Last week I attended the CSIA (Control Systems Integrators Association) Conference in San Francisco. What is CSIA you may ask? CSIA is an organization that was founded in 1994 as a not-for-profit global trade association that seeks to advance the industry of control systems integration. Control system integrators use their engineering, technical and business skills to help manufacturers and others automate their industrial equipment and systems.
In lay terms, CSIA is an organization of peers, partners, and vendors that get together and share best practices and industry expertise to help system integrators be successful. They have even written a “best practices” standard that members can be audited to and become “CSIA Certified.”
Optimation has been involved with CSIA from the beginning as one of the founding members, and one of the first to become certified to the Best Practices Standard. We are a mature company now, but in the beginning, this organization was the source of answers to many “what do I do when ...” questions (and we are still asking questions of our fellow members today). It is very interesting to talk to people at the conference from companies of all different sizes from all over the world in different stages of their company’s life cycle, and now we are answering some of those questions for others.
The conference opens with a reception where attendees can mingle and meet each other.
The first morning opens with a Welcome and Year in Review summary from the CEO of CSIA (currently Jose Rivera). For years this is followed by a talk about the economy by Alan Beaulieu (President of ITR Economics). Alan looks at and presents leading indicators as he talks about the economy and the trends he sees in the future. Alan’s predictions have been spot on over the years and his presentation style keeps the audience fully engaged. This is one of the most anticipated talks of the conference!
There is usually a keynote address to round out the opening morning and then the next 2 days are filled with breakout sessions. Attendees can choose from multiple topics and attend sessions that are of interest to them or pertain to their business or business situation.
Some examples of this year’s breakout sessions were as follows:
What Tax reform would mean for CSIA members
The Changing Business environment for SI’s
Best Practices for Best Practices
How the Cloud and AI are Changing the world
Partnering in the Era of IOT
Disaster Recovery to Business Continuity
Growth Options Using Outside Resources
Selling your team…A Viable Transition Plan
One of the most popular breakout sessions each year is called “Lessons from Touching a Hot Stove.” This to me shows the true character of the members of CSIA. Each year, 3-4 CEOs get up and tell a story of something terrible that happened in their company and how they recovered from it. These stories can be very personal (and very painful), but the members of this organization share their experiences for others to learn from (and hopefully never have to live through).
How many organizations do you know are made up of competitors who freely share best practices and are willing to share painful life experiences for others to learn from. The Systems Integration community is truly a brotherhood/sisterhood.
This was the fourth time I have attended this conference, and it still amazes me how strong the bonds in this group are. I don’t know of any other organizations where competitors get together and share best practices for the benefit of each other. This year they had record breaking attendance of 597 attendees.
This is also one of the most family friendly conferences that I have attended. Many attendees bring their spouses and even families. There are activities arranged and offered for the spouses and family members to attend while the conference is going on.
Are you a systems integrator or a supplier or partner to this industry? If you have never been to the CSIA conference you should check it out! Mark your calendars, the 2019 CSIA conference will be in Ashville, North Carolina April 30- May 3. Hope to see you there!
**Photo credit: Control System Integrators Association www.controlsys.org