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January 12

International digital project? Build a core model to accelerate roll out

Expanding your business internationally is a must-have for sustainable growth. In this global race, the ability to quickly roll out your digital platform(s) is a key strategic asset: before opening stores or deploying a sales force, it’s definitely less risky and cost consuming to deploy your eCommerce or services website to a new country.

But rolling out a digital platform internationally is not an easy task.

What challenges you may face when trying to deploy your digital platform internationnally?

This is where you start facing new challenges:

  • Some features are specific to a given market or country : for example, payment methods are not the same from one country to the other.
  • You bring complexity to your IT integration if you have to build interfaces with many different applications.
  • Different customer experience or business processes : for example, an insurance company may not have the same “claim process” between France, UK and the Netherlands.
  • Each country may have different product assortment and pricing strategy, yet you want to avoid catalog duplication.
  • Finally, local adoption is always an important consideration especially if they already have local applications up and running.

The product managers in charge of your digital assets might face a bunch of challenges, juggling with different priorities, torn between different markets.

Why you shouldn’t implement local applications

In the early days of your local expansion, it might be tempting to let local teams choose and implement their own IT systems and platforms. They are motivated, they have the bandwidth and the budget and they are willing to move on independently.

While this might sound as a good idea at first, on the medium and long run, this will transform into a massive inability to grow your digital maturity in a cost-sensitive and agile manner.

You’ll end up with a spaghetti of local applications, all disconnected, with different tech and business rules. Any investment or maintenance you spend locally will have to be duplicated within another country. You will not be able to leverage economies of scale, for instance by having the same hosting or service provider among your markets.

Finally, this will highly complexify the task to aggregate data and business performance metrics among countries, making it more complex to manage your business internationally.

You will quickly be limited and will ask yourself whether or not you should replatform.

Instead, you may consider building a core model.

The role of a core model

Adopting a core model approach will definitely help to build a single digital platform that you will then be able to roll out and implement internationally.

A core model can be defined as a centralized and standardized application that embeds all the features, data, processes and business rules that are required by all your markets. Every market will use this unified framework while having local instances that allows them to personnalise and localise those features data, processes and business rules.

As an example, a brand running eCommerce activities across several countries will have one single eCommerce engine that is integrated to the rest of its information system (ERP, PIM, DAM etc). This centralized eCom engine will interact with local store fronts where you have the ability to customise local business rules :

  • Theme colors
  • Currency
  • Translations
  • Local carriers
  • etc

The benefits of a core model applications are important :

  • Mutualisation of development and maintenance costs : if you need to develop a new feature, you don’t need to replicate it across several countries, you just develop it once and make it available to the different store front
  • Standardization : features and processes and standardized across markets and allows a uniform customer experience
  • Integration simplicity : You’ll have to integrate your core model only once to the rest of your information system (ERP, CRM, DAM, PIM etc)
  • Scalability : Whether you have 10 or 30 markets to deploy, you can leverage economies of scale
  • Simplified Data & analytics : Data models being uniformized within the core model, it’s much more easier to extract and manage data from one market to the other. As a central team, you’ll consolidate and have better aggregated view on your business.

How to build your core model ?

Once the decision taken to use a core model approach in your digital strategy, I’d suggest you go through the following steps

  1. Gather business requirements : identify key stakeholders and gather their business needs and key requirements.
  2. Feature listing : list of the potential features and functionalities your digital application might need ; prioritize must have vs nice to have features based on business impacts, criticity and complexity
  3. Segregate features into those that are essential at a global level (core features) and those that may require localization. For localization, consider language, currency, legal compliance, cultural nuances, and local market trends.
  4. Select the technology and solutions that meet your business requirements and your ability to centralize and localize your features as expected
  5. Build your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that includes critical features and go live on one-single market
  6. Test, learn and iterate on your MVP based on the market feedback. At this stage, include other markets to share the MVP and gather their feedback as per their local requirements.

Proposed methodology to deploy locally your core model

Once your core model is up and running on your pilot market, you’re now ready to roll it out internationally.

You may first consider your roll out strategy

  • Identify market clusters who share the same dynamics and local needs. For example, you may choose to first roll out in the Nordics (Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway), then in the cluster Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
  • Industrialize your deployment by identifying recurring steps and packaging them into a deployment playbook ; you’ll ease the communication to the local teams and fasten appropriation
  • Focus on change management by identifying local stakeholders, mapping how the core model will impact their daily jobs and processes, listen and accompany them into the change journey.

A good practice is to adopt a “train the trainer” approach. You may build a training documentation and train “local heroes” who will then be in charge of disseminating the change into their local organization. Such an approach really helps to connect the dots with the local needs that you have overlooked.

Finally, you may consider implementing a release process which includes your local subsidiaries. Make sure you listen to them and collect their feedback and requirements on a regular basis. Input your release process with their prioritized and aggregated needs to deliver value on a regular basis.

Feel free to ask your questionS, comment or build on this article

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