Sinclair: What is different about the role of the master systems integrator today versus 10 years ago?
Turner: If you look up “systems integrator” in Wikipedia, you’ll see in the first two sentences “the term is generally used in the information technology field.” I would argue this is an outdated definition, but an important one for those of us on the operational side of buildings to take note of. Traditionally, the only systems that needed to be networked and communicating across devices were IT devices like computers and ERP software. But now that building automation devices like lighting panels, temperature sensors and air handlers (just to name a few) are IP-enabled, operational technology needs its systems to be integrated as well. So systems integrators with HVAC or general OT backgrounds are offering a different skill set to the MSI field.
Sinclair: Is this increased competition ultimately good for building owners and operators?
Turner: Competition is generally a good thing. In this case, people who call themselves Master Systems Integrators are having to look out at a few different directions when they assess where they may best be able to play for buildings IoT. For building owners and operators, I think they’re getting the most value out of MSIs who have controls experience but who have also spent the past few years really learning about the challenges that the IT side of the buildings are facing in the IoT. The responsibility for security and network up-time falls on the IT team, and while OT devices get more involved in that world, the controls experts are going to have to develop stronger relationships with the IT professionals. So the MSI who can walk this line and sit at the decision-making table is the one that is going to provide the most value to building owners and operators.
Sinclair: Should Master Systems Integrators be involved in the high level decision making and the on-the-ground installation of the systems?
Turner: It’s always been true that it’s difficult to excel at anything if your expertise is an inch deep and a mile wide on just about everything. That’s especially true with the IoT. There are simply too many devices and too many systems to be doing both the on-the-ground work and the high level system architecture work. In my mind, a good MSI today knows a great deal about the best products available for optimizing building operations and has a strong network of trustworthy contractors who are forward-thinking enough to have experience installing those new products.
Sinclair: Where does the theme of “people powered transformation” fit into this MSI discussion?
Turner: I think people live at the heart of every transformation. We will succeed and fail based on the ability of our people to understand and adapt to the changes coming our way. At the end of the day, it’s people who have to operate the buildings, people who have to use the buildings, and people who have to decide the best ways to use all the new technologies available to us.