Taking Content Global – Accounting

Recently I’ve been asked to help others understand the challenges of global content management systems. I have been in this space for years and have previously focused on translation.  Some people think that’s all they will need and are  often amazed by the other challenges beyond language.

I’ll be looking across the back office on challenges of going global.  I thought I’d start with one that I found to be the easiest to understand the challenges – accounting and finance. An organization might often think that debits and credits are the same no matter where you are.  While that’s mainly true, the real challenge is the mechanisms on how the transaction needs to be processed between entities.

Submitting a Purchase Request is Universal

For the international reader I will explain the general process of purchasing supplies in a U.S. organization. It should seem very familiar across the globe.  The process begins with a purchase order.  A user will submit that purchase order for a good or services and workflow will route the request though a series of management approvals. Once approved the employee may make the purchase.   From what you can see, this is usually a process that can be duplicated outside the U.S., but here’s where things change.

Processing Payments for Purchases is Different

It will surprise many people how process accounting transactions is very different by country.  It’s best to look at the specifics in each country individually.  I will highlight some differences.  For example:

In the U.S., the vendor sends an invoice to the customer (your organization). This could be done by mail, fax, email, or EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). This invoice is then matched to the purchase order and a check or bank transfer is sent to the vendor.

In Brazil and Mexico, the vendor has to register the transaction with a government exchange. There is no concept of an invoice. The purchaser is then notified of the transaction by the government and they makes payment to the exchange. It is at this point, rather than after annual reporting, that the government collects taxes on the exchange.

In Japan and most of Europe, paper invoices don’t exist and payments are made by bank transfer. The concept of a check does not exist. The vendor receives notification of a transfer to their account to let them know that the payment has been made without the government exchange.


As you can see, the simple process of paying invoices changes around the world.  That solution for accounting that was developed in the E.U. may not work in Mexico.

While the internal processes may be similar, but how business is conducted with the outside world is often very different.  Most organizations create subsidiaries in foreign countries just to deal with financial transactions. This is a common theme you will find when globalizing content and its processes.

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