Best practices for systems integrators bolster business, says CSIA
Control system integrators need to instill a stronger culture of quality and a program for achieving business goals, according to Robert Lowe, executive director of the Control Systems Integrators Association (CSIA), during a CSIA webinar that detailed CSIA’s Best Practices Manual and reviewed related implementation strategies. Calling for a more a nuanced approach to systems integration, Lowe prescribed not only a best-practices culture but a system or program for achieving member firms’ business goals.
Often updated, the manual, which was first written in 1997, has 9 chapters aimed at improving the business practices of systems integrators: general management; human resources management; marketing, business development, and sales management; financial management; project management; system development lifecycle; supporting activities; quality assurance management; and service and support.
Top lining specific aspects of each chapter, Lowe – a veteran of the metals and industrial automation industries – recounted his hardships in understanding financial management.
“I remember when stepping into running a company, after being a technical guy,” he said. “The financial part didn’t come easy.” Assuming integration expertise, CSIA does not aim to help members refine technical skills but rather focuses primarily on perfecting the business side of operation. The combination of technical and business skills breeds long-term success, Lowe said.
To achieve these business best practices, Lowe advocated for a strategic plan, which included upper-level management commitment, organizational culture, a best practices champion, goals, accountability, execution, and, of course, CSIA membership and certification. The manual contains more than 300 criteria by which the CSIA audits a firm. To achieve certification, an organization must achieve and produce evidence of implementing the guidelines for 79 of the total criteria.
Lowe’s primary goal, however, is not certification, he said. It is implementation.
“There must be implementation, and then certification is just icing on the cake,” he said. Often firms view certification as a liability, but implementation is actually a strategic asset. The CSIA Best Practices Manual provides structure, processes and procedures, and evaluation of system integration so as to ensure business advancement and quality.
The CSIA has 373 members worldwide. Members have access to online support forums and business management best practices.
– Jordan M. Schultz, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, firstname.lastname@example.org.
CSIA and other system integration strategies for improvement are presented at the CSIA Executive Conference, April 23-26, San Diego www.controlsys.org.