Management Buys Into ESL

Now the real fun begins. It’s easier to get started, but it’s also harder to manage expectations.

popularity

By Jon McDonald
Over the past few weeks I’ve spent a significant amount of time at industry shows, the largest of which is DAC. It was interesting to hear the tone of the conversations this year around ESL. ESL has reached a level of acceptance such that it is now being co-opted and interpreted to cover an amazing array of activities.

I have felt for a while that the electronic design industry in general has moved to a point of acknowledging that moving up in abstraction and adopting ESL techniques is a worthwhile investment in time and resources. From many of the conversations I had at DAC it appears that senior management at many companies has bought into the vision, they know they need it and in many cases they have given the order to “Make it so!”

Now it gets interesting. We have management “buy in,” with a vast array of options for what could be done with that “buy in.” Many companies have an existing process built around natural language specifications and ad-hoc analysis at the system level, diving right into RTL development for the hardware pieces and C/C++ for the software. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that to “Make it so!” can become a very daunting task. To deliver on this decree what, what do we need to do first? How do we decide what capabilities will deliver the most value in our environment?

In the past I’ve often been in the position of having a vision match at the lead technical level, then needing to work for agreement from management. In some ways I feel we’ve moved to having the management vision match but need to build the vision match with the technical leaders. In the former case the details of the vision match are well agreed. At the technical level the vision is generally detailed, very complete and specific. The vision fits with what was being done at the technical level because it was developed at the technical level.

In this new case the vision is of necessity more abstract. Details need to be filled in, consideration of the current processes must be addressed and the steps required to begin achieving the value of the vision must be prioritized.

This is an incredible change in perspective. It makes it much easier to get started, but more difficult to manage expectations. As ESL continues to mature the companies that perceive the most value and achieve the highest return on their ESL investment will be the companies that understand both their gaps in the specification to implementation process and their gaps in management vs. technical vision and expectations.

–-Jon McDonald is a technical marketing engineer for the design and creation business at Mentor Graphics.