Changes at ISA - A Current Volunteer Leader's Perspective |

Changes at ISA - A Current Volunteer Leader's Perspective

Changes at ISA - A Current Volunteer Leader's Perspective
by Don Frey, ISA Volunteer Leader

Faced with unprecedented declines in demand for training, advertising, and exhibit space, the International Society of Automation (ISA) has had to make drastic cuts in its budget for 2010. Some significant areas where cuts have been made are in the areas of professional staff, frequency of publication of InTech magazine, ISA E-News production and distribution, and future ISA EXPO offerings.

Since ISA is a non-profit organization, we are not able to go to investors to raise additional funding, as for-profit corporations can. We must rely on the contributions of our volunteers and supporters to provide the operating funds necessary for ISA to continue to operate. In order to remain viable and relevant, ISA must continue to deliver quality information to the practitioners in the automation community.

The unfortunate reality for ISA and most other professional societies is the organizational model we have used successfully for many years has changed. Gone are the days of significant corporate support for our Members, and the support of suppliers within our industry through participation in trade shows and advertising in our journals. We are not alone in our difficulties. Many for-profit trade shows have ceased, and advertising sales for all forms and types of media have fallen significantly. The largest suppliers in the automation field, who for years were staunch supporters of ISA events and publications have largely gone to their own in-house user conferences and exhibits. Likewise, advertising sales in all the journals in our field have declined significantly, and there is no indication that ad sales will return to past levels even when the current economic crisis is over.

In light of these conditions, the leadership of ISA, both volunteer and professional staff, faced an extremely harsh reality when preparing the business plan for ISA operations for 2010 and beyond. Always keeping in mind the mission and vision of ISA, which are available for review on the ISA website (, taking a hard look at every ISA activity and its relevance to that mission and vision, some very difficult decisions were made after numerous scenarios were presented and evaluated. We chose to decrease the frequency of publication for the printed version of InTech, the Society’s journal, while emphasizing the quality of the technical content to be presented. We chose to partner with an external organization that already had a successful presence in the automation marketplace to jointly produce and deliver ISA E-News to the overall automation community. We chose to decrease the size of the annual exhibit to more closely reflect the current demand for exhibit space and rely more heavily on technical presentations and technical education to provide value to attendees. We chose to eliminate the free download of ISA Standards to ISA Members while retaining the ability to view all ISA Standards by the Members. Saddest and most difficult of all, we made the decision to reduce the size of ISA professional staff to control cost and realign the staff structure to more closely match the needs of the organization going forward.

Recently there have been editorials written by people well-respected within the automation community which have been critical of ISA's actions. I can assure them and everyone else interested in the future of ISA that the decisions to change fundamental ISA offerings and staffing were made very reluctantly and only after a great deal of discussion and deliberation by the entire leadership of ISA. Absolutely every activity and function was on the table, and the decisions made were based upon how an activity added value for the Members of ISA and the greater automation community, and how that activity could be funded. Yes, the decisions were difficult, and no one was happy about making any of them, but they had to be made. We simply could not continue to operate in the manner we were and sustain the financial losses. Changes had to be made.

If you truly care about ISA and its future, I challenge you to become involved, and contribute your energy and passion to the leadership, providing the expertise the Society needs to move into the future. If you want to complain about the actions taken by the leadership, but offer no solutions or your help, you are just whining and wasting others time. GET INVOLVED! STAY INVOLVED! ISA and its Members need the good counsel and ideas of everyone in the automation field as we move forward.

Best regards,
Don Frey
ISA Senior Member
Past Publications Department Vice President
Past District 6 Vice President
Past Twin Cities Section President
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