We live in an age of economic uncertainty across many countries, and global economic growth has been too slow for too long according to the International Monetary Fund. There are rumblings that governments should be doing more to help businesses expand, with participants in the race for the US presidency calling for the United States to ease restrictive legislation currently placed on businesses; in some parts of the world action is already being taken, with the European Union set to boost cross-border business operations by opening up a Single Digital Market across all its member states.
Government incentives and legislative changes could drive increasing numbers of C-suite executives to plot an expansion of their own over the year ahead. Growing into new markets and regions could be a realistic target for businesses if they can find a way to roll out existing offerings to new markets while simultaneously monitoring changes in the regulatory landscape. So what’s the secret to successful expansion?
By viewing expansions as extra projects to be added into the wider mix, a project portfolio management (PPM) tool may be the key to success. It’s important to take the time to stop, plan, and lay a solid foundation to build upon, and without an easy way to have visibility over all planned activities and how they might work in relation to existing activities, there’s a risk entry to a new market or region could miss the mark in terms of wider business strategy, or even fail to take off altogether. To use PPM to successfully expand, there are three key areas to address before efforts get underway:
- Be clear on targets and KPIs. It’s important to put a clear set of metrics in place so that expansions into new regions and markets can be measured and tracked. Without this, it will prove near-impossible to track progress in a clear, unified manner, something which is crucial when executives from all over the business need to make sense of the updates and progress reports. Without that insight, they will not be able to manage people and resources effectively, or take action to keep things on course. It’s no use kick-starting work before agreeing on these, because there will be no way to tell whether you’re going the right way.
- Plan and budget from the outset. Whether using a PPM tool or not, a pipeline must be built and mapped so that there’s a plan to follow. Not only will it provide a general direction, it will also allow repeatable processes to be implemented and followed, avoiding replication of work where possible and allowing the project to be as quick and painless as possible once it gets underway. Another factor to keep in mind is that the associated costs in new regions could differ from those related to existing territories; to give all parties a good idea about what those are, a budgeting pipeline must be created and shared across the business. Plans change and budgets are affected, but mitigating the reaction to these invariables is key to keeping everyone on the same page from day one.
- Ensure expansion targets map to wider business goals. From the outset, it’s important to think about how activities involved in an expansion will be compatible with the business’ overall strategy and roadmap.
It would be dangerous to add new regions into the mix without developing an understanding of how its introduction will impact the wider ecosystem; for example, will activities involved mean there is a risk existing targets will not be met? If so, there could be a case to be made for revising them where appropriate, and at the very least all parties concerned must be given advance warning about the developing situation.
With a PPM tool, they will be able to analyse the impact an expansion will have, running a scenario analysis and gaining an analytical insight into whether or not wider goals can still be hit. Analysing issues such as pricing levels will allow them to ensure progression in each new region has a positive rather than a negative impact on overall strategy.
In business it’s important to grasp opportunities—such as the launch of the European Single Digital Market—as they arise, or they could slip through your fingers as competitors make the first move or legislation changes. At the same time however, the C-suite cannot afford to jump the gun, or they risk running into stumbling blocks or complete failure. As such, it’s critical to outline clear targets and KPIs, set the budget and roadmap, and ensure efforts link to wider organisational strategy. By setting the parameters before work gets underway, businesses will put themselves in good shape to push on to the next level with a well-executed global expansion.