Dirty Secrets of Systems Integrators

In this article, 5 Dirty Little Secrets of Your System Integrator, the intended audience is CIOs dealing with IT system integrators, but it general applicable to our automation industry as well. While these are labeled as ‘dirty little secrets’, they are just realities that SIs have to deal with:

  1. It is almost a certainty that there will be functional scope changes – An initial blueprint of a process and system design is just that, a “blueprint”.  As the system and business process is configured, there are a number of points at which the process design will need to be altered or improved upon.  The identification of functional scope gaps is a natural part of the process and should be planned for.  System integrators will protect themselves by clearly identifying the exact scope they have included in the bid.
  2. The client will not understand the effort required to prepare data – System integrators will often simply take responsibility for the last mile of data migration (the process of actually loading the data).  This leaves the heavy lifting to the client.  Of course, once the client has discovered that it is in trouble with data, the system integrator will respond with resources to support on a T&M basis.
  3. The client will not be prepared for the speed of decision-making required to support the schedule – Cross-functional business processes are rare at companies that are not operating with an already existing ERP.  Even rarer is the ability to rapidly make cross-functional process decisions.  Years of operating a company in an organizational hierarchy leaves companies ill-prepared to address cross-functional issues.  Keenly aware of this risk to decision-making, system integrators will include assumptions in their estimates that outline specific timeframes required to make decisions and accept deliverables.  If companies sign agreements and cannot comply with these assumptions, then this is grounds for a change order.
  4. The client will not confirm that the solution is going to work until simultaneously testing training, data, and technology – Typically, system integrators will advocate keeping training, technology, and data streams separate for a large portion of the program and then bringing them all together at the end.  What most clients fail to understand is that you really don’t know if the solution is going to work until you bring them all together.  Given that the system integrator is taking responsibility for the technology and the client owns the data and training, guess who owns 2/3 of potential issues and who gets to submit a change order for schedule delays?
  5. The client will not be able to flex business user capacity just prior to go live – There will inevitably be an enormous demand placed on the business in the two months prior to going live.  Testing, data cleaning, training, and final cutover preparations will place significant participation requirements on the business.   With their own priorities of organization operational continuity at the forefront, often businesses will fall short on providing the needed resources.  This opens the door for system integrators to issue more schedule delay change orders, or the opportunity to bring in additional capacity to assist the business.

We expect that these ‘dirty secrets’ resonate with you. And, we’d be interested to hear if you have any others.

May 25, 2021