The international business community has never been more intertwined and interdependent than it is today. Not only do brands work with vendors across the globe and rely on a supply chain network that can weave across multiple continents, but even internal teams might be collaborating remotely from locations thousands of miles apart. This multinational business environment exposes companies to unique risks in each area of the world. From economic risks to regulatory compliance to natural disasters – not to mention operational and financial risks associated with the inability to efficiently manage a global business network – the business community is being challenged by this interconnectivity, and the tech community is stepping up to relieve those concerns.
Perhaps one of the most critical and exciting ways that the tech community, particularly in the SaaS space, is addressing the challenges of a global business landscape is by enabling collaboration. Surprisingly, many of the world’s most well-recognized international brands are still using outdated manual processes at multiple points in the product lifecycle. Email and Excel sheets are still the cornerstones of sourcing, development, order management and even ideation – despite the fact that very few believe that those are the best tools for the job. While “agile” might be a buzzword in the startup community, it’s a concept that has yet to be universally implemented across the business community at large.
Agility is key when it comes to collaborating across borders, time zones, cultures and economies. The consequences of a cumbersome processes like trading Excel sheets could range from missing the boat on the next season’s trends, to the inability to process critical last-minute requests.
Tech solutions and big data are coming to the rescue in this time of need. Taking a cue from the consumer world, more tech solutions are offering ways for brands to collaborate at every stage of the product lifecycle. Perhaps most importantly, tech is shifting product lifecycle management (PLM) away from being a linear process to achieve greater efficiency within global communities. In doing so, teams can share ideas and advice on trends, markets and big stories, speeding up time to market and empowering better operational decisions. For example, a product designer may adjust his or her design after learning from a supplier that a specific color of material is growing in popularity this season – something that traditionally doesn’t happen until the product is already made, requiring expensive and time-consuming revisions.
Another challenge of global interconnectivity is the unpredictability of various forces that can affect business. A mom and pop bakery in New York doesn’t need to worry about the labor and regulatory environment in Bangladesh, but a multinational apparel brand does. By considering all inputs of the creation process up front, companies can avoid issues like creating products that factories can’t make or items that won’t work in certain markets.
The business community at large needs to embrace this kind of dynamic discovery and co-creation in order to thrive in the global marketplace. By using tech to cross the chasm and get past outdated development processes, multinational companies will become empowered to work together to get the best, most innovative products to market. In a world that is increasingly connected, it only makes sense to connect your partners, processes and team.
A veteran of the tech startup world, Sue Welch is the founder and CEO of Bamboo Rose, a B2B digital marketplace. Welch is committed to bringing the world of product development and sourcing to par with how consumers shop for goods through a collaborative platform that enables digital sourcing and is driven by trade engines. Follow Sue at @SueWelch and Bamboo Rose at @GoBambooRose.