Every organization has a lot of decisions to make regarding its digital strategy. But, companies with international operations have an entirely different set of decisions to make and challenges to address. This can make it difficult to define your global digital transformation strategy.

We work with a number of organizations like this every day. For example, one of our clients is a $6B US-based food manufacturing and distribution company with operations in various countries. Another is a publishing company with operations in the UK, India, and the US. And just the other day, I met with a South African manufacturing and distribution company with 4,000 employees in a multitude of diverse countries across Africa.

Challenges of global digital transformations

When working with these and other international clients, we face a number of unique challenges. For example, global companies have the following complexities that their smaller counterparts do not:

  • Disparate operations and business process, often due to merger and acquisition activity
  • A variety of legacy systems in different locations, especially if the company has grown through M&A
  • Redundant organizational functions in different parts of the world
  • Diverse cultures and languages – making communication and alignment across the organization more challenging
  • Executive and stakeholder misalignment, driven largely by geographic and cultural dispersion
  • Varying degrees of technological sophistication and, in some cases, an inability to realistically migrate to cloud technologies in more remote parts of the world

Navigating these global challenges can make defining a global digital transformation strategy overwhelming. But focusing on a few key areas will enable you to define a strategy and roadmap that makes the most sense for your organization.

First, articulate a clear vision for your digital transformation

Too many projects start at a breakneck speed without a clear direction, but it is critical that the best digital strategy for your organizationis clearly aligned with your company’s overall vision and strategy. This requires time to clearly articulate your company’s strategy and translate it into specific digital transformation objectives. We typically use a strategy articulation map to help define how our client’s strategy translates into specific digital transformation goals and objectives.

Assess the level of alignment of your global team of executives and stakeholders

The larger and more geographically dispersed you are, the more difficult it is to maintain alignment with executives and key stakeholders across the globe. Geography, internal politics, communication and cultural barriers further complicate these challenges. Incorporating a stakeholder assessment into your global digital strategy will help address this critical area.

Define your operational model and business blueprint early on

There are a lot of business, operations, and process decisions to make prior to implementing any new technology. For example, what is our future state operating model? Will we move to a shared service model for certain functions? Will we standardize certain business processes across multiple locations? These and other business process management decisions should be made prior to selecting and implementing new technology, which will serve as a sort of business blueprint to your overall digital transformation and strategy.

Create a comprehensive, integrated, and global organizational change management strategy

Once you understand the magnitude of change required to support your future operational model, it is important to define a clear organizational change management strategy to enable those changes. This change strategy will also help reinforce the strategy articulation defined early on. A complete and customized global change strategy should include things like change impact analysis, global communication plans, benefits realization strategy, and a multitude of other tactics – in addition to traditional end-user training and communications.

Consider all of your technology options

It will be difficult to find a single solution to meet all of your global needs. Sales reps from SAP might try to convince you that a successful S/4HANA implementation will meet most of your needs, while a Microsoft reseller may try to convince you that a successful Dynamics 365 implementation requires 100% adoption of their platform. There are a lot of good technology options available, so it is important to streamline your ERP software selection process in a way that quickly narrows in on the best options for your organization.

Identify the best digital transformation consultants to guide you through your digital strategy

Navigating your strategic realities against your multitude of digital transformation options requires a great deal of skill, global expertise, and a technology-agnostic approach. You don’t want someone who can simply implement software – such as Deloitte, Accenture, or Capgemini. You will want someone who can start by defining the most effective digital strategy and roadmap for your organization.

This is where independent digital transformation and ERP consultants such as those at Third Stage Consulting can help. Defining digital strategy for global organizations is one of my favorite things to do, so please feel free to email me to arrange a video conference to discuss ideas with your team. I am happy to help!

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