You are the company’s IT Director and the Business Development Director comes into your office and says, “Great News, the deal with Big Global Manufacturer has come through and I need you to get ready to deploy our solution and integrate into their backend in 60 days. They have operations in North America, Europe, South America, and India.”
At first you’re pleasantly shocked that this time Biz Dev actually gave you 60 days to respond to a key business decision. However that feeling quickly wears off when you start to think about ramifications of deploying, integrating, and supporting a global solution.
If you find yourself in this situation I recommend a 2 track analysis:
Track 1 – Business requirement analysis with Biz Dev team with the focus on internationalization requirements
Track 2 – Internationalization capability analysis with your solutions vendor and internal IT department.
The truth is that if your shop is operating an enterprise or best of breed solution, you will be in better shape than home grown proprietary solution. Here is a point list to start your analysis.
- Language support for front end systems, middleware and backend systems – Specifically look for non-Latin1/double-byte character set support.
- Currency support – What are the requirements for currency formatting and for currency conversion? Conversion rates and requirements to report in a common currency are usually were the complexity will reside.
- Date/Time formatting – What are the requirements to capture, display, report, and perform date math? Use of various global date formats can often result in presentation and processing problems.
- Time Zones – Operating systems, databases, and individual workstations all have a different concept of system date and time. I guarantee you will have hours of discussion and analysis on time zone related topics.
- Personal Identity Information (PII) – PII is a global concern but is highly restricted in the European Union. There is a lot to read on this topic so do your homework.
- Taxes – What are the requirements to capture and processes local taxes. Tax processing is very complex. Try to avoid local tax and value added tax (VAT) processing whenever possible.
- Forms and Documents – In many countries specific forms are required to be printed for consumers, shipping carriers, and tax jurisdictions. Make sure you get examples early in the analysis.
- Hardware/Hosting – The key items of concern here are scalability to the new volume and determining how global processing will impact your maintenance windows.
- Integration Methods – Integrations are not specifically a I18N issue, but while you are in deep analysis you might as well analyze the integration methods, security requirements, data formatting, and exception processing. Your team will spend a significant amount of the project timeline developing and testing integration components.
Equally important to analyzing your business and system requirements is a self-evaluation on your capacity to support the global operations. 24 x7 operations and time zone mismatches for meetings are not easily managed. Along with your staffing plan institute a robust incident tracking system and solid change management process. Both pay back tenfold.