Is It Time To Speak Out?
by Terry V. Molloy, PE
(Reprint from August, 2003 Transmitter)
before my term on the ISA Executive Board started I was expressing my concern
about the direction ISA Staff and some of our volunteer leaders were taking our
Society. As many of you know I have
continued that battle since my term ended on December 31, 2001. Now I am asking for your help in my efforts
to change the direction of our Professional Technical Society. This lengthy article describes some events
and staff actions that I believe demonstrate the problem. I would very much appreciate your taking the
time to read this and then send comments to me and anyone else you think
appropriate. At the end of this article
I will include the e-mail addresses of ISA leaders that you can contact with
your concerns and to express your opinions.
You may go to the ISA web site at www.isa.org
for additional contact information.
Benefits: Have you been to the ISA web site
lately? Check out your member
benefits. Look at the “Technical Information”
benefits. Are there any benefits that
jump out and grab making you want to spend $85 to join ISA. Did you know that you do not have to be an
ISA member to get “InTech?” Then there
is the “Free E-mail Alias Address,” listed under both the Technical Information
area and the Networking Opportunities area.
Can you still get the same thing from Yahoo for free? I could go on but I think you are getting the
drift. Our Society is changing and some
of us are concerned that it is not for the better.
can you do to help us get back on track?
Certainly NOT what too many others in North America have done, they have
voted with their feet. That will result
in the demise of the ISA and loss of the premier technical society serving the
professionals in our field. You CAN
participate is section functions and you CAN communicate with ISA leaders via
e-mail and express your thoughts about the current direction of the
Society. What follows are some examples
of issues I would like your feedback on so that we can better serve you. Did we do the right thing? Are we headed in
the right direction? What else can we do
to serve YOU as a technical professional in the process control field? We want to hear from you!
With Conflicts From Headquarters: At the June NORCAL Board of Directors meeting we
voted unanimously to proceed with the May 12 and 13, 2004 NORCAL TECH to be
held at the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo. We made this decision after very careful
consideration of all pertinent facts. However,
the fact that we even to rethink our plans was disturbing and indicative of one
of the current problems in the operation of ISA. Even more disturbing were the tactics used by
certain members of ISA staff and some of our District 11 leadership.
Staff without any coordination with our local section or District 11 leaders
decided to hold a C&E in Long Beach, California in late April of 2004. Upon discovering that we had our C&E
scheduled for mid May 2004, ISA Staff decided that we should cancel our C&E
and Executive Director, Jim Pearson, proceeded to contact Bob Webb. Mr. Pearson ultimately contacted me and I
told him there was no conflict in my mind since our market for attendees and
exhibitors was local and we did not consider Los Angeles local. However, ISA staff felt differently and
decided to try to put more pressure on us by raising the issue at the District
Leadership Conference (DLC) District 11 Council Meeting. John Querido, Don Zee and Kim Miller-Dunn
came prepared with a motion to tell NORCAL not to proceed with our
C&E. They even had a crudely drafted
letter from Past President Zani requesting that our C&E be postponed. It later came out that ISA Staff had drafted
the letter and it was not clear to me that Pino had even seen it. But the real point here is that RTP was
trying to stop our event with strong-arm tactics and the three NORCAL leaders
at the DLC we angered and upset at being treated this way.
very interesting point about this whole issue is the fact that RTP is currently
promoting two basically identical conferences on the East Coast within one
month of one another and approximately the same 400 miles apart. The proximity and time between the California
events were the primary reasons ISA cited for requesting us to cancel our
event. Why do not the same criteria
apply to the East Coast events? Some of
us believe that ISA Staff’s real concern is that our event will be more
successful than the Long Beach event. We
certainly expect to be successful in meeting our objectives; we would like
their event to also be successful. But,
one of our criteria for success of our event is 1,000 attendees over two days
paying $15 each to attend the technical sessions. Another criteria is to get each exhibitor to
contribute a quality non-commercial technical presentation and we are giving a
50% discount for exhibit space to the exhibitors that qualify. The bottom line is that our event has a much
better chance of succeeding financially because we will have more involvement
by the membership and our cost will be significantly lower to all
involved. This will also provide more
opportunities for our members to grow professionally while networking.
Development of Our Members: The NORCAL Section has been a
leader in the Society in providing local training for our members at affordable
prices. We have been fortunate in that
the California Maritime Academy is available to us on Saturdays at a very
reasonable cost and that our Education Chair, Bob Hammaker, has taken the lead
in making so many of these training courses happen. We also are fortunate to have well qualified
members that are willing to teach these classes for a nominal honorarium. The combination of these two factors plus
some additional work by your leaders results in our being able to provide
quality training at prices ranging from $50 to $75 per day of training. This price compares with that charged by ISA
of $300 or more dollars per day per student.
of our members attending our classes have said that they cannot afford the cost
of the ISA classes or if their employer would pay for the class they cannot get
the time off during the week to attend.
This is especially true for the CCST Exam Review Course. Taught by ISA, this three-day course is over
$1,000 and is done on three consecutive days during the workweek. About five years ago, during the period when
ISA was trying to promote the CCST concept and the course, the NORCAL Section
again took the lead. We set up the first
local CCST Exam Review Class at POSCO in Antioch, California. That year we had almost thirty students and
got nineteen new ISA members. ISA sent
us all the course materials they had, including the Power Point Presentation,
and we had the necessary class manuals printed locally. This was a good example of “Partnering” with
the national organization.
in 2003 we asked for the latest version of the course. It took me several attempts to get the latest
PowerPoint presentation. ISA contention
was that the course was proprietary and only available at their rates. We were eventually provided with the course
material after I pointed out to several of our volunteer leaders that we were
not competing with ISA. The people that
would take our course would never even be a candidate for the CCST Exam Review
course taught by ISA; their employers would not pay for it or give them the
time to attend and they certainly could not afford to lose three days pay plus
pay the $1,000 course fee. Most of those
taking the course were having trouble getting reimbursed for the cost of the
my point here is that ISA is sending the message that it is all about
money. They view the section as
competitors when the sections develop their own training programs and they have
no problem sending that message loud and clear.
ISA should be partnering with the sections to promote the development of
this material so it can be shared across the Society, not used as a revenue
source for paying ISA Staff at RTP. RTP
cannot compete on a cost basis with local section training and local training
has the potential to serve the most members.
is focusing on developing “new” services to provide our members, but some of us
think they are picking the wrong products.
Why should our members pay $85 per year to get a five or ten percent
discount on a market rate course?
Especially when we have qualified instructors willing to teach a course
for a nominal fee in a first class teaching environment. The problem is exacerbated by the attitude of
Staff that whatever the volunteer member develops belongs to ISA and the
volunteer needs ISA’s permission to use it again. The net effect on our volunteers is to drive
Responsibility and The ISA Mission: In past
newsletter issues I have discussed the ISA Mission and how it is currently
being carried out. As many of you know I
am not completely satisfied with what has been happening to our Society during
the last several years. In my opinion
ISA’s most valuable asset is the membership list and the commitment of our
volunteer leaders to serve ISA members by their efforts to advance our
profession and improve the skills of our members. Our second most valuable asset is our
intellectual property as contained in our books, standards, and other
publications. And our third most
valuable asset is the tangible liquid assets and physical property owned by
ISA. Now if we were a for-profit
business we would be responsible to our stockholders to generate a profit with
our assets. But we are not a for-profit
business. However, we are diminishing
our most valuable asset by trying to make a profit on everything we do. We are driving our members away and by the
actions described above we are also alienating our leadership.
Downloadable Standards Benefit: During my
tenure on the Executive Board I, with several others, fought very hard for a
“Free Standards Download” for ISA members.
ISA Staff fought us all the way and some of the tactics used were
questionable. When it became apparent
that we had the votes on the Executive Board to pass the motion, Jim Pearson
came up with the “fact” that if we did not charge some fee we could not track
who was taking advantage of the benefit.
We agreed to a $25 annual fee to download as many standards as a member
wanted. This benefit was approved by the
Executive Board and was put in place.
During the first several months the benefit was available, several of us
pushed on ISA Staff to promote the benefit, it never happened. Instead at the next Executive Board meeting
we got an “estimate” from staff on how much money we were losing because of
these free downloads. That estimate was
equal to about 75% of our annual sales which had not declined at all. The
information provided by ISA staff has continually stressed how much we were
losing on the downloads, but it neglected to point out that revenues for
standards actually increased in the years immediately following the benefit
introduction while the economy and membership in the North America continued to
of us that promoted this benefit believed that it would attract user community
members as well as promote the use of ISA Standards. One of the results would be to make ISA the
premier process control standards organization in the world. We figured that a member would download a
standard that would apply to a project they were working on and use the
information in the standard to specify product or service requirements. When the purchase order was issued it would
reference the standard and the supplier would have to have a current copy to be
sure all the requirements were met. Of
course if a specification were issued to several potential suppliers they would
all need the standard to submit a bid.
have downloaded many of the standards for informational purposes. I use them to develop training courses for
the classes we teach. But now with the
new limit of ten standards per year and the fee increase to $99 per year, I
will not be using that source any longer.
I am sure others will follow. My
guess is that our Downloadable Standard Subscriptions will drop from the
current level of 2,000 to less than 200.
the Member The Section vs. Headquarters: This is
about effective use of ISA assets. The
sections have the greatest potential for serving the member at the most
competitive price. To do that
effectively the sections need tools to run the sections and products that the
members want. ISA would never have
started over fifty years ago if the people that came to meetings to share their
knowledge charged “market rate” for their presentation. The products today’s members want are
knowledge and networking, the same as fifty years ago; but the delivery
mechanism is different. The products
must be delivered at a time and location that meets the members’ needs and at a
price the member rather than the employer is willing to pay. That is the major change that has taken place
and ISA has not faced that change in either its product design or its business
still has sufficient financial resources to implement a program to serve the
members at a local level but unless they change direction those resources will
not be there in the future. The Society
faces two critical problems in my opinion.
The first is the lack of new volunteer leaders and the second lack of
financial resources at the section level to participate in the Society
governance. In some cases the resources
are not sufficient to even run the section.
Some of the current plans I have heard about will exacerbate the section’s
financial problem further by reducing and then ultimately eliminating the dues
rebate in future years. So what should
ISA funds to develop a tool for section leaders to run the section. This should be a runtime MS Access program that
included finance and budgeting, membership list download capabilities,
automatic generation of reports to ISA RTP, and other features to make the
leadership role easier and more effective.
There are many programs for running clubs available on the Internet so
this should not be a major project, but done correctly it could sure make life
for our leaders easier. Some will say
that many sections have their own tools or they use programs like QuickBooks to
manage section finances. That is fine,
they can continue to do that, but others (especially new leaders) will
ultimately find that a well written program targeted at a section’s needs will
be a lot easier to use and to pass on to new leaders.
Staff should then compile a list of courses that our membership has expressed
interest in taking. That list should be
sent to the Education Chair and President of each section with the goal of
prioritizing the development of the courses and finding potential contributors
for either developing or teaching the courses.
The sections might also add courses to the list. The next step would be to identify an ISA
volunteer to be responsible for the development of each course and establish a
schedule for that development. ISA staff
would provide a list of publications and other documents from our Intellectual
Property that would be applicable for each course. The goal being to sell that to students
taking the course with significant discounts to ISA members. The courses would be developed in a
PowerPoint format, put on a CD ROM with all supporting documentation, and made
available to sections for a nominal fee to cover ISA distribution costs for
availability of these courses should attract new members, which in turn will
provide potential new leaders. The
courses will also provide revenue that will be needed to send our leaders to
ISA governance meetings. ISA’s future is
not in providing “market rate” services to its membership; we did not join ISA
for that purpose. We joined ISA for the
opportunity to interact with our fellow professionals, to learn, to share, and
to get recognition for our accomplishments in a relaxed, inexpensive, and
Turn To Contribute: If you agree or disagree with
these thoughts I would like to hear from you.
My e-maiI address is email@example.com. I would also very much appreciate you sending
your comments to the entire ISA Executive Committee. My hope is that they will forward your
thoughts to the rest of the Executive Board.
Some have contended that I am one of only a few members that feel this
way about the condition of ISA as a professional society. I need YOUR help to prove that wrong.
Committee e-mail addresses
President, Bob Ives firstname.lastname@example.org
President, Pino Zani email@example.com
Secretary, Lowell McCaw firstname.lastname@example.org
Leo Staples LeoStaples@mmcable.com
Board of District VP’s, Dawn Schweitzer email@example.com
Board of Department VP’s, Diana Bouchard firstname.lastname@example.org
new: 8/8/03 GJG