On the path to accelerated international growth, a company can easily become entangled with a complex IT system landscape. Separate business systems to manage inventory, sales, and even new geographic locations might be a good short-term solution at the time but eventually result in business process bottlenecks, operational inefficiencies, and integration challenges down the road.
With big plans to scale but data residing all over the place and no visibility, the only answer is to implement a centralized business management system. The advantages of designing your systems around a single codebase and database will help streamline processes and enhance productivity across your entire organization, and most importantly, give you a complete view of your overall performance. But, like any large enterprise project, there are many layers in the planning of a global systems integration. From planning and development to training and testing, a multi-location system deployment is a significant undertaking for any company due to the volume and scale. To avoid the risk of delays, additional costs, and resource availability, the early stages of requirements gathering are a critical component in the development and success of your global systems rollout.
Uncover Your System “Must-Haves” in Requirements Gathering
Your system requirements are the necessary specifications you must have in your business management software to continue doing business every day. These exact requirements shape the business system you will use around the world to ensure consistency, quality, and efficiency. In the requirements gathering stage of planning, you must conduct a thorough analysis of your current business systems and decide what processes and functionality you want to bring forward into your new system. To evaluate your operations, you need to break down your processes and identify any pain points or redundancies.
In previous global rollout projects, we have worked closely with our clients to understand what they are doing now and where they could make improvements. From there, we look for a solution that can meet each one of those requirements. The result should be a standard system, without any complex customizations, that you can use as a foundation. This standard global template will help streamline deployment, training, and upgrades and cause minimal disruption to your existing operations. Once you have a standard global template in place across each location, with specific localization packages based on the country or region, you can adjust accordingly and start preparing for system enhancements post-implementation. During the requirements gathering stage, there is always confusion around business requirements and legal requirements. A lot of companies refer to these terms as one in the same or think that every requirement is a “must-have.” In reality, they are both very different from each other and can have a huge impact on the development and complexity of your standard system – and ultimately, the price tag.
Here is an overview of what business and legal requirements are and how they will help define your global business management system:
Think about the core of your business and what you need to operate. Critical reports need to be produced daily, weekly and monthly, you must generate precise financial statements as required, and numerous other connected processes need to happen for a business to succeed. Business requirements need to be consistent in every location, where they will form the foundation of your global systems template used from country to country.
Every business has certain ways of handling processes, from replenishment practices to specific reports. During the analysis phase, you will discover that not all business requirements are critical to the livelihood of your business. Although they might exist in your old system as something that has “always been done,” there are often more efficient ways of achieving the same goal. In a global systems rollout, we always try to avoid customizations if we can. As your base model, it will be easier and less expensive up front to deploy an out-of-the-box system in multiple countries than it will to deploy a highly customized and complex system that requires extensive training and configuration in each location.
Outside of your operational processes, you also must identify the legal and regulatory requirements designated by the government of the country in which you are planning to do business. These requirements touch on the localization of your global system, which is the process of adapting a solution to a specific market. This can include everything from the way taxes are calculated to currency and date formatting.
We consider these to be the “must-have” requirements in your system because they are critical to your entry into a new market and your compliance with local laws. It can be confusing at times to differentiate a legal requirement from a business requirement, but generally any laws driven by the government fall under this category. For example, customs forms are typically assumed to be a business requirement, but the paperwork includes shipping and taxation legalities that must be accurate and complete, or, goods can be rejected, or fines levied.
Since these legal requirements will be different for each country you are entering, localizations are separate from your foundation and sit on top of your base system. Let’s say you want to set up two new locations, one in Canada and one in the United States. When Canada goes live, you use the global systems template created from your business requirements with a localization layer specific to the legal requirements of Canada. For the U.S., you would use the same global systems template but with the localization layer customized to the American legal system.
Keep Your System Requirements Simple
The best advice that we can give you as you approach your upcoming global system rollout is to keep it simple. Microsoft has invested billions of dollars into their ERP systems, defining the business requirements and building in localization layers for over 20 years. When considering which business requirements are a need vs. want, we defer to standard processes as much as possible because we trust they have the best functionality defined. If it’s not defined by Microsoft, is it truly a need?
We’ve worked with clients around the world, of all sizes and requirements, and have a lot of advice to share with companies to help streamline and simplify any global rollout. As experienced veterans in the global arena, we take a process-centric approach to ensure an efficient system implementation without any surprises. Please get in touch with our team to start a whiteboarding session and talk about your current issues and future global system needs.
Let’s talk system requirements. Contact us to start your analysis with the OnActuate team today.