NI and AWR: What’s happening one year after the merger
Janine Love- August 16, 2012Just over one year ago (July 1, 2011), National Instruments (NI) and AWR formalized their merger agreement. As with any merger in the engineering community, this one was accompanied by speculation on what would come of it, and wonderful predictions by the principals involved. I, for one, was happy to see these two companies come together. I had long admired the enthusiasm and intelligence of those whom I had met from both AWR and NI over the years. But what would actually come of it? Would it prove to be a good match? I sat down with Eric Starkloff, Vice President of Marketing, National Instruments; David Hall, Sr. RF Product Marketing Manager, National Instruments; and Sherry Hess, Vice President of Marketing, AWR recently to catch up and find out what has been going on.
First, I wanted to know how the arrangement works, and what the reporting structure is. Eric Starkloff explained that in the case of AWR, it runs pretty autonomously and maintains a very similar structure to what it had as a private company, including a CEO and board. Over the past year, the two companies have set up “touchpoints” between each major function. For instance, David Hall and Sherry Hess work together on marketing plans, events, and explanations to customers. There is also a touchpoint in R&D, where the two groups align roadmaps and make plans for complimentary R&D. From her perspective, Hess noted, “The people making up our board changed, and NI’s focus is on our long-term success rather than short-term profitability. In short, organizationally the company really hasn’t changed; the merger has just made us better.”
So, how are the companies working together? The team explained that working together on new products predates the merger, and the companies already had a history of partnership opportunities. Specifically, this year they displayed co-simulation capabilities between AWR’s VSS and NI’s LabVIEW at the IMS2012 show in Montreal. And, at NI Week last week, the companies showed how NI hardware can be integrated into AWR design tools (see Figure). “Our approach is deliberate and patient; we are working with key users to understand what joint capabilities they would like to see,” notes Starkloff. “Lead-user conversations are helping to drive our new collaboration efforts.”
So, I understand that they had been working together for years, but, on closer acquaintance, I wanted to know if there were any surprises. For NI’s side, “We went into the merger with high expectations, and, truthfully, how their brand is perceived in the market exceeded our expectations,” notes Starkloff. “They have a loyalty in their customer base and a recognition of their brand that is very impressive, particularly given the size of the company.” For his part, Hall was impressed with the breadth of knowledge of AWR’s engineers, “Being in the T&M industry it is easy to think you know everything about custom measurement. I’ve been impressed by how much their engineers know about advanced measurement techniques, and we get to interact with them and learn from them.”
OK, so NI loves AWR. Any worms, warts, or unwelcome surprises for the other side? No, not really. Both companies seem to be culturally similar. Hess was particularly impressed by how many of AWR’s customers knew NI and LabVIEW, and she was glad to get a better understanding of NI’s global footprint. “Partnering with NI helps us reach many more customers globally; they triple our office locations,” Hess says, “Because they have that breadth of presence, we can execute in places we never could or never as quickly.” She particularly calls out opportunities and cultural knowledge in China as an example.
So, what new opportunities has the merger opened up for AWR? One area of particular interest is the academic front. In fact, at NI Week, the two teams showcased a joint effort with Texas Tech demonstrating how they combined VSS with LabVIEW for a lung cancer therapy application. “One of our goals as a company is to help engineering education through the use of tools that can go from theory (which can be taught using AWR tools) to real-world prototyping (which can be taught using NI tools),” observes Hess, “NI is working with about 7000 universities worldwide, and having access to those relationships is a tremendous help.”
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