Systems and Computer Technology Corp. (SCT) is a single integrator with a focus. Even though it is a single integrator they only operate in four distinct markets: higher education, utilities, local government and process manufacturing, says Deirdre Wielgus, VP of cross industry services. SCT prefers this approach so that it can concentrate on a limited number of industries, enabling them to remain competitive within those fields and serve its clients better.
“If we were all over the board and didn’t have a focus, our knowledge base wouldn’t be as fine tuned as it is, and we wouldn’t be as valuable to our customers,” Wielgus says.
Not only is industry focus important to SCT, but it also believes in the value of being a partner with its clients. Wielgus says that because best-in-class providers can’t provide a partnership to their clients, they are limited in what they can do for them. This puts single integrators at an advantage, she says. Because best-in-class providers can only offer a single function, the strategic aspect of molding two large corporations together, the client and the vendor, cannot be attained.
“If we go in and implement a system or manage an environment and there is no partnership then we would have no impact on the client’s business other than the day to day transactions,” she says. “By working closely with clients as a partner we understand what keeps them awake at night, what their business issues are and we can help map out solutions to address those issues. But we can’t do that if they are not side by side with us. [Best-in-class providers] unfortunately don’t have that option.”
Partnerships are critical to ensure absolute success, she says. A partnership assures that there is total involvement not only from the vendor’s side of the engagement, but from the client’s side as well. The client must participate with the vendor to determine the correct solutions for the company, so that the services are tied to the business results.
“It brings the core competencies of both sides together so that the customer can focus on what their clients are looking for,” she says. “Understanding what their outcomes need to be allows a single integrator to deliver the core competencies in the best possible way. A partnership allows the vendor to understand the client’s business so that it can contribute wholly as opposed to providing the thin individual pieces that best-in-class companies provide. We could “body shop” our services as well, but the client would be under-utilizing the knowledge base that is out there.”
Over-reliance on a Single Integrator
Being a partner also assures that there is no over-reliance on the vendor, which is a factor that often weighs against single integrators, Wielgus notes. The only time that a company can become out of touch with its technology is if it hasn’t fulfilled its end of the partnership, she says. In other words, management doesn’t know how the services and software are benefiting the company and therefore is unable to manage the arrangement on a “go-forward-basis.” She says that the client doesn’t need to know how to run the services provided at a high level, but it does need to be able to articulate its business issues and understand the capacities of the technology.
“When both sides expend a lot of time, energy and money there definitely has to be some trust involved as well, which is something that we try to build from the beginning,” she says. “And if there is a dependency issue, it is on both sides of the table. We need them to be successful as they need us to be successful.”
Management Made Simple
Single integrator relationships are also much easier to manage, Wielgus says. When a company makes a big investment in a service initiative it is wise to have a single company that is focusing on the IT environment as a whole. First, by using a single integrator the client can hold a single vendor accountable for either good or bad service. It is much harder to manage multiple vendors than it is to manage one single integrator. And it is hard to hold one company responsible for any breach in services when there are several intertwined vendors performing an operation.
Also, companies like SCT can integrate the entire operation, she says. But if a company has separate vendors then that doesn’t necessarily happen because the best-in-class providers are focused on their individual piece of the overall puzzle, and getting several vendors to work together to standardize the software and services is difficult.
Wielgus says that subcontracting in some instances can help companies become even more of a complete solutions provider. For example, SCT typically focuses on technology services and in some cases it needs more business-related services, like business reengineering for example. So it will partner with other external companies that have the same market expertise that it does. In such cases, SCT does the technology side and the subcontractor does the business side, but SCT is always the one managing the subcontracted vendor. In most of SCT’s arrangements though, its employees do most of the work.
Because single integrators cover a broad range of functions, retention and recruitment is important, Wielgus says. Besides recruiting the brightest employees straight from college and the workforce, companies can also retain the client’s employees when it takes over an account. These employees can be taught the vendor’s methodologies and then re-deployed. Companies can also cross train, retrain and retool its employees, adding to their value. For example SCT has quite a few COBOL programmers because it sells a considerable amount of Y2K remediation services. Those issues will soon go away, but the programmers won’t. SCT considers them to be too valuable. The outsourcer will just retool them in the latest application products.
“This allows us to retain folks that are good if we continue to invest in them,” she says. “That way they retain their market industry knowledge and we continue to grow stronger.”
Lessons From The Outsourcing Primer:
- Operates in distinct markets can help companies retain their focus and provide better service to the customer.
- Single integrators can be partners with their clients to assure success.
- Single integrators are easier to manage than best-in-class providers are because there is one point of contact.
- Subcontracting business-related services can help companies become even more of a complete solutions provider.
- A company can retain valuable employees by retooling its staff to the specific needs of it clients.