Wishing everybody a happy new year! #pauto

Well, I'm back.

I took some time off from blogging at the end of last year, but I will be posting much more regularly again now. Through the magic of VPN, high speed internet and cell telephony, I was able to go to Western Washington and Vancouver Island for Christmas and New Year, and still be able to do my job. And again thanks to the same tools, I didn't have to struggle through the snow today to get to the office. I remain, snug and warm, in my home office where snow is something outside the windows, not a pain to drive through.

As I thought I would, I have gotten some interesting feedback on my December editorial which you can find at http://www.controlglobal.com/articles/2011/cyber-attack-we-are-good-guys.html. We are running the best of them, positive and negative, in the February issue in Feedback.

And as happens every January, vendors are trying to figure out how to "win" the Readers' Choice Awards next year by "gaming" the system we use, instead of trying to improve their product and service quality and therefore their brand strength. Or they're busy trying to explain to their managements that changes in their company's rankings are Control's fault for running a bad survey. Or both.

Well, piffle. I was thinking of a stronger word, but we all have instinctive mental vocabularies.

What we have here is an unaided brand preference poll. We select a significant number of readers of Control and ControlGlobal.com and invite them to participate in the survey.

It is a private survey, and nobody can "campaign" it by getting all their employees to log on and vote. Now, there's the "unaided" bit. That means there's a blank box in each category, and we ask the respondents to type in their answer without any prompts, no preselected names, no drop-down box, nada. They have to write in their choice in that category.

There are some things that skew the survey, certainly. By far the biggest source of bias is that there is still a North American tilt to the respondents. That is changing, however, with the addition of more international readership, especially of ControlGlobal.com.

This survey is about how the respondents feel about their choice of brand at the time they fill out the survey. It is a snapshot, a timeslice through the brand rankings of the process automation industry. It is a statistically valid survey, but nobody should read too much into it.

If one company has flip-flopped with another for first and second place in a category, this doesn't mean that one company has "won" and the other has "lost." As we say in the article every year, the fact that a company makes the list in a category is very important, and the ranking of a company within the category much less so.

So, that's the way it is.