Global Experience Should Improve Domestic Performance

By Marianne Broadbent  |  Posted 08-05-2005 Print Email
Opinion: Are you using your international experiences, and your people, to help rework your business processes at home? If not, you're missing out on some of the most useful lessons available to you.

Okay, so you're an executive at a large corporation with operations around the world. How "developed" are you, really? To what extent are you learning from the integration of technology in everyday experiences around the globe? Have you looked recently at how your colleagues in other parts of the world are applying technologies effectively?

And have you attempted to integrate those approaches into how you do business at home? Why does it seem so hard for many U.S. companies to really "see" and integrate those experiences.

I travel more than most people, which I see as a wonderful privilege. And I continue to be amazed by how few companies take advantage of the experience and expertise of their people around the world as input into their technology strategies.

I don't mean "IT strategy" in a narrow sense, but rather how these companies innovate and improve their customer offerings by drawing on the rich experiences of employees in the countries in which they operate.

I sometimes find myself suggesting to the executives of companies for which I consult that they should look at what their Italian or Brazilian or Canadian staff is doing, because it might really help boost their competitiveness, their productivity, or their responsiveness to customers.

The various opportunities and different ways of deploying technologies are often occurring right before our eyes. Too often, however, we can't see the trees for the forest.

At the risk of annoying a significant number of readers, I would like to share some experiences from outside the U.S. that involve the integration of technology into everyday life. The technologies underlying these examples are usually relatively stable and applied to standard processes—or what my Gartner colleague Mark McDonald refers to as "persistent business needs."

Let's start with Australia, my home country. When I call a cab from my house, the dispatcher knows where I am calling from, provided that I have called from there at least once before. The booking is completed through a simple voice-recognition process.

I answer a series of questions—"How many passengers?" "Are you ready now?"—and the cab is dispatched. The cab driver has received no verbal instructions; instead, global positioning systems are used to dispatch the nearest cab.

It is always a jolt when taking a cab in the U.S. to remember that you usually need cash. Even on some parts of the West Coast, where you can pay by credit card, the drivers still use old-fashioned paper forms. All cabs in Australia take credit cards, and this is done using a point-of-sale machine like those used in supermarkets. It's been this way for at least seven years.

Bank payment systems are another fascinating area. A few months ago, a business colleague received payments from two U.S. clients in the form of a paper check. This meant someone had to actually visit a bank to cash it.

How very tedious. He had to explain to his U.S. clients how to do direct transfers to the bank account—instructions which were printed on the invoice but which had been ignored. In fact, the whole use of checks in the U.S. continues to baffle me. Few other developed countries generate the amount of paper in payments as the U.S. does.

And let's not leave out mobile phones. Advertisements in the U.S. for mobile phones offering one phone number in a variety of countries are a real source of amusement for visitors from most parts of Europe and Asia. I, for one, could not have done my job over the past eight years if I hadn't had a single worldwide number.



 

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