CSIA Post Best Practice Criterion

January 26, 2010

As you probably know by now, NI recommends the Control Systems Integrator Association as a great way to learn about the system integration business from colleagues who also manage the same type of business.

Setting the bar

You may also be aware that CSIA has developed a set of guidelines and and audit process that certify your business practices (a bit like ISO but specific for system integrators). Potential members have often asked what the criteria in the audit for CSIA Certification are, but the criteria were not made public . . . until now.

 For Your Benefit

Why would you want to know the criteria? Perhaps, you are curious to know what  integrators had to do in their business to pass the audit for certification before joining the association. For instance, was the audit about technical ability, business practices, or both.?

Chceck them out

To help inform folks about the CSIA Certification process, the audit criteria are now listed on our website under Certified Member Program. Find them online at: http://www.controlsys.org/about/documents/AuditCriteriaV302.pdf

I encourage you to review them. If nothing else, it is a quick check list of the areas that CSIA believes are critical to your success as a system integrator. Further yet, consider joining CSIA to get more details about these and other practices, have access to other material, attend their meeting and annual conferences, …..

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Top Ways to Lose Money On Projects

January 20, 2010

After spending a couple weeks blogging about how to ensure project success, I was reminded about a presentation given by Dean Streck from V I Engineering back at NIWeek 2001. He gave a humorous presentation on the top ways to lose money on projects.

1. Don’t communicate … ever … with anyone (not your coustomer and not your vendors.)

2. Don’t train you sales team – on how to make contacts, assess customer needs, estimate projects, validate quotes, negotiate terms, close sales, ….

3. Verbals are as good as gold. Don’t worry about getting final specifications. Forget about kick-off meetings. Just take any version of the project proposal and dive right into building the system.

4. Don’tbother with project management. Just put junior engineers to the task. No need for a design review or leveraging existing technical assets. Encourage them to do it their way without constraints. 

5. Plan to use 100% of your budgeted time. And, if the customer asks for changes, just say yes. Memories are perfect, so don’t bother documenting anything especially changes. The only status updates occur at the beginning and end of the project. If your engineers do have extra time, have them spend it perfecting the system beyond required specifications.

6. When you think your done coding, try installing the system right away. The best place to find errors is at the customer site. Don’t bother the customer by calling in advance and scheduling time. Assume you will have clean power and noise free environment.

7. Support contracts are a waste of time, so forget about them. Just agree to fully support your system if the customer is ever dissatisfied or makes any changes.

I must admit I got some chuckles looking back through this presentation. Hopefully, you will too.


How To Ensure Project Success

January 13, 2010

Last week, I referenced this article, written by Vance VanDoren, of Control Engineering about how to avoid project failure. In addition to discussing the most common reasons for failure, he provided a list of ways to succeed:

  1. Define project goals;
  2. Develop project scope and schedule;
  3. Establish multi-discipline project team;
  4. Define the mechanical process;
  5. Develop functional process controls descriptions;
  6. Develop network configuration drawings; and
  7. Develop equipment and programming specifications.

First Things First

I have to agree that lack of good/solid project requirements is probably the #1 challenge to project success. This can result from the customer not having a clear understanding of the project, the integrators failure to perform adequate requirements, or simply the sense of urgency to get the product started (without sufficient requirements.

Get the Customers to Help You Help Them

As I said last week, you may want to reference Vance’s article with your customers as a way to educate them about common project pitfalls. By better educating them, you can increase their understanding and desire to help you ensure the success of the project.


How to Avoid Project Failure

January 5, 2010

I found this article, written by Vance VanDoren, of Control Engineering. He discusses how system integration projects don’t always go smoothly. He lists the 10 signs of impending failure and 7 ways to stay on track. For instance:

Ten reasons for failure

  1. Incomplete requirements;
  2. Lack of client involvement;
  3. Lack of resources;
  4. Unrealistic expectations;
  5. Lack of executive support;
  6. Changing requirements and specifications;
  7. Lack of planning;
  8. Didn’t need it any longer;
  9. Lack of management; and
  10. Technology illiteracy.

Industrial automation projects may or may not fail as often as software development projects, but the reasons for failure are very similar, according to a less formal survey recently conducted by Control Engineering. All 1,800+ system integrators listed in the Automation Integrator Guide were asked to describe why an automation project might fail, what signs point to impending trouble, and how those problems can be avoided. Not surprisingly, several respondents agreed with the Chaos Report’s finding that “incomplete requirements” is the #1 problem.

Pass Along to Your Clients

While directed toward the end users, he offers some good tips that integrators should also be (painfully) aware of. Perhaps, the article is something that you can even point your customer to.

By the way, I’ve discussed many of these topics in more detail on this blog. Check out the Table of Contents as a convenient way to find them.