Richard Seltzer's home page  Publishing home
Articles about DEC
mgmt memo


Volume 3, Number 4                                                                         August/September 1984


Engineering Fine Tunes Product Strategy Process


Digital Introduces MlcroPDP-11/73


In The Press - Customers Rate Digital Tops In Software


News Briefs


Managing Complexity — A Competitive Imperative


Digital Creates New California District


VAX Base Product Marketing


Westminster Business To Change


Major Digital Computer Network Launched At U. Of Houston


Engineering Fine Tunes Product Strategy Process


In a recent interview, Jack in Engineering. He noted newly-created position of Architecture, will expedite


Smith talked about product strategy development that the appointment of Bill Strecker to the manager of Engineering Product Strategy and and put synergy into the planning process.


"As the company grows, it becomes more and more difficult to define product strategy and the product vision for the company. Bill's job is to involve the whole engineering community in developing product strategies. He, in turn, will make these very clear to the rest of the corporation, especially to our marketing and sales people, who will have an opportunity to influence them before they are finalized. We have to make sure we address the product issues that are important to different market segments.


"In other words, through Bill's new position, we are trying to involve the pertinent parts of the company in the development of strategies and, by so doing, get synergy and energy behind them.


"We are fully committed to this new process for developing product strategy and vision. To date, we have determined where we are going in the next year or two and how to get there. That's not enough. We now have to develop an infrastructure to support the strategy. This organizational structure will make the strategies work and play together.


"Bill's job also requires that he clearly communicate the final plan and that he ensure cross-group architectural issues raised by the strategy are identified and resolved."


Digital Introduces MlcroPDP-11/73


The MicroPDP-11/73, a new top-of-the-line microcomputer with performance approximating that of a midrange minicomputer, was recently introduced. It is the second member of the MicroPDP-11 family, and incorporates Digital's J-ll microprocessor chip set.


The MicroPDP-11/73 is targeted for both end users and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) as a low-cost, high-performance microcomputer with multi-user capabilities. A 12-user system using VT220 terminals would have a per-terminal cost of less than $2,400.


The new system is compatible with the full range of PDP-11 computers, and offers 10 operating systems, including all major PDP-11 operating systems. This software compatibility offers OEMs access to nearly 2,000 application packages and software tools developed for the PDP-11 family over the years.


In The Press - Customers Rate Digital Tops In Software


Business Week's July 30, 1984, issue reports the results of an opinion survey of computer users conducted by Stuart Kirkland, a Bellevue, Wash., research company:


"Some 3,000 U.S. companies and universities ranked 12 major computer vendors on the quality of hardware, software, service, and general amiability. Industry kingpin International Business Machines Corp, ranked a tepid fourth in overall performance. Hewlett-Packard Co. won the highest accolades for overall excellence, followed by Amdahl Corp., which was also rated easiest to work with and tops in hardware. Digital Equipment Corp, won the No. 3 ranking overall and took top honors for its software. Users said Data General Corp, was the most difficult company to deal with, though its applications software won praise. Both Burroughs Corp, and Wang Laboratories Inc. were cited for poor service."


Digital's industry-leadership position in the software quality category is noteworthy. In August 1981, Bill Johnson (BJ) , then vice president of Software Engineering, set a goal for "Digital to be the industry software quality leader by FY85." A set of strategies and a rigorous process for achieving this ambitious objective were publicly explained at that time. The above survey and other research indicate that this goal has been a- chieved a year ahead of schedule.


"Now, new challenges lie ahead," says BJ, now vice president, Systems and Clusters Engineering. "This study reveals that Digital is not perceived to be the leader in system reliability and customer interaction. These areas are becoming increasingly important to Digital as the company expands into new markets."


Therefore, he has established a new quality challenge for Systems and Clusters Engineering. "Our goal is for our computer systems to be perceived as the industry leader in reliability by FY88. To reach this objective, we must focus on four key areas: people and teamwork, constancy of purpose, a rigorous design process, and customer information."


News Briefs


LARRY CABRINETY has been appointed manager of the Boards business, including External Boards Business (EBB) operations, as well as Greenwille. New to Digital, he comes from Control Data Corp., where he was vice president for Automation. He now reports to Jeff Kalb, vice president, LSI.


CECIL DYE has been named Corporate Sales Programs manager, reporting Corporate Sales. reporting to Jerry Paxton, manager, Corporate Sales. Cecil will work closely with the Field Engineering and the Market groups to provide programs to support new product introduction and existing product sales. His group will also provide sales and technical support to the Field for low-end and office rpoducts. A Digital employee since 1970. Cecil most recently was the Ohio Valley District Sales manager.


JOEL SCHWARTZ has been appointed to the newly created poistion of president of Educational Marketing, reporting to Ed Kramer, vice president, Technical Group.  In his new position, Joel is responsible for optimizing Digital's efforts in educational markets, with direct responsibility for the Educatinoal Computer Systems (ECS) group and chairmanship of the Edcuatinoal Investment Review Board. Bob Tocchi remains as Product Group manager of ECS reporting to Joel.


BOB SUPNIK has been named Digital's fifth Corporate Consulting Engineer. From his new positino, Bob will be able to consult within the corporation on a variety of advanced technology and product issues.  Bob, who has been with Digital since 1977, most recently has been the group manager and strategist responsible for leading the MicroVAX CPU chip and many LSI development efforts in process technology and CAD/CAM. During his tenure at Digital, he has made significant contributions in the advancement of technoloyg in Mass Storage, Microprocessor design and development, and in helping to set directions for semiconductor process technology.


The COMPUTER INTEGRATED MANUFACTURING ENGINEERING group (CIM), which is managed by Steve Gutz, will report to Pete Smith, CAEM group manager, effective immediately.  This organizational change is being made to provide a strong marketing and engineering linkage for the CIM products under development and to assure management continuity.


Under a new OEM agreement, COMOPUTERVISON CORP., Bedford, MA is using Digital's VAX computers as the computer resource for its new Medusa computer-aided design systems. They will sell Medusa software and workstations as add-ons to existing VAX installations.


A new group in Manufacturing, SYSTEMS AND SUPPORT ENGINEERING (SASE), combines several previously separate Engineering resources. Responsible for designing improvements to current products (PDP-11, MicroPDP-11, MicroVAX and VAX systems) and for providing general system technical support, SASE is managed by Bill Kent, who reports to Lou Gaviglia, manager, Computer Systems Manufacturing. This move is intended to help Digital better meet customer expectations for quality products and responsive technical support, as well as to increase profitability through product cost and reliability improve­ment.


Managing Complexity — A Competitive Imperative


The following article is based on a portion of a paper John Manzo gave in late May to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The paper deals with international technological competition and the importance of an engineering infrastructure. This portion of the article focuses on problems of managing complex engineering products. John is Corporate manager of Engineering Processes at Digital.


"The most powerful force driving us into the information age is micro­electronics technology. Unlike older technologies that the human mind could manage in total, micro-electronics now confronts us with a technology far beyond the reach of unaided human abilities. For example, the complexity of silicon devices has reached hundreds of thousands of components per chip - all interconnected right on the chip with a million or more conductors.


"In order to achieve market share in our industry, one must deliver leader­ship products into the marketplace ahead of the competition. However, the major hurdle faced in the construction of products with increased perfor­mance, sophistication, and function is a 'complexity barrier'. The ability to manage complexity, inherent in good engineering process, is a key to capturing market share, and is therefore a key to growth.


Herb Simon defines a complex system made up of a large number of parts that interact in a non-simple way. The whole       is more than the sum of the parts.

Given the properties of the parts, and the laws of their interaction, it is not a trivial matter to infer the properties of the whole.


John's concerns center on three things: 1) A tendency on the part of engineers and scientists to ignore the subtle but important connection between complexity management and competitiveness; 2) a disposition to continue to work only on the immediate problems, and not the processes that have caused the problems; and 3) a growing estrangement from long-range infrastructural solutions on the part of the majority of our industry.


The Role of Education


" Time-to-Market: The mission of engineers, we were taught, is to achieve maximum utility with least means. When human capital was relatively inex­pensive, and component costs were dominant, tradeoffs were always made to favor minimization in the material dimension. This is no longer true.


"Today, the dominant cost is comprised of time-to-market and labor com­ponents. A delay of one day in delivering a major computer product can easily result in missed revenue of more than one million dollars. Yet we see countless instances of engineers, who in their zeal to achieve 'ele­gance' in their design, unwittingly add weeks, even months, to a development sched ule.


"Teamwo rk: The high degree of specialization and the requirement to parti­tion the design, mandate teamwork among project participants. Interestingly the very nature of our current technical training programs stresses individ­ualism - we don't award advanced degrees to teams. Certainly, a spirit of competitiveness is the motivating force of progress, but our engineers and scientists must also be prepared to work together cooperatively.


"Project Management; On a related issue, today's scientists and engineers are the products of a four-year experience which implicitly teaches them that most problems can be framed and solved in the mind of an individual. Very few real problems can. The sheer complexity of today's development projects, the resources devoted to them, their pioneering nature and the limited time available for their completion make optimum progress - and consequently optimum project management - absolutely essential.


"Design Aids: Finally, we see a shift from a world in which an engineer's tool kit contained nothing more complicated than a handbook and slide rule, to one that includes the use of sophisticated computer-based tools to perform now commonplace, but otherwise impossible, design functions. This suggests a strong need for educational experiences which encourage effective use of design aids.


"Industrial life in the new age demands engineers and scientists who: understand the nature of complexity and are sensitive to the economic implications of time-to-market, are sufficiently grounded in engineering fundamentals to allow effective intersection of their knowledge base with that of other product developers, and have the necessary communication and team skills - as well as attitude - to allow effective performance as part of a team."


Digital Creates New California District


Digital has formed its first aerospace account-foe used sales organization by reorganizing two of the largest districts in California into a Southern California Aerospace/Government District. The new district, which will handle all aerospace and federal government accounts from what was previous­ly the Los Angeles and Southern California districts, will be headed by Shel Sherman, the former L.A. district sales manager.


"With this reorganization, we will be able to develop a more focused, coordinated approach in the aerospace/federal government marketplace," said Shel. "It should also improve our ability to coordinate with our Washington office and with the government and industry marketing groups in Massachu­setts and New Hampshire." Only the sales function will be moved into the new aerospace district, which will be headquartered in Culver City.


Dan Hassett, formerly regional Industrial Distribution manager for the Southwest, will move into the district sales manager position for the L.A. district, and Al Pires will continue to manage Southern California.


VAX Base Product Marketing


Recently, Bruce Ryan, manager, VAX Base Product Marketing, joined the staff of Bill Johnson, vice president, Systems and Cllusters Engineering, as part of the continuing efort to improve the interworkings of the Engineering, Manufacturing, Marketing and Field organizations. In a recent interview Bruce explained the role of his group.


"The strategic marketing gruops -- OEM, CAEM, TEchnical, BOS, Large Systems, Business Computers -- look at a product as a means to an end, as a solution to a customer's problem. In Base Product Marketing, we focus on the products themselves -- through their entire life cycle. We do this through the phase review and long-range planning processes. We help to define markets, opportunities and trends before products are announced. We analyze the competitiion on a product basis, consult with customers to understand user needs, and work with the engineering groups to understand what can be done, and then develop a product plan.


"We then take the product through the announcement process including recom­mendations for pricing and positioning. We make sure the supporting mater­ial — advertising and sales promotion aids -- is ready and available. Once a product is announced, we track its revenue stream against plan and, eventually, we retire it.


"We think of the strategic marketing groups as our customers. They take our products, add application software, and provide information to the sales force about how to sell to customers in a given industry. They establish strategies for specific vertical markets and keep track of progress from a market rather than a product point of view.


"In the future, we will put additional emphasis on long-range planning and VAXcluster marketing. The long-range planning process will provide a framework for the engineering community to integrate specific product plans.


"The VAXcluster program is going very well. Customer reaction has been very positive. We installed over 800 VAXclusters during the last fiscal year. This was above our original forecast. With the recent announcement of the next version of VMS and planned major product announcements, we expect FY85 to be an even better year for VAXclusters."


Westminster Business To Change


Over the last few years, Digital has been experiencing a shift in the way it ships products to customers from one that required a significant amount of final assembly and test to one that allows for the shipping of equipment directly from the Point of Manufacture (POM). In July the first steps were taken to change the business in Westminster, Massachusetts (Digital's last exclusive domestic FA&T plant) .


"Over the next 12 to 18 months, we will be changing the role of our West­minster Manufacturing Plant from one of FA&T to a multi-purpose site that will be the new home of our Software Distribution Center, CSM Options Group and CSM ISE Development Center," explains Lou Gaviglia, Group manager of Computer Systems Manufacturing.


Instead of going to WMO for FA&T before shipments to customers, the systems will be shipped from their CPU and POM site (11/750's from Burlington, Vt., 11/780's from Franklin, Mass, and 16-Bit machines from Salem, N.H.).


"The Software Distribution Center in Northboro and Westboro, Massachusetts will move to Westminster as space becomes available. As businesses change locations, Digital will ultimately vacate five leased facilities. By doing this and by making better use of the Westminster facility, Digital expects to save $40 to $50 million. The company expects the cost of the transition to be in the $4 to $6 million range," Lou notes.


"About 500-600 people will be directly impacted by this change in business with most of these employees being relocated. However, we have talked to the affected employee groups and expect the transition to be smooth.


"One of the difficult things we run into in changing our businesses around is the way it impacts the lives of some people. We are aware of this and try to work these issues as sensibly as possible," Lou adds.


Software Copyright Dispute Continues by Bruce Holbein, Manager, Government Relations


U.S. trade officials and Japan-watchers are in disagreement over the intent of Japan's Ministry of International Trade & Industry (MITI) to file legis­lation that would remove software from the protection of Japan' s copyright law.


Some observers believe MITI will back from its proposal because of opposition to it from Japan's Ministry, which currently has jurisdiction over copyright matters, and because of concern over U.S. reaction during an election year.


Other observers disagree. They claim MITI's concern over catching up with U.S. software is so great that it is willing to risk U.S. retaliation. These observers believe that MITI is now planning to introduce its legis­lation at an extraordinary session of the Diet beginning in September.


Some background


At the beginning of this year, MITI created a storm of protest among U.S. trade officials and high technology representatives by proposing legislation that would allow compulsory licensing of software if MITI determined it to be "in the national interest," or if one firm developed software which relied upon another firm's software to be operational.


Moreover, the proposed legislation would give firms greater freedom to modify and then market variations of software developed by another firm.


Finally, MITI's legislation would shorten the period of protection of software from 75 to 15 years.


CBEMA and the American Chamber of Commerce of Japan (ACCJ) quickly denounced MITI's proposal. CBEMA complained that it would allow Japanese firms "to raid the developed software around the world," and noted that the Universal Copyright Convention, of which Japan is a signatory, would allow the U.S. to retaliate by denying copyright protection to Japanese software. CBEMA also noted that present U.S. law establishes a procedure by which foreign pro­ducts which infringe U.S. copyrights can be denied entry and sale in the U.S.


At the beginning of May, U.S. Trade Representative William Brock announced that MITI had assured him it would not introduce this legislation during the current session of the Diet. Brock also claimed that MITI would "consult closely with us before submitting any legislation on software program rights.'


Major Digital Computer Network Launched At U. Of Houston


Digital and the University of Houston have announced plans to create one of the largest and most advanced computer-intensive educational environments in the nation. The major multi-campus, high-speed computer network, with a potential value of $70 million, will be implemented over a four-year period.


The University, with grants of up to $35 million from Digital, plans to utilize, during the first two-year phase, up to 4,500 Digital Professional 350 and Rainbow 100 personal computers and clusters of VAX superminicom­puters distributed throughout the University's four campuses. Digital will also provide full-time technical personnel to assist in on-site network design and development.


Through the planned network, many academic and administrative computing tasks will take place at personal workstations. The network will be de­signed to support up to 20,000 personal computers for instruction, research and administrative activities. Faculty and administrative offices will house about a third of the workstations, with another third located through­out the campuses in clusters for student use. The remaining third will be made available to faculty, staff and students.


The Ethernet* local area networks on all four campuses will interconnect the workstations through a high speed microwave channel capable of transmitting over a million characters per second. Workstations in student and faculty homes throughout the area will have access to the network via telephone 1 inks.


The University of Houston System has a total enrollment of more than 44,000 students, with 6,000 faculty and staff members.


♦Ethernet is a trademark of Xerox.  privacy statement