In the midst of ambiguous & uncoordinated moments of market development, ‘System Builders’, a particular type of market intermediaries emerge to assist in the development of the ecosystem. System Builders are different in the way they play out their role from ‘System Integrators’. While the former takes a pluralistic approach in their study of independent technologies, to make impact assessment and take a 360-degree view of the benefits, the SIs adopt more of an integrative path to system development. It is rare to spot System Builders as an entity as their effectiveness lies in the way they build the system yet not be visible as a key actor.
In recent times, a number of industry trends have benefited from the actions of System Builders. The role played by NASSCOM is closest to the definition of as a System Builder in the context of globalization of IT. NASSCOM has brought service providers, analysts, consultants, and regulators together to evolve a common practice, code of conduct and norm for the standard of outsourcing from an Indian perspective since the early days of offshore outsourcing. Other prominent examples of System Builders are CERN for the role they play in scientific research, Alliance de Francaise for their role in demystifying France and the contribution of John F. Welch Technology Centre to GE’s ecosystem. Governments could be a System Builder in select instances even though System Builders don’t need to have regulatory powers like a Govt. Not all trade bodies are System Builders.
In the context of digitization/ IIoT, such an example of System Building hasn’t emerged yet even though there are a number of active ‘Knowledge Brokers’ present in the form of consultancy houses and thought leadership from leading tech Cos. Most of these companies have invested in separate digital practices to spread awareness and educate the market players. It is expected that such actions of knowledge broking would help in the adoption of digital services and propagation of best practices. However Knowledge Brokers as a catalyst can do only so much, they can’t be an alternative to the System Builder who perform a number of additional roles such as investigation, integration, nourishment and moderation.
A full-fledged multi-party coordinated action is required to realise the full potential of IIoT. Currently, the industry participants are mostly focused on generating use cases that reduce the narrative. On the wider canvas of IIoT and specifically from the standpoint of the global manufacturing industry, a number of key roles are missing.
Despite its huge promises, Industrial IoT would struggle to go past the current phase of enthusiasm if persistent issues such as lack of standards (operating, security etc.) and lack of clear leadership among users remain unsolved. The emergence of one or more System Builders would provide the momentum the industry needs at this stage of development by solving some of these challenges.
Kamakshya Prusti is a Senior Consultant with Tata Technologies, UK. He advises the manufacturing industry on digitization, smart manufacturing, and globalization.