By Lisa Richter
Do you remember your first time attending the CSIA Executive Conference? What do you remember most about that experience? For many of the first timers at the 2019 event, held April 30 – May 30, in Asheville, North Carolina, the key takeaway was the willingness of CSIA members to share, advise and, well, be real.
View photos from the 2019 Executive Conference on Facebook and relive the moments!
A community with heart
“I was blown away by the whole openness aspect of the conference,” states Tom Wright, chief operating officer of Syscon Automation in Salt Lake City, Utah, an integrator specializing in discrete manufacturing/food and beverage. “Many professionals at events just don’t have that unabashed, real desire to help others.”
For Eugenio D’Ursi, CEO of Automate, S.R.L., a Rome-based system integrator, attending the conference meant overcoming some skepticism and taking the advice of a countryman. “Luigi De Bernardini told me about CSIA and his experience, and I said, let’s try!” explains D’Ursi. (Full disclosure: De Bernardini is CSIA Chair and CEO of Autoware, S.R.L., Vicenza, Italy, a system integrator offering MES solutions to manage operations.)
“Italians are special people. We live in a small, concentrated area. However, I feel ‘alone’ in my business … and we are worried to share problems and opportunities. [At the conference] I found exactly the opposite: willingness to share, willingness to collaborate and willingness to grow," he recalls.
Taking care of business
For CSIA partner members, the conference offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to network with system integrators, understand SIs’ businesses and challenges, and establish new connections and meet with current customers.
“CSIA’s Executive Conference is a vital piece of our commitment to our SI partners and the greater SI community,” says Andrew Miller, US solution partner manager, Siemens, Alpharetta, Georgia. “We engage with existing partners and meet new integrators each year … in addition to the expo, we engage our partners throughout the week and meet with them separately the day the conference begins.”
As a first-timer, Miller was struck by the maturity of the organization and event, as well as “the commitment of integrators to the CSIA organization.”
|Attendees mingle during the 2019 Industry Expo and Reception, Wednesday, May 1.
Toby Weir-Jones, chief product officer, Bayshore Networks Inc., Durham, North Carolina, agrees. “We feel [the CSIA Executive Conference] is quite distinctive, simply because of the focus on integrators.”
And while a key driver for Bayshore Networks to attend is a desire to diversify its product line and engage integrators as the “last mile” for installation and integration of SCADA security products, for Weir-Jones it’s more than that. “I thought the format leant itself well to conversation … the sessions were interesting for me to learn more about issues that this new slice of target customers is thinking about,” he says.
Inspiring, motivating, actionable education
Newbie attendees also appreciated the inspiring keynotes as well as the actionable takeaways they picked up from the educational sessions.
Syscon’s Wright admits that while not all the sessions he attended hit the mark, there were other sessions that knocked it out of the park. “The presentation on agile was unbelievably helpful and very, very engaging,” he says. “And based on another session, the first thing I did when I got back home was update my interviewing process and created a test.” While he had tried this in the past, the conference inspired him to hone the process and gave him “the confidence that it was a good idea.”
|Casey Brown presents Show me the Money: Higher Profits Through Better Pricing during the 2019 CSIA Executive Conference.
In addition to generally discussing best practices with peers as well as networking opportunities such as the Rising Leaders lunch, John Sullivan, project director, DMC Inc., a project-based engineering firm focused on software development and control systems headquartered in Chicago, also appreciated walking away with ideas he could immediately deploy.
“We are working to change pricing and structure for performing last-minute service calls,” Sullivan says. After attending a strategic pricing presentation, “We are also hoping to do some more strategic pricing discussions internally.”
Not enough of a good thing?
First-timer Bryce Malone, director, distribution for Control Techniques, Eden Prairie, Minnesota, a specialist of electronic drive technology, found he would have liked a longer expo because “there are too many SIs and too short a time to speak to most of them.” But overall, he was impressed with the event.
“CSIA was very well-organized. The flow was great, and the networking opportunities were abundant. It ranks right up there,” he says. “Overall, just a great experience.”
Lisa Richter is industry director at the Control System Integrators Association in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.