February 05, 2013
I've outlined the process by which standards are set and described the value of participating in that process for the CSE’s personal and career growth in my last two blogs. Today I’d like to make a few points about the value of the CSE’s participation to the CSE’s employer.
When the CSE proposes to expand his/her involvement in the standards setting process, an employer may well ask, what’s in it for them? What value will the company receive in return? The company you work for knows there will be substantial hard and soft costs. There will be hard dollars spent on travel and, more importantly, the man-hours you spend in this pursuit. The question is fair and the answer is straightforward.
First, there is no return on investment in the traditional, quantitative sense. But the range of benefits is real and far-reaching.
By participating in the standards-setting process, you represent your company and establish it as a leader in seeking global solutions that promote industry growth. Your company, as a result, is seen as a contributor to both IEEE standards and the overall technologies being developed as a result. Your company’s brand may be affiliated with solutions in cyber security or in transformer technology or substation design.
The networking that benefits you as a CSE obviously benefits your company as well in the form of business development, joint ventures and joint development opportunities. Visibility can be heightened if your company decides to contribute to sponsoring the working-group activities or the committee activities at official meetings and conventions.
Another aspect is that by having you work on the standards-setting process, your company has a hand in actually influencing the outcome. A utility or a vendor or any participant for that matter can espouse their views and opinions on what a standard should include, down to the specific details. It makes a lot of sense to have a seat at the table. As you may recall from my blog explaining the standards-setting process, as a standard is developed and put to a ballot, every question and comment that results must be addressed. The consensus-building is thorough and deep, affording all players an opportunity to participate.
Thus your company also benefits from a forward view of what standards and technologies are being developed. Participation by a company's representatives means that the company is aware of potential standards developments and what will be required of products and services in the future. That’s a virtual guarantee that your company won’t be caught off-guard by fundamental shifts in standards and resulting technology.
Here’s where the personal and career-oriented value of participation for the individual dovetails with the interests of their employer. When a company sends a representative to participate in standards development meetings and activities, they'll typically get back a better employee. The company gets a more capable engineer in return – that’s a direct benefit. The involvement with the process’s consensus-building, team-building, cooperation and collaboration polishes professionalism.
The company gets a more well-rounded engineer, who has a broader view of the technology issues, but also has become far more familiar with the concept of building a team, even leading a team. If the person aspires to the chair of a working group, they develop invaluable leadership skills, communication skills, the ability to articulate one’s position and persuade others, both in writing and the spoken word.
The foregoing is true whether the participant is early in his/her career or a seasoned executive. The value derived may depend on a company’s specific objectives. It's not uncommon, for instance, for a large company to have 20 to 30 people participating in IEEE Power and Energy Society standards at any point in time. So there’s a stratification based on what the company is looking to accomplish – it could be networking and business development, it could be influencing a standard. Influencing standards would require sending someone in the pertinent area of expertise. So participation in substation design and transformer standards typically would require two different people.
Finally, when a utility or company sends someone to participate in standards setting, there are a host of advantages in terms of exposure to a variety of best practices and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing.
As you can tell, these advantages are self-evident and intuitive, even if they can’t be crunched in a formal ROI analysis. So if the accounting department says, "We want the cost-benefit ratio and payback period for your attendance at the summer-power meeting next month," that's like saying, “Don’t go.” But, like everything else in life, the aspirant needs to promote the concepts that we're talking about here within their company. Many companies recognize the value and integrate the costs into their cost of doing business, dedicating multiple participants. Other companies sometimes don’t see the value. But you can be sure the competition will be there.
Sam Sciacca is an active senior member in the IEEE and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in the area of utility automation. He has more than 25 years of experience in the domestic and international electrical utility industries. Sciacca serves as the chair of two IEEE working groups that focus on cyber security for electric utilities: the Substations Working Group C1 (P1686) and the Power System Relay Committee Working Group H13 (PC37.240). Sciacca also is president of SCS Consulting.