Global or local strategies
My company has expanded its global operation over the past year with several acquisitions overseas. As we get bigger, I must come up with an IT/e-business strategy that sits as comfortably in the UK as it does in Thailand and Spain, for example. Can you suggest areas that I should concentrate on? Will I encounter problems trying to work around all the regional laws that exist? Should I follow a laissez-faire policy that embraces all cultures?
Keep it local but with limits
I have seen many companies try different approaches: some have specifically looked at different cultures; others have gone for global one; a third is a mix of the two. Also, aside from cultures, there is the issue of a global IT strategy versus local power and autonomy. Here is the best solution in my experience and opinion:
Create a governance policy
Professor Chris Edwards
Professor of Management Information Systems, Cranfield School of Management.
The issue you are grappling with is the creation of an information governance policy for your expanded organisation. Research suggests that the two primary drivers of such a policy are:
I would begin by grouping information-related decisions such as those related to project management methods, security, which applications to develop or Web design. I would then list the advantages and disadvantages of each decision group being strongly centralised and also strongly decentralised. For instance, centralisation of Web design will portray a common image across the world and may reduce design costs, but may reduce local autonomy to act quickly and yet meet local design issues. This crude analysis may help in forming a policy on each group of information decisions.
I would then run the logic of your argument by corporate management, then country management and finally local IT management in an attempt to secure agreement. It is critical to secure the real agreement of all these three groups as, otherwise, you will move to a laissez-faire situation whatever the sense in your logic of the matter.
Deciding on organisational structure will be guided by this governance policy. For instance, it will be much easier to enforce standards if the local IT group has a solid reporting line to the corporate centre and a dotted line to local management. However, recognise that this logic may well need to be overridden by other issues of control.
The problem you are grappling with is not a simple one and will, no doubt, evolve over the years, but it is worth making an effort now whilst the matter is still open. I do not think the differing legal frameworks will be your most difficult problem, but legal issues will be one of those information decisions mentioned earlier and will need to be considered alongside all the other decision groups.
Separate general from contextual
Chief executive officer, Bloor Research
The major point here is to distinguish between the general - that is common systems and common data - and the contextual. Despite the fact that the Web tramples on geography it doesn't destroy it. Neither does it destroy cultural differences.
Try to get the maximum possible buy-in from every territory for the implementation of a common strategy for systems and data, while allowing separate contextualisation (ie the user style and interface) for each area. This means that each geography designs its own Web site, but uses common applications. Beneath this you can hopefully work out a common strategy for infrastructure and on top of it, a common strategy for support. These both tend to be general with some contextual bits.