Have a Plan to Fire Your SI

cutting business ties concept, connected paper figures cut by scissors

Transformation program leaders often hesitate to let go of their Systems Integrator (SI) leaders or key SI resources.  For clients hoping for a change, that hesitancy often leads to regret for not letting go of their SI sooner.  This regret usually settles in around the time the client is authorizing the SIs Change Request.

There is an increased need for transformation programs to constantly review SI talent due to the “Great Resignation.”  As such, having a plan to fire your SI when they cannot deliver the talent your program needs is a critical step in ensuring a successful transformation program.

The Great Resignation of SI Talent (Read: Fabrication)

Accenture, Capgemini, Deloitte, and other SI talent management processes cannot be immune to the talent drought.  This is made evident just by looking at their job boards – they are trying to hire to fill open spots for your program.

Demand for services is up, and availability of talent is low.  SI employees who can leave for a large bump in compensation and new responsibilities have done so.  Those who are staying behind – well, decided to stay.

As a result, we are seeing more evidence that SI’s are passing the “talent gap” problem downstream to their clients.  Due to inflationary pressures coupled with this gap in talent, clients can be paying higher rates for sometimes questionable resources.

SI Transparency on Resource and Talent Gaps

One of the previously mentioned SIs recently told their client that they “don’t have knowledgeable SCRUM masters assigned to the SCRUM ceremonies. The [SI] leads do not understand SCRUM methods.”  This announcement was provided after the SI completed the Blueprint Phase and as the program transitioned to the Build and Realize phase.  While the SI talent gap isn’t necessarily the fault of the SI itself, these comments signal that the SI has a talent gap within the organization.

Another relevant example involved a company who realized a SI key resource suddenly disappeared from their program after they requested to understand the status of this resource on several different occasions.  Unfortunately for the company, their SI was not transparent about the recent absence of this resource until it was gone.

Resources suddenly leaving a program due to a better opportunity at a new employer or project is not a new situation.  What is new is the SI’s inability to quickly fill the gap.  By not informing their client of this key resource’s absence, the SI compounded the damage to both the SI’s credibility and the program’s productivity.

In both scenarios, the SI’s clients are the “downstream” recipients of the SI’s talent gap.  Regardless of what caused the gap and subsequent failure to deliver key resources, these situations are a breach of trust between the SI and the client.  The SI proposed a staffed and talented program and charged the client for this top-tier talent, but they failed to bring the expected talent to the client’s program.

Determining Your SI’s Reliability

Recently, when assisting a client with the SI selection process, one SI RFP response presented their industry-specific template as a differentiator for the client.  However, review of the personnel bios provided by the SI raised questions on the viability of the proposed template and the qualifications of the proposed personnel when only one resume out of 20+ resumes included experience with the industry template.

When the SI was asked about our observation, the SI responded that the template was relatively new. Because of the content of the RFP and the fact that transformation programs are risky enough, this SI was not hired for the engagement.  Regardless, I have no doubt the SI was able to train their green resources on another project with an unsuspecting client.

In this situation, the problems that stem from a talent gap were avoided before the SI signed onto the project.  Unfortunately, not every organization is this lucky, and sometimes the “problem” sneaks into the program.  Due to an increased occurrence of SI talent gaps, client workstream leads must be on high alert for SI talent mismatches.

As another example, an SI client at the end of the Blueprint phase stated, “the functional SI lead is not very good, but I think I will be okay.”  Later, during the Realize phase, the client remorsefully stated that the functional workstream was experiencing design gaps that would result in a delay.

A few months later, the client determined that the design gaps were significant enough that they would need to redo the entire workstream.  A significant problem may have been eliminated or, at the very least, the problem’s impact could have been reduced had the client’s workstream taken aggressive action to request replacement of the SI resource.

Have a Plan to Fire Your SI

Firing SI resources may not be easy but failing to address legitimate SI talent issues can jeopardize your program and lead you to a point where you are required to replace the entire SI team.

If you find yourself in a similar situation to the previous client, you will need to be professional and polite.  Consider the balance of confidential personnel matters, the future of the program, the SI relationship, reputation of your company, program and workstream impact, and the appropriate action needed.  Here are a few steps you will need to take immediately when planning to fire your SI:

  1. Continuously look inside and review internal resources for performance or capacity gaps. Do not provide the SI the opportunity to change the narrative and hang the resource issue on you.
  2. Familiarize yourself with your contract language pertaining to SI resources and talent.
  3. Review your RACI for roles and milestones where missing or questionable resources are required and track the resulting consequences.
  4. Estimate the current negative impact and downstream consequences. Consider the current and downstream program impact for affected workstreams.  For example, absence of SI Functional leadership can be the root cause of incomplete process designs that may not be fully realized until User Acceptance Testing (UAT) or even deployment.

Next, consider what appropriate action(s) you need to take.  For example:

  • Record and track SI workstreams and capacity gaps into program risk registers (e.g., RAID Log). Clearly state the risk to the workstream and the program.
  • Using your understanding of your contract, send a formal Change Request (CR) to the SI senior executive. The CR content should state that, as the client, you recognize a reduction in the services provided by the SI.  State facts and your identified risk.  Clearly state the SI is not meeting their obligations of providing expected SI resource capability or capacity, as well as your concern of a resulting program delay.
  • Report SI talent and capacity gaps in program and steering committee status reports until these gaps are resolved.
  • Do nothing and anticipate future SI initiated CRs in this workstream.

Clients are expected to provide the best internal resource talent for significant programs.  Clients should expect their SI to provide the appropriate level of talent for the role that also reflects the market rate.  Continuously review your SI resources as a risk mitigation tactic to ensure an efficient and successful transformation program.

If you find it helpful, you should keep this modified version of Jim Mattis’s quote from Call Sign Chaos in mind: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to fire your SI.”

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