The sales and operations planning process that you use domestically may not suffice when you begin doing business on a large scale internationally, says Darrin W. Oliver, CEO of Zulu Consulting. But any expansion you decide on must involve the heads of the regional organizations, who know the capabilities of their departments best.
Whenever your company considers expanding globally, you should give serious thought to expanding your sales and operations planning capability as well. One caveat, however: simply doing business in one small region or country may not require enhancing your S&OP initiative, Oliver says. But a major move into global markets may mandate an overhaul to your approach to S&OP because it's a holistic process after all.
In going global, senior managers need to take charge and champion the effort. "You can't really take a local S&OP process and cut and paste it into global regions," he says. "You have to look at the capabilities in those regions and meet them somewhere in the middle. What's acceptable to corporate and what you need to do within the regional organizations must be determined."
That will entail what Oliver calls "political-emotional" changes. Typically, people are used to running their own shops in these regions; they're not accustomed to leadership looking over their shoulders. This can be uncomfortable and can cause tensions. "There has to be diplomacy exercised."
It's imperative that regional heads be involved every step of the way and from the beginning of the expansion effort. Moreover, training sessions and other projects may have to be customized. For example, a general training "package" is not likely to succeed.
In addition, there could easily be some tools challenges. For instance, how is data collected in the regions, and in what format? Can you interface with it? Indeed, one of the threshold questions for anyone considering expanding their S&OP process globally is whether their software and hardware have the capability to do so. Are they up to the task?
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