The Pond

The term ”The Pond” is often used as an informal term for the Atlantic Ocean, especially the North Atlantic Ocean being the waters that separates North America and Europe.

Within information technology and not at least my focus areas being data quality and master data management there is a lot of exchange going on over the pond as European companies are using North American technology and sometimes vice versa. Also European companies are setting up operations in North America and of course also the other way around.

Some technologies works pretty much the same regardless of in which country it is deployed. A database manager product is an example of that kind of technology. Other pieces of software must be heavily localized. An ERP application belongs to that category. Data quality and master data management tools and implementation practice are indeed also subject to diversity considerations.

When North American companies go to Europe my gut feeling is that an overwhelming part of them chooses to start with a European or EMEA wide head quarter on the British Isles – and that again means mostly in the London area.

The reasons for that may be many. However I guess that the fact that people on the British Isles doesn’t speak a strange language has a lot to say. What many North American companies with a head quarter in London often has to realize then is, that this move only got them half way over the pond.  

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7 thoughts on “The Pond

  1. Larisa Bedgood 3rd October 2011 / 18:26

    Hi Henrik,
    I know several of your past blogs have dealt with international data quality – (across the Pond and up and over it as well). In one of your posts, you make a great point about date formatting: is it month/day/year or day/month/year? Name and address parsing, character sets, currency, international compliance, privacy, and more must all be addressed by global organizations.

    Wherever a company chooses to set up base with a data quality vendor, hopefully the right questions are being asked and the right standards being applied. And it wouldn’t hurt to explore ALL the way across the pond!

    – Larisa

  2. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 3rd October 2011 / 21:48

    Thanks Cliff and Larisa for your comments.

  3. Steve Tootill 3rd October 2011 / 22:59

    Re Cliff’s George Bernard Shaw quote: the differences in language between UK and US are often very subtle. Although we all speak English, there are subtle differences in the words we use, and the pronunciation and spelling of them, which can undermine your attempt to appear local unless you adapt. For example, Brits say “surname” not “last name” and pronounce “route” to rhyme with “boot”. In emails, words like “centre” and “optimisation” simply appear to be wrongly spelt to an American reader – oh, that should be “spelled” if you are American! You should also beware of words that mean different things in the US and UK – we all know about “pants” for example, but we don’t often talk about clothing in our business communications. However, not many people appreciate that Americans take the word “quite” to mean “completely” whereas to a Brit it depends on the context, so “quite good” is unqualified praise from an American, but really means “could be better” from a Brit.

    How does this affect DQ software? The main challenge when taking a UK DQ app to the US market or vice versa is simply not to underestimate the scale of the task. It pervades the software: screen and data labels (such as surname or last name) are easy, but they’re just a start. Appreciating how many customers may live on the same (very long) street and the extent to which the spelling of essentially the same first and last names varies in the US, or the significantly greater length of addresses and the use of “vanity addresses” in the UK, are just a few of the unexpected challenges – in addition to the obvious issues of date format, paper size etc. Then you have to deal with Americanizing or Anglicising (note the z/s difference) your documentation and marketing literature, training the staff that are involved on both sides of the pond in the differences – and if you’re going from the UK to the US, scaling up to handle the larger volumes of data that can be involved in the US. That’s just for starters. So although at first sight it would seem easier to cross over into the US market from the UK or vice versa than go to continental Europe, I’m not sure to what extent that’s true – they are just different challenges!

    – Steve

  4. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 4th October 2011 / 07:13

    Thanks Steve for this analysis of the differences between US and UK and how that effect data quality software adaption and the perspective for going from UK to continental EU or even leaping from US to continental EU and vice versa.

    On going from EU to US I once heard a story about an EU company with operations in US. There were a new standard for business cards that included that phone numbers should have the international dialing code in front. Need in continental EU with a lot of cross boarder activity going on. But one American salesman opposed as he said: “I’m not gonna sell anything in the Midwest with a +1 in front of my phone number”.

  5. Alastair McKeating 4th October 2011 / 14:59

    Not to go entirely off topic, but the Canada-US differences are even more challenging as we Canadians tend to pick and choose between US and British conventions (s/z, or/our, er/re, and date formats) as much on a personal basis as a cultural/national basis.

    And that’s before considering the French language issues (or, I suppose, the English language issues if one is in Quebec and a business has to choose between a 300 million person market southwards and/or a 30 million person market across the country).

    I also suggest that the issue of data stewardship is more significant than quaint conventions. This is especially true with SAAS applications where data residency, and disclosure/privacy laws that then apply can and do prohibit “trans pond” operations.

  6. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 5th October 2011 / 09:24

    Thanks for joining Alastair. North America isn’t of course only United States and I have also earlier touched the differences between US and Canada and the multi-cultural issues in Canada. And then there is of course also Greenland being a part of North America 🙂 10 % of area, but only 0.02 % of population.

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