Incorporated in 1963, Management Science Associates (MSA) is an international leader in marketing, strategic analysis, decision-support analysis software and process/business automation systems. Its Founder and Chairman, Dr. Alfred A. Kuehn, was initially a student and then a faculty member for 15 years at Carnegie Institute of Technology’s Graduate School of Industrial Administration, now known as Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. Dr. Kuehn and MSA are acknowledged leaders in Marketing Science, a discipline that expanded the role of quantitative analysis in business. In short, MSA was crunching, analyzing and mining data before it became a recognized field of its own!
We talked to Richard McConnell, Senior Business Development Manager at MSA, to catch up on how the company continues to set the industry bar and make Pittsburgh its home with some new digs in Bakery Square.
TEQ: MSA is one of Pittsburgh's foundational tech companies that has always kept a low profile. Can you give us the 50,000-foot view of MSA's core competencies?
Richard McConnell: MSA’s core competencies include Data Connectivity (i.e., manage, integrate, cleanse), Data Science (i.e., analytics, automation) and Informatics (i.e., software & system development). Indeed, MSA was delivering these types of innovative solutions to customers long before the current labels were coined. The core competencies are combined with industry domain knowledge and an orientation to innovate, allowing us to deliver unique and effective results to our customers. We pride ourselves on our ability to customize a solution to our client’s problem as opposed to fitting our client’s problem into a predetermined approach or canned solution. In the field of analytics, there are a variety of “cookbooks” available to help one solve problems. Our orientation has always been to create new recipes as compared to forcing problems into an inappropriate cookbook solution.
MSA has never intentionally kept a low profile. Historically, many of our clients have been located outside of the Pittsburgh region. Over the years, MSA has been the recipient of numerous awards, including an Emmy Award for being a pioneer in Information Systems to the Media Industry. We operate with a start-up mindset but are a well-known leader to a wide variety of industries, including:
• Consumer Packaged Goods
• Media (Cable TV, Broadcast TV, Radio)
• Performing Arts
• Metals & Advanced Manufacturing
• Recycling (Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals)
• Medical Laboratories and Research Institutes
• Local, County and State Government Solutions
We look forward to building and expanding our relationships throughout the Pittsburgh region. For more information, please reach out to Steve Gongaware, EVP Business Development (SGongaware@MSA.com) to learn more about MSA or how we may partner to innovate.
TEQ: Data centers are at the heart of MSA, can you tell us a bit about your presence, capabilities and future of your centers?
RM: Data centers are the “heart” of MSA because, as a data analytics and information technology company, we process and store massive amounts of client data. These petabytes of data and the hardware/software infrastructure supporting it must be hosted in highly secure, fully redundant facilities.
MSA owns and operates two highly secure, fully redundant, purpose-built data centers in the Pittsburgh area that meet our strict requirements and the high standards of our customers. In fact, MSA offers customers the only two regionally redundant data centers in this region.
MSA’s data center customers range in size from Fortune 500 companies to small local firms. All of our customers can take advantage of our 100% uptime, SSAE 18 SOC2 Type2 annual audit certification, HIPAA compliance and more.
MSA has been providing outstanding data center services for more than 20 years. Our track record of excellent customer service and support is unsurpassed. Going forward, MSA will continue to make investments to improve and upgrade our data centers, including making our facilities more “green.”
MSA takes great pride in offering data center services with two of the best facilities in our region. Our data centers are at the heart of our business, and we welcome interested parties to schedule a tour to see for themselves.
TEQ: A few years ago, we profiled the Savvy Citizen app and it is really starting to catch on. Tell about the app and how it's being adopted by so many local municipalities.
RM: Savvy Citizen is an affordable and easy-to-use notification system built specifically for local governments to quickly and directly communicate with residents via their mobile devices. Our clients are successfully reaching residents with alerts, helpful info, events (and cancellations), municipal meetings, parks and rec events, and much more. Because it’s a comprehensive system, it can handle all types of content, and not just emergency alerts. Savvy Citizen can integrate with municipal websites and social media pages, helping to keep all communication channels in sync and up-to-date with one, uniform message.
One feature that has fueled Savvy Citizen’s growth is the concept of “community synergy.” Since residents do not live, work and play only within the four walls of their home municipality, it is important for them to have access to information from neighboring municipalities for work, activities, safety info and much more. Savvy Citizen provides a one-stop shop for residents to efficiently connect with multiple communities. This unique feature has helped to create clusters of Savvy Citizen customers in many regions of Pennsylvania and beyond.
Additional helpful features of Savvy Citizen include Google Maps enabled notifications/events, targeted notifications, automated weather and traffic alerts, the ability to attach PDFs and images to send to residents, logo branding for local governments and more.
TEQ: How does MSA maintain its innovative edge? For decades the company has been at the forefront.
RM: Company lore ties MSA’s incorporation in 1963 to Dr. Kuehn’s 1960s taxes being audited by the IRS. The audit showed that Dr. Kuehn paid some 40 students from his personal checkbook during that year in support of “research activities.” The IRS’s interpretation was that Dr. Kuehn was conducting a business, not research, and needed to incorporate.
Those research roots are still part of MSA’s DNA. Those roots help to foster a culture of intrapreneurship that help sustain our innovative edge. For us, intrapreneurship means finding new problems to apply our core competencies, migrating successful services to different industries, and being nimble and opportunistic when the chance presents. Being a privately held company insulates some opportunities from short-term financial pressures and allows those projects to grow into flourishing businesses.
Our Savvy Citizen service, detailed above, is an excellent example of MSA’s intrapreneurial spirit. An MSA employee that was involved in his local government had an epiphany while being harangued by a resident upset with the lack of communication between the board and the community. Why was there not an app that would facilitate communication between local governments and their constituents? That question led to the creation of Savvy Citizen.
TEQ: Tell us about your new offices in Bakery Square?
RM: Management Science Associates (MSA) has always had a presence in Pittsburgh’s East End and throughout the region with three offices in Pittsburgh – North, South and East. With our successful evolution to a hybrid work environment, MSA’s Bakery Square office provides employees and clients with a modern space designed to inspire collaboration, innovation and success across our diverse workforce and client partners.
The office complements MSA’s adaptive approach to flexible workplaces to provide clients with the highest quality of service. Our employee-focused office design and remote work flexibility is one of many efforts aimed at attracting new talent as well as further enhancing MSA’s already excellent employee retention. MSA’s Bakery Square office boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, a townhall area complete with a ping pong table, and a café featuring Starbucks coffee creations.
TEQ: What do you see driving growth into 2024?
RM: Consumer spending is often acknowledged as the most important component of economic growth for the US. While MSA has few direct-to-consumer offerings, many, if not all, of our clients are directly and indirectly driven by consumer spending.
Our current and potential clients are interested in understanding the decision making of consumers on what they are purchasing, as well as their streaming choices, lifestyle and health choices. To provide these types of insights requires the collection, cleansing, integration and analysis of different data sets, the conversion of those data into actionable information, and the visualization of the results.
In addition to the utilization of data for decision making, our client base is also focused on the digital transformation of existing processes and procedures to protect systems and data and to improve efficiencies.
These requirements fit nicely into MSA’s core competencies, and we anticipate assisting our clients in these endeavors will drive our growth into 2024 and beyond.