As transformational IT has increasingly become a business imperative, implementation partners have been looking to strengthen their value proposition for their customers. To differentiate themselves from transactional service providers, the more proactive partners are evolving their offerings and approaches, thereby becoming more strategic than they had been in the past.

While IT leaders can maximize the opportunity arising out of this shift by leveraging the partners’ strategies and advanced capabilities, it’s important for them to maintain focus on the risks. Here’s a look at how implementation providers are evolving and how CIOs should approach partnering with them for mutual success.

Shifting to a transformation approach

There is a perceptible change in the way implementation partners are now approaching their clients as compared to earlier, and it is all about becoming a strategic partner for transformational change.

“A partner now enters an account with a broader area of engagement in mind. The discussions may be around a specific project with a CIO, such as implementing a typical solution like Oracle or SAP ERP, but the partner’s core agenda is to bring about an extensive and comprehensive transformation of the client’s IT infrastructure,” says Harnath Babu, CIO at KPMG.

“As the project progresses, the partner discusses the CIO’s pain points and what could alleviate them. This could invariably lead to the partner’s scope getting expanded into, but not limited to, managing emerging technologies, enhancing cost and operational efficiencies, bringing about automation, application development, or improving the system of records,” he says. “Implementation partners are clearly moving from the earlier point approach to a transformation approach.”

Sharing an example of this as it unfolded at KPMG, Babu says, “We engaged with a system integrator to help us with L1/L2 support. In a short time, we scaled it to L3. We found that we could also leverage the partner for managing our infrastructure. Next, we asked the partner to help us with POD development as it was a big challenge to find skilled resources,” says Babu. “So, what started as an L1/L2 service engagement, eventually led to infrastructure management and resource augmentation.”

The POD, or product oriented delivery, is a software development model that entails building small, self-sufficient cross-functional teams that take care of specific requirements or tasks for a project.

Takeaways for CIOs from this trend: Leveraging one partner instead of many frees up CIOs and their teams from more boilerplate deployments, allowing them to focus on what is core to the business. “An implementation partner looks at the total value generated from an account. Therefore, if a CIO gives value to the partner, the latter will reciprocate. This will give CIOs the confidence of having a strong partner behind them. There can then be a project director to manage the project on a day-to-day basis and the CIO can intervene only when there is budget or strategy involved,” says Babu.

 

Building Centers of Excellence 

With the aim of adding value to their customers, implementation partners are increasingly realizing the importance of building technological expertise.

“To keep pace with the market and stay relevant, implementation partners are building on human capital and expertise. For instance, most partners lacked competency in cloud as there wasn’t much requirement related to it in the past. However, as cloud is gaining a strong traction, they have also upped the ante,” says Subramanya C, global CTO at business process management company Sagility (formerly HGS Healthcare). 

So, when Subramanya decided to move the company’s SAP, SharePoint portal, intranet, and other applications to the cloud, he roped in a partner who had a Center of Excellence on cloud and 12 to 15 subject matter experts (SME) on the technology.

“Partners with such capabilities were not seen in the past,” he says. “More than 100 servers had to be migrated in a few weeks. Immense planning, resources, and mitigation of risk were involved in the project. However, the partner’s strong technical expertise, which formed the basis of the center of excellence, made sure that the project got completed smoothly and as per the scheduled plan,” says Subramanya.

Takeaways for CIOs from this trend: Although implementation partners can provide deeper expertise than they could in the past, IT leaders should not be complacent when enlisting it. “For complex projects, like ours, strong governance is required from the enterprise technology leader’s end,” Subramanya says. “IT leaders can outsource a task or an activity to a partner and their SME, but they can’t outsource their responsibilities. Therefore, we ensured a strong governance framework was in place while implementing this project. We also had our own SME working in close collaboration with the partner’s experts.”

 

Collaborating with other partners

The evolution of technology, driven by modernization of applications and services, is catalyzing collaboration among system integrators.

As Archie Jackson, head of special initiatives, IT, and security at digital transformation company Incedo says, “I have seen system integrators coming together to offer solutions, a trend that wasn’t visible in the past. Today, products don’t work in silos. One product has multiple linkages with other products, and it orchestrates and expands into other areas. For instance, a security solution today is not limited only to the network. It is connected to end point and applications, too. Therefore, one project could spill over to another. A partner, however, may not have the expertise or the bandwidth to execute everything, which leads to collaboration with other partners.”

Incedo was in talks with a partner some time back for implementing managed links for connectivity. The end-to-end managed service would have offered remote connectivity to access corporate network from anywhere in the world.

“During the conversations, the partner suggested he could bring another implementation partner to enhance the cybersecurity of the links. It came across as a logical fit because the links had to be secure, but I had not seen a partner collaborating with another one like this in the past,” says Jackson. Takeaways for CIOs from this trend: One implementation partner bringing another partner may help a CIO, but it could also increase the cost of the project. “This is a good option only if a CIO wants to build capability. The primary partner will build his margin into the project for which he is getting the second partner, thereby increasing the cost for the CIO.  If CIOs have the capacity to architect a solution more efficiently, they should do so in-house,” says Jackson.

IT Strategy

By Hock Tan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Broadcom

I recently visited Washington, D.C. to meet with policymakers and government customers to talk about the future of cybersecurity. Broadcom Software solutions secure digital operations across the federal government, and our Global Intelligence Network (GIN) evaluates and shares insights on the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape with U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to ensure the safety and security of our critical infrastructure customers and the cyber ecosystem.

During my visit, I had the honor of meeting two superb public servants working to secure our global information technology infrastructure: National Cyber Director (NCD) Chris Inglis and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Jen Easterly. President Biden could not have selected two more talented and experienced leaders to work closely with the world’s leading IT security companies and IT-dependent government agencies that comprise our virtual and physical critical infrastructures.

JCDC Collaboration

It can’t be overstated: without public-private collaboration to secure our critical virtual and physical networks, economies and governments around the world would be at the mercy of bad actors. It’s in that commitment of collaboration to better protect critical infrastructures that I was proud to be nominated by the President of the United States to serve on the National Security and Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC), and why Broadcom Software was honored to accept Jen Easterly’s invitation to be one of the first private sector “alliance members” in CISA’s Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC).

Formed in August 2021, the JCDC is an action-driven forum that brings together federal agencies and the private sector to strengthen the nation’s cyber defenses through better planning, preparation, and information sharing. The JCDC showed quickly it could make a difference:In February 2022, our threat hunters uncovered Daxin, a sophisticated malware being leveraged as an espionage tool. We discovered that Daxin was targeting foreign governments that were not our customers. Thanks to our engagements with CISA through the JCDC, we informed the CISA team of the threat, and they connected us with the appropriate officials from the targeted foreign governments. Together, we were able to detect the malware and remediate infected computer systems. Jen and the CISA team also issued a Current Activity alert that linked to a Broadcom-published blog, alerting other government and critical infrastructure networks about Daxin.  

The Future

Given the success of the JCDC, and Broadcom’s overall engagement with the federal government, you can imagine how thrilled and honored I was to meet Chris and Jen in person and talk about additional ways we can deepen an already creative, collaborative, and productive partnership.

As the NCD, Chris and his team are developing a national cyber strategy that they will be presenting to the President later this year. Chris has written that to better protect the cyber landscape, we will need to shift the burden away from individual end-users of IT products toward larger, better-resourced private and public organizations. Rather than leaving it to end-users to find and add security to the IT products and services they use on their own, Chris would like to see security developed and integrated into the overall IT infrastructure more holistically. We at Broadcom Software already have undertaken a number of initiatives designed to build-in security in the development, implementation, and maintenance of our products, ranging from supply chain hardening to Zero Day prevention and notification.  Not every vendor takes these types of proactive measures, which presents policymakers with important questions on whether it’s better to regulate or to incentivize this shift, or to use a combination of both. While there are no straightforward answers to these questions, Broadcom Software will continue to offer safe and secure products.

Chris and Jen also have been tremendous advocates to promote private and public initiatives to build a stronger cyber workforce.  And they are taking steps to do something about it.  The most important assets essential to the security of IT networks and law-abiding nations are the talented professionals who make cybersecurity their cause and calling. Yet, skilled IT workforce shortages require both expanding and upgrading our overall talent pipeline, as well as improving communications between and within governments and the private sector. Jen has been highlighting CISA’s Cyber Innovation Fellows initiative, where private sector employees can be “detailed” to CISA part-time for up to six months to better understand CISA and work to build stronger relationships between the public and private sector. Jen was inspired by a similar program run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in the UK, which has been enormously successful.  And Chris recently hosted the National Cyber Workforce and Education Summit at the White House, which focused on building our nation’s cyber workforce by improving skills-based pathways to cyber jobs and educating Americans so that they have the necessary skills to thrive in our increasingly digital society.

While these are important initiatives, what resonated with me most in our meetings is the value of Broadcom’s partnerships with the public sector, and especially with leaders like Jen and Chris and their exceptional teams. Meeting them during my visit was an important milestone for Broadcom Software, but more meaningful to me and our team is the continued collaboration and positive impact we will have going forward to protect critical infrastructures across government and industry.

Hock Tan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Broadcom:

Broadcom Software

Hock Tan is Broadcom President, Chief Executive Officer and Director. He has held this position since March 2006. From September 2005 to January 2008, he served as chairman of the board of Integrated Device Technology. Prior to becoming chairman of IDT, Mr. Tan was the President and Chief Executive Officer of Integrated Circuit Systems from June 1999 to September 2005. Prior to ICS, Mr. Tan was Vice President of Finance with Commodore International from 1992 to 1994, and previously held senior management positions with PepsiCo and General Motors. Mr. Tan served as managing director of Pacven Investment, a venture capital fund in Singapore from 1988 to 1992, and served as managing director for Hume Industries in Malaysia from 1983 to 1988.

Data and Information Security, IT Leadership