A few weeks ago, one of my clients said that his U.S. colleagues had just rolled out a slick, new reporting solution for sales and activity. He showed me what the solution looked like and I agreed that it looked great, with mobile dashboards for the reps and some great desktop dashboards for the HQ users. Then he asked, “How much effort do you think it would be to create something similar for outside of the U.S.?”
This is a great question, and one that I’m often asked. Most of my clients are global, and they talk to each other regularly. They are rightly proud of the cool things that they’re doing, and they want their teams to have access to tools as useful as the ones that their colleagues in other countries have.
However, I’ve worked on many multi-country implementations, and they are both technically and politically complex. Some of the key challenges that I see regularly include:
- Dealing with multiple sources of the same data (Several clients I’ve worked with have discovered that the same data from the same third-party provider isn’t always delivered in the same format for each country.)
- Complexity in consolidating data to be able to create standardized reporting
- The ability to trace, over time, a sales rep’s alignment with products and customers
- Compliance with local regulations
- Lack of a change management approach
CASE STUDY: Driving Toward a Data-Based Future
I’m sure that many people will be familiar with the first three points. After all, even though data is the life blood of many organizations these days, it still provides many challenges that keep us all busy. However, the last two points are sometimes deprioritized, which can adversely impact project timelines and success.
Recently, another of my clients was implementing field force dashboards that gave not just a view of key activities, but also a view of the company’s customers, which involved creating a customer master. This organization made sure that the local compliance teams were involved to review the proposed solutions and, by doing so, avoided two potential issues: First, the client discovered that a certain country in the European Union couldn’t have the word “target” on its dashboards, and secondly that some EU countries have mandatory data points about their customers that need to be collected and stored.
Had we not engaged local compliance teams, we likely would have had to rework the reports and the data model, which would have impacted our project timelines and budget. Or we could have been non-compliant, which would have been a serious issue.
When budgets get squeezed, the change management approach often is the first to suffer from scope reduction. However, I consider it to be essential to a project’s success. Often, with a large-scale implementation, you’re replacing siloed solutions that have existed within affiliates for a number of years, so it’s important to actively engage users throughout the project lifecycle to get their input while effectively creating champions for the solution.
For one ZS client, we ran multiple workshops with a cross section of stakeholders across countries in an attempt to create internal advocates for the solution. We kept this network of champions engaged right through the project, using them to deliver planned, structured communications to share how the solution was shaping up. This engagement meant that we could really understand the nuances that are required for the solution, and also start to generate support and buzz about what was being developed.
A word of warning, though: Affiliate engagement needs to be managed effectively so that a solution isn’t created purely for the affiliates with the loudest voices. A strong and pragmatic client stakeholder is a great asset here. I’ve found that the most effective way forward in these situations is to implement the generic solution in the first instance, with a clear and agreed-upon plan and budget for any affiliate or country-specific solution components that need to be created while making sure that you’re aware of any local compliance constraints.
Graeme Ward is a manager in ZS’s business technology practice with a focus on life sciences. He specializes in helping his clients with their business intelligence and analytics needs, from defining strategy through to delivery and operations.