What is a systems integrator? Here’s what you need to know

System integrator

Your organization will, inevitably, need to embark on time-sensitive, business-critical technology initiatives.

To help your team meet the demands of these initiatives successfully and without having to involve many internal resources, you can engage with system integrators (SIs). 

You can read on to learn how SIs operate, the benefits of working with them, and some of the organizations that exist. 

Definition of a system integrator

It’s an individual or organization that helps businesses tackle technology projects. This includes implementing or replacing software, integrating applications, and building workflow automations. 

Given the wide range of services they offer, SIs are often staffed with enterprise architects, application admins, business analysts, integration developers, among other roles. 

System integrator use cases

Let’s take a closer look at how system integrators can help their clients. 

Application implementation

A top reason for partnering with system integrators is that an organization needs to implement a specific application and lacks the internal expertise or bandwidth necessary to perform the work.

Once the system integrator gets looped in, here’s how they can carry out the project (at a high level):

They’d begin by gathering the business requirements for that application. This includes specific areas—such as the data fields that need to be tracked and the processes the application needs to carry out or be part of—as well as the broad business goals from using it.

After the requirements are clearly defined, the SI can begin the work of mapping out the business processes, designing the system changes and configurations, and implementing those changes into the application in a testing environment (where eventually they’re pushed to production). After the application is implemented successfully, the SI would then train the team members who need use it in order to spur fast adoption.

It’s worth noting that in many cases, business processes aren’t confined to a single application. Since multiple teams are often involved and they each work in different applications, any business process may need to work across multiple apps. 

When that’s the case, the SI will need to study and understand each step to determine the best way to move data across applications, whether that’s integrating the apps via application programming interfaces (APIs), screen scraping, files, etc. They’ll also determine the 3rd-party integration tool that needs to be brought in and use it to implement the integrations.

Application migration

The system integrator can also help your organization move from one application to another successfully. 

This requires the system integrator to export data from the old system, convert it to the format the new system expects (via data type field mapping, mapping tables, etc.), and then import the data into the new system. 

Related: 3 common ways to use a hybrid integration platform

The business models of system integrators

System integrators typically get business in one of two ways (or through a combination of these approaches):

  • Self-sourcing: where the SI works independently to win over prospects for specific projects. They can do this by engaging in traditional acquisition tactics, such as attending trade shows, using digital ads, calling prospects directly, etc.
  • Working with partners: where a vendor’s sales or customer success team decides to bring in the SI, or if the vendor assists the SI in a more organic way (e.g. a prospect contacts the SI via their listing in the vendor’s partner directory) 

While vendors have varying requirements for accepting SI partners, they often want an SI to have specific areas of specialization, be of a certain size (e.g. meeting an annual revenue threshold), and commit to certain sales quotas with the vendor’s product.

Once accepted, the vendor can help the SI in a number of ways (in addition to what was mentioned earlier). For example, the SI can participate in co-marketing activities, enablement trainings, and even get direct access to the vendor’s C-suite.

Examples of system integrators

SIs vary by size, specialization, geographic presence, among other factors.  

For instance, you can partner with international organizations that offer a broad spectrum of services (many of which extend beyond traditional SI offerings), such as Cognizant, Deloitte, and HCLTech. And you can work with SIs that provide a more focused set of solutions, such as Connor Group (financial services), Dispatch Integration (HR services), and Elad CRM (GTM services).

Related: Examples of IT modernization

Why are system integrators important?

Here are just a few benefits from partnering with SIs.

1. Provides the expertise needed to perform critical projects

To help explain this benefit, let’s use an example:

Say an organization needs to move from one application to another.

They may have internal resources that understand the ins and outs of the existing system, but those individuals might not know how the new system operates. As a result, leaning on them to transition to that new system could take up a lot of their time and still lead to a poor implementation. 

A system integrator, on the other hand, may have performed this exact project with numerous clients, giving them a clear idea of the best practices and common pitfalls to avoid. This not only applies to the technology that needs to be implemented but also the business processes around using it (e.g. if an HRIS like Workday is being implemented, this can include employee onboarding processes with Workday).

Related: The benefits of using an iPaaS

2. Allows employees to focus on the work that they are uniquely qualified to perform

You may have a small group of employees who know how to execute certain technology projects, but they’re likely swamped with other critical tasks that only they know how to perform. In addition, the technology projects may involve a significant amount of work and have a tight deadline, making it all the more difficult for these employees to take on the projects.

SIs can help take the load off your employees’ shoulders, as they provide the additional capacity needed to carry out technology projects successfully.

3. Offers flexibility and cost savings

As opposed to hiring expensive talent full-time and using them sporadically, you can use system integrators only when they’re needed. This can help your organization lower its costs over time while not having to compromise on your technology projects’ performance. Moreover, your organization isn’t stuck with an SI. If you’re unhappy with them, you can try out another SI for your next project.

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System integrator FAQ

In case you have any more questions, we’ve addressed several more below.

What’s the difference between a VAR and a system integrator?

While value-added resellers (VARs) and SIs can overlap, the former focuses more on selling their products while the latter focuses more on selling their technology services. 

How can you become a system integrator?

There are no hard and fast rules. That said, to help get your foot in the door, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in a technical field like computer science, software engineering, or physics. You can also earn certifications from specific vendors in the integration and automation space to showcase your fluency with their software.

What qualities should you look for when evaluating system integrators?

You should evaluate the clients they work with, their areas of specialization, their leadership team, and, if available, the feedback they’ve received on 3rd-party review sites.

About the author
Jon Gitlin Content Strategist @ Workato
Jon Gitlin is the Managing Editor of The Connector, where you can get the latest news on Workato and uncover tips, examples, and frameworks for implementing powerful integrations and automations. In his free time, he loves to run outside, watch soccer (er...football) matches, and explore local restaurants.