SmartAdvice: Businesses Wise To Set Acceptable-Use Internet Policies - InformationWeek

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11/30/2005
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SmartAdvice: Businesses Wise To Set Acceptable-Use Internet Policies

It's important to spell out what can and can't be downloaded on company PCs, The Advisory Council says. Also, be prepared to manage the cultural differences to succeed in doing business in China.

Question B: What cultural and people factors are important to consider when building IT capabilities to support manufacturing factory and retail operations in China?

Our advice: The move of manufacturing operations to China has forced IT executives to stretch to meet the needs of the business and manage operations from thousands of miles away. This is complicated by issues of language, culture, regulations, and varying degrees of service offerings. The greatest challenge for a CIO in supporting operations from thousands of miles away is to find, select, and manage the people involved with this expanded business.

The people you work with in China will be coming from a culture very different than your own. Failing to take into account cultural challenges when supporting IT for manufacturing or retail operations in China can derail even the most well thought out plans. Understanding the principles of guanxi and mianzi will help you navigate the cultural landscape in China.

Loosely translated, guanxi in Mandarin means "relationships." An increased focus on relationship building will increase staff loyalty, comfort, and trust -- attributes necessary for all business relations in China regardless of whether you are the boss, customer, or employer.

Mianzi is the need, similar in many cultures, to save face. In the very hierarchical Chinese culture it is important to not lose your temper, openly confront an individual in a group, put someone on the spot, act arrogantly, or offer an inappropriate level of respect for a position.

The Chinese IT talent pool is vast, but finding an appropriate IT administrator who fits the unique aspects of your business should be a priority. Being able to determine education and experience equivalencies, evaluate language skills, vet U.S. cultural knowledge, and understand an individual's ability to influence and effectively manage a local Chinese team will be a challenge. Working with local recruiting specialists that have relationships and experience in finding internationally minded staff could save significant time and effort.

With an 11-hour difference between the one standard Chinese time zone and U.S. Eastern Standard Time, IT resources managing the Chinese staff would require one or both teams to work either early or late. The Chinese IT staff should feel as though they're valued as part of the overall organization, and this adjustment in work hours also needs to be taken into account to avoid staff burnout here as well as abroad.

In dealing with an international IT staff, more communication is far superior to less. Since the overwhelming majority of Chinese learn English from other Chinese, communication with a Chinese IT manager will require a U.S. IT executive to carefully plan communications, speak slowly and, whenever possible, use little slang, idioms, or American sports metaphors to avoid confusion. Ongoing English-language training of your Chinese IT staff will help in communications in the long run.

With a focus on the people and an understanding of the culture, a CIO in China can begin to focus on the other aspects of supporting Chinese manufacturing and retail operations, namely the technology, telecom, and regulatory issues and begin to provide significant value to the overall organization.


Related Links

CIA World Factbook on China

Executive Planet: Doing Business In China

USA-China Chamber Of Commerce


-- David Ross


Stephen Rood, TAC Expert, has more than 24 years experience in the IT field specializing in developing and implementing strategic-technology plans for organizations as well as senior project-management and help-desk operations review. His consulting experience has included designing and implementing a state-of-the-art emergency-911 call center for Newark, N.J., and managing technology refreshes for a major nonprofit entertainment organization and a large, regional food broker. He also worked at Coopers & Lybrand, General Foods, and Survey Research. He is the author of the book "Computer Hardware Maintenance: An IS/IT Manager's Guide," that presents a model for containing costs of hardware maintenance.

David Ross, TAC Expert, has more than 10 years technology experience, specializing in outsourcing, off-shoring, global sourcing, and project management. He focuses on serving IT, call center, and business-processes clients ranging in size from Fortune 20 to venture-financed startups across financial services, health care, insurance, automotive, chemical, IT, and the media and entertainment industries. He is a frequent speaker on topics of global sourcing strategy, site selection, vendor selection, and program management.

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