The Global Firm
The new era of globalization allows any business to become international. By accessing this new platform of technologies, Castells’s vision of working as a unit in real time on a planetary scale can be a reality. Some of the advantages of this include the following:
- The ability to locate expertise and labor around the world. Instead of drawing employees from their local area, organizations can now hire people from the global labor pool. This also allows organizations to pay a lower labor cost for the same work based on the prevailing wage in different countries.
- The ability to operate 24 hours a day. With employees in different time zones all around the world, an organization can literally operate around the clock, handing off work on projects from one part of the world to another. Businesses can also keep their digital storefront (their website) open all the time.
- A larger market for their products. Once a product is being sold online, it is available for purchase from a worldwide consumer base. Even if a company’s products do not appeal beyond its own country’s borders, being online has also made the product more visible to consumers within that country.
In order to fully take advantage of these new capabilities, companies need to understand that there are also challenges in dealing with employees and customers from different cultures. Some of these challenges include:
- Infrastructure differences. Each country has its own infrastructure, many of which are not of the same quality as the US infrastructure (average 4.60 MBps). For every South Korea (16 MBps average speed) there is an Egypt (0.83 MBps) or an India (0.82 MBps). A business cannot depend on every country it deals with having the same Internet speeds. See the sidebar called “How Does My Internet Speed Compare?”
- Labor laws and regulations. Different countries (even different states in the United States) have different laws and regulations. A company that wants to hire employees from other countries must understand the different regulations and concerns.
- Legal restrictions. Many countries have restrictions on what can be sold or how a product can be advertised. It is important for a business to understand what is allowed. For example, in Germany, it is illegal to sell anything Nazi related; in China, it is illegal to put anything sexually suggestive online.
- Language, customs, and preferences. Every country has its own (or several) unique culture(s), which a business must consider when trying to market a product there. Additionally, different countries have different preferences. For example, in some parts of the world, people prefer to eat their french fries with mayonnaise instead of ketchup; in other parts of the world, specific hand gestures (such as the thumbs-up) are offensive.
- International shipping. Shipping products between countries in a timely manner can be challenging. Inconsistent address formats, dishonest customs agents, and prohibitive shipping costs are all factors that must be considered when trying to deliver products internationally.
Because of these challenges, many businesses choose not to expand globally, either for labor or for customers. Whether a business has its own website or relies on a third-party, such as Amazon or eBay, the question of whether or not to globalize must be carefully considered.
Sidebar: How Does My Internet Speed Compare?
How does your Internet speed compare with others in your state, country, or around the world? The chart below shows how Internet speeds compare in different countries. You can find the full list of countries by going to this article (http://royal.pingdom.com/2010/11/12/real-connection-speeds-for-internet-users-across-the-world/). You can also compare the evolution of Internet speeds among countries by using this tool (http://www.akamai.com/stateoftheinternet/).
So how does your own Internet speed compare? There are many online tools you can use to determine the speed at which you are connected. One of the most trusted sites is speedtest.net, where you can test both your download speeds and upload speeds.