by Beth Pride
This is the last in a series of guest blogs written for QuestaWeb by Beth Pride, President of BPE Global. Beth is an expert in global trade and logistics with 25+ years of operational experience. She assists her firm’s clients in developing global trade strategies and implementing a strong global trade posture.
Everyone has heard stories where a company received an implementation quote from its technology vendor, however, the project work quickly exceeded the quoted amount and costs continued to mount. No company wants to experience such a situation, yet is there anything a company can do to prevent “cost creep” from happening?
Yes, there are several pieces of advice to keep in mind. One of the most important involves content. The phrase “garbage in, garbage out” could not be truer when it comes to automating a company’s trade compliance processes.
In preparation for automation – or even if already automated but transitioning to different technology – it is important to have a clear understanding of where data elements reside. Key knowledge areas include: What is the system of record for each data element? Who owns those data elements? Who has access to change or update them? And, at what point in the overall timeline are they created and modified?
There is no point in sugar-coating this point, so I’ll just put it out there: Content management is a massive, labor-intensive undertaking. Yet, it is a key success factor in a firm’s evolution toward automation. If you don’t have clean content, you’re going to end up paying more than you expected to get it clean.
In fact, many companies seek to implement an outsourced solution without considering the changes required internally to make that implementation successful. For example, the customer master set-up process often needs to be evaluated, as this data feeds into the screening and licensing part of the GTM solution. However, it rarely is. Customer master records are often messy and inconsistent because no data governance practices are in place when setting up new customer accounts in the ERP system. Names and addresses are input in an inconsistent manner and, when transitioning to new GTM technology, they often pass this messy data on to their solutions provider. As a result, names may be found in address fields, countries may be inputted with two-digit ISO country codes, abbreviated or spelled out. Often, there are thousands of such records that must be reviewed and corrected before pushing the data across to the GTM solution or the GTM system will not be able to do what it was designed to do.
Another example is requirements definition. Too often companies don’t know what they really need in their GTM system. Here, the implementation takes on a life of its own as the GTM solution provider tries to work with the firm to get to the bottom of things. I cannot overstate the importance of convening a trade compliance team (see Part 3) that thoroughly defines the system requirements prior to engaging the GTM solutions vendor.
There are a host of other factors companies should consider relative to the cost of implementing a GTM solution. Remember, the task of preparing to automate compliance activities will likely become a full-time job for a staff person who already has a full-time job with other responsibilities. It is important to anticipate this eventuality and plan for it. Otherwise, both sets of responsibilities will suffer.
Companies intending to implement a GTM solution also must be thoughtful when scheduling the implementation. Plan ahead and select a time frame that does not overlap with other peak work periods, such as quarter-end and year-end. The inability to be available to the vendor due to competing demands is a common contributor to cost overruns. And, be sure to designate backup leaders for essential team roles in case of personnel turnover. Delays created by personnel changes also will result in increased implementation costs.
Remember, too, that GTM solutions provide a great deal of functionality. Many companies don’t realize that they will need multiple phases to complete their GTM implementation and fully leverage all the capability the purchased system offers. In other words, firms often implement only a fraction of the functionality their system offers. It’s common, for example, for global corporations to implement restricted party screening only for its business unit in the United States, rather than across all its business units worldwide. Implementing a truly global GTM solution is a long-term process, but far too often, the process is initiated and never fully rolled out. It takes development of a business-wide, global strategy and committed resources to utilize every function available from a GTM solution.