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Three lessons from Covid-19 which better position Systems Integrators today

As the world takes tentative steps towards emerging on the other side of the global pandemic crisis that will define an era, it’s a very good time to take stock and consider how to build back better.

For systems integrators (SIs) the prospect of a return to more ‘normal’ operations is a welcome light at the end of a long tunnel.

While many aspects of working life – indeed many of the ways we do business – will benefit from a loosening of restrictions to movement, I don’t believe that we will ever return to the way things were. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

There are three lessons of the pandemic that I believe will position SIs well for the future:
• Digital Transformation is a one-way journey
• Changing customer needs means SIs must adapt quickly
• The new era offers huge opportunities to SIs

Digital Transformation is a one-way journey

What has shifted to digital in the short-term as a response to Covid-19 will not all return to analogue as things open up again.

“Companies with a strong digital culture, e.g. advanced in the digital transformation journey, have proven able to cope with the pandemic better than those relying on old systems and aging technology.”

Even these companies have needed to act quickly and adopt new processes. to rush in new ways of working, bolt on new technologies and employ workarounds to get things done. SIs have often been vital to helping them achieve such responsive tactical manoeuvres, though in many cases, it has come at the cost of more measured strategic deployments of digital platforms and technologies. Enterprises such as this must now revisit their digital transformation strategy and develop robust and permanent systems that will underpin their future resilience and growth.

The same can be said for companies that are not so advanced in their digital journey – those that have survived have often done so with an ‘all-hands on deck’ approach which is neither desirable nor sustainable. And this just to stay operational. Many, if not all such companies now face a time of rapid digital implementation to catch up and to become sustainable into the future.

Changing customer needs means SIs must adapt quickly

When the pandemic hit, industry was already in the midst of a period of rapid change. The era of digital transformation offers the promise of solutions to many of the world’s most pressing problems from climate change to population growth. Moreover, those not undertaking digital transformation will not be sustainable in the mid to long term. The pandemic has not altered this course, it has accelerated the rate of change.
For industry, the biggest shift is one which has a deep and lasting effect on SIs as enterprises move away from traditional relationships with vendors and machine builders to more open-source, ‘as-a-service’ models built on Edge to Cloud connectivity.

“The role of SIs in the new paradigm is yet to fully play out, but those resistant to change will find the going very tough.”

The new era offers huge opportunities to SIs

“Industrial enterprises undertaking digital transformation are increasingly understanding that they must marshal an interconnected ecosystem of vendors, suppliers and services that is unique to them and their needs. SIs must take their place in this ecosystem and add the benefit of their technical knowledge and expertise.”

Importantly, the project-based business model is changing to more of a subscription-based model with DevOps functionality, and this change requires a building strong, collaborative relationships with key customers and key vendors.

Such changes are filled with opportunity for SIs as they become app developers who leverage application expertise and commercialise the platforms of automation, IT, and software vendors. They can also become digital transformation deployment partners providing system integration work that includes software applications (such as MES), and even digital transformation entrepreneurs who develop and commercialise composite platforms, that combine technology and services from different providers and allow for rapid scaling.

“Edge Computing offers a powerful platform for new business dynamics for SIs to differentiate and succeed in post-covid business.”

Delivering the right Edge platform can distinguish SIs from the competition and open a world of possibility to the end user and integrator alike. Enterprises require robust computing at the edge that enables real-time understanding of their assets while integrating with a range of new and legacy vendor technologies and feeding data to the cloud for processing at the enterprise level. They need the capability to run multiple applications on virtual machines but they cannot afford for data gaps or downtime caused by IT-related failures. Similarly, with such dispersed IT solutions, they cannot implement platforms that require complex deployment or maintenance – rather, IT at the Edge must be easy to manage and maintain for the Operation Technology (OT) workers already running equipment there. In the same way, platforms must fit quickly and securely into existing cyber defences, combining open-source functionality with highly secure operations.

Offering Edge Computing platforms with such capabilities gives SIs a huge advantage. With reduced deployment cost and maintenance SIs can offer a robust, fault tolerant, flexible, capable, and future-proof platforms that are vendor neutral and allow them to get on with addressing the outcome requirements of their customers.

If you’d like to know more about how Stratus platforms can give your company a strategic advantage in a changing world, write to me at greg.hookings@stratus.com or connect with me on LinkedIn here.

For an overview of our simple, autonomous, and protected Edge Computing platforms visit our product pages ztC Edge and ftServer on our website.

Visit the new webpage for our Stratus System Integrator Programme.

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