Advice on working with large software integrators

Please note that this article is over 11 years old, so the content and links may not necessarily be up to date. For more recent reading, you might be interested in one of these articles:

Choosing 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.

North Patrol is a consulting firm specialized in the design of digital services and information systems. We shape ideas into a vision and service concept, find the best architectural and technological solutions, design a functional user experience, and compete to find the ideal partner for implementation work. We do not sell implementation projects, nor do we sell licenses; we are genuinely on the side of the customer.

17 April 2013

Perttu Tolvanen

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 17players.

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.

Perttu Tolvanen

Perttu Tolvanen is a web concept design and content management system expert.

Perttu consults with clients on project planning and defining requirements, and supports customers in selecting content management systems and implementation partners. His areas of specialisation include facilitating concept design workshops and selecting content management systems.

Perttu has ten years of experience with web and intranet projects, including serving as a project manager and consultant. Earlier in his career Perttu has worked in procurement and as a project manager at a large media company, a content management system consultant at a large IT company and an independent, neutral consultant at his own firm. He is also a well-known seminar speaker and blogger. Perttu is also the editor of, a Finnish blog about the Finnish internet and its creators.

Customer service channels

Are you building a membership service, a targeted audience service for a selected group, or a digital service intended for carrying out a single transaction process? North Patrol's team helps you find the right solutions and technology choices to engage customers, streamline processes, ease customer service workload and minimize lifecycle costs.

Read about our services

Request a quote

About North Patrol

We are a team of ten consultants, all of whom are experienced designers and technology experts. Every year we design and prepare over 50 different online services and information systems. Our customer satisfaction is very high (9.5 out of 10), and we have helped many customers transform their digital services.

Read more about us

How we differ from our competitors?

  • We specialize in digital service design

    We specialize in high-quality design and requirements specification of digital services. Our mission is to help customers succeed in their software project by creating the best possible foundation for implementation – whether it is an agile implementation done inhouse, a project done with a partner, or a publicly tendered project.

  • We don't sell coding or licenses

    Many software companies recommend software solutions that they also implement themselves. We don’t do that. We don’t do software implementation projects or have partnerships with technology providers. Our perspective on the software market is broad, as it should be for our customers. Our goal is always to find the best possible software solution for our customer, whether it’s a custom-built solution, a SaaS service, an open-source platform, or a combination of these.

  • We are realistic and forward-thinking

    We design digital service concepts, implementation methods and architectures that are sustainable and can be further developed. We place great importance on the feasibility of software solutions, the availability of good partners and the predictability of costs.

Back to top