System Integration

I am often asked to explain the difference between a System Integrator and a Service Integrator. Working in a multi-national enterprise with a heavily outsourced IT provision, I had the opportunity to travel the world talking to my colleagues about Service Management and how we organise ourselves to manage our external suppliers.

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Whilst the topic on top of the hype cycle (to steal the phrase from Gartner) was SIAM – we had little to discuss as the organisation was moving towards supplier consolidation and a single supplier model (I will post a separate post on SIAM models later). Instead I steered the conversation to how we contract for System Integrators and was surprised to find the term, and the difference between a system integrator and a service Integrator was not well understood.

Role of the Service Integrator

The service integrator role is to take responsibility for reciprocal collaboration between providers and to front it as a single managed service back to you, the customer. The role is therefore more of a command and control or orchestration role.

Having a single organisation to front all services comes with pros and cons but the one main advantage often quoted to me by Execs is that dreaded phrase a single throat to choke. Having worked in Service Management for a long time, I recognise the value of good relationships with my SIAM lead and always strive for a win/win partnership with them. That said, there are of course benefits to having a single lead supplier such as the single point of focus for escalations and shared goals.

The Service Integrator does not have to be a supplier of any other services but often organisations appoint a lead supplier that already has some skin in the game delivering some of the services.

Role of the System Integrator

The System Integrator role is to bring together different technology components through integration to form a single cohesive product. They are usually responsible for planning, coordinating, scheduling, implementing, integrating and testing components to form a collaboration that together deliver a new IT system. The System Integrator might also be responsible for maintaining the system during its lifecycle or may hand off once the build warranty period ends.

Where the System Integrator provides ongoing support for the new IT system, they could also be managed by the Service Integrator.

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