25 September 2008
A look at ISA name change
By Kim Miller-Dunn
On 13 October, the ISA Council of Society Delegates will be voting on a number of important issues, one of which is renaming the Society from ISA – The Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society, to International Society of Automation. The Council of Society Delegates controls the policies of the Society. Members are represented by one delegate for each geographic ISA Section.
Despite many communications going out to the leadership of the Society, there remains a large number of members that do not understand the reasons behind this agenda item or why the Executive Leadership has brought it forward. This issue is important enough to compel me to send a message to each and every Society member.
I realize changing the name of our organization is highly emotional for members, especially those who have been around for a long time. ISA’s name and your membership are part of your identity; however, we need to recognize the massive changes that have taken place and reshaped our Society since its inception. We are no longer just instruments and systems. Yes, these are an important part of any automation scheme and to the operation of plants, but we are more. Aren’t we?
The current name is inclusive and specific, but what happens when technology changes? What happens when science and technology advances beyond our wildest imaginations? When “instruments and systems” no longer describes what we are doing? We need a name that is timeless and not tied to any specific technology or job function. Although many individuals do not feel that automation describes what they do, does any other single term do a better job of embracing all of the members that make up our Society?
These questions are the real motivation behind changing the Society name. As an added bonus, the name becomes easier to explain to people outside the inner circle of the Society, and is more aligned with our position as “Setting the Standard for Automation.”
As members of the Society, we have a very basic choice: Remain wrapped in our cloak of comfort as an instrument and systems society, or push outside the box and take hold of the entire space that is automation. The Society is not trying to disenfranchise any member. In fact, we are trying to welcome, with open arms, a much larger community of professionals involved in automation—those involved in “the creation and application of technology to monitor and control the production of goods and services.”
There are many members who are left “cold” by the term automation or they would like to wait until the term becomes more commonly used within the companies we work for and with. But who better to lead the way than ISA and our members?
The International Society of Automation is clear, concise, all encompassing, and easy to comprehend by our membership as well as lay people outside the industry. ISA leaders have reinvented the Society. We are global. We are engaged with government in areas such as workforce development and cyber security. We have successfully established the Automation Federation as “The Voice of Automation,” creating a home for the many special interest groups that exist in the automation space without taking away their identities. We have reorganized the governance and enhanced our core competencies: Standards, Certification, Education and Training, Publications, and Conferences and Exhibits. At a time, when many volunteer organizations are struggling to remain relevant in a cyber-world, ISA has succeeded and continues to grow.
Much of this activity has occurred above the Section level. That does not mean it does not benefit our Sections. Our members have long asked the Society to elevate the awareness and esteem of our collective professions. We are doing that, but our current name hampers this process. We often spend more time explaining who we are and who we represent than we spend on real issues. A simpler, more comprehendible name eliminates the need for explanation.
I hope you will join me in supporting this change for our Society. The purpose is to position ISA for a very long and prosperous future. It is my fervent hope that when this name change is passed, ISA will not need to modify the name again until we colonize the universe and have to change it to the Inter-galactic Society of Automation.
No matter your opinion, I am asking you to contact your delegate about your stance or your opinion on the proposed name change—or you can respond to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will pass your response along to your delegate.
For additional information, read the ISA Name Change FAQ sheet, available at www.isa.org/mem/CSDFAQ.
Kim Miller-Dunn is ISA Society President.
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