Advice on working with large software integrators

Advice for partner selectionChoosing the right-sized company for your next project can be a tricky task when faced with larger “name brand” companies and the smaller unknowns. This article is about large software integrator companies that employ hundreds or thousands of software developers and work with multiple technologies.

It seems that especially in Scandinavia, technology markets are ruled by few large software integrator companies. In Finland the biggest is by far Tieto. Other big players are for example CGI (former Logica), Accenture, Affecto, Digia, Ixonos, Fujitsu. Slightly smaller players include names like HiQ, Solita, Nortal, Cybercom, Innofactor.


These large software integrator companies have few characteristics that are quite strongly present in their way of working:

  1. They are “fat cats” of the market. They don’t move fast. They rarely use the newest technology, and they usually start working with new products or technology only after clients have been asking it for some time. These characteristics make them quite predictable and safe choices for many clients, as there is little risk in working with the “fat cats”.
  2. They want to grow. In fact many of these companies have to grow all the time. Shareholders demand bigger projects, bigger profits. This makes these companies especially interested in large projects. They are willing to put a big fight if they see an opportunity for a really fat project.
  3. They avoid specialization. They don’t want to become “too efficient” or “too dedicated”. Those things run against their business logic.

To be honest, these software integrator companies are not all the same, some of these have areas where they are quite specialized or where they are actively challenging the status quo – but in general the previous three characteristics apply to all of them.

There are few situations where working with large software integrator companies makes sense:

  1. You have existing partnership with some big company, and you are really satisfied to the service that they offer you since you are such a big client to them. Big companies really like big clients and are willing to push their normal quality and speed levels for their best customers. This is probably the most common reason for choosing a large integrator to deliver a big project.
  2. You have a really big project and you need to play it safe. In this situation you don’t want to make risky technology choices and you especially don’t want the company to go bankrupt in the middle of your multimillion-dollar project. It may be worth paying a few hundred thousand euros more for that added feeling of security. Plus, working with a large integrator you probably get truly excellent project management competence. And if you are lucky, you might even get really good developers (but that is not so given since the experience levels vary greatly in these large companies).
  3. You have a really long-term project starting and you want dedicated people for the project, but for some reason you can’t hire them for yourself. By selecting a larger software integrator, you can essentially buy a team of people who you can trust to do work for you several years. Big companies tend to attract a workforce that sticks around and values long-term commitment.

As an added benefit, some of the large integrators are also heavily in the hosting and maintenance business (eg. Tieto and CGI) so they can see the long-term relationship being also financially interesting and therefore give really competitive project prices.

Then there are several situations where large software integrator companies might be avoided altogether. For example:

  1. The scope of your project is something that hasn’t been done before.
  2. You want to use a new technology that large integrators don’t feel comfortable with yet.
  3. You want the development company to have a deep understand of the technology you are using. You want real expertise for the product.
  4. You want dedicated people that are passionate about the service you are doing (eg. big marketing website or a world-class intranet).
  5. You want to get the best possible deal where you get the maximum results with minimum amount of money.

If several of those apply you might want to forget the big companies from your shortlist altogether. In this case you are better off finding a dedicated midsize company or smaller players.

In short: Only if you are adverse to risk and starting a really big long-term project you should consider partnering with a large software integrator, if you’re not already using one for other projects or services.

PS. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about your next project!

3 thoughts on “Advice on working with large software integrators

  1. Agreed. One more idea to consider: choose a vendor to whom you are of noticeable importance. If you are a small player and choose a big integrator, there are good chances you are not very important to your vendor so they do not really care about your project when things go hard. By choosing a smaller vendor you can make sure they do their best to keep you satisfied.

  2. What comes to integrations you should always consider integrator without Dependencies of any particular software or platform. For example Liaison Technologies provides EAI integrations as a service and also cloud integrations. I hope that Perttu agrees with this one.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys!

    Sami: Good addition to the list. I fully agree. Even if a smaller client organisation would have a big project it might be challenging to play with a large integrator company. Big integrators tend to see clients as “accounts” instead of “projects” and if a client only has one big project this might be a problem. Strangely enough, an opposite is sometimes a problem with smaller integrators who tend to be project-focused. But that is a subject for a follow-up article :)

    Ville: The article isin’t really about integrations, but I do agree with you. Sometimes having a third party to do integrations between different systems makes sense. Especially in EAI projects having a specialized integrator can lower the risk of getting locked into one vendor. And the more heterogeneous the IT environment the more it makes sense to build a strong EAI layer and possible even do it with the help of your company – and Im sure that you are happy to make a proposal of those kinds of projects :)

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