Making the Jump to Automated Trade Management

April 16, 2008
10 tips for bringing your global trade management processes into the digital age.

Frequently changing regulations can make global trade a tricky thing to manage. Of course, it helps to have the most current information on whatever duties, tariffs or compliance issues are affecting your products as they travel in and out of the country. Global trade management (GTM) software can relieve some of the pressure, but without proper execution, any new software has the potential to create more problems than it solves.

To help simplify the process, Melissa Irmen, vice president of products and strategy for Integration Point, a global trade software provider, offers these 10 suggestions to help make the implementation as painless as possible.

  1. Consider SaaS.
    Software-as-a-service (SaaS) means the vendor provides access to the system via the Internet. This is a low-cost way of getting started since you don't have to buy new hardware and software or manage/maintain the system. SaaS is a popular method of software usage with all kinds of applications and is now available for GTM. An additional bonus benefit is that SaaS applications are accounted for as operating expenses, not a capital cost, which may ease your budgeting challenges.
  2. Only purchase what you need.
    For example, if you only need free trade agreement management at the moment, only acquire that module. But be sure the solution you choose is extensible so that you can "ramp up" at your own pace with minimal training and integration costs.
  3. Check references.
    Be sure to ask references of the GTM provider about how easy the company is to work with and how responsive the support team is. The software may be fantastic, but if you can't figure out how to use it, it's worthless.
  4. Inform your supply chain partners.
    Brokers, forwarders, carriers -- they should all be informed of your GTM implementation. They can provide a lot of valuable information that you will need to populate the system and ensure that you still have a solid working relationship with them.
  5. Get a buy-in from upper management.
    The GTM implementation is going to involve many members of your organization, not just the compliance team. It is critical that everyone understands the importance of making the implementation a success.
  6. Ensure access to transactional information.
    Transactional information will be important as things are being processed. For example, people on the shipping dock are measured by how quickly they can get shipments out the door. The easier you can make it for them, the better it is for both of you.
  7. Include electronic document management.
    Electronic document management can be a key factor in your solution choice. This saves time and effort when critical documentation is needed and goods are waiting to go through customs.
  8. Evaluate adaptability.
    Make sure that your new GTM system can adapt and leverage your institutional knowledge. To reduce the rate of false positive alerts that the system will detect because of the black-and-white rules of global trade, make sure that your system can accept authorized overrides for alerts that do not apply to your company's situation.
  9. Determine how to stay up-to-date.
    While on-site GTM systems require frequent file uploads and other user/IT intervention in order to keep the information accurate, one of the benefits of the SaaS model is that the vendor takes care of all updates. This means that users always have access to the latest information such as free trade agreements, denied party lists, etc., without requiring time from your already overwhelmed IT department.
  10. Check for governmental connectivity.
    Companies should determine whether their GTM system comes with electronic connectivity to governmental agencies. Electronic communication is not only easier to manage, but it will likely be more and more mandated in the future.

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