In response to my question why systems integration has not seen the same level of automation as systems management, Bill Higgins of IBM posted this response on Nick Carr's blog
"I think the short answer is because systems integration is a much harder problem than systems management. In the world of systems management we're talking about well-defined concepts like nodes, network addresses, memory, and storage. In the world of systems integration we're talking about amorphous concepts like "what constitutes a customer, an account, an order, etc." across different development teams, different intra-company lines of business, and across enterprises. Throw into this mix older systems whose source code is written in a legacy dialect that not too many people use anymore or has been lost entirely. Throw into this mix the constant desire to enhance or fix the applications that are the end points in the systems integration effort, resulting in an unstable base.
Now I know the normal IBM consultant response to this is "service-oriented architecture" is the answer, and, hype aside, it does help with some of these problems by hiding the underlying nastiness of custom applications behind well-defined service definitions. Now the big unstated assumption in the previous sentence was "well-defined service definition". Quality service definition takes real skill, and this is where you need an experienced designer - whether in Boston or Bangalore - and experienced designers don't grow on trees. If companies think that SOA is the way to go, they'll have to hire a few savvy service designers, whether as a regular employee or as a high-end consultant from firms like IBM Business Consulting Services, Accenture, Thoughtworks, etc.
Re: waiting again for stiffer competition from Bangalore. I don't really agree with your characterization since IBM's made sizable investments in our own services and R&D labs in lower-cost countries like Brazil, China, and India over the past 5-10 years."
Sorry, Bill, my view is much of systems integration is blocking and tackling. If it was not Accenture would not have grown with pyramids of young programmers or even PwC' that IBM acquired (where I was an SI myself). If you apply the 80/20 rule, with some variations there are reasonably common customer masters, vendor masters, charts of accounts etc. After thousands of SAP, Oracle and verticalized projects if IBM cannot find commonality and automate conversion scripts, test plans, interfaces - again 80% of project artifacts - it never will. The problem partly is the business model. IBM's SI/outsourcing groups do not think like its software group. They want to sell more bodies, not automation. If they allowed the same software team which is working on self-healing systems management to work on SI automation, I would be willing to bet they could develop significant labor saving tools.
As far as its offshore factories - IBM has definitely grown them...but few of their customers have seen the impact in lower pricing (at least in recent SI deals I have helped CIOs review). It has mostly gone to its margins.
So either through automation or through lower cost delivery, IBM can achieve significant SI productivity - the question is IBM (and other SIs) really ready to eat their services children?