Honeywell's user input subcommittee has clout

"ONLY HONEYWELL would have the guts,” says Kerry Sartain, of Georgia Pacific (Atlanta, Ga.), “to give their user group a huge budget, a staff of developers and engineers, and trust their users to do right by it.”

Sartain is the co-chair of Honeywell User Group’s User Input Subcommittee. He serves with the Honeywell co-chair, Sturger Wagner, as the volunteer leader of a unique system that isn’t limited, like most user groups, to advice and complaint. The UIS has a budget, and a staff seconded from Honeywell, and they can produce real products and product enhancements. They even set their own priorities.

In fact, the UIS is responsible for over 137 enhancements to Honeywell products and software to date, with more coming every year. This year’s UIS update is being released soon, with 16 new functions users requested for the Experion platform. In 2006, Sartain expects to release 10 more functions, including expanded Modbus addressing.

Sartain continued, “Honeywell, especially under Jack Bolick, has a huge commitment to listening to the Voice of the Customer. The UIS provides a big chunk of that Voice.”

He went on to explain the process by which UIS operates.

“We meet for a week, three times a year. That’s a huge commitment from our companies, to let us do that,” Sartain said. They collect user input and organize it into a Long List. By a discussion-and-consensus-building process, they cut the suggested enhancements into a Short List. 

This list goes to Honeywell, and is costed against the UIS budget. “Honeywell estimates by percent of our budget,” Sartain said, “but we decide how to spend the money. If we want a big ticket item, one that is 20% of our annual budget, we decide.” The Short List winds up as a final list of “Must-Dos” and some additional “stretch” items, which Honeywell might get to if staffing and time constraints allow.

Honeywell has dedicated a team of engineer and developers, with a full time program manager, Gary Innocenti. Approximately a dozen members of the Honeywell UIS staff are based in Phoenix, with the remainder working in the Honeywell facilities in India.

“Honeywell staffers fight over time to present in front of the UIS,” Sartain points out, since the UIS is one of the ways to get a project done quickly. He points to the new accelerated backup and restore utility, which he estimates will save Georgia Pacific perhaps as much as $25,000 per hour of downtime as a restore is completed much more quickly. “We’ve also been beating Honeywell over the head to come up with real, detailed migration strategies,” Sartain continued. “The reason Honeywell is providing so much better thought out migration paths and toolkits is because we’ve pushed hard for it,” he concluded.

“We believe in working in partnership with our users,” Honeywell CEO Jack Bolick said, “and the UIS is a major part of that partnership.”

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