From home-made spreadsheet to specialist software

At what critical mass does your global mobility population need to be before you need (and can make a good case for purchasing) specialist GM management software?  I do not believe there is a definitive number of assignees.

Perhaps the more relevant question should be – what do you need to do?  What internal processes would benefit – do you need more than just record keeping, do you need to start delivering instantaneous cost estimates and running countless packages?  What level of reporting should you be providing to internal and external stakeholders?

A spreadsheet is perfectly adequate for many managers dealing with a small expat population – it can be utilised as a system of record, it can help track finished processes – and can also provide basic population reports.  Remuneration packages can be obtained directly from specialists and coupled with access to a generalist HR system the population can be well serviced.

In the “good old days”

When I first started managing expatriates (back in the 1990s) – we still had paper files on each person, kept in a fireproof filing cabinet.  Reminders (such as work permit expiry dates) were kept in a cardboard concertina file in date order and the ink from our quills stained our fingers daily.  Global mobility was generally excluded from the new HR Information systems being developed so stand-alone “home-made” solutions were the only option.

Not today, now some “mainstream” HR systems will include the globally mobile employees (to some extent), but further than that – there are systems dedicated purely to the management of assignments.  The gleam in any GM Manager’s eye can be detected when they first see the potential capabilities.  However, given costs and implementation time it is no mean undertaking.

Initial thoughts when looking at dedicated software

A couple of very basic up-front questions may set you on the right track to determining whether your programme needs specialist software – for example:

 What do you actually need from it?  It is so easy to get excited over a system which can manage the assignment end-to-end, with payroll feeds and direct links to other specialists.  But what does your programme actually require of a system, which “modules” of any system are relevant to you?  In simple terms – realistically what do you need it to do – not what can it do.

How customisable do I need it to be?  For every similarity there is a difference within the global mobility field – so how much can you have an “off-the-shelf” system – or how customised does it need to be?

By using this system, can I cut back on other costs?  Implementing a new system is definitely an investment in time and money.  Apart from streamlining your processes – how else might this software reduce your existing costs, for example in the provision of cost examples or reward packages?

There is no doubt that the development of specialist global mobility management tools means that should your international programme require assistance – there are plenty of options – from fully customisable goliaths to subscription based “bureau systems”.


If you would like further information on any of the services provided by HS Consulting Services please do not hesitate to contact me on or +44 (0)7786 443902.