Employee Spotlight - Neil Kay

by Andrew Scarella on July 1, 2016 From Employee Spotlight
Neil Kay_web

Neil Kay_web

How did you get into this line of work?

25 years ago, I accepted an offer for a year working at TESA METROLOGY LTD (Telford, UK), as part of my Computer Science B.Sc. degree. 25 years later, the company name and role have changed a few times, but like with the Mafia, it seems once you’re in, you can never leave. It was at TESA where I received experience in writing applications software that actually made physical things move (and occasionally collide!). I was also fortunate that it gave me the opportunity to travel to various customer sites to help install, and get a sense for typical environments our products are used in. Other highlights along the way include leading the PC-DMIS Vision development team, a new Systems Infrastructure team (teams which more recently have the more catchy “DevOps” name). It was there that the crash reporting was added to PC-DMIS, which you could say was the first step to creating a UX team…since there’s nothing that can kill a user experience more than having your CMM crash and losing time and work. Most recently, I’ve been tasked with improving the UX of our software, and have been building a talented team of designers and modern technology equipped software engineers, who provide services and guidance to the development teams. Hopefully you will notice an increasingly positive impact from our initiatives.

What does your day to day look like at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence? Describe a day in the life.

It’s a long day, filled with as much coffee drinking as my body can take! As many of my team members are based in the US, my mornings tend to be quieter and so is my chance to catch up on emails, review work done overnight and detail feedback.  Midday, our US East coast colleagues come online, and that’s when Skype meetings start, and which usually continue until well into the evening. As a distributed team, we need to make that time zone overlap count, so it’s usual that the software team are the ones locking up the building at night!

What are your future goals?

To leverage all the opportunities that new technology gives us in order to innovate and create the next generation of software products in our industry. With well-established technologies like mobile notifications, there are obvious things we can do now to improve the experience, and really save time for many of our users. A little further ahead, cutting edge technologies such as Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, AI, Conversational User Interface (UI)– all can play a part, and open up a large number of possibilities that we can utilize to revolutionize the way our systems are used in the future.

What started the Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence Idea Center for PC-DMIS? And what do you hope to achieve from this forum?

In PC-DMIS 2015.1, we introduced the Customer Experience Improvement Program, a program designed to help Hexagon improve its software applications over time. This tool is very useful for us as it gave us insights into how the product is being used now (and I encourage everyone to tick that box at install time to enable it) but it doesn’t tell us how users want to be able to use it in the future. It also doesn’t really help us to prioritize the thousands of great improvement ideas we have, and know which ones we should to do next. This is where the Idea Center comes in. Having experienced these user voice systems, myself as a consumer, I enjoyed the feeling that I can influence the way that a product I use develops, and I felt users of our products would feel the same. For those who are not familiar with them, user voice systems allow anyone to suggest ideas for improvement, and from this pool of collated community suggested items, you are given a set number of votes to be place on your favorites. From this, we effectively get a sorted list, and can see which items that we add will give the most value to the most users. We will then aim to tackle the top items in the upcoming releases. As top voted items get scheduled for release, and then actively worked on by our development teams, anyone who voted for it will be kept in the loop with status emails. We also plan to reach out to a number of those who voted for the item, and get feedback on our plans for implementation – to make sure that when it releases, it should hit the mark.

What is the most popular PC-DMIS enhancement so far?
It’s still quite in its early phase, and we expect it to get busier when we launch 2017 R1 where we advertise and link to Idea Center directly, but we already have had 50 great ideas suggested. The one with most votes so far which, 25% of our Idea Center users used one of their 3 votes on is: The option to extract individual point data from auto features, so that I can report xyz values for a single point.By: Dave Drew

Interestingly, PC-DMIS does allow this, but to do it is a pretty convoluted and multi-step affair, and to find how to do it is not intuitive, as it’s not where you would expect to find it. Usability and discoverability are both big parts of User Experience, so it was great in a way that the most voted item highlights both of these. This I think will be great in helping development teams understand why UX matters.  This is also a good example where people who use the software 24/7 will be able to make such great suggestions that can greatly improve their experience. Too often, as developers, we focus only on the value of adding something new, but there is just as much value in refining, iterating, improving and simplifying what we have already. For this item specifically, Idea Center has come a little too late for 2017 R1, but we will be looking closely at including this specific request for the 2017 R2 release. I’m very excited to see what other ideas are going to float to the top!

Is this an ongoing forum or is there an expiration date?

The Idea Center is intended to be an ongoing, living breathing list of users’ needs. At launch, it’s got sections for 3 products, but other Hexagon products may choose to participate in the future. As items at the top of the list get implemented, they will be “closed”, which hides them from view, so the next top voted item takes over the top spot. New ideas can be added all the time, and votes can be moved as desired if something better comes along. The world is changing fast, and users’ needs can change. That’s why these systems are perfect for modelling this real world nature. It’s not a snapshot in time like a survey. Instead, it allows us to continuously have our finger on our user community pulse, and hopefully deliver features that will get users excited to download a new version.

What do you do for fun outside of working at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence? Hobbies?

My two sons and I are big gamers, so we’re currently getting lots of exercise walking around catching Pokémon. Aside from my lifelong gaming addiction, and being a Formula 1 fan (I was lucky to have a visit to Williams F1 through work), I’ve usually got the biggest smile on my face when upside down on a rollercoaster at a theme park.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

I have a letter from a musical hero of mine - Alan Wilder from Depeche Mode (Google it – they were big when I was young!). I’m sure he did the same to everyone who sent him demos of their bands stuff looking for some sort of approval or validation, but 20 years ago, it meant a lot to hear such positive feedback from someone I admire so much...

To learn more about this program, or to submit your ideas, check out https://hexagonmi.userecho.com/

Andrew Scarella

Andrew Scarella is the Digital Marketing Manager for Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence North America. He contributes to this blog as well as updates the North American website and provides content for the company social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.