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10 lessons U.S. tech managers can learn from their counterparts in China

Bill Marcus | Jan. 6, 2015
China’s tech star is rising rapidly. Global companies -- and their savvy IT leaders -- would do well to keep a close eye on the country’s technological transformation.

Executing global strategies in China often requires domestic solutions, agrees George Kuan, formerly CIO at a global beverage company and currently in charge of business development for a major international sportswear retailer's China office.

"Why pay extra dollars for a big global vendor when there is a comparable local software that is cheaper and addresses local statutory requirements? It's easy to install, and it's in the local language," says Kuan, adding that global solutions are "expensive and do not support the local workflow." For example, in lieu of SAP, in China IT pros in China will use Kingdee and Yonyou, says Kuan. "These are ERP [packages] that in some cases have extended to CRM," he explains.

"I think people here really look after the return on investment and the value that they're trying to get," says Kuan. "If we want to use a big global company, the license could be $1,000 a user. We could go out locally and buy the equivalent and it could be $100 a user."

Lesson 5: Try out job candidates rather than trust resumés
In China, college graduates rarely have work experience, since students are discouraged from holding even part-time jobs while studying. What's more, even seasoned employees' resumés may not accurately reflect their work experience, because the resumé is viewed culturally more as a conversation starter than a fact-based document.

"In China, you probably shouldn't trust what's in a resumé," says Ronan Berder, founder and CEO of Wiredcraft, a Shanghai-based IT software consultancy.

Berder says before inviting someone to an interview, he reviews the applicant's website and their open-source work.

"We give them a practical exercise, usually a task on a real project that they can do in their free time," he says. Applicants are encouraged to go into Wiredcraft's offices to complete the exercise. "We usually do that for a few days, after which we may extend it to a one-month trial period." In that one month, Berder reserves the right to dismiss the applicant without cause.

"We get people to work on a real projects, with teammates, and we get an actual evaluation based on this," all of which leads to better hires and fewer surprises, he says.

Lesson 6: Embrace imperfection
"Nothing is easy, but everything is possible in China," says BearingPoint's Bernstorf, who notes that culturally, Chinese are inclined to be pragmatists — especially compared to his native Germany. "When it comes to finding a solution, Germans tend to make a detailed plan and try to be prepared for anything that might need to be considered for its execution. If something unexpected comes up, this creates a lot of headache and stress," Bernstorf relates.


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