Many companies today have to satisfy the urge of their customers — internal and external — by expanding their reach globally whether they planned to or not. The same goes for contract labor. Most companies and their partners go global because business demands it, not because they wish to do something incredibly complex and challenging across many time zones.

Often, the contingent workforce program management team realizes global demands have expanded and can be better served on a local basis with oversight from the corporate HQ.

Ultimately, according to our recent webinar, CW Program Expansion, all companies want visibility, compliance, intellectual property and physical security, vendor quality, spend management, and cost control globally for their entire contract labor population to some degree. Identify what drives your company to expand the program globally and what the priority is.

When we asked buyers in the 2014 North America Contingent Buyers Survey about their current and likely usage of selected management strategies, 45% said they were interested in going global in the next two years. Are you one of them? If so, the first thing you may want do is ask the hard questions, and take a look at the Global Readiness Indicator produced by the Staffing Industry Analysts Advisory Group to get you started. This will help you begin the global journey with laser-focused topics, specific questions and steps related to creating a business case, change management initiatives, current state and landscape and finally compliance and governance.

Typically work begins with the managed service provider (MSP) or program management office (PMO) creating a plan, or organic global scope creep necessitates a plan. Either way, where the rubber really hits the road is how a company gets that done. Does it build a business case and include the stakeholders in country? Is it aware of cultural differences and sensitive in its approach and expectations for implementation, ownership and timelines? The answer is sometimes “yes,” sometimes “no,” and of course, “it depends.”

Along with a strong MSP, some type of technology tool such as a vendor management system (VMS) is a critical requirement for successful global expansion. According to our survey, 84% of core buyers (those whose entire job is devoted to CW management) have a VMS in place. And 74% of those whose responsibilities are split with another core function said they had a VMS in place. Clearly, the trend is toward VMS usage, and the case for VMS becomes even more compelling when you decide to expand globally.

Asia. If you’re looking to expand your program into Asia, you are not alone; 22% of buyers in our survey said they are looking to expand to APAC within the next two years. Among ways to learn more about the Asian marketplace is through our Asia in 2015 report to see major potential changes in the Asian markets as well as the upcoming 2015 CWS Summit – Asia Pacific in July.

And there’s more homework to do. Are you curious as to how data should be handled globally? Check out the Global Overview of Developments in Data Protection and Privacy. Want to know more about MSP structures in 20 staffing markets? Look at The Middleman MSP: A Global Overview.

Finally, in the recent CW Program Expansion webinar, industry experts pinpointed some of the main challenges involved, such as differences between countries in business processes, market maturity, varied sourcing models and funding models and MSP/VMS capabilities. Regardless, the message is the same, make sure to do your homework and engage the right resources when going global.