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PHOTO: Jon Tyson

When companies get large enough, they often have an in-house IT firm. Once any team member has been onboard for a while, they know the organization’s IT infrastructure. So it only stands to reason those employees should be able to handle everything that comes up in technology, whether it's upgrading systems or adding new functionality. After all, they were hired for their expertise and experience in IT. 

And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

It goes without saying that IT is complicated and ever-changing. What is often overlooked is that it’s complicated even to IT professionals. Sometimes they need a fresh perspective on how to achieve a particular performance target, handle a complex upgrade or solve a problem. They might have an idea of what they think will work but need a second opinion. An experienced systems integration firm offers that kind of expertise, having worked with different companies who likely had some variation of that issue in the past. Even more, that systems integration firm may be able to innovate next-level solutions or surface potential issues not yet considered because they wouldn’t be visible to an untrained eye.

Enterprises in today’s digital economy can leverage human-power in greater ways than ever before. Yet they can still run out of bandwidth when keeping the day-to-day operations going and handling extra projects. These projects might be one-offs or they might be 24/7 monitoring of mission-critical systems — either way, there may not be enough in-house talent to handle everything. Often it becomes a choice between handling daily operations or handling mission-critical tasks, which is not a good choice to be forced into making. That’s where a systems integration firm can help supplement in-house staff to handle additional or extended workloads on either a project or ongoing basis.

Working with a systems integration firm offers multiple benefits, including supplementing in-house talent at a fraction of the cost of a full time hire; flexibility due to the fast learning curves their projects demand; specialized skills and on-call expertise; accelerated results; and cost savings. But first you need to find the right partner to work with.

Related article: 3 Things to Look For When Hiring a Systems Integrator Firm

Ask Potential Integrations Firm Partners These Questions

When considering working with a systems integration firm, it’s important to develop rapport, trust and a foundation for your project. While you can get a lot of information from the firm’s website, the following questions can reveal whether this firm will be a good fit for your project.

1. Do they understand the business goals and targets for the project? 

Ideally, the firm’s representatives are asking questions that show they are proactively thinking through different scenarios, understand your business growth strategy and call out any potential issues or challenges while in the mutual evaluation process. They should understand how the project will impact your organization, even beyond the scope of the project and make sure it is tailored to your organization’s needs (vs. pushing a "box" solution).

2. Do their company values complement yours? 

Collaboration success depends on the working dynamic between the two organizations. Corporate culture is the unspoken fabric from which an integrator firm makes decisions and determines how they show up in an engagement.

3. What is the background and experience level of the team who will be working on your project? 

You want to hear specifics, including certifications, previous projects they’ve worked on that were similar to yours and customer stories.

4. How does the firm handle unexpected challenges? 

Do they think well on their feet? Have they ever failed with a project implementation? You want to hear their approach and what to expect when it comes to solving problems and delivering service.

5. Is the firm’s tech team comprised of employees or contractors? 

Employees will, by far, be more stable and available over the long term versus contractors, who come in and out of a project as needed.

6. How long has the firm been around? 

The length of their history is proportional to the experience they have in implementing technology solutions in a variety of environments. This is also a good time to ask about industry verticals or specializations, in case that’s a factor for your organization.

Related Article: The Top 10 Things That Derail IT Implementations

A Final Factor to Look For? Candor

Systems integrator firms who know their business and have confidence in their abilities will be happy to answer deep-dive questions. In fact, they may tell you they don’t have the exact experience you want or they haven’t had a project like yours — yet. These are not deal-breakers if you feel your teams can work together well. Their candor (or not) will be another signal as to how it will be to work together should you choose them for your project.

In the end, systems integration firms offer professional services and deep expertise for a variety of projects and industries. Their goal is to meet their customers where they are in the problem, then reduce the effort needed for the customer to achieve their business performance goals and targets. Companies no longer have the pressure of meeting all needs in-house or even locally.

So the next time your company is facing a challenge or potential hiring scenario, consider whether a systems integrator firm would be a better option.