1. If you could share one "best practice" on working with your systems integrator, what would it be?
Regular and constant communication - need regulare status updates to insure that any challenges/issues are addressed in a timely manner.
Whether formally (in the RFP) or informally (through discussions), ask the integrator to extend their focus beyond the project. Have them leverage their subject matter expertise by keeping an eye out for further integration opportunities--during the project and beyond.
A support agreement with detailed standards of performance.
Because I find this to be a difficult situation, not having great luck with integrators – the most important aspect to me is having a good project manager within the integrator that works for me.
Clear Communication on expectations and understanding. More times than not, integrator sub-performance is a direct result of poor communication from either party involved. Each entity involved has ownership in the project and needs to communicate expectations clearly.
Sharing your own vision and goals for your system and addressing assumptions on a regular basis is tantamount to ensuring that your integrator is providing the best and most applicable solutions. The integrator doesn’t know your needs or your business like you do, it’s your duty to help them.
Communicate, communicate a lot and often. You should never hear the words "I thought you knew."
Quickly establish and contractually commit to conditions of satisfaction (project timelines, budget, performance expectations, payment terms & commissioning standards) that are realistic and achievable. Maintain a focus on long-term partnership.
Set up an action plan at the onset of a project that includes key milestones and timelines.
Develop a common language between all those involved in the process so that everyone understands what each other is saying. Not everyone involved in the IT process has the same educational level, skill set or comprehension. Those that do not understand may not ask for a clarification because they would feel embarrassed or inferior to the others.
Frequent, robust measurement of work provided; i.e., Key Performance Indicators, Quarterly Business Reviews, Business Metrics Dashboards and similar.
I recomment constant communication informally as needed as well as formal at regularly scheduled intervals to manage expecations, validate assumtions and actively monitor key performance indicators (green, yellow, red). Business unit customer misunderstandings and disappontments degrade quickly and consume increasing amounts of resources, good will and credability with the passage of time.
When selecting a system integrator for a single site, it is important to ensure that the company is a licensed and trained provider for the manufacturer of the system. If you are not familiar with qualified integrators in the area, as the manufacturer for a list. It is very different when identifying an enterprise wide systems integrator. Ensure that have the experience and depth to provide this type of service. Be careful when engaging in maintanence contracts; as with many such contracts they are very expensive and not necessary.
Communication. The integrator of today needs to remember to fully and timely communicate with their customer.
If the two cannot mutually "link themselves" together, the end result will be potentially disastorous. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
2. What is your main challenge or problem when working with your systems integrator?
My not forsee challenges/issues that are specific to a client and then not communicate a solution to the problem in a timely manner.
Having the integrator meet ALL your requirements. Ultimately, integrators are technology vendors. As such, they should adopt proven IT practices--requirements gathering by a Business Systems Analyst would go a long way toward a successful implementation.
Consistency of performance by individual offices under a global support agreement.
Lack of good follow up – and knowledge of our companies practices and policies when it comes to system configuration, etc.
The main challenge that I face when dealing with systems integrator is communication. Having offices across the nation and coordinating with different employees within the same integrator company creates an opportunity for a large variation in customer satisfaction. However I really feel this could be avoided if every entity on the project is communicates their expectations, understanding, and level of knowledge up front.
Ensuring that the vision, goals and strategy are aligned and defined enough to provide the integrator with the best picture of the end result. Effective definition of scope is critical to help get a system that meets your organization’s needs. Without it, the solution may look good, but doesn’t fit down the road.
Ensuring they can keep the bog picture in mind. Sometime there is a tendency to get "in the weeds" when a 30,000 ft. view is needed.
Overcoming the initial trust barrier is always a challenge. Some customers are more familier with the product lines available - we know what works for our environment. Get to know your customer and their business and look to provide value-based solutions.
Integrators delivering what was promised on time.
This would be my number one issue with IT personnel. I have worked with some that failed to possess people skills, they were so IT minded that they could not interact with others and when asked a question would get annoyed and if the person did not understand the answer or needed further clarification about IT processes they would express their displeasure or pass the person off to someone else for an answer to the question.
A lack of proactive insight based on data that should be captured through a formal review process; i.e., Lessons Learned, Root Cause Analysis, After Action Review or similar.
Trust. If you ever loose trust, you're done. Transitioning integrators is complicated and time consuming. If all your eggs are in one basket (you have a sole source integrator) and you have to make a change, you're in for stormy seas. If you have to make a change uregently or unexpedly, you might find yourself in the eye of a hurricane. It is vital that you manage expectations and you trust but constantly verify.
Being able to meet expectations in regards to proposal delivery, system problem shooting and Performing root cause analysis of issues, and meeting schedule requirements. Be wary of companies that throw out proposals and follow up with change orders. The integrator needs to communicate in a timely manner. Too often a replay or response takes much longer than necessary. Some do not listen and go on their own path, where profit margins are greater. We have specified equipment down to the minor peripheral and do not want any substitution.
3. What do you see as the prime benefit of working with a systems integrator?
In theory the integrator has subject matter expertise with the product.
Having an advocate on your side when working with vendors for the multiple technologies you are deploying.
A partnered approach for a sound business delivery model for pricing, standards, consistency, and performance.
They have the overall and technical knowledge to ensure we are using the best technology available and that it is in line with our growth strategy for the 3-5 years ahead of us.
Utilizing a system integrator versus the alternative is level of understanding. When not using a system integrator, installations take longer, cost more, and create unnecessary turbulences in relationships. More often than not, the choice to utilize a true system integrator is usually after a failed project. This is not the ideal time to get a system integrator on board.
The ability to tap into and utilize specific technical systems expertise. An effective systems integrator can bring a valuable part of the answer to the table. An effective integrator will be able to bring their skills to the table to help define the solution that best fits your organization.
The prime benefit of using the RIGHT integrator is their access to many vendors. Have a key point of interface relieves a lot of burden from the CSO.
Once established, the relationship is hugely beneficial for the customer. To me the prime benefit is having a trusted resource to rely on for their subject matter expertise and qualified personnel. They add flexibility and capability to any security services organization.
Technical knowledge of integrator staff.
Improved understanding of organizational operations by IT and how the integration will effect the operation. This interaction revealed a flaw within an organizations system which would have prevented the integration from working. Had the flaw not been identified in the early stages of integration it would have affected other interfaced systems and system failures.
Ability to provide best in class knowledge and informal benchmarking from relationships with other customers. As a customer, too often we become myopically focused on how its done within our own organization and lose sight of industry trends, manufacturers solutions, and standards of care. Good integrators broaden our vision.
Systems are complicated. The components need preventative maintenance and have life cycles. The complexty increases as the systems grow larger and more integrated nto other systems and networks. With all that you have to do, you need to ensure that a competant subject matter expert you trust is watching the shop, managing expectations, audting and ensuring continuous quality improvement collaboratively wth your integrator. You also need to make sure that your SME has a back-up / understaudy.
A system integrator has the relationship with the manufacturer and is or should be a professional in the specific area of integration. They should have the in depth knowledge of the system and add bench stregnth to your department for deliverables of systems and maintenance.
I sometimes ask myself this and overlooking all faults, it is because of their knowledge and ability to communicate directly with the factory.
This one is easy...."one throat to choke". I do not have to jump between finger pointing, it all lies on them to meet the specification. Bring the OEM to the table, but we do it together.