Systems integration

What is now available in Vietnam are the small scale services listed as point 3 through 6 above. Point 4 corresponds to the activity known as 'systems inte- gration'. Systems integration is the stage of production in the IT industry that combines hardware and software into usable systems. It is a strategic activity in electronics production because it is the point in the where the design, manufacturing, and use of IT products come together.

Systems integration -- also known as 'value-added reselling' (VAR) if the integrator only sells products manufactured by other companies -- involves the packaging of computer hardware with application software. It often requires consultation with customers to determine computing needs and to design appropriate applications. 'Systems integrators' must know their customer's business very well.

When an organization introduces a new computer system, the way work is organized and performed can be drastically altered, especially when computers are used in the organization for the very first time. Consequently, the quality f the systems integration will be crucial in determining the organization's future level of productivity.

Once the hardware has been obtained, the system assembled, and the software operating correctly, systems integrators often install the equipment at the customer's premises. Computer systems can absorb more labor time than they save when they are not functioning properly or are mismatched to the user's needs. In a competitive commercial situation, how well computer systems are implemented can help to determine the company's ultimate success or failure.

In today's Vietnam, where there is a severe shortage of people that have previous experience or formal training in operating computers, so-called 'systems ntegrators' often provide training for the customer. Besides design, sale and installation of the computer system, contracts often include an ongoing service to maintain and upgrade the equipment. Sometimes pre- fabricated software is sold directly to the customer, but, more often, software must be customized for particular needs. In some cases, existing software is inappropriate for a particular need and entirely new software must be written.

The state-run IT company, VEIC, has three companies involved in systems integration. The Vietnam Informatics Company (Hanoi), GenPacific (in both Hanoi and HCM City), and Vietnam Computer Company No. 2 (HCM City). The government is the largest market for these companies; the most important application is word processing. Local area networks are rarely installed.

VEIC plans to build a software development center that will focus on applications for administration and manufacturing. Eventually, exports of these software applications will be advanced, but there are no detailed plans in place.

These services could become a viable resource base for a specialized software industry. So far, we have seen few examples of products aimed at larger markets (even at the national level) such as packaged applications and systems software.


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