Given the rise in international commerce over recent years, we are witnessing more and more organisations’ striving to replicate success in their base countries by branching out to wider markets. It is clear that location is key whichever market is selected and remote locations only serve to exacerbate the issue. Standardisation of workflows, data formats and internal processes all serve to improve chances of success, however the raw data and geography of the markets themselves often provide the first hurdle.
Geoplan has observed that the practical reality of operating across foreign markets hits home for many business when identifying opportunities and structuring internal operations to cater for them. Organisations, irrespective of the industry, will generally need to have an understanding of their customer locations, territory boundaries to sell or serve the market, and postcode boundaries with which to map sales performance to name just a few.
Issues often emerge with companies struggling to validate their approach to foreign sales territories, failing to select optimal locations and engaging in ineffective resource deployment. Businesses often possess significant amounts of data, but without the ability to visualise this data and accurately interpret the results, it can be challenging to succeed.
Our strength lies in helping clients to leverage the data available by applying our expertise and knowledge; thus converting a strategic vision into a commercially profitable reality. The Geoplan approach is geared towards getting the best return from the resource applied wherever that resource may be; by visualising markets in their early stages and developing systems that aid efficient resource deployment.
The international picture with respect to geography can be as diverse as cultural differences;
- In general, Western Europe operates in a similar way to the UK, but there is no unified body overseeing postcode systems, and the level of detail and recency available varies. EU for instance, has not harmonised the approach of member states.
- Looking globally, countries such as South Africa, Brazil and Romania operate.varied systems. Compared to more familiar approaches, some offer obscure or incomplete postcode systems.
- Hong Kong has no system at all, and Eire will launch a nationwide alphanumeric system in 2011.
- The level of detail also varies widely between countries with some systems operating up to seven digits as in the UK, with other countries operating a system of just two or three digits.
Challenges associated with usage and integration
The accuracy and consistency of postcode systems presents another challenge for businesses operating across national boundaries – it’s not only the postcode systems that vary, but also the function of the postcode differs from county to country.
- Some countries, such as the UK, treat the postcode system as imperative, whilst others simply include it as an optional element of the address.
- For the uninitiated, these considerations can be extremely time consuming and add significantly to the risk of working internationally. Build in the level of experience we can offer at Geoplan, however, and it’s possible to make each national postcode system work to your advantage.
Whilst accuracy and consistency of usage will always be a key consideration, Geoplan are able to recognise and cater for other important factors to assist with international expansion and subsequent analysis;
- Language- It is clear that the benefits of geographical analysis can only be fully appreciated if the systems are available in a language appropriate to the market.
- Deployment- The financial and practical costs associated with manual deployment of software cannot be underestimated; online and download options are therefore often preferable.
- Standardisation of Workflows- A significant amount of waste can be generated through misunderstandings where different markets operate mismatched workflows. Efficiencies with respect to communication and output can be definitively enhanced through standardisation in this area.
- Data Structures and Format- Different offices based in the same market can easily resort to different formats, so the likelihood of this occurring in different markets is high. Efforts to standardise the format can save time, financial investment and resource providing immediate benefit.
Achieve international reach with expert experience from Geoplan
Our typical customers have a disparate customer base, communicated with and served by large field-based operations, distribution networks or marketing spend, with a high potential for waste.
Unfamiliar markets and postode systems only serve to further challenge businesses, although the potential reward warrants the risk. A recent project example is detailed below.
TNT Express- Mini Case Study
Organisations like TNT Express are under increasing pressure to standardise, in an attempt to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Geoplan recently worked with TNT to create a bespoke Mapping Bridge Tool to generate delivery rounds, using a standardised approach. It offers user-friendly, customised interface that imports stop and delivery round data from a separate database. The Tool enables the user to view deliveries at individual depot and round level. Stops can be overlaid, with the ability to filter on particular types of products and delivery services and the ability to analyse the picture according to the day of the week. The result is a system which has delivered the standardised system TNT were looking for, reducing costs with a fast and seamless deployment into each business territory.
- South Africa- Geoplan recently overcame some of these challenges presented for a project in South Africa, which operates a completely different system based on a combination of PO Box and Street, for security purposes. The problem for businesses unfamiliar with it is that it does not represent an official and authorised geography, postcode data in South Africa is not contiguous, and is therefore difficult to work with. The system is still evolving, so expert knowledge provides real competitive advantage.
- Hong Kong and Ireland- The mapping project also focused on Hong Kong and Ireland, where as noted above, there are no postcode systems at all. The challenge was to provide a means of planning and adjusting delivery rounds, and our approach used a Geoplan customised designed tool to build new and bespoke geographical boundaries clustered around a set of points. This now ensures that the client can operate a standardised approach which functions worldwide, irrespective of the location and ensures service delivery objectives are met.
Our experience in location analysis for business planning, irrespective of the location, is proving key to helping many businesses build their markets internationally. Whether the driver is growth or efficiency, the Geoplan approach is geared towards getting the best return from the resource applied, wherever in the world that needs to be.