In 1955, the whole family gathered around a new form of entertainment and information, the TV. It was a revolution, a wonder, and it broke a lot. Enter the TV repairman. In time, TV’s became a lot more reliable, cheaper, and capable of not only receiving TV signals but data and video signals as well. In time the TV signal became separate from the TV set, and the TV signal, or video, ended up like an overfilled bathtub, streaming everywhere. It also became extremely chatty, and was able to talk to not just your remote control, but your cell phone, your pc, and even your voice. Someone had to cable, network, hook up, or otherwise tie together all this stuff, and the TV repairman morphed into audio-visual integrator, a fancy name for the cable guy.
In 1965, the whole company gathered around a new form of data processing, the mainframe computer. It broke too, as literal and proverbial flies or bugs got into its hardware or software to gum things up. Enter the computer repairman. In time the mainframe also became much more reliable, cheaper, and capable of doing many different things. And like the original TV, computing found itself everywhere, from laptops to iPhones to your wrist watch. And like the shards of a broken mirror, each of them was able to do proper reflection and reception. The problem now is not to fix things, but to tie them together so they work seamlessly. Enter the system integrator, IT’s new version of the cable guy. A systems integrator must know all about the systems he is integrating, from data to voice, from pc’s to phones. He must be a jack of all trades, and a near master of them as well, and that is no small accomplishment. He is also a rare breed, not because of need, but because of greed.
To illustrate, to take care of our health, we don’t go to a specialist on the outset, but first consult a general practitioner, a physician who knows how all the systems and parts of our bodies work together. The general practitioner, or family doctor, is nonetheless hard to find, as other physicians tend to specialize, as it pays much better. The same applies to modern IT companies, who tend to specialize in more lucrative yet narrow fields such as computer monitoring (managed service providers), cabling, phone systems, and consulting, and leave the grunt work to the systems integrator, who is more likely to be inhabiting a warehouse on the outskirts of town with lots of engineers and service calls rather than the leisurely and predictable confines of a spiffy office in the CBD.
The moral of this story is simple, namely that a smart company should choose a vendor not because of the thing it can do, but the things it can do. And it’s easy to find them too, just check out the warehouse district.
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