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A Systems Integrator Could Be Your Bridge to IoT Transformation

5 Feb 2019 by Jillian Sloan

Like many organizations striving for digital transformation today, you may find your business on the edge of innovation — and at an impasse.

Perhaps you have a number of data-gathering systems in place but no means of connecting the information. You might be planning a cloud migration but unable to pinpoint the best solution for your business needs. Or maybe you’re challenged with developing a new customer-centric app, but a skills gap on your team is keeping the project on the back burner.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an opportunity-rich landscape — with no concrete set of directions to get there. As organizations stuggle to cross the chasm to IoT transformation, the role of systems integrators may be the missing link to fill the gap.

Common IoT implementation challenges

Connected devices are expected to surpass 30 billion in 2020 and soar to 80 billion by 2025, according to IDG’s “2018 State of Digital Business Transformation” report. Intelligent “things” are proliferating every industry, from manufacturing to healthcare and even to the scale of smart cities.

But connecting all of those sensors and applications takes strategic orchestration and know-how — which is why many organizations are now looking for external help.

On average, one-third (38%) of organizations anticipate their IT transformation will be handled by a third-party vendor or consultant, according to “IT in Transition: How IT Leaders Are Faring,” a report on an Insight-commissioned IDG survey.

The report also revealed that organizations planning an IT transformation have stalled due to project scope being too large or not knowing where to start.

Developing an IoT network — whether in a single warehouse or to the scale of a smart city — can be a goliath of an undertaking. “IoT or die” has been the catchphrase haunting companies for the past few years, but in pursuit of transformation, many organizations are facing common barriers:

    Budget

    The 2018 Insight Intelligent Technology Index found companies are dedicating the largest portion of their budgets — 43% on average — toward technology maintenance alone. This leaves little budget for investing in modern technology or talent.

    Compatability

    When a company does decide to adopt modern technology, the focus is often on procurement: getting the best deal on technology purchases — driving companies to procure from multiple vendors. The resulting ad hoc collection of solutions, combined with legacy technology, can lead to a compatability nightmare for IT teams.

    Skills gap

    In IDG’s “2018 State of Digital Business Transformation” report, 36% of organizations point to lack of skills or appropriate talent as their primary barrier to achieving digital initiatives. Finding experienced professionals who have the deep technical knowledge to integrate various applications and systems is a growing challenge.

Without systems integration, the IoT doesn’t work.

Enter the systems integrator.

A Systems Integrator (SI) is an individual or company that unites disparate or subsystems to function together as a whole, or a system of systems. An SI can transform a disjointed collection of software and hardware into a cohesive architecture.

The role of an SI has grown over the years. Individual SIs have predominantly been local with a small number experienced enough to work nationally and an even smaller number with global capabilities.

SIs have also evolved from a service role (primarily individuals) to an adviser role (an individual SI, team or entire organization). An SI who knows your industry can be the conduit between your needs — both hardware and software — and the best IoT solution to help solve your technology challenges.

Due to the rapid rate at which technology is available and the rate at which innovation is occurring, the market is demanding more of this hybrid service provider and adviser role to walk a project from ideation to execution.

Even more sought after is a systems integrator with global capabilities, as IoT projects scale across countries and continents.

Benefits of a systems integrator

According to ABI Research, IoT system integration and consulting revenues reached $17 billion in 2017 and are projected to grow past $35.7 billion by 2022 — demonstrating the increasing awareness among organizations around the value of SI assistance to help them overcome their IoT challenges.

SIs provide four key business advantages:

  1. Specialized knowledge of the IoT landscape
  2. Rich experience integrating both legacy and modern systems
  3. Deep understanding of operational technology in specific industries, which provides an essential bedrock of information from which to attach an IoT project
  4. Strong partner relationships balanced by an unbiased technology choice

The last advantage might not seem like much, but a lack of brand loyalty shouldn’t be overlooked.

Additionally, SIs inherently use a methodology for continuous improvement as part of the job — so the integrations and solution architectures they work on are continually becoming more effective.

Should you hire a systems integrator?

Here are four questions to help you evaluate your need for an SI:

  1. Is your organization facing a skills gap with a steep learning curve?
  2. Do you need specific expertise for a short-term project?
  3. Are you facing an aggressive timeline?
  4. How long or often will you need that skill?

Engaging with an SI isn’t limited to the enterprise world. Arguably, small to medium businesses can experience the greatest return on investment from contracting with an SI rather than hiring full-time (and expensive) employees.