The Best Way to Ensure Things Go Smoothly with a Systems Integrator

Avoid change orders with systems integratorsBy Jeff Richards
Managing Partner

Considering hiring one of the big systems integrators (SIs) to help you with a large-scale project? This could be an excellent move. After all, the big systems integrators are known for their expertise in identifying, designing and deploying complex IT solutions for the enterprise.

Unfortunately, hiring a big systems integrator usually means big teams and big bills. It can also be a financial train wreck, as many of these organizations are renowned for bidding one thing and then by accident or design presenting change orders and scope creep that leads to much higher costs and longer schedules.

Do you have the in-house experience to manage this?

If yours is a large corporation—one of the Ciscos, GMs or Facebooks of the world—chances are your team already has extensive experience managing systems integrators and projects of this scale. But if the types of projects we’re talking about aren’t a regular part of your business, you have probably never dealt with the large systems integrators. You need to have someone on your side who has.

Our recommendation: The best way to ensure things go smoothly is to bring in a consultant such as CIO Professional Services early in the project, to provide oversight for both your inexperienced staff and the potentially rapacious systems integrator. In fact, having an independent and experienced expert on your team is like having an “insurance policy” that protects you from the cost overruns and delays that change orders, scope creep and schedule creep cause.

Why do you need this “insurance”? Because hiring a big systems integrator is like buying a new car. While you might buy a new car once every few years, you’ll be up against someone who sells cars for a living...upping the likelihood that the final deal will be more in their favor than yours.

How an experienced consultant can level the playing field

When CIO Professional Services serves in this capacity we participate in the Steering Committee and attend the Project Team meetings. Most of our team members have either worked for systems integrators, managed projects of this scale, or both. It’s what we’ve built our careers on. Which means you’ll have an expert looking out for your best interests who knows how systems integrators work—including how their profitability is driven, what their strong and weak suits are, and how to manage it all so that the terms of the contract are actually met. Systems Integrators need to be profitable in order to bring you their best resources. We understand when change orders are warranted and when they are not. When your systems integrator tries to put through a change order, we’ll stop them if the conditions outlined in the contract under which they can ask for more money have not been met.

In essence, it is our experience that levels the playing field for you. We are well-versed in managing accountability and keeping large-scale programs on track and within scope by overseeing both budgets and workloads. We’ll hold the systems integrator to the terms of the contract for scope of work, timeframes and deliverables. And we’ll hold your team accountable, too, ensuring your group doesn’t cause change orders and their associated cost overruns by failing to meet agreed-upon deadlines.

Yes, every systems integrator worth their salt will tell you that they manage accountability as a standard part of their service delivery. But the reality is, they generally don’t do it very well...and their interests are not always in alignment with yours.


About Jeff Richards

As an inspirational leader with the ability to develop the “big picture” strategy then drive it down to executable tactics for implementation, Jeff leads our Professional Services team. Clients benefit from Jeff’s 25+ years of experience developing and implementing transformative business strategies.

Jeff’s experience spans both industry (including Materials, Operations and IT Management) and consulting. He developed a unique global perspective during his tenure in significant P&L management-level positions in both Asia and Europe.

About CIO Professional Services

Based in the San Francisco Bay area, CIO Professional Services LLC is a top-rated Information Technology (IT) consulting firm focused on integrating Business and Information Technology. Our consultants are all hands-on executives who are veteran CIOs and Partners of Big 4 consulting firms. Companies come to us seeking assistance with their information technology strategy as well as for interim or fractional CIO / CTOs, and negotiation and program management/project rescue assistance.

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