different topics
than on a 1 day seminar.
I agree that there is still a need for a large, all encompassing conference. If a user supports multiple products, one needs to take in a couple of these regional one day events as each region seems to be targeted to the main products used in that area. With the economy picking up there may yet be enough attendance to support a big one.
In my experience in order to get people to travel 500 miles (a working distance between the U2U events) you have put on the same multi-day conference that it would take to get them to go 1500 miles. This means that besides Mentor doing show and tell, you need user presentations. Not all of the presentations need to be what's new and cool but there needs to be enough of the informative type how to's that the attendees can declare a productivity gain after they get home.
A while back there was a discussion on whether the webinars should replace the face to face meetings. So it is not just the regional U2U days that are working against a national/international conference but also the webinars. This may be a personal preference but I don't come away from the webinars with the same feeling of learning as the face to face.
The other thing that can be done is to start a local users' group conference and program the presentations that you want to see. Request Mentor to do workshops and what's new and cool presentations. Then go after other users to do best practices and how to's.
The problem with trying to start a local user group is that there are really no other users within 300 miles that we are aware of other than universities. There apparently are enough PADS users in the area for Oasis to hold seminars but that doesn't really help us as Board Station users.
Steve and Jennifer, I think you miss the point MIke is making. Mentor may be making a significant investment investment in tools and bringing out many more products, but how are they communicating that to the users? How are they showing the user base how to use the new tools or facilitating discussions among users? U2U was a major communications vehicle for Mentor's products as well as a great networking venue for users. The current U2U format may work well for the larger communities, but is not the same as the original format. Look at the presentations at those one day events - primarily Mentor employees, not the users. I believe the name should be changed to M2U to better reflect the actual content of the one day events.
For long term users like Mike and myself, it is very evident that Mentor's focus on the user - especially the smaller user - is dwindling. I believe it is related to economics (small user bases don't provide much revenue), but it is disengenuous for Mentor to keep implying that the whole user community is being served or valued. They aren't and are feeling more and more isolated.
The old format U2U was very expensive to run so I understand Mentor's need to cut their expenses. The "communities" idea is a bust in my opinion - just look at the traffic on these forums versus the old MUG forums. I don't come to the communities on a regular basis because information is sparse and stale (sometimes months between posts). I'm with Mike - they are a FAILURE. The "build it and they will come" method is not working.
So, that said, what do we do? Mike, Jeff, Taco - how can we (the users) change that? It's a new world, with a variety of communication methods that are easier and easier to use. We can't just complain and hope Mentor (or anyone else for that matter) changes into something we want/need. How can WE make it happen? There is hole - a niche - here to fill.
I think I get Mike's point. I chose to focus my response on his inference that Mentor has decreased its presence or investment in PCB, because nothing could be further from the truth. Our customer base has changed in the past 10 years. For example, we have many more small customers than we ever had with just the Board Station tools - both Expedition and PADS have brought us a very large number of users. The (classic) Board Station customers base is shrinking continually as well, because they are migrating to more current technology such as Board Station XE or Expedition flows. My other point is that Mentor is providing more information, more real-time than ever before. For example, there is no need to wait until the next U2U to find out what is coming since we post this information on SupportNet and update it regularly.
So I think you are right on the target, bendav, with your question: "what do we do?" I know a number of classic Board Station customers that have never visited the PCB Community so there is a need here that others probably share with you. You could lobby for a dedicated BSTN Community, or create your own forum. I typically suggest BSTN customers (that are migrating to Board Station XE) to get involved in the Expedition (since the Board Station XE flow uses most of that technology) & Migration forums, but that doesn't sound like it fits your needs.
I don't deny Mentor is putting development effort into PCB tools in general and Board Station in particular. In fact Mentor's continued development in the Board Station environment was a direct result of a customer backlash which started at the MUG conference when Mentor announced the end of new development in the Board Station product line. Without the support from the user community gathered at the MUG conferences we might be using Cadence, Altium, Zukan, etc. today rather than Mentor because if you have to go through the pain and suffering of changing tools you might as well look at everything available. I still feel Board Station customers are left out in the cold when it comes to such support areas as training. Not only do the new, slimed down U2U conferences not have sessions dealing with Board Station tools and issues but training classes in tools such as I/O Designer are ONLY taught in the DXDesigner/Expedition environment.
As far as information being on SupportNet, I know it is there (if I can find it) but when I don't know I need to look for it how do I find it. Maybe some kind of 1 hour WebEx session every month or 2, talking about new features/products would be helpful. There could be separate ones taylored to each of the major product lines (PADS, DXDesigner/Expedition, DA/Board Station, IC, FPGA, Cable, Simulation, etc.) and maybe one for administrators. These could be publicized on SupportPRO and with push E-Mails. For me I find that "Push" works better than "Pull" for getting this kind of information out. In the past I was MUCH more likely to respond to a question asking for help on a tool problem when we had an E-Mail exploder which sent the question to me in an E-Mail to which I could respond in a timely manor than when it moved to a Forum style board where I have to make a point of logging in to the Forum and looking for questions I can answer. This is the same reason I have not had much contact with the communities (along with the fact that there is none for BoardStation).
I use the PCB Community email notifications so I don’t’ have to go to the website and look around at what’s happening. I go to the web page to make a new post, or respond to something. I do occasionally to go on to see what's happening in areas that I'm not primarily interested in but not often.