Take Chance, Guesswork out of Selecting a Control System Integrator

Benchmarking and registration programs aim to maximize investments and minimize hassle. One axiom that seems to apply to the control system integrators' (CSI) industry is, "Find a really good integrator and you'll also find a very good businessperson." Conversely, those integrators with weak business skills usually end up providing marginal systems to dissatisfied clients.

12/15/2000


Benchmarking and registration programs aim to maximize investments and minimize hassle. One axiom that seems to apply to the control system integrators' (CSI) industry is, "Find a really good integrator and you'll also find a very good businessperson."

Conversely, those integrators with weak business skills usually end up providing marginal systems to dissatisfied clients. Why is this so? We believe it's because most CSI firms are founded by entrepreneurial types, who possess strong engineering talents and a lot of technical expertise, but are often missing the business and marketing smarts so necessary for continued growth and success.

Recognizing this, back in 1994, a number of CSIs got together to address some common problems faced by independent service providers. The result was the formation of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), with 31 founding members. From the onset, the primary objectives were to "assist members in developing effective business skills, develop standards for sound business practices, provide a forum to discuss common business issues, and define the role of the control system integrator to clients and suppliers." Today, CSIA has grown into a vibrant and dynamic organization that currently numbers over 150 members.

In 1997, the Best Practices Committee released the "CSIA Best Practices & Benchmarks" to members. The publication sets the performance standards and criteria in the areas of general management, human resources, project management, quality management, financial management, and business development. With its "self-evaluation" process, CSIA members are able to measure their company's standings and rate their improvement progress in these areas, so crucial to achieving business success.

This year, responding to members' requests, CSIA is introducing a program for members to become "Registered Members." The Benchmarking Committee met with numerous clients and equipment suppliers to solicit users' views of important benchmarking criteria. A third-party consultant audited CSIA-member firms to measure performance capabilities against these criteria. Firms that successfully pass the one-day audit are then listed as Registered Members of CSIA.

All CSIA members are listed on the CSIA website at www.controlsys.org . To further help clients make the right choice in their selection process, CSIA offers two new publications to assure success on automation projects. These are: "A Guide for Selecting a Control System Integrator," and "Guidelines for Developing a Request for Proposal, Evaluating the Responses, and Effectively Managing Project Implementation." They can be used to help create an RFP, evaluate the bid responses, and choose the best integrator to complete an automation system.

According to Robert Zeigenfuse, a founding member of CSIA and chairman of its executive counsel, the registration process was initiated after members raised several key issues. They wanted to know how to become better integrators; after showing improvement, they wanted a way to differentiate further for the client; and they wanted to raise the level of professionalism.

"The goal of the CSIA Registration Process is to simplify what has become a daunting task of identifying, interviewing, qualifying, evaluating, selecting, and managing control system integration firms," says Mr. Zeigenfuse.

To join CSIA, prospective members have to demonstrate technical competence with a minimum of three years experience providing automation solutions to satisfied clients. CSIA members, by their active participation, show they recognize the requisite need of becoming a good businessperson as well. It's a winning combination.

For more information visit www.conrolsys.org .





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