Ignition Community Live with the Ignition Cross-Industry Collective
Unfolding the Ignition Cross-Industry Collective36 min video / 28 minute read
Where did the collective come from? Where is it going? Where do you fit in? Join us in unfolding the answers!
Allen: Welcome, everyone, to Ignition Community Live. This is Episode 18, and we are going to be talking about “Unfolding the Ignition Cross-Industry Collective.” And I'd just like to personally thank Amanda, who is on the line but muted, for giving us the opportunity to kinda roll this out and kinda get really an opportunity to say where we've been, what we're doing, where we're going with the Collective, so I'm looking forward to this time. So your hosts are gonna be myself, Allen Ray, and Jason Hamlin, and both of us are active board members with the Collective. So what are we gonna be talking about? Today, we are talking about how we got to where we are. We're gonna talk about what the Collective is. Jason is gonna be so kind to give his story and kind of his experience, as he has a very unique experience being that he was an end user and transitioned to an integrator, and kind of being able to feel both sides of that tension. So I think it will be... I'm looking forward to it personally. I know that he is not, but I am. We're also gonna be talking about how we deliver value. It's something that we've talked about from the beginning of the Collective, and it's something that's very important to us, that we don't wanna ask somebody to come invest their time in being a part of something without feeling like you walk away with value.
Allen: And on that note, Jason is going to be sharing... I apologize for the... I shared the wrong screen. But Jason is gonna be sharing about delivering value, but it's been a unique transition as we've seen that value is not just something tangible, it can also be really the empowerment of the Collective. And we'll be also talking about where we go from here, the time and the meeting for next week, for the Collective event, and then we're gonna be taking questions. So in 2018, Don Pearson received an email that he responded to, excitingly, about really the opportunity to start a Cross-Industry Collective. At the time, there was the Oil and Gas Collective, which I was a part of that also, and have been. And I saw the value in that and really hoping to see that, "Man, is there a way that we could really benefit and gain knowledge across the different industries and the different lessons that people have learned tackling very different problems than I would solve in oil and gas?" Here is the Ignition board members. So we have Derek Randall, Hugh Roddy, Loe Cameron, Jason, Dan, Travis Cox is a board member, and myself, Allen Ray.
Allen: Our first event was ICC 2018. Interestingly enough, the first email that went to Don Pearson was in April 2018, and Inductive Automation has moved mountains for us as a collective in being able to put things together, being able to get the people of the incredible caliber that we have has been really an amazing event for us. So that's been very good to see how fast they were able to move. We had a full house at our very first event. From that event, we created a charter, really stating our purpose and deliverables, the values of membership, and then which we'll talk about in a little bit, a code of conduct. And the code of conduct really came out of an event that happened in 2019 at ICC, and we'll talk a little bit about that.
Allen: So after 2018 ICC, I sent an email through talking with Don Pearson again, sent an email to Craig Resnick of ARC, the ARC Forum, and he... Asking if they would be interested in hosting a Collective event. The important part about that email back from him was that yes, they were very happy to host the Ignition Cross-Industry Collective. And so to get ready for that, we created an Ignition CIC, which is Cross-Industry Collective, website where your people could go and register. And we created an event that took place in 2019... Well, yeah, 2019 was our first ARC event, and the important part here is, if you're on the East Coast and it's something that you want to be a part of, and you wanna go to the conference, you will get a 50% discount going to... If you attend the Collective meeting, you will get a 50% discount at your registration for the conference.
Allen: So then we got to where we were East and West Coast. We had the ICC event and we had the ARC event, and so those things have been very impactful for us. Obviously, the ARC event is much smaller than the ICC event, but it still has been really impactful, and the ability to have the community and create the relationships have paid really big dividends for us in a lot of different ways, and so more to come on that. But we recognized something after the 2019 ICC event. And this looks blurry, but what I'm trying to communicate here is that it became apparent to us that we were talking at everyone. We were at a podium showing slides, talking about things, and we really hadn't figured out how to go from talking at the Collective to communicating with the Collective. And so from that, we decided that we were going to make a change in 2020.
Allen: And at the ARC event in 2020, we decided that we would do some smaller presentations and then really have a time to be able to throw out two really... Questions to each table. We intentionally did roundtables and we threw... We made sure we had a facilitator at every table and we threw some questions out to the tables, gave the tables 15 minutes to talk about those questions and give feedback from everyone. And then everyone had an opportunity from that to talk about what the discussion was at their table, what is the highlights, what came out of that time? And you could tell there was a transition there that we were on the start of actually talking with the Collective and transitioning into more of, "Hey, this is really a community of collaboration." And man! There were some really good discussions that came out of that time. So we're still in the process of figuring that out, but I think that we have a good start there. The problem we have now is: How do we do that in 2020 with COVID? So we're gonna try to do some breakout sessions next week and we'll see how that goes.
Allen: Alright, what is the Collective? I took some of this right out of our charter, I'm gonna talk through some of it, but really, it's a group that fosters networking among the Ignition users with similar interests, objectives, concerns and issues where members are encouraged to share implementation strategies and product experiences. Outcomes of these activities include sharing documentation, best practices, useful information, formalization of initiatives for problem solving and documentation of common concerns. All that, to be said, is we're hoping for a collaborative environment where people feel safe to give, and not just best practices, but, "Man! I'm having issues here," or, "We're having problems here.” And if we could leverage the voice of the Collective, which is cross-industry, we will have a bigger opportunity or a bigger voice to be able to help Inductive direct their product to a much more innovative and solution-driven thing, so that the Inductive here is the voice of the end user. The end users now have some empowerment and some weight behind their voice.
Allen: And Jason will talk a little bit about this, but what's the difference between a company like Aera Energy, where we have hundreds of gateways and millions of tanks, and we have an enterprise agreement with them, and how... We have a bigger voice. What do you do with a guy that's a single wastewater plant, one guy, one gateway? How does that guy have a voice? And he has some incredible ideas and some things that he's learned that could help Inductive, but really does not have a pathway to get that information there. The hope is that the Collective would be able to have that voice. And together as a collective, if we're starting to hear things, ideas and things that could be solved, there are issues that need to be handled, we have a bigger voice there.
Allen: Now, why do we have a code of conduct? I'm gonna read through the code of conduct real quick, and then I'm gonna tell you the story of what took place. That's way smaller than its supposed to be but, "By joining and using this community, you agree that you have read and follow the rules and guidelines. You also agree to reserve discussions for topics best suited to the medium. The Collective is a good place to solicit the advice of your peers, benefit from their experience and participate in an ongoing conversation. Questions about the Collective should be directed to the Ignition CIC Board of Directors. Please take a moment to acquaint yourself with these important guidelines in order to preserve the climate that encourages both civil, fruitful dialogue. Ignition CIC reserves the right to suspend or terminate membership on all lists for members who violate these rules." And let's go through the rules real quick. "Don't challenge or attack others. Discussions are meant to stimulate conversation, not create contention, but others have their say, just as you may. Do not distribute commercial messages. Do not engage the end users to sell services or products. The end user retains the right to decide when and how to engage with other members, vendors and integrators. The Collective will not be used for recruitment purposes. All messages must add to the body of knowledge. Ignition CIC reserves the right to reject any message for any reasons."
Allen: So in 2019, there was a company, it was a vendor, that... They were gonna put an event after the ICC Conference. And so they made the decision without talking to any of the board members that they would hand out at the door to every person that attended the Collective meeting a flyer to their event. And so once it was realized what was happening, there was some discussion between the board and Inductive, and for the reasons that were really... Here's the reason: The reason is we want the Collective to be a safe space, a safe environment where people can feel confident that they can come and talk about a project that's either coming up or they're considering doing, but have some questions. And we want that discussion to happen and to happen, really, without feeling like, "Man! If I'd say I've got a project coming up, I'm gonna get 10 vendors or 10 integrators pounding out my door wanting to get that work." The Collective should never be used to generate work for a vendor or an integrator, and at any time it's found out that that's happening, we will first... The first action that we took with the vendor that happened in 2019 was we asked them to not attend any events for the Collective and have no conversations with the board or the people of the Collective for any reason whatsoever for one year.
Allen: After one year, they would be allowed to participate and join if they were there to actually add value and be a part of the Collective and the collaboration and not seek to benefit from the Collective. If a second event happens, the person will be asked, or the vendor, or the company, the integrator would be asked not to participate at all. So the reason for all that, we want this to be a place of collaboration, to feel confident that people could come in, be heard, be of value, be helpful. I know that our... One of the things that we wanna do is... We have multiple integrators that not only have stepped up and said, "Yeah, we wanna be a part of this. We wanna collaborate, and we wanna help. We wanna add value to the Collective, and in so doing, we're willing to offer pre-design time to any end user that has a need for... "Hey, I need an hour of your time to be able to kinda look through my project and tell me what things I should be looking at." Or, "Hey, I've got this problem, don't know how to solve it."
Allen: And so at the Collective meetings, we started this in 2020 at ARC, but we actually opened up, we had integrators, had time reserved for anybody in the Collective that wanted a free two-hour session with an integrator to do nothing but sit down and let that integrator help that person with anything they wanted. You wanna create something very complex, and they can get it done in a couple of hours, awesome. But the integrators had very clear guidelines on... This is a support to the Collective and not a means to try to give them your business card. So again, it's collaboration. It's really helping the Collective add value not just to their applications, but really to their network of people that they're communicating with. So I know that... I see Dee Brown is on. Man, Dee Brown, man, has been a huge benefit to our company, and I don't know that we've ever paid them anything. We actually flew out and they took us to one of their water plants that they worked in, and so some of the relationships that I've had have been extremely helpful to us. So that's what I have, and our hope in the collective is to create a process by which we can speak on matters of common interest with the intent of enhancing the performance of Ignition through innovative solutions and, really, collaboration. With that, Jason, I'm two minutes early, so you get two extra minutes there buddy.
Jason: Oh, thanks.
Allen: You're welcome.
Jason: You said something about a wastewater guy with good ideas, so I'll use those two minutes to look around and see if I can find that guy 'cause it's not me.
Allen: It's Dee Brown. I'm looking at his name right there.
Jason: That's who it is. That is definitely who it is. So a little bit of my story. I did work for a water/wastewater utility. I had two gateways, thank you very much. Even though one of them was redundant, that doesn't matter, I still had two. Yep, you've got millions of tanks. I started with tens and moved my way up into... I think we broke a thousand, but I did have a passion for Ignition. Anybody that knows me knows that I kinda jumped in head first, and as a one-person team, the ability to start small, to work with something that was comfortable, easy to learn, there was certainly a passion. This was something that... For water/wastewater, we're chronically underfunded, and to be able to get toolsets that are easy to learn because you kinda have to be a jack of all trades. I would speak to counterparts. "Well, what do you do? Do you program PLCs? Or do you do instruments? Or do you do SCADA? Do you do HMIs?" I was kinda keep nodding my head. "Yep, all of that and a little bit of IT, and virtualization." And it's not stuff that's unfamiliar to most system integrators, but in a municipal environment, it was all in my lap. And I really appreciated it.
Jason: And I talked at one point about the power of Ignition being that I could start small and do so much of it myself that I was able to shift my capital expenditures over and then use money to hire integrators to do higher levels of work, right? And it started to drive me to find a different level of integrator that could do these higher things. I no longer had to call an integrator to get a special license key just to change the color of a start on a pump push button. I could pull integrators in to do high-level work. As I got deeper into the Ignition knowledge, a couple of those integrators threw offers my way. So yep, I made the move to the system integration side, but before I did, I was invited to the Community Collective with Allen, first time meeting Allen Ray. There's this powerhouse of a person who when he speaks, you don't have any choice but to listen. Then I suddenly get to meet Allen, I get to chat with Allen. We sit down, we have some discussions. "Hey, do you have troubles with this?" "Yeah. I do actually. I have no idea how to do that." "Oh, I've got a whole team of guys that have been working on that same problem." "Oh, I wish I had a team of guys or gals, I got me."
Jason: And we started to realize we had common problems, but different solutions. When you surround yourself by all of similar industry, you kinda kick around the same industry problems and the same industry solutions and you don't ever look outside. One of the things I always remember my counterparts in water/wastewater is they'd always say, "Well, we're not a for-profit. So we do things differently." But that doesn't mean there's not valuable lessons to learn in how a for-profit runs, and it doesn't mean there's not some valuable lessons that a public utility can teach a profit-generating business.
Jason: Allen and I got to talk, and we got to talk openly. We're both end users. Something I really appreciated was we could talk about some common pain points with a vendor or a platform or a piece of software, and we weren't afraid to talk to each other about it because we were end users. And from that really was born this industry collective. How are other people in other industries solving problems? What things have they looked at? What are they evaluating? One of the fun ones for me, water/wastewater. I could buy stuff very cheaply and evaluate it and play with it. When I say cheaply, I could get a hold of certain things and run it through its paces in a production environment because I had the full authority to do that. Somebody like Allen or one of these other big businesses, you never get that opportunity. There's so many legal hurdles to go through to take a new piece of hardware and literally just test it in production.
Jason: I was able to do that. So we progressed forward. We're moving through the industry collective. We're starting to assemble stuff. I am this lowly water/wastewater guy, don't really know a lot of people, next thing I know, I'm sitting down having discussions with the vice president of a large yogurt manufacturer who may or may not be on the board with us, and we're talking about weight-loss strategies. There's a human connection that happened coming from the industry collective that was incredible to me, to suddenly reach whole new industry sectors to find out they've spent tens of thousands of man hours building a management-of-change application. It's run through Ignition, and then they were willing to give that away to help further the cause of Ignition to help push and drive things along. They would say, "We will hand this over." Anything I did was tens of hours, and in the next section, I'll even show that.
Jason: But a little jumping forward from this, the starts of the collective, to where we were able to sit down and started to grow into having what Allen had said, "Stop talking at people. Start talking with people." We were able to sit down in small groups, and that made all the difference. By that time I had made the jump, I was a system integrator, basically a pariah. I make a big deal to not put my name with the company up. I really appreciate Allen building the slide and not actually listing the company name because if you wanna find me, you can. But I'm not here to sell who we are. We were able to sit down and talk with other integrators and talk freely. Dee Brown, Allen called him out. Yes, I had some great conversations with Dee. We were able to sit and chat, but I was also able to sit and chat with other integrators. We were able to talk to some of our pain points and it kinda made me realize that there's value in that too. There's value in having integrators and vendors participate in the collective when it's done correctly.
Jason: Everything Allen said, I stand behind strongly as a former end user of not making it a sales mechanism, of not harassing and blowing up all the end users of things. And the end users need to have that space where they can openly talk. There's things that I wanna talk about as an end user that I never could to the vendor where I can with fellow end users. But as a system integrator, yeah, there's certainly times where I wanna be able to talk to other integrators. There's times where end users want to pick my brain. There's times where we wanna talk to a vendor. I'm gonna call out Benson 'cause he's on here, amazing guy. Got to have some great chats with him. Had this wild, crazy idea that we were taking a train across country and said, "Hey, we'd love to put some instrumentation in here," and he thought, "Man, that's amazing. I got you covered." And within three days, they turned around and gave us a whole instrumented package to record random pieces of data on this train, just to test it out, to play with MQTT, that type of collaborative stuff, that type of fun comes from the work of the collective.
Jason: I'm gonna jump way forward, end of the story, moving into the start of COVID-19, and everybody's familiar with all the changes, everything happening. An interesting one. Through the Collective, I got introduced to a company, Avadyne, a little small shop in Bakersfield, California, that did heavy integration work in oil and gas, made some really good friends there. All of a sudden, oil prices drop. Oil and gas is no longer booming the way it was because nobody's driving, everyone's on lockdown. They're struggling. They're needing work, but these are some expertly trained Ignition folks. The role I'm in now, I'm back in the water/wastewater sector almost exclusively. And at the start of COVID, we were booming. We were busier than we ever expected because of so many utilities saying, "We still need to run, but we need to run safely. We need to run critical infrastructure without our people getting sick, so we need more remote access than we've ever had. We need to separate shifts. We need to do digital knowledge transfer, “democratize the data," if I can borrow the statement from a friend.
Jason: All of a sudden I remember my friends over there at Avadyne, "Hey, is there any chance I could borrow you? Is there any chance I could bring some of your talent pool over to help us out because we're busier than we expected?" And that type of collaboration, integrators working freely with other integrators, not free, we're paying them, but working freely together, the talks that Dee and I routinely get to have when we see each other, that type of stuff coming out of the Collective is an intangible benefit that I can't even place a value on. So with that as my story, how can we as the collective deliver value, more than I've already said? I think Allen has a slide. That's part of Allen putting the slides together as any mistakes that get made, I don't have to take the blame for.
Allen: That's right.
Jason: All right, “how do we get here?” That's not the right title, but I love it.
Jason: So back in my water/wastewater days in the first Cross-Industry Collective meeting we decided we needed to give away value, we had to make value for people. Why would you participate in a collective unless you've got some tangible value of it? I've talked about the intangibles, but it's really hard to convince somebody of that, it's hard to sell someone on that. It's hard to say, "You will meet other peers and be able to talk freely," and have them understand that. So we literally became, "We're gonna hand you something of value."
Jason: Funny story, this was before the Inductive Exchange came out, and Allen said, "We're taking credit for that," and Travis said, "No, you're not." And because I'm still a lowly wastewater guy, nobody actually said it to me, so I'm gonna take credit for the precursor to the Exchange, because when you're first to market, you still get to claim that. So we gave away value packages. I had a project that I was working on where we were pulling USGS data into our control system. I won't get long-winded on it, but we had to monitor river stuff upstream, we had to see what was happening. We were able to find... USGS publishes this data for free. Your tax dollars essentially fund it. It's out there. I needed to figure out how to do this. We wrote some scripting, we were pulling very specific sensors. Talking with Allen, Allen said, "Hey, there's actually some really neat concepts here. You're scraping web data and pulling it into your control system." And we had actionable alarms set on it, and it's like, "This is useful to me."
Jason: So when we started wanting to put together a value package, me by myself, I didn't have the ability to do the heavy level of scripting needed to build this, and Allen makes a phone call to Travis, "Hey, I think this is a neat idea. I think a lot of utilities could use it. What do you think?" And Travis looks at, "Oh man, yeah, here. What's he got?" Took what I had started and actually put together something with a nice little logo, and there it is. Anybody running Ignition can pull this data and they can look at the sites, look at the parameters, pull trending. Certainly, you can take it and go way further than that. So that's what we gave away.
Jason: I'll jump forward to the slide from Hugh, if you've got that one, Allen. That's what we gave away. Small, wasn't anything crazy huge to me, but there was certainly value, certainly value for all the water/wastewater. I told you Hugh was willing to give away this management-of-change project. Anybody that's played in Ignition can take a look at this and see there's a lot going on. This is database-driven ... well beyond me. I spent tens of hours building my thing, Hugh spent 10,000 hours building his. But he gave it away, and he gave it away to everyone, including me. Water/wastewater? Yes, we do have to manage change. Sometimes I just have to call my boss and say, "I'm changing something," but we still have to manage it.
Jason: For us to be able to use something like this, for us to be able to dig in and find pieces of this, or just for me as a municipal wastewater guy to be able to open up a project of this caliber and dig through it and learn more scripting, more database, enhance my skill set, which even I'm gonna say helped me move into the next role that I went into, that's power. That is value. Yes, now there's the Inductive Exchange. The Collective doesn't get together just to hand stuff over, we do however wanna get everybody on the Collective to participate in the Exchange, and we're trying to get all the members who released packages here to put them over on the Exchange. Kinda working through some of that right now 'cause of ownership rights. There's no way I'm moving Hugh's stuff in under my name, 'cause I won't take credit for it. That is some of the tangible value. That is some of the tangible value you get. I hope I did a good job of explaining intangible value.
Allen: What we did in 2019, actually it was the first event that we gave away our value packages. And so on the Ignition CIC webpage, and you can get to it by just going to IgnitionCIC.com. You can go to that web page, you can click on "value packages" and you can put in the password ARC2019 and hit "submit". And if you do that, you will come to a page that will show you four different value packages that we have given away: The diagnostic package, template canvas package, the USGS tool, and the management-of-change. All those things are available for... You can download them. They come packaged, so we actually had an opportunity where the Collective board members went to Folsom, we sat down with Travis and we went through all four of these. We made sure that we created a text file on a small SOP on how you would implement these packages, what you need to import. We gave you the scripting that you would put in, we gave you some query statements that you could run to create the database stuff that was needed. And so we tried to make it as plug-and-play as possible. All the information is there, and then we ran through and we tested all of them. So again, you can go to the website and you can get this information.
Allen: From the 2019 Collective, we know that ICC came out in 2019, the Exchange, we were very excited about it, and we're still excited about it. We're trying to figure out how to leverage both. We don't want to compete with the Exchange, we want to be an enabler and support that process, so we won't be putting any more value packages on our website. We're actually working on, "How do we transition to the Exchange?" So we're still working on that. So where are we going and how can you help?
Allen: Quite frankly, we are going to be going to the Collective event which is gonna take place next week at 10:00 AM, September 18th at 10:00 AM, we're gonna have a hour-and-a-half Collective meeting. It will be a Google Meets meeting. We're also, in that meeting, we're going to try to do breakout sessions where we can, again, give people an opportunity to really talk about some of the things that we're gonna be breaking out talking about is, "Where do we go from here?" This is where we laid it out for you guys. Where we're at, where we've been. How do we go from the lessons that we've learned in the four events that we've had, next week will be five, and make sure that we're continuing to learn and be more collaborative, really more of a community that feels comfortable and safe to share ideas, concerns, and those things. So that's where we're going. You can be a part of it. I hope everyone on the call is a part of it and contributes 'cause that's really what this is all about. So with that, I'm gonna open it up to questions. Yeah.
Jason: I see one that came in there from Peter, and if Peter does wanna join on, we can chat. But yes, actually, so Peter says, "Some of what's being said about collaboration is reminiscent of the Gangplank co-work space that started in Phoenix." And I would agree. That is true. A lot of our... We didn't pull it from that, but a lot of our manifesto and concepts and values are very similar. Obviously they're a physical co-working space, but they value free exchange and collaboration. We're not physical. We're not a physical space. We're kind of... Not even kind of, we all are virtual right now, and we are definitely tied to Ignition and around the community of Ignition users, but things that work with Ignition as well. We can talk PLCs. We can talk other vendor platforms if that's where the conversations go with people. One of the values of Gangplank is always lick unloved doors, and I will say that we don't do that one in the COVID time, but for the rest of them yes. Peter, you're right. It is reminiscent of that.
Jason: I never brag, but I am now the COO of a company I'm with. And for the cost of coffee, I'm very open to spending an hour with somebody chatting about things if you wanna literally just talk business or just collaborate at that well. You buy me an adult beverage, it would be a lot more of my time. And Allen, Allen does the same thing. Allen mentored me whether he wants to take claim for it or not, and I didn't even have to buy him a coffee.
Allen: Well with that, Amanda, I think you can close out the meeting. Thank you all for coming and have a great, great weekend.