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Going Global: Considerations for International Projects

Ashley Erbes
July 29, 2022

Going Global

--This is a guest post from Ashley Erbes, Assistant Director, Global Operations

International projects are complicated and often frustrating, but are always an eye-opening experience. Without the right knowledge and resources in place, an international project can fail. But what kind of knowledge do you need? What resources are available at ASU? How can you plan effectively to ensure your international project will succeed? In this article, we’ll discuss some important considerations when working internationally and the resources available at ASU.

Cultural Differences

The most important consideration when working internationally is culture. Unless you are from the country in which you’re looking to work, or have lived there previously, there will be a steep learning curve. Everything from greetings, to food, to how they conduct business, to what days constitute the “weekend,” to management styles, to local taxes, to meeting etiquette are most likely going to be different from your norm. Learning about the culture well before implementation will help in navigating your project’s new setting.

Resources at ASU:

Doing Business In-Country

Just one aspect of cultural differences—but one you’re sure to encounter on an international project—is how to do business in the project location. Every country is different in how it supports local employees, the taxes required by employees/employers, how money can be moved within and outside the country, and even who can lease office space. No one practice can be assumed from one country to another. Below are some of these important business considerations.

Hiring of project personnel

You know you’ll need staff at ASU and at the project location to make sure the project runs smoothly. How do you hire them? Can they be ASU employees? What’s a salary expectation in that country? What benefits should they receive? Are they obligated to pay local taxes to that country? Global Ops can walk you through your options and provide budget estimates for local market salary rates, employer taxes, and required and customary local benefits.

Resources at ASU:

Setting up operations

Where will your project staff be located in-country? Will they have an office? Will you share space with a local partner? How will you purchase items in-country? Can you open a local bank account? Getting your project off the ground and running requires space and resources. It also requires having in-country expertise that can help navigate these tasks. Identifying local help early in the process enables the PI and ASU-based project team to manage the project from afar. Whether full-time in-country staff or a consultant to help with start-up, the operational side of the project must be considered if the objectives of the project are to be achieved.

Resources at ASU:

Foreign Taxes

Taxes vary from country to country and can be one of the most frustrating and complicated aspects of conducting business internationally. Not only must one consider HR-related taxes, but many countries impose VAT, or Value Added Tax, on goods and services purchased in-country. In some instances, your project may be eligible for an exemption to VAT, but the process can be long and tedious. Knowing ahead of time what the local taxes look like, what can be charged to the project, and what may need to be paid by ASU is something all international projects should consider.

Resources at ASU:

Safety & Security

There are those of us who thrive in high-risk, high-stress situations, but our own risk tolerance may not be that of ASU or our sponsor. When looking to implement a project in a high-risk international location, one must consider safety and security for the project staff and participants. But what is a high-risk location? Resources used by ASU to assess a high-risk location include the Department of State Travel Advisories, the Center for Disease Control Travel Health Notices, Concur warning levels, and external country analyses. Some projects may be required to include safety and security services, such as a security management plan, drivers for in-country travel, armed escorts, and pre-travel safety training. Global Ops works with Risk Management to assess the level of risk for project locations and to develop a plan to keep all project staff safe.

Resources at ASU:

Data security & export controls

Along with personal safety and security, there is also data security and export controls. The flow of certain devices, materials, and technical information may be restricted by the U.S. government. Understanding these restrictions and how they may affect your project should be considered before or during proposal time. As well, consider how to keep your professional and personal data safe while traveling abroad.

Resources at ASU:

For more information on international project considerations, see the Checklist of International Risk Considerations. For questions, email