I recently attended the CSIA (Control Systems Integrators Association) Conference in Asheville, NC. The event had special meaning this year as it was the 25th anniversary of CSIA which is a not-for-profit global trade association that seeks to advance the industry of control systems integration. 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. It is rare to find an organization (sister/brotherhood) of “competitors” sharing best practices to help one another. Not only do they share “best practices”, but they share tragic examples of things that have happened to them in a session called “Lessons learned from touching a hot stove”, in hopes that others do not have to experience the same thing and can learn from their misfortune or mistakes. This year’s theme was Reaching the Next Peak.
The conference opens with a networking reception where attendees can mingle and meet each other. One of the highlights is always 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!
This year’s keynote speaker was Jennifer Pfarr Davis, an inspiring woman who has hiked the Appalachian trail 3 times and holds the overall speed hiking record for completing the hike (for men and women). She delivered a motivational speech “Planning and preparations to reach the next peak”, sharing lessons from her experiences on “the trail” and applying them to business situations.
Some examples of this year’s breakout sessions were as follows:
- Higher profits through better pricing
- Mastering millennial mindset and beyond: How to attract and retain emerging leaders
- How social selling helps grow your business
- The global robotics market and the role of System Integrators
- The future of control rooms/How technology is changing the way we think about control rooms
- Trends in HMI/SCADA: Intelligent user interfaces, rapid application development and IoT enablement
- Marketing Workshop – Smart content marketing for Engineers
- Optimizing tax savings post tax reform
- Onboarding the next generation of leaders
- Panel discussion: Best Practices in contractual liability, sub-contract agreements and cyber exposures
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).
This is a unique Conference where peers and competitors 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.
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 2020 CSIA conference will be in New Orleans, May 19-22. Hope to see you there!