The Challenges of Local System Design for Multinationals: The MaxFli Sales Force Automation System at BAT
Overview (Class Discussion Case)
Large multinational corporations are designed to leverage economic efficiencies in economy of scale and economy of scope across geographic regions. These efficiencies are challenged when local market tastes, business processes, or regulations render a one-size-fits-all solution suboptimal. In contrast, locally-tailored solutions may fail to leverage best practice, cost efficiencies, and consistent management of brands and processes. Business change initiatives often purposefully target changes in local processes, but when these changes are embedded in IT, the technology is often blamed for “not fitting the way we do business.”
The case illustrates these issues by focusing on a custom systems development project – “MaxFli” – for a sales force automation system that is needed in a number of local countries (end markets) of a large multinational company (BAT). It is part of a business change initiative for implementing best practice among a field sales force and gathering decision-making data. The MaxFli project takes a decidedly “decentralized” approach to development; this initiative follows a prior “centralized” project that had been poorly received in the end markets. The case chronicles the decision to build MaxFli in one end market, the challenges with development and vendor partners, and its successful implementation in that market, followed by considerable difficulties of migrating this locally-developed solution to other end markets that face a different set of competitive and geographic realities.
The central question of this case study forces students to consider what factors favor end-market or centralized development in multinationals. Students are also forced to reconcile how the same set of technology and best practices yielded vastly different results in different countries. The... [continues]
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