International rollouts: strategies for managing change

The final installment of our expert guide to global rollouts looks at rollouts in action. Our best practices will help you ensure positive change management.

In Part Two of our guide to how to prepare for international rollouts, we explored how training can be optimized to ensure streamlined communication, and more effective integration of new solutions. In this final part of our series on global rollouts, we’ll look at rollouts in practice. Part Three brings you a guide to the best practices for successful change management and implementation during your international rollout, so you can minimize friction, maximize efficiency and successfully apply solutions across multiple geographies.

1. Evaluate Complexity

There are two important axes that contribute to complexity in an international rollout. The first is parallelization: the necessity to rollout in more than one country at once rather than sequentially, due to time restraints, similarities between countries or other specific needs. The second is localization: the necessity to adapt your product for specific geographies, which involves additional development work, resource allocation and expenditure. The compound effect of these two factors at play at the same time (localization and parallelization) is exponential complexity. Therefore, it’s crucial to assess complexity at the outset against these two axes in order to correctly allocate resources and budgets and determine realistic timescales. This involves examining factors including the number of countries, the go-live date, and the similarities between those countries. Complexity will always have consequences for your international rollout - so be sure to assess and account for it accordingly.

2. Aim For A Strong Initial Template

Another key success factor of your international rollout is the quality of the initial template that you implement first. It’s usually best to invest the time, funds and energy early in order to make the first version of your solution as stable as possible, rather than going live with something that still needs significant work upon customer interaction: think of this like a ‘banana template’ that requires ‘ripening’. A successful template relies on a profound understanding of your most important countries; a solid time investment in collecting requirements; a realistic and sufficient budget. Regardless of what you’re implementing, whether it’s a web solution, analytics or CRM system, aim to create an initial template which you have confidence in, and that requires only the minimum necessary adaptation after the first go-live.

3. Account for Localization

Though it’s preferable to aim for an initial template that’s 100% ready for implementation, there will invariably be rollouts in which localization is necessary: meaning the initial template will form around 80% of the final solution. If this is the case, an agile approach which contains a growth structure to account for the remaining 20% of your implementation, the localization part, will be needed. This should include an awareness of complex development needs caused by continuous updates to your product or solution, which can easily multiply as local and central teams are forced to divide attention between multiple sequences, geographies and iterations. It’s still best to aim for the most complete template possible, but if that’s not possible, be aware of the time, energy and costs which will be necessary to ensure localization and positive user experiences in each country. Thus, success in international rollouts lies in finding the right balance between making the first version the best it can be, and leaving space for agile corrections later. The answer to this will, of course, be unique to each project.

4. Manage Expectations Carefully

Frequently, the principal success factor for international rollouts is the number of countries that have the new solution in place. Though a useful measurement of success, this benchmark can often lead to over-ambitious promises about the number of countries it’s feasible to go-live in within a period of time. A significant element of effective change management is setting practical goals and managing expectations to ensure transparency about the rollout process, and avoid disappointment and tension. This needs to be achieved alongside a common understanding that when bringing a new product to multiple locations, you’ll be implementing the best solution for the company overall, not the best solution for everyone (otherwise you’d simply choose individual tailor-made solutions). This means the process will contain unavoidable compromises, though these can be minimized through change and expectation management. All parties must be prepared for realistic timelines and outcomes, and aware the final product will be a ‘best-fit’ option: not a tailor-made solution for each geography but rather a standard solution to be applied everywhere with small adjustments.

5. Effective Communication Between Central and Local Teams

Large-scale global rollouts will frequently necessitate a structure comprised of a local team, (often the service organization in the country) and a centralized development team. Streamlined and thoughtful communication between these two parties, from beginning to end, is vital to the success of an international rollout. This will help you to reach a balance between the individual needs of the country that are expressed by the local team, and the development feasibility and overarching capacity as decided by the central team. Increasingly, agile project management is offering opportunities to increase efficiency and productivity in rollout management. This might involve the creation of user stories, work packages which can be put in sequence and followed, adequate training of local teams to collect feedback and requirements in a streamlined way. It includes the application of systems that ensure high-quality local requests to remove unnecessary back-and-forth between two parties, as well as the selection of appropriate applications and online tools for that communication. Creating a transparent, structured and streamlined communications pathways between local and central teams is a key factor in achieving positive outcomes in your international rollout.

6. Create A Central Toolkit

To further support your optimized communication flows, a central toolkit can strongly influence the quality of rollout. A toolkit means a comprehensive centralized bank of documents and information, which can be accessed and employed by all parties, and put to use at specific moments in the timeline. This digitized walkthrough system allows you to coordinate multiple countries at once without the need for direct communication, saving time and friction along the way. In addition, this leads to improved transparency and involvement overall since the technical details of a rollout will be documented in a standardized way for all parties to utilize. This is particularly effective when employed in conjunction with a well-established work sequence for each country that can be scaled and re-applied multiple times by the same teams if necessary. Creating a toolkit means content, explanations and resources can be reused in each new geography, and optimized each time too. A central toolkit can empower your teams with the information, resources, and autonomy to realize your global rollout to their best abilities.

7. Have A Clear Escalation Strategy

When designing a communication strategy for your rollout, there should always be a flow of direction from top to bottom. The top level here represents the central team, whose direction and decision making will always be applied to local teams and projects. This approach needs to be applied along with a clearly defined escalation strategy that provides local teams with a pathway to discuss and resolve issues with the central team. Without this, local country-based teams will simply make independent decisions, devolve and alter the direction of your rollout. A communication structure such as this ensures central teams have the authority to keep local teams on track and manage any problems that arise via a transparent and pre-defined escalation structure.

8. Don’t Overlook the Post-Rollout Phase

A defining feature of a successful international rollout is that, once you’ve gone live with the new solution, the company or client isn’t simply left alone. A rollout must be seen as a holistic process which includes aftercare that incorporates the needs that arise following the go-live. Indeed, the post-implementation phase is just as important as all other phases in terms of ensuring positive customer experiences and avoiding dips in productivity and functionality. Of course, building a service structure, making agile adjustments and internal after-care are costly and timely and therefore will need to be considered from the start of your rollout.

Anticipating International Rollouts: A Conclusion

Planning for, implementing and managing international rollouts, in particular if they involve localization and parallelization, will present multiple challenges and complexities to any organization looking to implement new solutions in a number of geographies. Local needs must be balanced against central practicalities; sensitivity to particular countries’ users must be achieved as well as overarching consistency during implementation; time, resources and teams must be expertly managed against the backdrop of time constraints and deadlines; and user experiences must not be compromised in the process. The best practices in Part Three of our extensive guide to Anticipating International Rollouts provide expert guidelines for tackling these unique and complex issues.

Netcentric brings years of knowledge and expertise to delivering bespoke solutions for some of the world’s most recognizable brands worldwide. We have supported leading organizations in international rollouts in order to streamline internal flows and optimize user experiences, to help our clients position themselves at the forefront of digital experiences.