However, the SI landscape is changing, and it is entirely possible that the industry will look very different in just a few short years. There may be increased success for SIs in the near future, however, it is important to understand what is driving this growth to stay on top of the wave.
The boom in the SI market is particularly obvious in the Middle East region. Business is expanding, and technologies are being adopted at a rapid pace. “As a new web of interconnected technologies becomes pervasive across the Gulf, this has led to the need for technically qualified specialist teams who have the knowledge and skills to ensure that complex IT projects work together as a single cohesive entity,” explains Manish Punjabi, Channel Marketing Manager, Middle East and Africa, Alcatel Lucent Enterprise.
The most obvious underlying causes for the rapid expansion of the SI market is the advent of cloud computing and virtualisation. Companies demand applications and services that are compatible with their current cloud-enabled systems and that are both agile and scalable as well. A growing need for virtualisation and consolidation of IT resources has been creating opportunities for SIs. “As business demands become increasingly dynamic, clients require real-time data insights to come from a number of systems spread across their hybrid environment,” says Sunil Paul, Chief Operating Officer, Finesse, “The legacy, on-premise, SaaS, cloud, as well as other systems need to work together to achieve the seamless flow, access and analysis of information.”
Another driver in the expansion of the SI market is the growing demand for the adoption of open standards based on software such as XML. This software acts as a common language for disparate systems. “For example, a desk phone can view surveillance camera feeds or even control the curtains and lights in a hotel guest room,” explains Punjabi, “This need for a seamless customer experience has given rise to Systems Integrators who, with sufficient specialist teams, create a bridge between these dissimilar systems.”
SI specialists are used in every industry, but there are a few arenas that are contributing more than others to the current SI market. “I see an excellent expansion in most of the vertical market segments. The IT spending for government, banking, education, healthcare, and oil and gas continue to grow as well aviation,” observes Stephan Berner, Managing Director, Help AG. These industry verticals are largely those who are also early and rapid adopters of cloud, virtualisation and mobility.
In an interesting new development, government agencies are beginning to add more agile computing to their systems, and are in increasing need of SI expertise. Governments worldwide are taking on projects that will ostensibly streamline the lives of their citizens, and strengthen communication between agencies and their beneficiaries. As governments seek to become more technologically advanced and work with their constituents through new technologies, they need to integrate their existing legacy systems with new, cutting edge components. Governments stand to account for a large portion of the upcoming boom in the SI market.
In addition, healthcare, banking and hospitality industries will continue to play a major role in the SI market. With an estimated 50 billion devices set to be connected wirelessly by 2020, these industries are rapid adopters of disruptive technologies. Medical devices are rapidly modernising, banks are responding to customer demands for services such as mobile banking and the hospitality sector is dealing with an influx of consumers that have multiple connected devices and service needs. As such, SIs should continue to specialise and improve their skills when it comes to these industries.
As systems and applications become more varied and complex, it is difficult for organisations to retain the skills required to maintain their IT infrastructure. It is often simply not possible for organisations, particularly SMEs, to retain an IT staff that harbours every skill it takes to maintain their complex systems. The answer, for them, is often outsourcing some of the training and maintenance of systems. This gap in on-premises skill and training in operations and maintenance leaves ample opportunities for specialised System Integration companies to build and maintain these new, agile infrastructures. “For example,” says Punjabi, “SIs will evolve from a merely reactive mode – answering a request for proposal or quoting upon client request – to a more active consultative mode of managed services and offering cloud based services.”
Cloud, mobility and virtualisation are currently keeping the SI market healthy. As more and more businesses virtualise their infrastructure, the need for skilled SIs will increase. However, there are a number of wheels already set in motion that may spell enormous opportunity for growth in the specialised SI market. “We see that Big Data, cloud, mobility, social, customer experience and analytics are currently driving the SI Market,” explains Paul, “but with the Internet of Things to become a reality soon, the opportunity is going to be huge.” These developments are set to support the overall growth, and are also creating client success cases that make the market move forward toward further implementations across other verticals.
It is paramount to keep in mind, however, that these upcoming opportunities could mean serious changes for the role of the SI. “The role of the SI provider is changing from installing and commissioning products to be more of a solution provider helping customers to consolidate and optimise the use of their IT infrastructure,” says Umair Khan, Regional Sales & Marketing Coordinator, Midis Group. As enterprises move from CAPEX to OPEX models, they are beginning to include managed services in their expectations. “Leading system integration companies globally are now looking beyond deployment and starting to pursue a build and operate model. Most SI’s have now included managed services as an integral part of their portfolio,” explains Paul.
Virtualisation and cloud computing are, without a doubt, no longer trends but set realities. However, the IoT, another major driver in the SI boom, is still in its infancy, and its future is muddy at best. This could mean uncertainty for the future of the SI market. If IoT is standardised and takes hold, businesses will inevitably need the experitise of third-party support such as an SI to manage the technology it will take to leverage IoT and integrate new components into their existing infrastructure. However, as to whether this expansion in the SI market is set to last, SIs are confident that the industry is stable for the long term. “I don’t see a danger of the SI bubble bursting in the coming two to three years,” says Khan.