Systems integrators are evolving from tech experts to business strategists

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Systems integrators are evolving from tech experts to business strategists

Systems integrators have moved from working behind the scenes with the IT department to shaping business strategy with business units. This evolution matches the shift in the cloud’s role from another storage option to a strategic business tool.

Anant Adya, senior vice president and business head for cloud, infrastructure, and security services at Infosys, said systems integrators have become cloud orchestration experts. 

“Orchestration helps bring all of this together to solve a business problem,” he said. “The focus is improving revenue, not just building something.”

Adya said technology decisions have expanded to include chief financial officers, chief human resources officers, and sales leaders. 

“The pandemic has forced customers to think about how to use the cloud to improve resiliency, expand into new markets, and launch new products,” he said.

Nigel Fenwick, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, said that systems integrators (SIs) have been investing in emerging technologies and developing software to accelerate time to value for clients. 

“There’s demand in IT transformations for SIs and service providers to help clients architect their technology so that the business can evolve with new technologies even faster,” he said. “Modern system architectures make it easier for services firms to connect systems through APIs and microservices than it used to be.” 

Building experiences

Adya shared a project Infosys completed with a large retailer as one example of this orchestration approach. The client wanted to solve an employee experience problem focused on accessing personal data such as salary information, leave time, and bonus information. Each type of information lived in its own silo, requiring multiple log-ins and creating an unpleasant experience.

Infosys combined multiple data sets into a single interface that employees and temp workers access by typing in an employee number. 

“This solved an experience problem that involved integrating the back end and the front end and building a platform,” he said.

Infosys also worked with a West Coast utility company that wanted to improve customer acquisition metrics. The company wanted a digital marketing platform to manage multiple campaigns including discounts and early renewal offers.

Infosys worked with the company’s chief marketing officer to use the cloud to create a platform to analyze consumer behavior and usage patterns and to build custom campaigns.

“You need real-time data to have this conversation,” he said. 

Infosys and the chief digital officer at a life sciences company put another spin on customization in a project focused on clinical trials. The goal was to determine the best way to run clinical trials of new drugs and devices and to reach out to patients.

“A lot of this work is outside IT and much more aligned with business goals,” Adya said. 

Fenwick said digital transformation work led by departmental budget holders often falls into customer-facing transformations, such as customer experience or ecommerce, and operational transformations like automated manufacturing, predictive maintenance, or process automation. 

“Business model transformation is where the real money is but it’s much harder to achieve,” he said. “This is where companies look to apply emerging technologies to gain sustainable competitive advantage and even disrupt markets.”

Another new challenge for orchestrators is a shift to being measured on the outcomes of a project, not just completing it.

“You have to be accountable for the solution that you’re providing–you can’t just say the job is done and walk out,” he said.

Fenwick said that although the systems integrator industry still struggles with outcome-based pricing, this is getting easier as work shifts to building digital products. 

“As firms look to drive more revenue through digital capabilities, and bring more digital products to market, it is much easier to identify the incremental value a vendor brings to helping drive the new revenue growth,” he said.

Building and training an orchestration team

Adya said he looks for these skill sets when he assembles a team for a digital transformation project:

  1. Understanding of the business (insurance, finance, manufacturing, etc.)
  2. Knowledge of the point solutions in the market, such as cloud native solutions applicable to the industry 
  3. Understanding of the business problem the client wants to solve 

“I look for people who can identify the problem and then provide a solution that is based on a tech stack that is available in the cloud,” he said.

Adya said that companies have to look at security in a comprehensive way when building these new solutions because there is sensitive data everywhere: In data centers, in the cloud, with third-party processors, and partners.

Infosys uses a knowledge management system built in-house called Lex to help employees develop new tech and business skills. Training programs are built around three skill sets called “horizons.” Horizon 1 training programs support traditional products and services from Infosys, horizon 2 is all about cloud computing, and horizon 3 is focused on emerging technology like 5G.

Adya has 22,000 people in his division, and each person is assigned to one of the three training categories with relevant certification programs and upskilling courses.

“This platform gives us a structured plan to move people from 1 to 2 to 3,” he said.

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