Recently, I read a Business Insider article about 11 lessons from “Salesforce’s most successful salesman,” David Rudnitsky. As an engineer, I don’t directly sell anything, but my alarm management work as well as that of my ProSys colleagues with our clients certainly reflects his mantras in relevant ways:
- “Think BIG, have attitude” – In a project, we often spend a fair amount of time analyzing the potential alarms of each individual process measurement while keeping in mind the big-picture process taking place. Also, when a rationalization of a single operator console can contain upwards of 3,000 of these and is demanded to be completed in a two-month timeframe, it can be a daunting task, but keeping a positive outlook ensures it will be fulfilled well.
- “No deal is won or lost alone” – Our projects require the buy-in of many people from the client’s side. In addition to seeking operations’ expertise and field insights, we listen to the process, instrumentation, and maintenance specialists onsite that understand the specific equipment and conditions applied. Having support via their contributions is always invaluable.
- “Connect the dots” – ProSys has been in the process controls business for over 25 years, working with hundreds of companies. Our experience has helped identify key process patterns and best practices of instrumentation and equipment that we apply to new projects and new clients’ operations to improve the efficiency of our work and their performance.
- “Focus on ‘why not’” – When it comes to alarm management, the ISA heavily emphasizes justifying why each configured alarm signifies an abnormal event and an observable consequence of inaction plus a proper response to resolve the issue. But we also take a serious consideration of why an alarm should not be configured, usually because it is redundant to others in the process or because it is not relevant to the operating conditions. This additional inquiry helps us generate quality results and recommendations for our clients.
- “Always take the deal off the table” – With each project, there’s a possibility that the client won’t follow through with the recommendations agreed-upon in our team meetings, consequently wasting the time, money, and efforts of all who were involved. We stay persistent, making sure our project recommendations are implemented in a timely fashion and responded to accordingly.
- “Get your face in the place” – While most client employees do not initially look forward to the one or two weeks of full-day meetings to review our work with us, they at the end acknowledge the value of having everyone in the same room and focused on the task at hand brings, remarking that they could not foresee it being completed any other way.
- “Fun facts build instant credibility” – Building rapport quickly with a client is a must in our line of work, for their time is limited with all the other various work they have going on. Finding out their hobbies and personal interests and talking about them during meeting breaks provides a welcome relief to any detailed discussions that occur during the project. It also helps us to learn a client’s general work schedule and adapt accordingly to maximize their attention and involvement.
- “Be proactive on all paperwork” – PFDs, P&IDs, HAZOPs, PHAs, LOPAs, operator training manuals, and the like can easily become outdated. The more thorough and organized of a job a client does to maintain these, the easier it is for us to review their plant conditions and make recommendations. If it’s not up-to-date, then we do our best to note where it can be improved.
- “Always get quid pro quo in negotiations” – A good alarm rationalization meeting often proceeds like a business negotiation, where we recommend from our pre-rationalization efforts that a particular alarm should be removed but the client’s operators or other staff initially oppose it. Instead of fleeing, we embrace the ensuing debate because it helps establish a common understanding among everyone. While we generally justify our recommendations thoroughly and win over the temporary sparring partner, we know when to acquiesce to operator preferences, like when they indicate specific details about some process equipment not previously presented to us. Besides, it’s their responsibility to champion the alarm management system and its benefits to their colleagues in the business and work with it daily.
- “Share best practices” – Not only do we apply our previously-mentioned best practices to new projects, we make sure our clients are aware of how to apply them to their future work on the control system(s) in their facility. When we share our knowledge and are open with the clients, we gain their respect and understanding much quicker.
- “Go after game changers” – One intent of alarm management is to enhance a control system’s capabilities and improve the operator’s working conditions. When we apply control dynamics and automatic shelving functionality to a DCS, we bring the process to the next level by eliminating nuisance alarms in start-up and shutdown periods. We also incorporate our alarm knowledge to be accessible to the operator, so new board operators can learn the process intricacies at a revolutionarily quicker pace than previous generations.
If these lessons can make Salesforce a $50 billion cloud-computing company, it will be exciting to see how ProSys can grow with this guidance.