November 18, 2014

Building a Path to Certification: Q&A with IAC Member Pat Quinn

Pat Quinn, Senior Vice President and CIO at Acuity Brands, is an active member of the Innovation Advisory Council (IAC) at IDEA. He brings over 25 years of electrical industry experience to the Council and was involved in the development of the new Data Certification Program announced in October. We recently took some time to ask Quinn about his experience on the Council thus far, and for insight into how current IAC initiatives impact both manufacturers and distributors.

What does your typical day look like in your current role as Senior Vice President and CIO at Acuity Brands?

My typical workday is spent at Acuity Brand’s main campus in Conyers, Georgia. Most of my time is spent on 3 primary activities: working with operational leaders throughout the business to help them understand their processes and how IT can enable them to be more efficient and effective; working with my team to maintain a clear vision for IT and the strategies we need to execute in order to provide software and systems that give Acuity an advantage over our competitors; and working with Acuity’s leadership team on corporate plans and strategy.

What attracted you to the Innovation Advisory Council?

The IAC gives me a chance to interact with other IT leaders that are in similar/related businesses, and work with them to solve problems. It is a great way to learn from others and get insights on issues that you may not see on your own. I decided to get involved in order to influence the evolution of the IDW and help ensure that it stays viable as a data bridge between electrical manufacturers and distributors. Acuity understands how important it is for distributors to have rich, accurate, and complete data about our products in order to effectively market and sell them.

You were involved with the development of the Data Certification Program. What was the process for development, and which components were you most interested in ensuring were included?

A couple of us on the IAC (Barry Carden, from Mayer Electric; Jeff Skiles, from Kirby Risk; and I) had a few discussions over the need for a logical process that would provide distributors with some measurable assurance that the data they were downloading was complete and accurate, with the emphasis on accuracy. This would relieve them of the burden of having to check each piece of data before loading it into their systems.  

I was most interested in providing the actual logic for data validation, and doing it in a fashion that is cost effective and certifies the manufacturers’ processes for loading accurate data to the IDW.

What kind of impact do you believe the Data Certification Program will have on the industry?

I believe that it will be significant. Distributors will be able to trust the data they are loading from certified manufacturers, saving them time/money, and, even better, helping them provide current, accurate data about the products they are selling to their customers. Manufacturers will be able to control the marketing information about their products, rather than hope the distributors get it right when filling in the blanks left by missing information. Robust and accurate data is a win/win for the industry and its customers.

What recommendations do you have for distributors to ensure they benefit from the program? What recommendations do you have for other manufacturers as they work towards becoming certified?

Distributors should probably have a process for sampling some of the data themselves on a periodic basis, in order to ensure the IDW process is working. Beyond that, they should modify their processes as necessary to take advantage of the certified data stream.  

Manufacturers have to work with their product engineering and marketing departments to ensure that they are maintaining all the necessary product attributes as part of the product development process. They should not release a new product or update without good data about those products entered into whatever IT system they use. Trying to gather that data after the launch is problematic.

What do you consider to be the most important eBusiness goals moving forward within the industry?

I think it is pretty simple – providing and transacting accurate and complete data is a fundamental goal that has to be met. This is increasingly difficult, as the definition of a “complete” dataset continues to evolve and expand.

Do you have advice for anyone just entering the industry? Things they can do to ensure success?  

  • Always be courteous – it costs you nothing to be respectful of others.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail – set stretch goals for yourself, even if you are not sure how you are going to accomplish them.
  • Read, read, read – continue your education, and never stop learning.
  • Take golf lessons.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have two teenaged boys, so most of my spare time is consumed by family activities – play, sports, school, etc. I like to try (emphasis on try) to stay fit, so I swim, bike, and run – and I am always training for the next race or triathlon in order to stay motivated.

If you could meet anyone in the business world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I’d like to have lunch with Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. It would be interesting to hear how he manages to stay so current and creative with his comic strip.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Phew! That’s enough!