When you consider embracing a global venture that stretches across time-zones and continents, it is not just the end result that you need to envisage and plan. It is the route you are going to take, the step-by-step processes you need to put in place so that the project (hopefully) comes to fruition. But before embarking on such a project, we highly recommend that you ask yourself these questions:
- How can we ensure that our requirements are correctly interpreted with so little opportunity to have face to face engagements?
- Can we afford sufficient leeway to reschedule, retest and refinance potential mishaps? IT projects are risky enough without having to deal with volatility of currencies…
- How will we handle conflict, disagreements and unexpected exits? Communication can be a major hurdle in this regard. The understanding of specifications, especially because of their uniqueness in Africa, create problems in translation.
- Do we understand the cultural implications and possibility of red tape?
- How do we manage different time-zones and working hours to establish efficient communication?
- Is there clarity regarding who carries the ultimate authority in dispute situations?
- Do you expect the non-local team to be supportive of your decision in spite of their objections?
- How can we ensure that the limited infrastructure we have in Africa will not negatively influence a system that was designed with overseas technology in mind?
From our conversations with clients who have attempted this route, we have learnt that international business ventures are strewn with very expensive disappointments. They have bought a system because it sounded inexpensive, yet, after a few years had to abandon the supplier. What may seem like a tempting opportunity, especially in terms of costs, mostly turns out to be a financial nightmare. It is great for us, we welcome the new business. But it is bad for the industry. It is bad for our clients who have to wait so long before getting something that works for them.
The most important challenge is hidden in the fact that certain products like funeral group schemes and some business processes like M-Pesa premium collections, are unique to Africa and non-African vendors have to build custom developed solutions for something that is a standard functionality for us.
Isn’t it just so much easier to walk over to someone and sit down for a face-to-face discussion in order to address requests or complications? Just by choosing a local product and company, you have made your life so much easier. There are simply far less obstacles, which immediately raises the bar in terms of success rate. It\’s worth your while to do the research, instead of paying a much higher price, losing precious time and sometimes even inconveniencing your own clients. Picking the right partner that supplies a service or software should make financial and relational sense.
Above all, let’s not forget that in Africa we understand each other. We recognise the heartbeat of our fellow countrymen and together we make Africa great.