September 2018

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Scott CochraneEMAIL INTERVIEW –  Ken Sinclair and Scott Cochrane

Scott Cochrane is President and CEO of Cochrane Supply & Engineering, a leading industrial IoT and building controls suppliers with locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky, as well as President of Canada Controls. In 2000, Scott took over the business from his father, Donald Cochrane, Sr., who founded the company 50 years ago. He is proud to be an advisory council member for multiple industry manufacturers such as Honeywell, Johnson Controls, and Tridium, and to be named a 2016 IBcon Digital Impact Award Winner for his innovative contributions to the industry.

It’s All in a Name

– (Super) MSIs are Masters of their Domain

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Sinclair:  Why the term “Master” Systems Integrator out of all of the terms circulating right now?
Cochrane: We understand the term MSI is confusing. I want to reiterate that the construction industry has its own language, and it’s within this industry that we do most of our business. So why “Master” Systems Integrator versus Building Systems Integrator, Mindful Systems Integrator, Building Data Architect, or the like?
The industry references terms like Master Electrician and Master Plumber—following the apprentice-journeyman-master model as all trades have levels and labels. When you talk about individuals and companies and their capabilities, people refer to it as the same thing as the Master Tradesman. They look at how extensive one’s experience is both on-site and in a classroom setting, taking into account job knowledge and extensive understanding of their trade.
If you think about it, the building has evolved; the tradesmen have evolved. And this is what the typical tradesman has become in terms of dealing with all these gizmos in the building. They’ve become the Masters of their trade or the most advanced tradesmen in most categories. They are the Master Tradesmen dealing with all electronics in a building, and this is the term that has gained momentum within the industry, as there are currently hundreds of integrators and projects using this term. 
Sinclair:  How do you hire the right MSI?
Cochrane: When it comes to hiring an MSI, the most common business concept we have encountered is what we call Negotiated Work. This is where a contractor is already doing work for the end user, and they run into a problem that could be resolved via an integration solution. The contractor, now becoming an MSI, proposes it to the owner directly for often smaller dollar amounts to start.  In many cases, the integration brings huge value to the end user.
The second concept for hiring one is to hire an MSI as a service. We consider these contracts as on-going, with professional data consultation infused with software development, deployment, analytics, and software maintenance. Some of these contracts initiate from the aforementioned negotiated work leading up to it.  In these situations, the owner is heavily involved and the networks that the systems land on are owner-managed, and the MSIs spend a large amount of time negotiating with the owner’s IT network. 
The third concept would be to hire an MSI within the construction process—via the Division 25 Systems Integration Section. This is the most challenging arena to implement an MSI scope of work successfully.   We have studied this for a while, and our latest approach is to develop a self-contained IP network within the construction scope that would be contracted to, installed, and delivered by an MSI.
Sinclair:  Is there a technical skills gap when it comes to MSIs? If so, how do we overcome that?
Cochrane: Staffing and the technical skills gap actually turned out to be one of the biggest challenges repeatedly discussed recently at IBcon’s 2018 Smart Building Integrator Summit. Leroy Walden led a fine session that really dove into the reality of smart buildings and the lack of attention and understanding from within our educational systems.  We heard experts discuss new innovations in education with BAS curriculums for colleges, along with a national system to support it.  The variety of trades mixed with IT, combined with the successful development of new people in this industry, will certainly be a defining factor for the future of Master Systems Integrators and their capabilities of bringing better user experiences to building occupants.
While we’ve seen integrators have an understanding of electrical, mechanical, and IT systems, we have definitely noticed the ability of people with an IT background to learn electrical and mechanical systems. The idea is that there is a place to get these people. Young people with computer science backgrounds are capable of coming in and learning a trade, and this has demonstrated to be more effective than taking the typical tradesman and making them into someone who’s computer savvy. There is a considerable lack of network-savvy people in our industry, and we need them now more than ever. We support hundreds of integrators through people who have primary backgrounds in programming, coding, software development, cybersecurity, IT infrastructure, and databases. This has proven to be an effective means of supporting the evolving digital transformations in buildings. Maybe we should be looking at different majors in college for recruiting, such as Computer Science, Information Systems, Information Technology and Security, Computer Programming and Cloud Security Risk Management...
I hope you’ll join us for our session, “The Future of the ‘Super’ Master Systems Integrator” at the 2019 AHR Expo in Atlanta as we continue this ongoing discussion on how to find the right people, how to bring them into this industry properly, and how to continue to develop them to build the foundation for the greatest chance of success.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Sinclair:  How does an MSI fit in with the future of building automation and “building emotion” to nurture the ultimate user experience (UX)?
Cochrane: The MSI is a consultant who gets to know the owner intimately. By becoming intimate with the owner, their business functions, their occupants and ultimately their combined needs, they can digitally articulate the right data at the right time to the right people to make a huge difference in the UX. No one else will have access to information about the building like the MSI. While architecture, colors, and views are important to a building, the MSI has the direct responsibility of having the building learn behaviors, wants and needs, and changing how the building reacts based on weather, usage, and much more. In this MSI role of teaching the building how to react properly, they are capable of keeping a good, positive emotion within the building at all times.
It’s the MSI’s job to teach the building how to operate by deeply understanding it (both the owner and the building)—understanding what the owner wants and what the owner is getting can, in turn, teach the building how to keep people happy. We plan to dive into this exciting topic of “Building Emotion” at the 2019 AHR Expo as well and we hope you’ll join the discussion.
Sinclair:  What is the next evolution of the MSI?

Cochrane: The Super MSI is when we get to a point where the MSI is not only a valued member of the buildings but a valued member of the business itself. When we as an industry start developing true value through functions in the building that everyone in the building wants, similar to what happens in homes now, we’ll know we’re finally a true part of these buildings and businesses combined. And those that recognize that and get there first will be the ones I will refer to as the SUPER MSIs!


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