In my previous blog posts I have focused in providing information for end clients either looking to hire LabVIEW consultants or to execute their test and measurements projects with internal resources. This posting will however be addressed to you, fellow LabVIEW consultant.
Along the course of these seventeen plus years that I have been involved in test and measurements, National Instruments platforms, and obviously, LabVIEW, I had the opportunity to follow the changes the industry has gone through as well as what skill set was common to every great LabVIEW consultant.
In a not so distant past, the more proficient in LabVIEW a given consultant was, the more effective he/she would be and the most value this individual would add to his/her end customer. As the information age has solidified its presence amongst us, this started to change. Nowadays, deep knowledge of LabVIEW is no longer a differentiator between great consultants and average ones.
As test and measurements systems became more and more complex, and started to have a deeper reach into the enterprise as a whole, consultants who simply focus on only being experts in the features and benefits of LabVIEW are being left behind.
Today, one can identify two broad areas of application of LabVIEW and therefore, potential areas of focus by LabVIEW consultants: hardware interface systems and enterprise systems. Hardware interface systems, as the name indicates, is the area of application where LabVIEW is used as the Software environment for the implementation of physical systems. A physical system can be a combination of custom hardware, such as FPGAs, and off the shelf instrumentation.
When a LabVIEW consultant is engaged in the implementation of a physical system, the more well rounded this person is on engineering subjects such as electrical, mechanical and RF engineering, the more value this person will bring to his/her end customer. Today, the integration of hardware components is much more than just a collage of driver calls, from the software point of view. Software, when used for this type of application, needs to be written in a way to leverage the hardware present in the system as much as possible, make sure the implementation is steering clear of potential hardware roadblocks and ultimately, function as a cohesive whole or, a system, where the multiple hardware subsystems are flawlessly interfacing with each other.
It is somewhat intuitive to see that an engineer who is not that experienced in actual hardware subjects won’t be the most effective in writing LabVIEW software making sure those three aspects are covered.
The second area that was mentioned on this post as a focus area is one of enterprise systems. On this side of the house, the LabVIEW application will most likely be required to interface with corporate databases, web services, enterprise systems, manufacturing systems, and so on. Much like in the case of the hardware interface application for LabVIEW where the most effective consultants are the ones who are familiar with hardware, on the case of enterprise systems, the most effective LabVIEW consultants will be the ones who are fluent in other programming languages, databases, web technology, and potentially enterprise systems such as SAP, MES (Manufacturing Enterprise Systems) and others.
Usually, integration problems arise in the areas of interface between different technologies. If the LabVIEW consultant is well versed in the other technologies that will be interfacing with his/her application, this person will be much better equipped to foresee potential trouble areas and steer the project clear of them.
At the end of the day, risk mitigation is the name of the game. The consultant who is constantly looking like a hero on a cape saving the project from constant crisis, in fact, is not doing that great of a job. Consultants who make projects look easy and cruise through implementation with minimum trouble are the ones who bring the most value, as they are reducing the risk for their end clients. Test and measurements projects of today are extremely challenging and, therefore, risky. The consultants who have broad knowledge beyond LabVIEW are the ones who will make sure the LabVIEW implementation project always navigate in calm waters; being the most effective ones in the industry.