Quotidien Corporate Finance News

Mardi 15 Décembre 2009

Casewise: the cultural realities of going global

In a recent interview with Finance Week, the leading news and features site for finance directors and finance teams, Casewise Chief Operating Officer for EMEA Alexandre Wentzo discusses Casewise’s expansion in EMEA and the realities of going global.

Alexandre Wentzo
Alexandre Wentzo
Having grown the French operation for Casewise dramatically over the past 4 years, Alexandre Wentzo now has the task of repeating the same successes throughout the vast EMEA territory. In this exclusive interview, Alexandre Wentzo reveals the different approaches which need to be taken for international expansion, cultural differences; successes and constraints faced as well as the effects the swine flu pandemic is having on businesses.

Casewise, a UK-headquartered company, sells process management and modelling tools to large organisations, both public and private sector. Founded in 1989 as a spin off from consultancy CSC, it is looking to global expansion to generate the next stage of its growth cycle. Alexandre Wentzo was appointed COO EMEA in August 2009.

Having grown the French office dramatically in the four years he was in charge, he has to repeat the same trick across a vast territory with many different cultures and languages. He is well aware that the same tactics won”t work in every territory.

Different outlooks
To start with, he talked about the differences between the French and the UK approaches to the downturn and issues like swine flu. “In the UK, the papers are full of swine flu and the global downturn,” says Alexandre Wentzo. “In France, papers cover the stories but don”t have them on the front page, everyone is much more optimistic.” He says that this outlook has had a direct effect on revenues, as the UK is where the company has seen the biggest downturn in revenues.

Casewise products are available as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which is certainly not unique in the BPM marketplace but it's not as commonplace as hosted CRM, HR or ERP. Hampshire County Council is using the software and the cost analysis of SaaS was a big plus.

Some things are universal. Billing a customer is one thing but getting paid is another. He says: “It’s fine to get an order, but better to get paid. Cashflow is an issue for everyone.”
Making the most of global customers
The plan for each country is to gain customers and resellers as quickly as possible and reduce dependence on a few very large customers. Many Casewise customers are international organisations and Wenzo’s plan is they are evangelists, taking the product with them. Clearly that’s not always possible but the principle stands good.

His strategy is to balance giant accounts with sales to local indigenous organisations, both public and private sector. In France, they aim to acquire twenty new customers a year as well as selling into to the existing customer base. The Middle East, Abu Dhabi and Dubai in particular, is working very well for Casewise.

“From January this year we have sold $1m to the Middle East and we have localised the product. It is in Arabic and the sales team have had cultural training.”

Likewise, Korea, where Casewise has been for only a year, 400 references have signed up. Alexandre Wentzo says that the Asia Pac region has suffered more than most from the downturn because of the exchange rates. “We have been working in Asia Pac for the last five years but experienced a strong downturn because of the exchange rates and our Australian resellers went bust because of the exchange rate. Equally, we”ve been working with Alcatel Lucent in that region for years and that continues strongly.”

The local approach
“In the UK, you talk process management. In France, one doesn’t think of it as process management. The focus is on the modelling system and it is completely different. Many US companies underestimate the cost of penetrating the European market. The real cost is the cost of coping with different cultures.

At the same time, you can see the economy in Europe is much healthier than in the US. Europe comprises many countries and so many potential markets, it is the stepping stones to Russia and Africa. There is a lot of demand in Eastern Europe.”

Alexandre Wentzo currently manages only £8m revenues in EMEA but wants to reach £15m by the end of 2011. He also plans to set up in Germany this year, exploiting Software AG’s acquisition of IDS Scher, Casewise’s main competitor. He is actively recruiting from IDS Scher and believes the time is right to expand into the German market.

“IDS Scher is the market leader in Germany but for six months at least, the managers will be focused on the acquisition. Over the last few years, we have spent time with the industry analysts like Gartner and Butler, and now we are number one or two in their rankings.”

Managing the unknown
“The current economic situation offers new opportunities. We have cash in the bank at a time when others are struggling with cashflow and want to acquire rather than IPO. It is not the right time to go public. A couple of years ago we were interested but it’s an expensive and distracting process. I’ve seen so many companies focus on IPOs and forget to manage themselves and look after their customers" says Alexandre Wentzo, adding, "but never say never.”

“One other thing we are trying to anticipate is swine flu,” says Alexandre Wentzo.

That makes sense given that the UK’s chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson said on September 24 that the number of new swine flu cases had almost doubled in the previous week, with an estimated 9,000 new anticipated the following week. As the influenza season closes in, many businesses are worried about the effect of such pandemic on their operations.

Gartner analysts estimate that a true pandemic could cause absenteeism rates of 40% or higher for businesses and suppliers, resulting in severe operational disruptions. It recommends that businesses develop and implement pandemic response planning.

“We have anticipated an absentee rate of 30% to 50%. All our people can work from home and have internet access on their mobile phones. In the US, web meetings are normal; in France, all business is face to face.

In France, we have never made a sale through a web meeting and this will have to change because of swine flu,” Alexandre Wentzo concludes.


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