Global expansion of a U.S.-based MSP program is a goal for many companies.
Pinnacle Group and Beeline have put together some of the tips we have learned expanding U.S.-based MSP programs globally that you can follow to help make your expansion process smoother, more efficient, and more profitable from start to finish. Preparing as much as you can before you jump in with both feet and ensuring you have the right partners on board will help make the program and the expansion process a success.
The most important thing to remember when implementing an MSP program in another country is that you need a core set of principles that you stick to regardless of where you are implementing the program. The standard best practices will always apply, whether you are in the United States, Argentina, India, or anywhere in between.
Those best practices should include things like coordinating with the MSP and VMS on planning the project out in detail before it begins, having a detailed and clear scope of what your project will entail, and engagement and complete buy-in from all key stakeholders.
Your planning should involve research on the current-state processes, procedures, and regulations in the country you are expanding into. Sometimes U.S. business units are surprised to find that foreign subsidiaries operate in completely different ways than they do in the U.S. Planning based on incorrect assumptions will only have to be redone later, potentially delaying the project. Therefore, anything you can do to help paint a fuller picture of what is already happening in each local country will go a long way to ensuring the business requirements are properly gathered and that the plan meets the needs and realities of the local business unit. Likewise, knowing what’s already happening will help ensure that the change management process is targeted appropriately and when you’re dealing with multiple countries and multiple languages, the more robust and tailored the change management program is, the better of you’ll be.
You’ll also need to dedicate resources internally to serve on an implementation team with dedicated resources from the MSP and the VMS. This is absolutely essential to help drive the change management process, provide training, and help ensure program adoption. For larger programs it might even be necessary to have specific subject matter experts on various topics assigned to the team to help with the training and requirements gathering.
Understanding the Local Market
If you’re pursuing global expansion of a U.S.-based MSP, you should start by expanding your understanding. This means understanding the culture of the country you are expanding into, including how your local business units operate, and business culture and etiquette locally, understanding the market and maturity of MSP within that market, and coping with language differences, if any.
For example, certain countries are more mature when it comes to the market and MSP experience. European countries are often on par with the US, but certain Latin American or Asian countries can require significantly more work to educate and walk through the concept of MSP, let alone specific issues. That’s not to say it’s not worth it to work in these countries, often the opportunities are greater in areas in which you can establish yourself as an early leader in the MSP space.
Going global is not a quick exercise, it’s one that requires you to keep the long game in mind at all times. While implementation timelines vary significantly based on scope, location, and requirements, smaller global rollouts should allow an additional 60 to 90 days over typical US timelines and larger rollouts should allow an additional 90 to 150 days over typical US timelines.
When you come into a new situation in a new country, it’s always best to come with humility and open ears. Ask questions, listen to the answers, and be ready to learn about what the unique challenges and advantages are in each country. You may be the expert when it comes to MSP, but they are the expert when it comes to their own business unit and processes, the local market, and local company culture. So, don’t come in thinking you have all the answers. It’s a collaboration between the implementation team and the local business unit operators in the country. This collaboration is the way to achieve success for all involved.
One of the toughest parts of getting on the same page when it comes to working in other countries is standardizing processes, especially if business units in different countries operate in significantly different ways. While it is important to have standard processes across the board, it’s also necessary to avoid forcing the American way on other cultures and countries – there may be good reasons for the differences.
Helping Local Business Units Understand MSP
Language is a likely to be big deal in any new country your MSP program expands to. You can’t assume that the people you will be working with speak English, or, even if they do, that they speak it at a level that makes business conversations in new topical areas like MSP work well. It’s highly valuable to have someone on your team that is fluent in the language of the country. This isn’t just referring to a language like Spanish or Chinese, it also means industry terminology, your own company-specific concepts, the client’s business, MSP, VMS, and more.
Often someone in your company’s local office may speak English very well (or the whole team may), but likely no one has experience working with MSP or VMS (this is more true in some markets than others). As a result, they will struggle to understand everything that is discussed The concept of MSP and VMS and vocabulary can be overwhelming and create communication challenges that can be solved for by ensuring at least one member on the implementation team and one member in the local business unit are fluent in both the local language and in MSP and VMS and it’s worth investing the time to train them before implementation meetings begin in full force.
There are some other practical tips that Pinnacle and Beeline have learned in our global expansion efforts that we’ll share here.
• Build in Time for Jet Lag – Even the most experienced business travelers can suffer the effects of a long flight. A tired implementation team is a poorly performing team, so make sure people are flying in early enough to allow for time to rest.
• Crash Course in Language/Customs – Though you should have people fluent in the local language on the implementation team, the people who don’t speak the language should take time to learn basic phrases and customs. This will help endear your staff to the new country and make your employees feel more comfortable. Likewise, knowing local business customs is essential for having everything runs smoothly. This includes how formal they dress, whether it’s customary to eat/drink during meetings, how they greet each other, e.g. hand shakes, whether they use formal titles or first names, etc. Just because you’re in the same company doesn’t mean you operate with the same culture!
• Prepare for Communication Challenges – Having bilingual resources on both sides of the table is critical during implementation, and it’s best to have internal bilingual resources rather than translators or interpreters as they will be more familiar with the company and company-specific terms and concepts you’re using and can answer some of the questions directly. Preparing ahead of time, putting agendas and other key topics in writing, and planning in extra time for conversations and meetings is key to ensuring everyone understands the best they can. Patience will be needed on both sides, and going in expecting this to be difficult and solving for it up front will be essential to your success during implementation, adoption, and beyond.
• Focus on Change Management – Implementing a new MSP and VMS in markets where this is uncommon requires additional change management preparation, more training, better internal marketing, more robust implementation, and more targeted adoption efforts. It’s a matter of taking all your U.S. best practices and ratcheting them up to meet a higher level of complexity driven by communication challenges and novelty, along with internal company dynamics such as local culture and customs and remoteness from global headquarters.
• Have Fun – Build in time for the implementation team and the local team to spend time together outside the conference room. People want to work with those they are comfortable around and it’s difficult to be comfortable with someone you only know via meetings. So, get out of the conference room and into the city. Plus, it’s a nice reward for the people who traveled all this way to support the implementation.
By following these tips, you are setting your company up for success as you expand beyond the U.S. and into other regions, especially when there are language differences or MSP and VMS is a new concept in the market you’re entering.
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Beeline welcomes this guest post from our partner, Pinnacle. This post represents Pinnacle’s opinions and not necessarily those of Beeline.