I would say that the bulk of attention in the industry is paid to the handful of big vendors and multitudes of smaller ones that create products and solutions, and then sell them direct or through partners, and systems integrators. We talk about “the channel”, but don’t talk a lot about the channel, typically because of the vast amount of announcements that require our attention from the big manufacturers, such as the Cisco’s, Avaya’s and IBM’s of the world. The same holds true for technology vendors that supply adjunct or peripheral technology to those same vendors, such as speech technologies, for example. We tend to talk less about them, and often their contribution is hidden in products delivered by the big guys. I’ll save this last group for a different blog, and instead today focus on a couple of examples of how systems integrators work and the contribution they play in getting solutions to the market.
Systems integrators are a valuable group of partners that supplement a company’s direct sales and support staff. More importantly, for the customer, they understand how to successfully integrate the systems and applications not just from one vendor, but multiple vendors, which more often than not is the reality of any company’s business infrastructure. They also provide continuous systems and application improvement, maintenance and support over time. Long term they develop deep expertise across a wide range of platforms, products and applications, which is something that the bigger vendors often don’t do as well. In essence they act as a trusted arm of a bigger vendor.
Let’s look at two of these vendors, and one vertical – mobility – to show how this works. Acclaim Telecom Services, Inc., while not billed as a classic systems integrator, acts in some capacity as a systems integrator in that they have broad knowledge across multiple platforms, act as a systems integrator for some of them, such as delivering self-service (IVR) applications on Microsoft Speech Server, and develop and deliver applications on multiple platforms as well.
For example, in the case of mobility solutions, Acclaim has launched the company’s Smartphone Mobile Solutions Division, powered by one of those platforms; Unwired Nation. Acclaim launched this as a hosted service to provide diverse mobile applications for companies wanting to take advantage of the growing use of mobile applications as a customer channel. The Unwired Mobile Platform (UMP) provides access to multiple device platforms through a single integration API, which means that an application can be developed once and deployed across multiple mobile devices, without regard to operating system or device manufacturer. This solves a problem that I touch on briefly in my upcoming April Voice Value column in Speech Technology Magazine. Despite the proliferation of mobile applications, having to write to different devices and operating systems is a deterrent to growth.
As another example, SOFTEL Communications, is a classic systems integrator/reseller in that they have very broad expertise in integrating products and solutions across multiple vendor platforms, such as Genesys, Avaya and Cisco, along with third-party application providers, such as CRM, workforce management, VoIP, etc. SOFTEL also creates complimentary products and solutions to supplement those offered by such vendors.
In the case of mobility, for example, SOFTEL provides location-based services (LBS) to companies, such as Telco’s for their end customers, such as downtown business districts or mall owners. They create the solution and partner with Telco’s to deliver to end user customers.
In both cases these companies partner with other vendors, integrate platforms and products together, and then provide their “value-add”, on top to round out and improve the offering.
If you are a customer looking for a solution it is well worth checking out the third party providers that work with the big vendors. It works well in the past, and as a proof point, more and more of the bigger vendors are radically changing the mix of direct and indirect sales that they use to a more indirect model. It shouldn’t be hard to find one that has the right mix of expertise for the solutions that you might have or be moving towards.