5 Unconventional Questions to Ask Before Selecting a System Integrator

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: September 29, 2022

In a digital transformation, selecting the right system integrator for your digital transformation project is one of the most pivotal decisions to dictate the future of your project.

What is a System Integrator?

A system integrator is defined as a company that provides services to help its clients implement complex enterprise-wide information systems. System integration involves bringing together components of a system and making them work together as intended. The term can also refer to the process of combining different subsystems into one larger system.

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What is a System Integrator's Role in Digital Transformation?

A system integrator's role in digital transformation is to help companies transition from their legacy systems and business processes to new, modern ones. This can involve anything from migrating data to new applications, redesigning workflows, or implementing entirely new systems. These stakeholders are key partners that will greatly affect the overall success of your ERP or technology implementation project.

It's important to remember that SIs have specific agendas and biases in a digital transformation project. They are motivated by their own KPIs and incentives, which might not always be aligned with the company's best interests. Therefore, it is essential to do your due diligence in selecting a SI that will be the right fit for your project and understand how they fit into your overall project strategy.

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Key Considerations in Selecting a System Integrator

There are a few key factors that you should consider when selecting a system integrator for your digital transformation project:

Industry Expertise: It is important to select a system integrator with industry expertise that matches your company's specific needs. They will be able to provide valuable insights and recommendations based on their previous work with other clients.

Technology Expertise: The system integrator should have a deep understanding of the software you selected and any integration needs. They should also be able to provide a detailed roadmap and timeline for achieving a successful implementation.

Project Management Experience: The system integrator should have a proven track record of successful project management. They should be able to provide a detailed project plan and timeline, as well as realistic expectations for the project. Not to say you need to use their plan, but they should be able to prove this expertise.

Change Management Experience: The system integrator should have experience in change management, as digital transformations can be disruptive to business operations. They should be able to help you manage the change process and ensure that your employees are prepared for the new system. They will just be a small piece of the greater change management strategies but they should at least understand this significance and the need for a change plan.

Communication Skills: The system integrator should have excellent communication skills, as they will be the primary point of contact for your project. They should be able to keep you updated on the project's progress and address any concerns you may have.

5 Questions to Ask You Potential System Integrator Candidates

Asking the right questions during the interview process is the best way to vet potential system integrator candidates. This will help you narrow down the field and select the best possible SI for your project. Below are some unconventional questions that you should ask when getting to know potential partners.

1. What are your company's core values?

This cannot be unstated. A system integrator's core values must align with the business they are supporting. If not, it will be difficult to find common ground and establish trust. With all the biases and corruption in the industry, it's monumentally important that you select a partner with integrity.

2. What are the specific goals you hope to achieve with this project?

This question will help illuminate the agenda I mentioned above. It's not a negative aspect that System Integrators have a bias toward their own goals and KPIs, everyone does. However, it is important to understand what those goals are so you can align them with your company's objectives.

3. What is your experience with this software/technology?

Now, this may seem obvious but you'd be surprised how many clients make this assumption without actually directly asking the question or having the conversation. You want to make sure that the system integrator you select has a deep understanding of the EXACT software or technology you're implementing. You'll also want to ensure they understand/have experience with any customizations or integrations that are specific to your business. They should be able to provide a detailed roadmap and timeline for achieving a successful implementation.

4. Provide an example of an uncommon challenge you had with a client and how did you solve it?

This is a great question to ask to get a sense of the system integrator's problem-solving abilities. It also allows you to gauge their ability to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions. It also provides a lens into their continued relationship with the client after the project. There will be many "problems" that arise during a project, so you want to make sure that your system integrator is the type of partner that will work with you to find solutions rather than just placing blame.

5. Can we grab a beer/coffee?

We have what we call the "Stranded" vetting factor here at Third Stage. If you're stranded in an airport waiting area with this person/partner - would you be okay with hanging out with them? If not, then it's probably not the best business relationship. This question may seem lighthearted but it actually gets to the heart of the matter. A system integrator is going to be a close partner during your project (and hopefully beyond) so you want to make sure that you enjoy their company and can have open honest conversations.

Choosing the right system integrator is a critical decision that will have a major impact on your project's success. By asking the right questions, you can ensure that you select a partner who shares your company's values and who has the experience and expertise necessary to deliver a successful project.

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If you have more unconventional questions to share or what to have an informal conversation regarding how to select a system integrator, please feel free to reach out to me directly at kyler.cheatham@thirdstage-consulting.com. We help clients find and select the best possible system integrator for their specific project needs.

I also highly recommend downloading our newly released 2023 Digital Transformation Report for more project management and transformation communication best practices.

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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