The changing role of systems integrators

With the role of systems integrators constantly evolving in the Middle East channel, how are SIs increasing their competitiveness and staying pertinent in a rapidly evolving IT market?

  • E-Mail
The changing role of systems integrators
By  Manda Banda Published  July 23, 2018

The systems integration (SI) market in the Middle East has come a long way. In years gone by, SIs used to build computing systems for clients by combining hardware and software products from multiple technology vendors.

Today, the times have changed and the sector has not only evolved but advanced so much that SI partners are now able to offer their customers pre-configured systems, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and data centres in a box.

The important role systems integration plays in the whole business of IT cannot be doubted as SIs are now in a position to create information systems from design to building customised architecture and applications, and integrating that with new or existing hardware, packaged and customised software offerings, and communications infrastructure.

According to analyst Frost & Sullivan, the GCC systems integration market is growing with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the UAE accounting for almost 50% of the market and growing at a CAGR of 9%, which is relatively high, given that this market sector globally is quite mature with the move to managed cloud services.

Swapna Subramani, senior research manager, IDC CEMA, said current macroeconomic conditions have led CIOs to rethink their ICT strategies and investments. Subramani added that while they are keen to invest in technology solutions for their businesses, they are also looking at ways to reduce their IT budgets. “IT is often seen as a means to reduce operational costs and also drive innovation. In such a scenario, organisations are approaching SIs to develop IT solutions that can achieve cost savings for the business and also provide competitive advantage,” she said.

Savitha Bhaskar, COO at specialist systems integrator firm Condo Protego, said despite the current economic climate, the Middle East systems integration market has a strong outlook for 2018 and beyond.

Bhaskar said partners are taking on a larger role in developing digital transformation plans centred on information management solutions.

She added that Middle East organisations are adopting pre-packaged converged and hyper-converged data centre infrastructure and data centre solutions forcing many channel partners to re-evaluate their models, and move to an honest, consultative and value-added services approach rather than selling or pitching products. “While many Middle East SIs are becoming generalists, this leaves customers lacking in expert consultation,” Bhaskar noted.

As SIs warm up to becoming full-fledged IT managed services providers in addition to the integration and professional services they offer, they are encountering other challenges in the market with clients demanding more from them.

IDC’s Subramani said owing to the cost pressures, many organisations are also renegotiating their existing contracts with SIs.

She noted that the time taken to allocate a project has also increased, more so for long-term strategic projects. “Some organisations are also considering a phased approach while implementing large projects. This will help them reduce the upfront capital investment on technologies while giving them the opportunity to calculate the return on investment (ROI) for ongoing projects,” she said.

Sakkeer Hussain, director, Sales and Marketing, D-Link Middle East and Africa (MEA), said the systems integration sector and business in the region is growing steadily despite the channel market experiencing some challenges as a result of the prevailing tough business conditions across the region. “Certainly from a D-Link perspective, the systems integrators we work with are getting involved in projects especially in the UAE, where some smart city initiatives have garnered momentum,” he said.

Although the growth potential for SIs in terms of projects in the pipeline is growing, pundits say the market can anticipate delays in actual project allocation and a reduction in the dollar value spent on projects.

Ayman Al Bayaa, CEO of STME, said business organisations requiring SI solutions face issues such as security challenges, backup challenges, hardware and network technical difficulties, knowledge management, big data, computing and the added pressure of smaller or reducing IT budgets.

Al Bayaa added that as the SI market develops, the focus on infrastructure will gradually shift to applications and services. “Sectors such as communications and media, government and manufacturing will continue to be the high revenue generating segments for systems integration services whereas healthcare, utilities and services will have faster growth in revenues in the future,” he said.

However, Al Bayaa explained that SIs are facing changes and challenges from technological and business process innovations. He said these include the transition from on-premise products to cloud hosted services, from workstations to virtualisation, and from hosting the full IT span to outsourcing.

“Budgets cuts have clients searching for the best value-driven and cost effective solutions which adds pressure on SIs to cut their own costs,” he noted.

Condo Protego’s Bhaskar said the best approach is to retain and train specialists, while diversifying the client base and doubling-down on small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). “In this rapidly changing field, relationships with major vendors such as DELL EMC and Veritas are essential for Middle East IT channel partners to drive innovation,” she said.

Sunil Paul, co-founder and COO at another systems integrator Finesse, said in spite of the market being in a tough and competitive business climate at present, prospects in the systems integration market are huge with increased adoption of artificial intelligence, big data analytics, mobile, cloud, social, IoT and the push towards a digital workplace.

Paul said governments and large enterprises have started investing in these newer technologies to take advantage of the benefits they bring.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code