National Instruments Embraces Community for Development
I recently was asked to tell the “NI story” of social media. There are so many good things to tell, so I decided to do a series of blog posts on them. To start off, I’d like to focus on one of our business objectives for community – obtain valuable product feedback.
National Instruments understands the importance of embracing our lead users and other customers when developing new product features for our software platform LabVIEW. While social innovation has been a hot topic among technology companies recently, NI truly embraces this notion of customer collaboration and has built user feedback into the development process.
Going beyond the typical beta program, NI has two main areas for the online community to interact directly with R&D: LabVIEW Idea Exchange and NI Labs. LabVIEW Idea Exchange is a product feedback forum where users can submit and vote on features concerning topics like user interface enhancements, performance improvements, computation capabilities, and hardware integration. Since August 2009, more than 800 ideas have been submitted for consideration in future versions of LabVIEW. Since then, eight have been developed, 12 are in beta, and two more are currently on the product roadmap.
Another way the community shapes R&D efforts is through NI Labs, a virtual research center that showcases new technologies that aren’t quite ready for release. Members of this group can download and test these pre-alpha features and provide feedback directly to the NI engineers working on them.
Many NI R&D engineers like Christina Rogers and Darren Nattinger also blog regularly about LabVIEW best practices and new software features. Their blogs are an easy way for LabVIEW community members to collaborate with key developers.
Finally, NI uses “secret groups” on our NI Developer Community to engage with lead users before a product launch. This method was uses as we developed our first industry-specific software product LabVIEW Robotics. While in the development phase, we invited robot experts to give us feedback on things like which drivers we should develop. For more about this, check out the LabVIEW Robotics blog.
I would love to hear how your company co-innovates.