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Are systems integrators cheating on RFPs?

Systems integrators may well be enterprises' worst enemy, even as they pretend to be their friends. How open source can help.

CMS Watch has an interesting article that asks whether systems integrators are the neutral parties that they sometimes make themselves out to be. According to a US federal government suit against Accenture, the answer is "No."

As CMS Watch notes:

[T]he U.S. Department of Justice is suing Accenture for allegedly receiving kickback-like payments from technology suppliers it recommended and/or implemented at DOJ. The alleged fraud was a collusion with big-name IT suppliers (e.g., HP, Sun) and smaller vendors (e.g., Vignette) to defraud the Government.

The relationships between consultancies (especially big systems integrators), vendors, and buyers has always been murky. In this industry it is common to see an expensive product selection phase of a project (undertaken by a systems integrator) ending up with a recommendation of the system integrator's favorite vendor partner....

But as Matthew Clapp pointed out several years ago in these pages, very often money changes hands (from vendor to consultant), and that will affect selection decisions for sure. Says Clapp, "In fact, my experience found that more times than not, the Big 5 partner already knew exactly which CMS solution she was going to pitch before she walked through the client's door."

If this is true, it's disturbing. It's just one more reason that it takes something like open source to get through the door of enterprises (because open source, ironically, doesn't go through the door, it seeps into enterprises through all sorts of unofficial routes). If you have to make it through both the enterprise's purchasing department AND the SIs who guard their locks on these same enterprises, you need something disruptive like open source to even have a chance.