The Fall Leaders Meeting, held 10–13 October, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky—my hometown—was an agenda-packed event attended by ISA’s Executive Board members; Geographic, Operational and Technical Assembly members; department and division directors; committee members; section leaders and delegates; honorees; and guests.
It was a great opportunity to celebrate the Society’s successes to date in 2015—of which there are many—and to recognize the importance of maintaining our forward momentum. After all, during the past many months, we’ve made great strides in establishing a sound strategic direction for ISA—based on rigorous planning, analysis, and consensus building. The challenge now is to capitalize on it.
At the core of what makes all Society leaders’ meetings so valuable is the face-to-face interaction they deliver. There’s no substitute for it. The discussions that took place at the Fall Leaders Meeting allowed us to better hone in on priorities, to broaden the appreciation of key Society initiatives, to better understand the markets in which we are operating and how they are evolving, to pave the way for more informed decisions and to address specific concerns and questions.
At the core of the gathering is a series of meetings—involving ISA’s Executive Board, Council of Society Delegates, District Council, and departments and assemblies—to conduct Society business and fulfill governance requirements. A special item on the agenda was a diversity and inclusion panel discussion that was moderated by Peggie Koon, Ph.D., the 2014 ISA president and current Automation Federation chair.
Valuable sessions for leaders included the following: a section leaders roundtable (an open forum discussion); a division leaders roundtable (an open forum discussion); and a division spotlight (ISA’s technical divisions set up table-top displays and informed members about their value, activities, and events). During discussions and presentations, particular emphasis was given to:
- Highlighting ISA’s progress toward its strategic goals
- Expanding opportunities for Society revenue growth
- Improving the value proposition for ISA members
- Providing leader development and training
- Addressing the urgency of leader succession
- Outlining improvements to the website, and
- Recognizing professional achievements (particularly at the Annual Honors & Awards Gala)
ISA is, indeed, making solid progress toward its goals. On a broad scale, we’re gaining exposure to new audiences, generating new leads, developing new products, and increasing industry engagement. We’re deriving new sources of revenue, including:
- Strong initial sales for unconventional oil and gas training
- Income from three new ISA certificates and two new cybersecurity courses
- Revenue through new advocacy partner initiatives
- Income from new data-generating tools developed through our Corporate Partnerships program, and
- Projected income through new coolest delivery initiatives in 2016
While financial results are improving, greater gains are expected
In his update on ISA’s financial performance, Thomas Devine, Society Treasurer, highlighted some very positive trends. For instance:
- ISA has reported an annual revenue increase in each of the last four years
- The trend line for dues-paying members is on the increase.
- The member retention rate has increased from approximately 75% in 2014 to nearly 80 percent in 2015
- The Society’s investment portfolio delivers vital financial stability, and
- ISA staff is effectively containing expenses
At the same time, he said that Society revenue is growing below expectations and ISA operating budgets for 2015 and 2016 are projected to show deficits. To help keep the association focused on financial improvement, Devine encouraged ISA leaders and staff to continually ask themselves:
- Is what I’m doing supporting ISA’s vision and mission?
- Is what I’m doing aligned with ISA’s strategic goals and our strategic plan?
- Is what I’m doing benefiting the majority of Society members and customers, and the automation community at large?
- What is the total cost of the actions I’m taking (in money, time and resources)?
- If I were to do implement something new, what project(s) already in place would need to be eliminated, postponed or scaled back?
- If ISA were my company, what resources would I invest and or what changes could be made to improve it?
A strong focus on ISA leader development and training
Ongoing leader development and training are critical to ISA’s long-term viability and relevance. A diverse range of valuable ISA leader development and training sessions were conducted, including workshops on:
- New leader orientation
- Ethics (situational conduct, relational considerations, case studies)
- Available leader tools and resources
- “Youthanizing” ISA (How to get the younger automation professionals involved)
- The importance of the ISA Manual of Organization and Procedures (MOP) /Bylaws
- The Automation Federation and FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), and
- Improving member retention (through enhanced member activities, promotion of member benefits and new member-focused web tools and features)
Website enhancements boosting service to members
Also at the meeting, leaders received an informative update on recent website improvements, which include:
- New “cool delivery” welcome messaging for new members, including a video welcome from the ISA president
- Enhanced data gathering on website users’ preferences and behavior through Google technology
- New member renewal and renewal confirmation capabilities
- New on-demand information and tools in members’ My ISA Accounts
- Greater member control over the number and type of ISA emails received, and
- New ISA event registration capabilities
To help drive these and other improvements to the website, ISA has hired a new IT manager/senior web developer. The addition of this new position is allowing ISA to improve the speed of web design and development, become less reliant on outside vendors, and strengthen its web presence.
I’m pleased to outline these highlights of the Fall Leaders Meeting. It’s clear that ISA is making some significant headway and breaking through boundaries as it moves forward.
As we head into the home stretch of 2015 and plan our entry into 2016, let’s continue to build upon all the successes we’ve worked so hard to attain. I sincerely thank you for your support of and contributions to ISA.
A version of this article also has been published in ISA Insights.