Customers today face a complex landscape of IT solutions, somehow related to their business or mission. IT departments are critical enablers, whether the mission is driven by profit, information, intelligence or anything else. The underlying IT solution set that facilitates those enabling factors is a dynamic set of complex components. That complexity is only growing, not decreasing.
Much like a good relationship with a mechanic, a good relationship with a systems integrator (or VAR – Value Added Reseller) is a mutually beneficial relationship. Both parties have dependencies and trust between each other. Long-term relationships are ONLY possible if both parties value the service provided by the other.
I’m not a mechanic. However, for 15 years I was an avid 4×4 off-road enthusiast. Over those years I made 7 trips to Colorado to climb many of the passes in the southern part of the state. Near 13,000 feet, with backcountry roads and trails, is the last place any Jeep person wants to have mechanical failures; the nearest service station was often 50+ miles away, on nasty ‘roads’. During those 15 years I found a great mechanic shop. I became friends with the owner and several of the mechanics. Their work on my Jeep was never cheap but was fair and appropriate for the parts and service. I was always given the options of ‘Must fix’, or ‘Nice to fix’ and associated pricing. I never once had a problem on a high mountain road and have wonderful memories of high mountain off-roading. I was always happy with the quality of work and service provided to me. It was a great relationship, or partnership, for both parties.
Today, a really good SI solutions provider must take the position of advocate for their customer. Only this position creates a mutually valuable relationship (The OEM landscape is filled with marketing messaging touting the value of this or that particular solution.) Most business or government IT staff don’t have the time to fully research or evaluate every OEM solution/product claim. However, it is the job of a SI or VAR to do just that research and evaluation. Their very existence depends on their unbiased expertise, with the best interest of their customer, and that customer’s unique environment. Essentially, they need to understand the customer’s mission.
Many factors influence what is the best solution, or solution set, for a particular IT problem; timeline, budget, staff expertise, physical space, power or management bureaucracy. Working together with a good systems integrator can produce the ‘best fit’ solution that satisfies most, if not all, constraints.
Some common relevant factors today are ‘buy or rent/lease’, on-prem or off-prem, which cloud provider, in-house staff or outsource staffing, levels of security (and budgets for those security levels), existing IT equipment brand/OEM, and technical or functional needs of the business or mission. Is hyperconverged really as simple and flexible as the OEM’s claim? What are the various cost ramifications of taking one architecture path over another? Similar to hardware, is it better to own or rent/lease software? Is your existing database, and H/W infrastructure, capable of meeting today’s growing profit or action needs; can your queries run on the entire relevant data set, how long does it take, what options exist to improve time-to-profit or time-to-action?
Today’s fashionable IT messaging of ‘Cloud first’ or ‘Software-defined’ makes no mention of the true complexity, or licensing costs, of the underlying software. I’m a certified ‘expert’ on some of that software and I’m the first to admit that today’s software complexity dwarfs the underlying hardware; compute, networking and storage – not even including the complexity of the public cloud providers.
This complexity, encompassing the various hardware and software layers, highlights the importance of the need for partnership with a trusted systems integrator that understands and is fully invested in the customer’s mission. The unbiased expertise, collaboration with customers and commitment to the mission, represents the real value of systems integrators today.