Own developments of russian system integrators
Almost every major domestic integrator has not only partner solutions but their own products in the portfolio. This trend is not new, but in the context of import substitution, it is becoming particularly important. Having its own products is good for the company's status and competitiveness, and in some cases is a vital condition to survive in the market. Dmitry Yakushev, the chief commercial officer at Step Logic, and Anna Nikitina, the head of Step Logic's innovative solutions, discuss this issue at the ICT-Online.ru roundtable.
Dmitry Yakushev, Chief Commercial Officer, STEP LOGIC
ICT-Online: Why would a system integrator want to add their own solutions to the portfolio?
Dmitriy Yakushev: It's better to make it clear straight away: proudly calling yourself a system integrator doesn't make you one. A classic system integrator should, in the first place, study the needs and problems of certain areas of activity of existing and potential customers. During the development of the expertise the competence centers emerge, with the objective to identify system problems in the industry, to develop and to offer customers such IT solutions that can optimally solve these problems.
Integration is an act of bringing together the parts of a whole, from Latin "integrare", "make whole", which implies a combination of various products (as a rule, of large and reliable producers), or "bricks", to build a solution that fully meets the task. As the "mortar", the integrators use not only their deep knowledge of the industry but their own developments that ensure the logic of the entire solution or the connection between its components. In some cases, given the incredible pace of development of the technology market, it's easier and more efficient for serious system integrators to develop their own solution. From the customer's point of view, the benefits of such integrators are also obvious: they bring pronounced added value, they are a single entry point, and they are responsible for implementing and supporting the entire solution.
ICT-Online: Does the portfolio of own developments improve the integrator's status, position, and reputation on the market?
Dmitriy Yakushev: Let's take a purely mathematical approach and try to derive a formula for status. Let's say status is expertise + own resources + projects delivered, where expertise is your own solutions. What we get then: status = own solutions + own resources + projects delivered. It means having your own solutions allows increasing the number of projects delivered, which correlates with your status.
ICT-Online: According to your observations, to what extent is that common among Russian companies? In which areas do such developments appear first?
Dmitriy Yakushev: For the top 5 integrators, it has always been their core business. Our market is constantly undergoing some kind of transformation: network, system, IT-integration... First of all, it is due to the development of technology and the consequent changes in the approach to building our customers' IT infrastructure. It's time for software-defined structures. Hardware is giving way to software solutions. And if five years ago creating their own product meant a time-consuming and resource-intensive project for integrators, today any self-respecting company has their software development team, which is the basis of any solution.
Digitalisation and automation, application of high technology, including machine learning is a trend for optimising technological processes, minimising risks, reducing rejection, eliminating the "human factor" and significant costs associated with it. Of course, this trend does determine most solutions we develop.
ICT-Online: STEP LOGIC's experience: do you have your own products? If not, why? If yes, tell us more about them.
Dmitriy Yakushev: To answer this, I'd like to speak for the entire Systematica Group (GCS), as several our solutions were so popular we had to turn them into independent vendor companies operating on the open market. Our group of companies invests heavily in the development of software products: for example, 5 years ago we launched one of the first IoT platforms, on the basis of which several large-scale video surveillance systems were built. We have our own ERP systems, remarkable developments in the field of contact centres. All products are listed in the registry of domestic software.
Of course, some non-standard tasks require hardware products. For example, STEP LOGIC has developed a unique mobile control centre called Visor. It's an innovative multimedia solution that makes it possible to quickly deploy a mobile security operations centre (SOC). The solution allows for the simultaneous connection of up to 11 sources of digital and analogue signals, as well as wireless sources of video feeds. Besides, another important advantage of Visor is that it can be used under extreme conditions and within wide ranges of temperatures, which makes this system the only product on the market that has such characteristics.
Our company's portfolio has a number of comprehensive solutions for industrial safety and IoT, including RFID-based solutions.
It's worth remembering that an integrator's own developments may include special services that combine consulting and outsourcing activities. For instance, STEP LOGIC has one of the market's best tech support centres, which, for more than 20 years, has been providing maintenance and repair services for high-tech equipment of leading world manufacturers — using resources of its own lab only. But that's not a novelty for a modern customer. Today, only the services that seriously change the customer's business approaches are in demand: development and implementation of regulations of the IT team's internal business processes, support of the customer's business processes with the use of outsourcing and personnel leasing.
Anna Nikitina, Head of Innovative Solutions, STEP LOGIC
Anna Nikitina: GCS has a number of vendors that STEP LOGIC uses as the basis for its innovative solutions. For example, HeadPoint, which develops digital IT-products (including products distributed by the service scheme). The company offers both ready-made solutions, such as the InOne IIoT platform, and large-scale individual projects for large regions of Russia based on the Safe City model. For instance, we designed and deployed an urban video surveillance system (DIT Moscow) commissioned by the Government of Moscow, which is made up of more than 167000 cameras of completely different manufacturers.
Another of GCS's internal vendors is RST-Invent, a Russian manufacturer of turnkey RFID systems (tags, readers, antennas, software). During its 8-year history, the company has acquired a unique expertise along with a team of the best engineering specialists. In addition, having its own scientific and technical base allows quickly customizing the solution to the needs of any customer. On average, the development and launch of a new RFID tag take from 1 to 2 months, which is 6-10 months faster than other companies.
ICT-Online: How do your own solutions relate to the partner products? Is there any element of competition or are they complementary?
Anna Nikitina: Our company, in the first place, is an integrator, and our main advantage for the customer is our multi-vendor expertise. Creating solutions based on technologies of different manufacturers allows us to offer our customers the most relevant and beneficial products.
We have launched and are actively developing the Step+ program. It is aimed at creating unique co-branding products and multi-vendor solutions. The program envisions the integration of STEP LOGIC's tech expertise with the solutions and equipment of domestic and foreign vendors. As of today, we are developing solutions for situational monitoring, CCTV, IoT, and Smart City. These are based on HeadPoint's inOne platform — it serves as an umbrella for complex solutions. It's like building with LEGO bricks, where bricks are the products of different vendors.
ICT-Online: Can you tell us more about one or two of your most popular own solutions?
Anna Nikitina: Industrial safety is one of the most urgent and relevant topics today. And I'm not talking only about the relationship with Rostekhnadzor — I mean industrial safety in the broadest sense of the term. That is the registration and inventory of hazardous facilities and technical equipment, industrial safety and labour protection, management of high-risk jobs, investigation of accidents and incidents, management of permits and certifications, production control, building risk models, analytics, and reporting. Historically, however, these processes were not automated and were performed only manually. Thus, enterprises often have to deal with the human factor, which together with the weak regulation of business processes and constantly changing legislation leads to violations, fines, and accidents.
STEP LOGIC has developed its own RFID-based solution for tracking personal protective equipment worn by employees of industrial companies. It's not a secret that employees of any enterprise have to wear PPE; and the more dangerous the production, the more stringent safety requirements it has. But in reality, not all employees follow all the requirements, which not only endanger their lives but cause reputational and financial risks to the enterprise. In the event of an accident, the company has to pay huge fines for such violations. Our solution can automatically track all required PPE elements, computerise the inventory, keep track of its service life, and schedule the purchase of new sets while completely eliminating the use of illegal PPE. All PPE units are equipped with tags that can withstand up to 150 wash cycles. Certain areas of the facility are equipped with tag-reading equipment; all responsible employees have mobile tag-readers. This way, the solution allows PPE control and monitoring at any time and throughout the enterprise.
ICT-Online: How do you envision the prospects of Step Logic's own developments?
Dmitriy Yakushev: As I've said, we focus on our customers' needs and are developing in various directions. We use all the resources GCS and the NNK holding can offer. Using my solution-building metaphor, I can say we have overgrown the "mortar" stage and moved to the production of "bricks". I hope we will continue in the same spirit!