By Jamie Stewart, Managing Director, Exact UK

Increasingly, SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) are looking to opening offices overseas as the perfect opportunity to grow. Managing any business operation is fraught with risk and requires careful coordination, close communication and solid leadership, but international expansion comes with its own particular set of challenges, which need to be properly understood and dealt with up front.

Local legislations, languages and currencies as well as serving local markets while complying with global company standards all need close and careful consideration. In addition, a whole range of location-specific risks, from unstable economies and governments, to security concerns and labour availability must all be taken into account. And then there are the human risks, where working with a new and untested overseas supplier, or new colleagues in a foreign subsidiary, could pose a significant stumbling block to the success of expansion.

Yet not all challenges faced by companies seeking to grow internationally are so tangible in nature. When negotiating a path through new and unfamiliar markets, cultural considerations can all too often be underestimated. In actual fact, managing the cultural implications of international expansion is a non-negotiable ingredient for its success.

Companies that get to grips with cross-cultural communication are the best placed to use shared information and experience to enhance their competitive position at home and abroad. They are also far better equipped to deliver their long-term business objectives.

With multi-cultural businesses fast becoming the rule, rather than the exception, project managers are increasingly recognising the value of working with the diversity of a cross-border team to create mutual trust, recognising that the creativity engendered by a multicultural team can lead to more rounded decisions, and more effective and productive performance.

All too often, even rigorous planning and flawless communication can be completely undone by poor business processes that are supported by inadequate technology. From the outset, companies seeking to expand their international reach are often faced with disparate systems that compound the problem of managing different languages, currencies and data formats. Incompatible tools and structures scattered across multiple locations can also turn global businesses into a knotty maze of information inconsistencies and data discrepancies.

For smaller enterprises looking to expand, visibility becomes essential to success. An up-to-date overview of the organisation from the headquarters to local and sometimes foreign subsidiaries is required so that the management team has the visibility required to make quick and appropriate decisions. Investing in robust business software can help to establish consistent controls across the breadth of the organisation, support key business processes across borders, facilitate collaboration between subsidiaries and help provide a more effective level of service to global customers. It should also be flexible enough to adapt to a company’s evolving processes and infrastructure as it grows.

The shifting sands of the economy will continue to throw up some uncertainties for organisations over the medium term, but one certainty is that the wave of globalisation sweeping across the world will bring companies under growing pressure to manage their expansion plans in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. It is with growth in mind that judicious investment in a global standardised business software solution can offer substantial benefits in terms of higher data quality, greater efficiency and all-important transparency across all business locations.

Exact are one of the leading providers of scalable solutions which cover all key business processes, allowing your people to share information and collaborate in real-time on a single platform. As well as helping organisations grow, Exact’s solutions consolidate the processes of companies conducting business internationally.

Business on an international scale heightens the need for precise reporting and visibility; Exact offer a solution that is dedicated to giving a company’s HQ total clarity on the entire business, from foreign subsidiaries to localised trading silos. With many businesses still performing a lot of tasks manually, or utilising IT systems that don’t work together, this provides complete process visibility and helps ensure employees work together to add value to the business.

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