Going Global

Feature Article | November 3, 2008 by Stephan de Maria, freelance journalist in Schwetzingen, Germany

The current financial crisis has brought the complexity of today’s global business crashing into the public’s view. The intricate systems through which goods and money move around the world suddenly becomes more apparent when the system starts to stutter.

Globalization has many faces: The right business-process mapping and the right IT systems are just two. Global corporations in every industry – as well as small business and midsize companies with an international outlook – are seeking ways to execute their SAP projects and step up to the current challenges.

Representatives from across the SAP ecosystem came together to look for answers at the two-day symposium in Salzburg. The Globalization Steering Committee, a conglomerate of international SAP user groups currently headed by the German-speaking SAP User Group, DSAG, hosted the event, setting out a variety of globalization-related topics such as implementations, maintenance, and project management. SAP’s representatives included Elena Ordoñez del Campo, head of SAP Globalization Services, and José Duarte, president and CEO of the company’s operations in Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA).

“We primarily want our members to exchange ideas and support one another,” says DSAG board member Otto Schell, currently chairperson of the GSC. He notes that many of the companies in DSAG’s Globalization work group and other international user groups are facing similar tasks and would benefit from sharing their experiences in more detail. “Companies still need more information about all current aspects of global business. Everyone needs to put hard facts on the table if we are going to start actively influencing the situation. We have not seen enough of that yet,” he says.

Most participants still hesitate to share too many of their experiences, so Schell is looking to strengthen the trust between members of the user groups: “When we start talking about real problems and costs, and the lessons we have learned, we can start working on proposing alternatives. Trust will add value for everyone.”

Global perspective on upcoming tasks

For companies looking to achieve globalization, the most pressing topics are harmonizing process and system architecture, increasing efficiency, minimizing costs, technical Unicode and conversion scenarios, SAP country versions, and the implementation of global service-oriented-architecture strategies in both heterogeneous and homogenous system landscapes. SAP’s response to these issues is a service portfolio comprising three areas: internationalization, localization, and translation.

“We help companies break their global business down into local levels, while still keeping to their global strategic direction,” says Ordoñez del Campo. This starts with simple measures, such as enabling support for multiple languages, automatic currency conversion, and Unicode-enabled systems. SAP offers localized systems for over 50 countries. These systems map the unique legal requirements for each country. Because they are preconfigured for specific countries, companies can implement them in their subsidiaries and be up and running in a new country as simply as possible. “Employees can work with systems much more effectively when the user interface is in their own language,” notes Ordoñez del Campo.

Foreign trade is the other topic inextricably linked to globalization. Here, SAP offers the application SAP GRC Global Trade Services to help companies efficiently ensure the compliance of their foreign-trade transactions. Microsoft, for example, uses it to check more than one million transactions per month to ensure compliance with foreign trade and customs regulations.

Success and teamwork

SAP’s CEO for EMEA, Duarte, emphasized how important it is for companies to form strong business networks with their business partners. In the face of the dog-eat-dog reality of global business, companies need new responses to increased risks and shrinking resources. Most of all, they need to increase their ability to react quickly at all levels of their organizations. Duarte cited his keys to building the successful companies of tomorrow: innovation, performance, people, and nonconformity – all elements that SAP takes very seriously.

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