by John Belden

How to amplify the value of your system integrator

Jan 23, 2019
Technology Industry

A few ways to increase the value of your SI. If only these engagements came with a user manual…

During the system integrator (SI) vetting / bidding process for your digital transformation, you likely explored all of the competing SI’s capabilities and skills.  As a result of this value-based contest you then selected the SI that best fit your needs.  You have been well coached in your career to understand that talent wins, and you have done your best to select the finest talent presented by your SI.

After the contracts are signed, the greatest potential for value erosion starts.  Companies get focused on working to reduce the number of hours an SI spends on a project vs. attempting to maximize the value of every dollar spent.  When you decided to go with an Accenture, IBM, or Deloitte you signed up based on the value proposition of the organization – not simply the skills and talents of the individuals assigned to your project.  If your decision was based on skills and talents alone, then you probably should have gone à la carte to the independent consultant market, certainly a much better deal for the money.

Your line of questioning should be, “How do I increase the value I receive from my SI?  Doesn’t this engagement come with a manual?”  To understand how to amplify the value of your SI we need to go back to the core value propositions of these large firms.  Let’s break them down this way:

  • Implementation processes – SI firms utilize proven methodologies to configure systems, deploy business processes, and manage large-scale programs.
  • Assets – With the inventory of previous projects at their disposal, SI’s possess a number of accelerators, pre-configured solutions, presentations, and position papers.
  • Know-how – I will define this as the collective intellectual brain-power of the organization.  Your SI’s access to talent is staggering when you consider the size of these firms.  Accenture, for example, has 450,000 employees.
  • Relationships – Now extend the number of employees at each firm and multiply that figure by the contacts they have at software companies, your customers, your suppliers, and competitors in your industry.  Fully respecting the confidentiality agreements signed with these business partners, there is great value in being able to tap into the insights and intellectual capital that these relationships provide.
  • Access to leading edge technology – These large SI’s study new technologies and provide evaluations to their front-line consultants.  Part of their value proposition is that they will have a deep understanding of the technology in order to assist their clients.  These firms establish centers for testing new technologies in order to understand what does and does not work.  The value the SI brings is that they should have already observed failures and found solutions within their own centers, thereby sparing your organization from similar challenges.

As mentioned above, the bid process was designed to evaluate the SI on all of these aspects of value. However, we tend to ultimately derive 99% of the value received from the SI individuals assigned to the project and only 1% from the remaining part of the firm.

So, how do you tap into these assets?

From my experience the best way to amplify value is by developing internal systems and procedures that directly incorporate the assessment of SI value extraction.  Let’s look at 5 examples:

1.  Phase launch

At the start of any new phase of the project, incorporate a step for your SI to deliver scrubbed deliverables from 3-5 past clients that are relevant to your situation.  

Result:  You have a clear understanding of what the objective of the phase should be and access to alternative solutions and ideas that you may not have considered.

2.  Problem / Issue escalation

At the beginning of the program and at appropriately timed intervals, request a complete overview of the SI’s organizational structure and the internal business processes related to issue / problem resolution.  Then make sure that your own internal program / problem resolution process incorporates this channel.  Measure the performance of this channel to deliver value and review it in your high-level program steering committees.  

Result:  You will have the full attention of the Sr. SI leader and problems will be resolved quickly and efficiently.

3.  Best practice reviews / lunch and learns

This takes a bit of work, but the payoff can be significant.  The key concept here is that SI’s have a wealth of knowledge about IT practices, industry best practices, functional best practices, and program management.  This knowledge is valuable to your organization beyond just your project team.  SI’s have ready-made / canned material for marketing purposes that they are more than willing to share to the right audience. Make it happen by scheduling sessions well into the future.

Result:  You will derive value, the business will derive value, and the SI has the potential opportunity to make a sale.  I call that win-win-win.  But it only happens by scheduling and picking exactly the right topics.  Perhaps your change management team should be in charge of this activity.

4.  Bench reviews

When the SI proposed staffing for your project, probably only 10% of the firm was available for your assignment.  This means that 90% of the talent was not considered.  This doesn’t mean that it should not be actively considered in the future.  Concentrate on the existing gaps and weakness of the project team, and constantly look to improve.  

Result:  Conduct formal reviews of top candidates by job grade on a bi-monthly basis.  Build this into the plan.

5.  Quality reviews

Most of the big SI’s will provide quality assessment (QA) reviews as a component of the program engagement.  This tends to be a risk assessment related to their ability to achieve the parameters of the contract.  Use your seat as the customer to insist that the partner executing the QA utilizes all the appropriate assets of the SI.  Make specific recommendations related to the assets of the firm that are not being brought to bear on the project.  Specifically, I would look for pre-programmed routines, pre-developed documentations, or presentations.  You would not believe how many times the same presentation gets generated over and over again, client after client.  Each time the SI spends time developing the presentation…say 10 hours’ worth, they earn $2000 dollars.  

Result:  Take advantage of your authority to dictate what the QA should entail.

These are just a few of the ways to amplify the value of your SI.  Don’t you wish these engagements came with a user manual?