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Expert Interview Series: Matt Osminer of Cardinal Peak – Part 2

Matt Osminer is an engineering director at Cardinal Peak, where he uses his broad technical background, running the gamut from low-power embedded devices to high-performance computing to video and set-top app development, to lead a team of highly experienced software engineers in cutting-edge software development.

In Part 1, Matt talked about Cardinal Peak’s specialization and the types of Big Data projects they tackle, when companies should outsource engineering, and best practices for Big Data integration. In this Part 2 blog post he discusses the most common pain point organizations are looking to overcome in data management, how to improve ROI on engineering investments, a mistake businesses make in staffing for their development needs, the most interesting or innovative Internet of Things (IoT) projects they’ve taken on and what industry trends he’s following.

What are the most common pain points or frustrations your clients are trying to overcome when it comes to data?

Accessing all the data needed is often problematic in a larger organization. It’s typically there, but not in a way that’s easy or convenient to ingest.

The other high hurdle is trying to figure out the questions you want to ask and how to answer them. Many times you think you are looking at the right data to answer your questions, but when you make changes based on the data you’re seeing, things don’t head the way you expect. Then it’s a big exercise in figuring out why and iterating on the problem. When you’re trying to effectively model human behavior, it can be maddening. People aren’t always predictable and often respond in ways you don’t expect.

How can businesses improve the ROI on their engineering investments?

I think everybody jumps to the obvious – get the best engineering talent you can for the buck. This is a given. What a lot of people think of right away is the value of a great product manager, coupled with consistent QA and processes.

A stellar product manager is going to:

  • Make sure you are delivering the highest value features as quickly as possible. Too often we see clients with a massive feature list. It takes them longer to get to market, and they end up with a lot of features nobody uses. This can cost you market window and is money lost on things that don’t matter.
  • Be an effective bridge between the business and the development team. Ideally understanding the right technical and business tradeoffs to meet the overall goals. You want happy customers with the simplest technical solution possible. This keeps your revenue stream up and your maintenance costs down.

QA is the unsung hero of the software world. A solid QA team is going to:

  • Catch issues as close to the development team as possible. The longer a bug goes through the development process the more it costs to fix it. Catching bugs early is essential.
  • Champion your end user to make sure the product your customer receives is the very best you can deliver.

On top of it all, a good engineering process is the glue that holds engineering together. Good process ensures your teams communicate effectively and your product quality is high. You shouldn’t change process constantly, but you do want to periodically identify areas where process will help you be more effective. At the same time, don’t be afraid to let go of processes that are in your way or don’t work out.

What are the most common mistakes or oversights businesses make when it comes to their engineering needs?

It shouldn’t be surprising that many of the things that I feel improve ROI of an engineering investment apply here as well. As a more general rule, engineers are great at building stuff. Making sure they build the right stuff is the hard part, and making sure you have the organizational support to guide and work with engineering is a common stumbling point. Even if you choose to outsource your engineering, you need to have someone with a clear vision and time to engage with the engineering team to make sure they hit the right target.

What are the most interesting or innovative IoT projects your teams have been involved in recently?

We’re wrapping up a project right now where our client is using IoT connected devices to help their service partners. The service partners can proactively monitor product health and receive alerts on failures. They can then proactively reach out to schedule service calls. Their technicians can also pull up error information before going onsite for repairs. This allows the tech to review what parts and tools may be needed to make the repair. The goal is to improve customer service at every level and save cost that may result from multiple trips to repair a unit.

Our client is also using equipment error information to streamline their parts inventory to make sure they don’t keep inventory on parts that don’t fail very often, keeping costs down on inventory management. Their engineering teams are also considering this data when designing new products. If a given valve is prone to failure, perhaps the part isn’t spec’d right or they have a design flaw.

On the fun side we just delivered an IoT home and retail fragrance diffuser. This is a commercial grade unit used by large department stores, with a scaled-down version for residential use. It turns out that people spend more money in the right emotional state, and smell is deeply linked to that. Diffusing certain fragrances into the air has been shown to increase sales. We developed a pretty innovative product that sounds crazy to those not in the know about “retail fragrance profiles,” but really works. The IoT aspect allows the stores to monitor scent levels and make adjustments centrally without needing to touch every unit in the store, as well as automatically order refills.

What industry trends or headlines is your team following right now? Why?

We stay on top of pretty much anything IoT-oriented, which covers a large number of engineering disciplines. We’ve been keeping an eye on Bluetooth and 802.15-based protocols and associated low cost/low power wireless standards, not to mention the latest in Wi-Fi trends. We also stay abreast of news from Ayla Networks, Apple, Amazon, Google, and other larger IoT contenders and solution providers. Security articles around IoT are also always good reading since security is such a critical risk for IoT devices.

In the eBook, “Best Practices for Hadoop in the Enterprise,” Syncsort discusses industry best practices and trends to watch in Big Data, as well as the top data integration uses for Hadoop, including predictive analytics and IoT.

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