Let’s look at ISA.
ISA has an excellent president, Ken Baker. I think, in fact, that Ken is the first ISA president with the sand to be able to save the thing. I would really have liked to see the combination of Ken Baker and Rob Renner. I would even have supported a bylaws amendment to allow Ken to succeed himself.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be.
I’ve met Pat Gouhin, now, twice. I suspect he may not be speaking to me right now, because I didn’t vote, as a member of WBF, for the alliance motions. I abstained. I think, after limited discussion with Pat, that in a year, he will be a good executive director. I intend to help him all I can to become so. I hope that means something.
But I have serious questions about this alliance, and the affiliation of WBF with ISA.
Some of these problems are “old tapes” from the Industrial Computing Society, a group ISA sucked money out of, provided few services to, and then allowed to die. Ken Baker told me today, “We used to do that at Lilly. We called it ‘loving them to death.'” He went on to say that he, “will not let that happen at ISA.”
I believe you, Ken.
WBF needs three things from ISA. Money, management, and marketing. Actually, they only need the money. In order to get the money, the rest comes with the deal. ISA has money. So much money, in fact that they can exist for years with no income at all, with current expense levels. ISA has management. Over the years, ISA’s management has ridden the society from nearly 50,000 members to nearly 25,000 members, and shows no signs at all of changing its policies about things like intellectual property, workproduct of volunteers, and things like that. ISA has marketing, not. See below for further discussion. WBF has one of the best marketing minds in the automation industry…but they can’t afford to pay for him to do marketing. Like I said, WBF needs money. ISA has money. ISA won’t give WBF money unless they have control. ISA has a corporate culture and history of being control freaks.
Is ISA changing? Yes. Are they going to be successful? I would truly hope so, but the judge ain’t even in the court, yet.
Lynn Craig said that the new umbrella organization (whatever it winds up being called) will have to have a strong person with automation knowledge running it.
Here’s the rub. According to the existing plan, the umbrella organization will be a wholly owned subsidiary of ISA, and the person running it will be an ISA employee. I don’t see that working, outside of ISA, OMAC and WBF. And it would not be fair to WBF.
Why can’t ISA simply fund WBF? They could have had a seat or two on the board. ISA has a history of being corporate control freaks, and this would have been and still could have been, a chance to break out of the mold.
ISA has ABSOLUTELY NO MARKETING EXPERTISE AT ALL and a history of over 50 years of doing marketing badly. Marketing lives in the Image and Membership Committee, and while Ken Baker has plans to change that, the fact remains that as a corporate culture ISA does marketing badly.
ISA is supposed to deliver the training and certification skills WBF needs, according to Lynn Craig. ISA has improved its certification skills, but it is early days yet whether they can pull the CAP certification program off. It is very clear that the quality of ISA training is deteriorating from many people we’ve talked to, and many companies are extremely disappointed in the value proposition ISA training provides.
WBF could do better if they remained independent but received an infusion of cash from ISA, from ARC, from SAP, from Microsoft, and all the other players who are using the WBF’s intellectual property to completely change manufacturing as we know it. Many of the ideas that are making that cheap technology that Andy Chatha talked about this morning possible have originated at WBF over the past 13 years.
So now we watch and we wait. Will ISA get their act together? What does this signal,really, to ISA’s beleaguered sections and divisions? ISA has only so many staff, and so much current budget. Will the umbrella organization get all the money and sections and divisions be left even more to fend for themselves? Ken Baker says they don’t need to worry. He says that ISA’s commitment to its sections, divisions and members is higher than it has ever been before.
I hope he is right. The signs point to danger ahead.
Will ISA drag itself into the 21st century about intellectual property, and adopt the Creative Commons method, or will they insist that they have to own everything produced by WBF, as well as by their own volunteers? I know for a fact that many former ISA volunteers will no longer produce papers and give sessions for ISA because of ISA’s remarkably stringent intellectual property rules.
Will WBF be able to operate independently, or will that independence be subject to checkbook voting by ISA?
The only way I see this umbrella organization working is if ISA funds it as a separate organization, and the leadership and staff are separate from ISA.
I have invited all parties to use this blog as a way to communicate the whys and wherefores of this decision. Real communication is necessary so that the industry can see what WBF intends,and what ISA intends to do with WBF.
Let’s look at ISA.