10 essentials when delivering global programmes

As companies thrive and grow, more programmes are deploying change on a multi-national or global scale. Global delivery is different and potentially more challenging. To help understand these challenges, we’ve brought together the experience and advice of several people involved in leading and managing such change, and asked them for their top 10 tips.

1. Align central and local leadership

Programmes trying to implement broadly-common change into diverse business units depend on committed and capable leadership:

  • Central leadership providing the vision, support and enablement
  • Local leadership providing the context and knowledge for implementation and benefits realisation.

If this dynamic isn’t effective it leads to stress, conflict and resistance. For a programme implementing across national and cultural boundaries, this risk is amplified many times over.

There’s no substitute here for key people spending the time, face-face, fostering local understanding and ownership of the change, and getting this planned in as early as possible.

Simple things such as holding key meetings in different places can really help.

2. Invest in building a global team

Change is all about people. More specifically, it’s about teams of people working together, efficiently and with a shared objective.

For a global programme you need a global team:

  • Start by identifying those key events and activities where you really need the team working and pulling together
  • Build the fact that you’re bringing the team together into the plans and the budgets for all those involved.

Key events might be where you are looking at:

  • Programme definition
  • Programme mobilisation
  • Development and deployment plans
  • Solution design meetings.

With a single location this is easy. But it’s not easy with key business teams in the USA and UK, and the Executive in Paris.

Careful planning in this area will pay huge dividends in the long run.

3. Get the right people in the right place

There’s a right place for everyone.

Co-locate functional teams such as finance teams or HR teams, where possible. It’s just so much more efficient if you do.

Give consideration to where the deployment teams are based and where possible, get them as close to the in-country teams they are deploying to as is possible.

Also locate key coordinating roles where time differences are manageable.

Every programme has it’s own structure and approach but think about where teams need to be, right at the start. Getting this right reduces regional, language and cultural issues, as well as cost, time and stress.

4. Be clear on the deployment approach

A feature of programme deployment that is often overlooked is the style or approach.

At one extreme is the pull model where the solution is created centrally and each country then takes the product in a time that suits their business.

The benefit is great engagement and happy customers.

The down-side is that it can hugely increase the deployment timescales and therefore cost.

The other extreme is a push model where the programme gains the mandate to tell the countries they have to take the new product—and when they have to do so.

This drives the timescales hard (and therefore contains the cost), however it can put a stress on the relationships with these countries.

When thinking where you want to be between these two extremes, a big factor to consider is actually the product itself.

A fantastic new product that everyone desperately wants and is in reality straight-forward to implement, is going to get much more buy-in than a new product that replaces something that works perfectly for them today.

Working more towards a “pull” model with a few larger countries and a “push” model with the many smaller countries might be a good hybrid model.

Whatever the approach, sponsorship is key to making it work.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Good sponsors and programme managers know that as well as keeping key stakeholders informed, aligned and on-board, there are may others that need varying degrees of understanding about:

  • The programme: why it’s being done, what it’s doing and how it’s doing it
  • The status of the programme: what are the key risks, what are the upcoming milestones, what is the deployment status?

Good communications keeps the programme moving forward, poor communication can cause it to stop.

It’s worth putting much more emphasis on communication that you might do with a local programme as you factor in:

  • The fact that deployment is not being done at the same time to all, so what people need to know at any point in time will be different
  • Language for the programme may be standard across the organisation, but not across the receiving countries
  • One style of communication may not fit all cultural nuances
  • Time-zone differences may make communication more problematic

Getting this communication right just makes everything else so much easier.

6. Make the sequence work for all

The sequence of implementation can sometimes be a given.

Where it is not, there are a couple of competing options that you might want to think through.

Big ones first

Where you’re driving hard on the benefits and where the larger countries are pulling for the change, a version of the 80:20 rule allows you to prioritise the larger countries first and then deal with the longer tail of smaller ones.

This potentially gets the bigger benefits delivered earlier and allows the programme to develop the solutions and approaches that will be used later, for the smaller countries.

Small ones first

But why take a big risk? An alternative approach is to trial the implementation on one or two smaller countries, testing and improving the way that it is done, in preparation for the larger, more complex implementations later.

Both approaches have their merit and if you are fortunate enough to have a choice, exploring variations on these options is a very useful exercise.

7. Build flexibility into the plans

Most stakeholders want an end to end plan for the entire programme up front.

This is rarely practical but a good planning approach for all large programmes is to ‘hard lock’ the next quarter and ‘soft lock’ the remaining plan.

This then allows the delivery teams to drive the next quarter at pace and allow a necessary level of flexibility beyond that.

This approach works well for global programmes because it allows for the inevitable challenges with local culture, approaches and legislation that will arise.

Focus on the next quarter and make the larger, more complex countries become the anchor points in your plan.

8. Make the solution appropriate for all

Every country is different and in so many different ways. Here are some of the common differences that can trip you up:


Many global programmes will be deploying one product or solution as a part of some organisation-wide standardisation.

If that is the case then care has to be taken to ensure the solution itself is ‘plug-and-play’ so that subsequent changes are manageable and containable.

This has much to do with the scope of the standard solution and the flexible way it deals with local, less-standardised solutions.


Despite much change over the past decade, technical infrastructures still vary significantly. You might be wise to anticipate performance challenges with issues such as authentication and cloud based IT solutions.

A service based in the UK will give very different results in South Africa or the USA.


There has been a lot of regulatory harmonisation in recent years, but the rules and protocols still vary a lot.

Early engagement with these aspects of any solution are vital if delays and costs are to be minimised.

9. Balance the requirements

The centre may be pushing hard for a simple set of capabilities in the solution, common to all the countries that will use it.

This keeps the complexity of the solution manageable, helping on both the cost and schedule pressures.

Local leadership may be pushing hard for local variances to be built in to the solution, to keep implementation as simple as possible.

Adopting these local variances will complicate the solution, increase the cost and possibly delay the implementation.

It will also increase the cost of later changes to the solution. There is a massive balancing act to be worked through.

This is in the remit of the Design Authority, that central team that owns the design and is accountable to the steering group for these issues.

Make sure you have a strong lead and the right representation for them to be successful.

10. Get the right help

The involvement of suppliers and partners is potentially more complex when you’re asking them to support global delivery and deployment.

Whilst the bulk of external involvement may be in designing and building the central solution, the need for local support means the procurement teams have their work cut out.

They need to be very clear on the different areas where support is needed.

They also need to allow flexibility in who will provide that support. Not every supplier or partner can act globally.

You may not always need a one-size-fits all model; splitting suppliers by regions or functions is fine, so long as you manage and drive the integrated solution and plan from the centre.

POSTED BY: David Knappett - Consulting Director

CONTACT: david.knappett@projectone.com

View the author's team profile page

Get in touch