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ISA President's Column: Saying Goodbye to a Challenging Year, and Looking to the Future

Celebrating Our Successes and Progress Made

The International Society of Automation (ISA) President Eric Cosman is featured monthly on the ISA Interchange blog with a column directed toward ISA members around the world. Eric’s column speaks to current membership priorities, challenges, news, and perspectives. We invite ISA Interchange readers to engage and dialogue with Eric, and if you are not currently a member of ISA, visit www.isa.org/join to learn more about membership.


Fellow Society members;

I hope that this month’s message finds you safe and well. This will be my final message as president, and with the end of the year fast approaching, it is a good time to reflect on recent developments and celebrate our successes.

Our society has three relatedbut slightly differentbasic purposes. First and most important, we are a professional society that exists to serve the members of the automation profession. At the same time, we are a non-profit business that develops and sells products and services to our customers. Finally, we are a standards development organization that creates standards and related practices that represent the collective wisdom, expertise, and experience of our profession. All of these require consultation withand contributions fromyou as members to achieve our aspiration to be the “home of automation.”

I believe that we have made gains in each of these areas in the past year. We have encountered and responded to several challenges, many of which are related to the global pandemic. We provide a virtual community where old and new friends and colleagues can stay in contact, share their personal concerns and challenges, and learn from and help each other. This can take the form of helping a colleague with a job search or simply checking in to make sure that our friends and their families are still well and healthy. This is the essence of what a community is about.

The launch of ISA Connect has shown very positive and promising results. It is developing into a very effective venue for discourse on a wide range of topics. There are conversations occurring on a variety of interesting topics. If you have not yet joined this community, I encourage you to do so, and take full advantage of this member benefit.

With economies around the world struggling, we have managed our business with care and discipline to mitigate the effects on our operations while continuing to deliver products and services. We have shifted from physical training and events to virtual equivalents while still meeting our mission in this area. Much of the credit for this goes to our staff, who have shown creativity and flexibility in adjusting our various programs. Volunteers have also contributed to areas ranging from the finance committee to our various departments and divisions. While we may end the year with a slight deficit, we should be well-positioned for an even better 2021.

Our standards and practices are viewed as valuable resources by a wide range of stakeholders, including suppliers, asset owners, educators, and service providers. Our liaison relationships with groups such as IEC, ISO, and other industry consortia allows to extend our influence more broadly than we could ever do on our own, while allowing us to learn from others. Our standards and practices also provide the basis for derivative products, ranging from training to publications and events.

While many of our standards committees have long conducted much of their business via telephone and web conferences, this practice has become virtually universal this year. Committee and work group members have become very effective using available media to continue their work. They serve as a useful example for other groups that may still be struggling in this area. Our training and events efforts have also moved to virtual media and continue to generate interest inand revenue forISA. I commend the volunteer leaders and staff for the flexibility and creativity that they have shown during this process. Collectively, the sale of standards and training courses and participation in events generates a large portion to the revenue that fuels our activities.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention our activities related to the celebration of the 75th anniversary of ISA. Although we had to make several adjustments to our plans, we have used every opportunity to promote this significant milestone. If you have not yet read the September/October 2020 issue of InTech, you should definitely do so. It provides excellent coverage of our anniversary celebrations, as well as views of both the past and future of our profession.

As I enter my final year on the Executive Board as past president, I am extremely pleased with the makeup of this body for 2021. Steve Mustard will be an excellent president next year, bringing a combination of experience, skills, and a wonderful sense of humor to this sometimes-challenging assignment. Carlos Mandolesi is already stepping up to his new role as president-elect, and I am confident that he will serve us well as president in 2022. With the remainder of the Board, I believe that we have a balance of continuity from current members and new ideas from those joining for the first time. We have tried very hard to make sure that the diversity of the Board reflects that of the Society as a whole.

As for me, I have grown by learning from and working with many excited, creative, and interesting people. I look forward to continued activity in standards and practices. I will also continue with my efforts to improve ISA, with a specific focus on completing our work to review and improve our governance processes. The recent approval of our new by-laws was an important milestone, but we still have much to do to reaffirm our principles, clarify our policies, and streamline our ability to execute our strategic plan.

In closing, I wish each of you all the best. I sincerely hope that we will be able to see each other in person in Puerto Rico next year and continue our anniversary celebrations. As always, you can find me on ISA Connect, or contact me directly at eric.cosman@gmail.com with your thoughts or questions. Please stay safe and well, and try to take some time to rest and recharge as the year draws to a close.

Eric C. Cosman

2020 President

 

About the Author

Eric C. Cosman is a chemical engineer with more than 35 years of experience in the process industries. He is the founder and principal consultant at OIT Concepts, LLC. Eric contributes to—and has held leadership positions in—various standards committees and industry focus groups. He is a member of Control Magazine’s Process Automation Hall of Fame as well as an ISA Life Fellow. Eric has served as ISA’s vice president of standards and practices, and he is a member of the ISA Executive Board. He was a founding member of a chemical sector cybersecurity program team focused on industrial control systems cybersecurity, and he was also one of the authors of the chemical sector cybersecurity strategy for the U.S. Eric is a founding member of the ISA99 Committee on Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS) Security, where he currently serves as the co-chair, in addition to serving as the co-chair of the MESA Cybersecurity working group. Eric speaks and writes on topics ranging from automation cybersecurity to systems architecture development and industrial transformation, and he is the author of the cybersecurity chapter of the ISA Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge (3rd edition). 


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