While expanding overseas can deliver enormous benefits for New Zealand businesses, it can also bring a number of IT challenges.
“New Zealand companies looking to expand into overseas markets must consider the key IT challenges and put a plan in place to overcome them before investing significantly in expansion,” says Stuart Mills, regional director A/NZ, CenturyLink.
According to Mills, the six key IT challenges for New Zealand multinational companies are:
1. Technology limitations
Not every country has a fast, reliable broadband network, especially if the company is looking to expand into developing markets.
“It is essential for organisations to realise that technology limitations can severely curtail the business’s ability to communicate effectively and do business professionally,” Mills says.
2. Cyber risks
Some countries face more cyber crime than others due to a variety of factors, and international companies can prove irresistible to determined hackers.
“The solution is to undertake a careful risk assessment, followed by implementing thorough threat prevention measures,” Mills adds.
“Companies shouldn’t assume that a firewall and anti-virus software will suffice; hackers are too sophisticated for these measures alone to stop them.”
Mills believes Kiwi companies should put in place a comprehensive threat detection strategy that uncovers and neutralises malicious activity before it can affect operations.
“This includes being aware of local employees’ actions,” he adds. “Whether intentionally or accidentally, employees are often the weakest link in an organisation’s security measures.’
3. Illegal information transmission
Different countries have different rules regarding appropriate and legal communication.
In some countries, simply sharing a picture on social media is grounds for serious legal ramifications even though that same picture, in another country, would be considered completely innocuous.
“Company management must understand the laws and cultural expectations of the countries they’re working in to avoid inadvertently breaking the law,” Mills adds.
“This could mean putting in place clear acceptable-use policies for employee communication and internet use, and enforcing them.”
The technology that’s perfect for one location may not be suitable for another because of market conditions or industry-standard systems used by suppliers and customers.
“Companies should take a global approach to technology and standardise on the solutions that are appropriate for the most locations,” Mills adds.
“Where it is essential to use a niche solution in a particular location, make sure you have local resources to integrate, manage, and maintain the solution.”
5. Maintenance and upgrades
Maintaining and upgrading systems may be more difficult depending on what is available in a country, and how difficult it may be to deliver hardware and software to remote locations.
For Mills, it is not always practical to have an in-house IT professional at each location to install new hardware or infrastructure, for example.
“This is where cloud-based options prove their worth for multinational companies,” Mills adds.
“It lets them minimise the amount of hardware on-site, and can simplify software delivery and troubleshooting.”
Many companies struggle to maintain a standardised approach to infrastructure and application deployment in overseas locations, given their most skilled people are usually located in New Zealand.
“Where possible, it can be valuable to employ local resources that can troubleshoot and manage systems,” Mills adds.
“Companies should plan and budget for New Zealand staff to travel to overseas locations where necessary.
“And they can minimise the infrastructure required in these locations, for example, by using thin client and as-a-Service technology.”