Before taking your business global, you need to have the right infrastructure in place to help you scale efficiently. According to the 2018 Going Global report from Censuswide and Tiplati, only 11% of decision-makers feel that their organization is qualified to address all the aspects and challenges of global expansion successfully. As a method for tackling these areas, from knowledge of local markets and local tax codes to hiring and regulatory compliance, companies around the globe are using technology to enable international growth.
A centralized business management system will help you expand your company’s supply chain or geographical presence internationally by providing process standardization and financial compliance while enabling a centralized location for all business data. Like any large-scale enterprise project, the success of a global systems implementation and deployment will depend on how prepared you are before you start. Planning, methodology, scope, vision – all of these areas are essential in planning your global systems integration and strategy.
Success also depends on how well you mitigate the risks. It’s important to understand the risks and complexities associated with global systems rollouts from the very beginning. Here are some of the most common areas of concern that arise if you don’t prepare:
- Resource Availability: Due to all the moving parts in a global systems rollout, scheduling and realistic timelines are imperative to keep the project team moving forward at the right pace. You don’t want your technology partner waiting for your stakeholders to make critical decisions, but you also want to ensure your technology partner has the staff needed to plan and deploy your project.
- Customizations: The more additional functionality you need outside of an out-of-the-box solution means more room for complexity and setup challenges. It’s important to simplify wherever you can in the first deployment, which means putting effort into evaluating your customizations from a necessity standpoint and seeing where you can leverage standard processes to accomplish the same task. A thorough technology partner will assist in this process during requirements gathering.
- Data Migration: A common hurdle for most ERP implementations, data migration requires that a business process owner validate data and define a clear strategy for determining what data goes into the new system, how that data gets transferred, and where historical data will reside if it’s outside of the new system.
- Adoption: Every IT system requires user training and change management. The best way to get your team on board is through valuable education and early engagement. During the requirements gathering process, key users from each department should be engaged to help define the standard and non-standard processes and to offer feedback on how the current processes impact daily efficiencies. By engaging users to participate, you encourage them to take ownership of their roles, which will in turn help with the adoption of any new systems or processes.
- Testing: Test scripts might be a lot of work, but they are worth all of the efforts. If you can do testing early on in the process, you can remove an element of the unknown in your implementation and avoid business disruptions. Testing helps mitigate deployment issues and will keep projects timely and on budget. User acceptance testing should be a regular part of your system build and rollout, and major issues should be identified long before the system goes completely global.
- Budget Overages: Truly, this is the result of any of the issues above coming to fruition. Project delays, missed steps, and unclear expectations will end up costing you a lot of money in the long term. The best way to avoid this is to partner with an experienced solutions provider with a proven track record and to stick closely to standard processes.
Now that you’re aware of the risks, let’s walk through what you can expect in a global systems rollout and how to effectively plan your strategy.
How to Plan for a Successful Global Systems Integration
When it comes to international expansion, whether it’s one location or multiple countries, project management, governance, and collaborative planning play a huge role in how smooth the entire implementation process goes.
Here are eight tips to consider in your upcoming global systems rollout that will help you successfully deploy a solution that fits your growing needs:
1. Define Your Vision, Objectives, and Rollout Strategy
It might seem like a no-brainer, but your reasoning and strategy will be the underlying driver throughout your entire project and must be clear to all parties involved. This framework will provide the structure for integration and make sure that the project moves forward in a controlled approach. No software engagement has ever succeeded without the proper definition before kickoff. If you can’t define the why and how of the project, you don’t need to do it.
2. Identify Your System Requirements
Your system architecture is the foundation for your global operations and is based on your business and legal system requirements. In our experience, confusing requirements end up resulting in budget overages, delays, and projects going out of scope. To mitigate these risks, we always try to go with standard system functionalities as much as possible and avoid unnecessary customizations in the initial deployment. By focusing on your “must-have” requirements, you can build a strong base system to be used consistently in each location or subsidiary around the world. This will not only create a smoother, less risky, implementation but provide an easier upgrade path in the future. Before you make any decisions, make sure you have a clear understanding of your business and legal requirements.
For more information, read this blog post: “Business vs. Legal Requirements: What You Need to Know.”
3. Find a Partner with the Right Skills and Experience
Think of your software solutions partner as your global systems guide. For them to help you get to your destination, they need to have the right system experience, a track record of successful global implementations, and exposure to the geographical and cultural challenges of global roll-outs. Get references, talk to team members, and make sure they are the right fit for your company. Global rollouts are rife with considerations that are not part of a local systems deployment, and it’s imperative that your technology partner fully understand the complexities and considerations of applying the global template to multiple countries. You would not be wise to attempt a global rollout with a partner that doesn’t have that expertise built in-house.
4. Conduct a Stakeholder Analysis
Stakeholders are everyone who has direct or indirect involvement in the project. We recommend getting to know your stakeholders early and getting a feel for the dynamics of the team. You should also keep a team list with roles, responsibilities and departments for quick access. This pre-kickoff lobbying process will get everyone on the same page quickly and keep an open line of communication, and regular conversations will keep everyone involved. A global system rollout will impact almost every department of your business, so collaboration will help promote ownership at all levels, manage expectations and deliver the best result.
5. Create a Strong Project and Governance Team
Throughout the entire project, this team will keep everyone on the same page and be responsible for meeting critical deadlines. Most global rollouts include a steering committee, project managers, business process consultants, solution architects, a core team, end users, functional and development consultants, as well as infrastructure and technical consultants. To get people working together towards a common goal, they need clarity on roles, project phases, well-documented output deliverables, and a clear outline of user involvement by phases
6. Set Realistic Milestones, Deadlines and a Deployment Roadmap
The best way to ensure a successful global system implementation is to start with a blueprint. Clearly identified and communicated milestones and deadlines will help keep your team on schedule and aware of delays if they arise. Documentation and reporting should be done on a regular basis to keep every moving part running smoothly. Issues should regularly be raised, to mitigate risk to the project budget or timeline, and keeping every person on track. Milestones should be continually monitored and evaluated, and adjustments should be documented and communicated.
7. Implement Training Program
The key to system adoption is effective user training. At OnActuate, we take a “Train the Trainer” approach – we train a company’s superuser and give them the tools to train their peers. By training superusers on site, our clients retain full ownership of the system, and it’s a better use of their budget. Clients are not beholden to us for all support and can self-serve on the day to day issues that arise, which empowers them long-term. By training people on staff, you also increase overall user adoption and general feeling about the system deployment.
8. Get Support When You Need It
Your software solutions partner should be there as a backup anytime you need help or technology advice. Any problems in the initial phase of deployment would be covered for a warranty period, but outside of that, they are there to help with phase two, customizations, upgrades, etc. Your partner knows your system’s front to back, so it makes sense to use them for consulting services for years to come. Ensure your technology partner can act as long-term support, and that they have the business tenure to make a support contract a secure investment.
As a technology partner focused global enterprise solution integration, we’ve helped companies just like yours expand and transform their operations around the world. From what we’ve seen and experienced, the key to a successful global systems rollout is all about having a clear strategy and sticking to it. We believe that technology is all about the people who use it, and we focus on maintaining frequent communication and explicitly defining the project for success. If you’re considering a global systems rollout, or have questions about your current global system, we’re here to help. Set up a meeting with our team and start planning your strategic expansion today!
Contact us to get started on your global rollout plan.