System Integration

CSIA Best Practices provide business value

Best practices for integrators can create a great deal of improvement for a company's business performance and their clients' satisfaction.
By Jeff Miller, PMP December 15, 2018
Courtesy: CFE Media

As a long-term member of Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), as well as a six-time CSIA Certified Systems Integrator, I am often asked what benefits Interstates receives by implementing CSIA Best Practices. I love to answer this question because we have seen tremendous improvement in our business performance and client satisfaction due to these best practices.

I began my career at Interstates nearly 20 years ago. During that time, we had roughly 35 people on the control systems team and we had recently joined CSIA. Shortly after starting at Interstates, I realized we were in need of some standardization and process improvements to keep up with growth. We continued to grow rapidly in the following years by averaging double-digit growth year over year.

In the last five years, we have doubled in size; going from approximately 100 employees to more than 200, and the growth pattern continues. This growth would have been impossible without the focus we put on implementing CSIA Best Practices as well as maintaining a mindset of continuous improvement. We took on the challenge to improve using CSIA Best Practices–not because our clients were asking for it–but rather we wanted to be better business people and continue to provide new opportunities to our people. In my opinion this was the key to our success.

I am often asked by other systems integrators where we saw the most value in this process. As I thought about what areas we got the most value from, my mind immediately went to the project management and system development lifecycle sectors. These areas are critical to a business from a client satisfaction and repeat business standpoint, as well as for delivering projects in a repeatable fashion and bringing home the anticipated gross profits.

For Interstates, we looked at these areas to help us to find ways to stop the bleeding of cash on projects that were not delivering well. It doesn’t take more than one or two projects a year that bleed cash to really affect the overall profitability and financial health of a company. Our overall design and design review process with our clients has improved greatly as well as our ability to learn and grow from every project through a formal post-job review or agile sprint retrospective process. This continuous improvement process is one of the core principals of the Best Practices as it permeates through each of the focus sections of the CSIA Best Practices manual.

Another key area of focus for us was human resources management. When Interstates was a smaller organization, I could keep up with the hiring, development, and resource management without the need for many formal processes. However, as the company grew I was unable to keep up with what was going on in human resources management. The CSIA Best Practices manual not only covers policies and procedures needed for proper hiring and onboarding, but it also covers ongoing training and employee development.

Courtesy: CFE Media

Courtesy: CFE Media

Another area of focus was on building succession plans for leaders in the company. This has allowed us to better manage situations where team members move, retire, or seek out other opportunities. We have built development guides for all company roles to help the people in these roles to reach yearly learning and growth goals. This has proven to be a valuable effort. Thus, we continue each year to advance team members, as well as look for ways to provide our people with new and challenging opportunities.

Ultimately, each section in the CSIA Best Practices manual will add value to your company in some fashion. I encourage you to consider the areas you struggle with the most and spend time in the manual learning how to build better standards around those areas. This will help you improve to levels of excellence. I also challenge you to implement CSIA Best Practices into your organization and take the next step in obtaining CSIA certification. This is a great way to get a third-party assessment of how well you are doing in these areas. In the six audits we have completed to date, we have always come out of them with pages of ideas for improvement. These ideas are key to our success and growth.

If you have questions about CSIA Best Practices or CSIA certification, please feel free to reach out to me as I enjoy talking to integrators about the benefits we have experienced with CSIA Best Practices.

Jeff Miller, PMP, is director of project management for Interstates.

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Jeff Miller, PMP
Author Bio: Director of project management, Interstates