Going global: It's not a one-time project

"Why are you global?" is a simple question. Most companies can answer it with just a few words, such as "to grow revenue in new markets" and/or "to reduce production and resource costs."

But "How will you succeed globally?" is a significantly more complex question. The end state is well understood, but the path to arrive there is less clear. Consultants, partners, employees, boards and CIOs rarely challenge the decision to go global, but they will stake their careers on their differing views of how to execute that decision.

Given this environment of creative conflict, plus the typical enthusiasm (or pressure) to execute quickly, companies are able to reach consensus and plan for only the short-term issues, such as determining what products and services to sell or develop globally, what business functions to send offshore, what markets they want to target and what outsourcing partner or reseller is right for them.

The problem is that the focus is all on getting started, while very little thought is given during these early phases to staying and excelling in the market. Going global isn't a one-time project. It's a long-term commitment of resources and can quickly overwhelm management if the focus remains only on the near term. Companies, and the CIOs who often drive these programs, need to look beyond the immediate transition and think about the broader implications. Here are the next five steps toward long-term success:

1. Coordinate your communications. Technology leaders are often sensitive to the need to communicate during the transition, especially with regard to internal teams that may be affected directly by shifting responsibilities. But you need to consider broader audiences. Customers will need to be told of the new expansion, because it may involve changes to their account teams or supply chain logistics. Investors may require explanations of the funding plans and anticipated returns. Depending on your size and role in your industry, you may even field questions from the media, which may view your shift as an indicator of a more profound industry trend. If you expect to maintain project momentum, your message must align with the internal rationale given to your existing employees and new global staff.

2. Plan for proactive management. Even if you're working with an outsourcing partner or reseller, you must consider how to, and who will, manage the new international team. Delivery dates and budgets are suitable for contract terms, but the team will need to stay motivated. It will need locally relevant performance metrics and review processes. In addition to developing new skills, they'll want opportunities to contribute and be recognized for their efforts. In many lower-cost regions, the talent pool is still developing and demand far outstrips supply -- leading to high turnover. Your ability to engage with these employees will mean the difference between dramatic results in six months or desperate recruiting every six weeks.

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