The 2021 International Society of Automation (ISA) President Steve Mustard is featured monthly on the ISA Interchange blog with a column directed toward ISA members around the world. The column speaks to current membership priorities, challenges, news, and perspectives. We invite ISA Interchange readers to engage and dialogue with Steve, and if you are not currently a member of ISA, visit www.isa.org/join to learn more about membership.
“The best things in life are free. The second-best things are very, very expensive.”
It’s already March—just 295 days until we ring in 2022!
At this time of year, ISA leaders are typically packing their bags and booking their accommodation for the Strategic Leader Meeting (SLM). Unfortunately, travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines mean we still cannot meet in-person. So, virtual it is. It remains important for the ISA leaders to come together—even virtually—to discuss and review the ISA strategy and make sure we are all pointing in the same direction as we work on our objectives and goals this year.
The prospect of several more months of virtual life is daunting for many, myself included. “Zoom fatigue” is a real issue. If you are struggling with this, check out this article from the BBC which may help.
ISA has been doing a lot to support our community in response to this virtual era. Between July and November 2020, ISA had almost 8,000 registrants for our fledgling virtual events series—68% of them outside the US and 49% non-members. ISA saw, on average, an 800% increase in registration compared to in-person events. We are building on this success in 2021 with nine conferences and 25 webinars already scheduled. Three of these will focus on markets outside North America. ISA training also responded to the new way of working. We pivoted our in-person training courses and exams to offering online formats and delivery.
To help keep our members connected in this virtual world, we launched ISA Connect Live. These interactive dialogues—typically around a technical topic—allow you to network, engage, and get more out of your ISA experience. Our technical divisions have really been making the most of this new program. I will be personally participating with the Building Automation Division discussing cybersecurity this month. I hope to “see” you there. I’ll also be joining an upcoming Connect Live event on automation project management co-hosted by the Process Measurement and Control and Automation Project Management and Delivery divisions.
We have done, and are doing more, in this virtual environment—events, webinars, training, Connect Live—but there is a challenge. Virtual activities can be challenging to monetize. Many virtual events since the beginning of the pandemic have been free. The Connect Live activities are open to members and non-members. While we hope the non-members will see value in what ISA is offering and choose to join our community, we must be mindful of ISA’s best interests.
Although ISA is a non-profit organization, we all understand that nothing can operate without profit. Membership dues alone do not cover ISA’s operational costs. Revenue from products and services, event sponsorships, and registration fees are needed. We must find our balance with free and paid activities. Virtual events are not free to operate. A huge amount of effort goes into these events, from the volunteers providing their subject matter expertise and content to the staff building, marketing, and executing on the day. There is also the cost of the technology to make an enjoyable and professional experience for the attendees. Should they remain free to attend? What would you be willing to pay to have access to the great content in our virtual events or the networking and discussions through ISA Connect?
ISA is your organization. We are here to fulfill our vision and mission. I welcome your feedback on the value and reach of ISA’s virtual activities. Message me through ISA Connect or email me at email@example.com.
I look forward to working with you all to create a better world through automation, virtually or otherwise!
About the Author
Steve Mustard is an industrial automation consultant with extensive technical and management experience across multiple sectors. He is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE), ISA Certified Automation Professional® (CAP®), UK-registered Chartered Engineer (CEng), registered European Engineer (EUR ING), GIAC Global Industrial Cyber Security Professional (GICSP), and Certified Mission Critical Professional (CMCP).
Backed by 30 years of engineering experience, Mustard specializes in the development and management of real-time embedded equipment and automation systems and cybersecurity risk management related to those systems. He serves as president of National Automation, Inc.
Mustard writes and presents on a wide array of technical topics and is the author of “Mission Critical Operations Primer,” published by ISA. He has also contributed to other technical books, including the Water Environment Federation’s “Design of Water Resource Recovery Facilities, Manual of Practice No. 8, Sixth Edition.”
Mustard’s previous and current client list includes the UK Ministry of Defense; NATO; major utilities such as Anglian Water Services and Sydney Water Corporation; major oil and gas companies such as BP, BG Group, and Shell; Fortune 500 companies such as Quintiles Laboratories; and other leading organizations.