When entering Australia, I use "Smart Gates." As a frequent traveler, I had the option of having my facial image scanned and stored for easy recognition. Now I just go to the Smart Gate machine, put my machine-readable passport number on the screen and look straight ahead.
When the machine recognizes me, the gates open and I walk through. No questions, no explanations, no small talk, no queuing.
I also used to have an INSPASS for entry to the U.S., which involved giving the U.S. immigration service my fingerprints. That option, however, was only sporadically available after Sept. 11, and then it was eliminated altogether. Reports in the past several weeks indicate that U.S. and Australian authorities are now working on whether they can read the microchips in each other's electronic passports.
When I drive on the CityLink toll road from the airport into Melbourne, where I live, my CityLink Access pass debits my account, which is linked to my credit card. But I keep driving at 65 mph. I don't slow down at all. To do so would cause a major accident, as there are no toll booths, just cameras overhead to catch my number plate if the debit isn't recorded.
The result is a much smoother flow of traffic. Companies that run toll roads in different parts of Australia now recognize each other's systems, and the same technology is being deployed elsewhere in the world.
Well-known, standard technologies being applied to mainstream business processes. How many similar examples have you encountered from amongst your executives around the world? How has it changed what you do? Have you tried to integrate such experiences into how your organization uses technology?
One company that does this consistently is Citigroup, which is headquartered in the U.S. What's important is that Citigroup's growth was not predicated on a large domestic base. It was always an internationally focused financial services firm. In the 1990s, Citibank used its expertise in Singapore as a base for the consolidation of data centers.
More recently, in the development of an Asian credit card, Citibank did not take the approach of either transplanting U.S. experience or developing the card solely from their Asian experiences. Rather, they looked more widely, taking what they had learned from around the world and using it as input to shape the Asian product.
Yves Doz, a professor at INSEAD, the international business school based outside Paris, refers to "metanationals." To the metanational company, globalization is not about taking home-country know-how to other national markets around the globe.
It is about efficiently fishing for knowledge in a global pool, harnessing that knowledge for innovation, and then harvesting its value for its stakeholders. Often, executives at these metanational companies have lived and worked in different parts of the world, and they are invariably curious as to why developments in one place are not being applied elsewhere.
Yes, sometimes cultural and political considerations need to be taken into account. In countries where there is an expectation of face-to-face contact to complete a customer process, for example, innovation can be slower.
And it is harder for countries to be metanationals when they have a large domestic customer base, as is often the case with U.S. companies. You are more likely to see metanationals emerge from midsize and smaller countries in Europe and Asia, where growth from their domestic base alone may be insufficient.
The next time you travel, focus on what your colleagues in other locations are doing differently. Is it a better way to get work done? A better way to serve customers? How are they doing it? How can you integrate their experiences into your technology strategy and execution? What benefits are you really delivering thanks to the international spread of your business and the range of capabilities of your people and technologies?
Marianne Broadbent is Senior Vice President at Gartner responsible for Gartner's global research business strategy, and a Gartner Fellow. Her next column will appear in November.
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