In their defense, SIs say that customers need to be willing to pay for value-adds. In their book, consultancy, for instance, need to be recognized as a separate offering--and need to be paid for.
That's a view that big tier-1 companies, as well as relatively smaller SIs share. "It would be prudent for a customer to break the engagement into two parts--one for consultancy and the other, for implementation. He has to pay up for the consultancy. How else does one get the deliverables?" says Srikant Rao, founder and CEO of Bangalore-based Affordable Business Solutions (ABS). ABS consistently insists to all its customers that consultancy services, as a separate component, needs validation and acceptance in order to make an engagement a very serious affair with tangible outcomes attached to it.
Gupta of Cipla says, "CIOs will be willing to pay a premium if the SI brings credible practice to the table, if they can connect with the issues of the enterprise and the industry. When SIs come with a menu card, you know there will be a compromise in the expertise level or the delivery."
The last couple of years have witnessed a small shakedown of sorts in the SI space with the entry of global system integrators or GSIs. While the big four tier-1 SIs in India are GSIs in their own right, the presence of international players in India is expected to change the standards of system integration. "Customers can expect a value-added engagement with the entry of the GSI," says Kumar Siddhartha, CEO, Greytrix, a Sage Software partner.
Forrester suggests that CIOs are also increasingly talking to strategic SIs and phasing out the non-strategic ones from their discussions. Also, trends indicate that CIOs aspire to secure funds for initiatives through unrestrained budgets with the help of proactive SIs who will help build strong business cases.
Having said that, partnerships are a painstaking process. Gupta at Cipla, observes in a blog, "Partnership is built over time and it's a function of delivering to promise consistently across layers. It takes effort to sustain it and requires investments and transparency from everyone. Everyone hates escalations which result due to lack of communication and assumptions." Gupta evidently knows what he is saying given his vast experience with thought leadership across roles in Shoppers Stop, Raheja Group and Philips Electronics. So, while the love-hate between the CIO and the system integrator continues, we will see interesting trends and solutions emerging.
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