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Book Excerpt + Author Q&A: Mission Critical Operations


This ISA author Q&A was edited by Joel Don, ISA’s community manager. ISA's new book, Mission Critical Operations Primer, focuses on the components of mission critical operations, including technology, standards, risk management, emergency response, cybersecurity, and operational activities and processes. It is a valuable resource to those new to the field and those who are currently in the workforce. In this Q&A feature, author Steve Mustard highlights the value and importance of his first ISA book. To get your copy of this informative reference manual, click this link to purchase it at the ISA website.


Q. How would you briefly describe “mission-critical operations”?

A. Mission-critical is a subjective term. Any organization can claim to have mission-critical systems or operations but we are really looking at those organizations in the 16 critical infrastructure sectors for whom failure can result in serious consequences, such as loss of life, harm to the environment or significant financial loss through production impact or damage to plant. The book attempts to give an introduction to the key aspects across the mission-critical operations space.     

Q. What would you say is the core objective of the book? What key messages/points of emphasis are you trying to communicate? What challenge or set of challenges is the book trying to address or solve?

A. The aim is to give an overview of the key aspects of mission-critical operations, such as standards and regulations, safety and risk management factors, operational processes, and the technology involved. A wide variety of factors can affect mission-critical operations, including:

  • Hardware or software failures
  • Network communications problems
  • Accidental damage or disruption
  • Natural disasters
  • Deliberate damage, such as cyberattacks

Q. Who would you say would be the core audience for the book? A. This book is aimed at those people who are looking to start a career in mission-critical organizations, such as an operator or technician. The objective is to provide an introduction into all the key areas of mission-critical work, and provide some guidance for further reading for those who want to delve into more detail in certain areas.  


To get your copy of this informative reference manual, click this link to purchase it at the ISA website.


Q. What would you say to someone who may be considering reading the book? What would they gain by reading it?

A. The field of mission-critical operations is incredibly broad, and it can be hard to grasp all the terminology and issues that exist. While there are several books that go into depth in certain aspects, there are very few, if any, that cover the breadth of mission-critical operations as this book does. The book is an excellent introduction for those wishing to start a career and it is also an excellent guide for those already in the workforce.

Q. Cybersecurity is getting a lot of attention lately, but it’s important to focus on other mission-critical operations as well, correct?

A. Yes. Cybersecurity is a major driver in today’s mission-critical organizations so naturally it forms a big part of the book. However, there are other fundamentals of mission-critical operations that cannot be ignored, such as safety management and operational procedures. The book aims to provide a solid grounding in all the key aspects of mission-critical operations.

Q. Do you have any other points to make about the book…its importance and relevance today?

A. A whole culture of mission-critical operations specialists is emerging. These specialists understand the threats and risks as well as the consequences of failure. These specialists focus on areas such as robust IT network design, control system security, control room operations and alarm handling. In addition, they need to have a broad understanding of all key aspects of mission critical systems. No other career requires so many different aspects to be brought together in one role. The aim of this book is to provide a good introduction to all these aspects.


ISA offers standards-based industrial cybersecurity training, certificate programs, conformity assessment programs, and technical resources. Please visit the following ISA links for more information:


About the Author
Steve Mustard, author of the ISA book, Mission Critical Operations Primer, is an independent automation consultant and subject-matter expert of ISA and its umbrella association, the Automation Federation. He also is an ISA Executive Board member. Backed by nearly 30 years of software development experience, Mustard specializes in the development and management of real-time embedded equipment and automation systems, and the integration of real-time processing, decision-support and other disparate systems to improve business processes. He serves as president of National Automation, Inc. Mustard is a recognized authority on industrial cybersecurity, having developed and delivered cybersecurity management systems, procedures, training and guidance to multiple critical infrastructure organizations. He serves as the chair of the Automation Federation’s Cybersecurity Committee. Mustard is a licensed Professional Engineer, UK registered Chartered Engineer, a European registered Eur Ing, an ISA Certified Automation Professional (CAP) and a certified Global Industrial Cybersecurity Professional (GICSP). He also is a Fellow in the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), and a senior member of ISA.


Connect with Steve


Joel Don
Joel Don
Joel Don is an independent content marketing, social media and public relations consultant. Prior to his work in marketing and PR, Joel served as an editor for regional newspapers and national magazines throughout the U.S. He earned a master's degree from the Medill School at Northwestern University with a focus on science, engineering and biomedical marketing communications, and a bachelor of science degree from UC San Diego.

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