What is Your Localization Strategy Missing to Succeed?

By Antoine Rey, Senior Director at Welocalize

454966005In the last few years, I have observed many localization managers tackle the usual operational stages of implementing a successful localization model within their company. Many struggle to get past a certain stage and develop a real strategic approach.

In many cases, localization owners move things in the right direction in terms of centralization, building up their team, adopting standards and harmonizing tools. All these are tactical and operational. Yes, they are very important; however, they will only get you so far!

Why you ask? Like many departments in various organizations, localization teams tend to operate in isolation. They do a great job; however, unless you bring key people in your organization along with you, your localization plan will remain a localization plan and will not become an integral part of your company’s future strategic direction.

Strategy challenges are often defined by these following scenarios:

  1. Your service group gets side-lined or loses momentum. There is always someone who thinks they can do it better-cheaper-faster. They find someone with influence that listens to them. If you haven’t sewn up a few things, they will succeed whether they are right or wrong.
  2. Another internal localization bubble is formed. This challenges what is being done in your area of interest and starts competing with you even if it is to the detriment of your organization.
  3. You are not included in strategic decisions. As the localization expert, you should be consulted in strategic international business decisions. If it’s not happening and you’re the last one to find out you need to make yourself more visible and relevant early in the process. You have a lot of experience and knowledge that can help the business achieve its goals.

If these scenarios are familiar to you, it is not uncommon. Invariably when these situations arise, it is due to an overdose of driving tactical or operational issues versus concentrating on strategic or core business objectives. A lot of localization managers have a strong operational or product management background and may struggle to become a “sales and marketing” person for the service they are providing to their organization.

As any good marketing person will tell you, one of the first steps to take for successful selling requires a real understanding of your target market.

Take Action to Succeed

  • Get your reporting dashboard in place. Carry on implementing your tactical and operational plan and ensure it is supported by a good reporting dashboard that highlights your KPIs. That’s your business intelligence for what’s working. You need a service level agreement (SLA) with your suppliers that align to your defined KPIs. Track the vendor’s progress against agreed upon metrics, report to internal stakeholders and management and deflect any internal potential detractor
  • Align to corporate high-level objectives. Always align your localization objectives and initiatives to your high level corporate objectives. Everything you do and say should support the ‘grander’ corporate objectives. To do this, you need to know and keep up-to-date with what these objectives are and have a strong sphere of influence.
  • Develop your sphere of influence. Your sphere likely has many influencers. You should include finance (your new best friend), your boss, your executive business unit leader, the head of sales and marketing, c-level executives and the head of other service groups such as HR and legal).  Most importantly, know and have a relationship with the content owners. Get invited to consult on international strategic marketing direction by providing valuable insights, business intelligence and “must know” experience. After all, you have a deep understanding of the global markets your organization is targeting and your role is valuable to the company achieving their strategic objectives.
  • Set up your shop. Create an intranet site for localization services. Describe the services you offer, the internal clients you service. Include the various content types you manage and educate your audience as if you were the internal language service provider. For instance, I have even seen some great animated videos to explain the services offered by a localization team.
  • Evangelize and share. It is important to share best practices, set up a localization task force and visit your sphere of influence regularly. Promote your services by organizing information workshops, webinars and lunch and learn sessions to keep your influence strong.

In short, if you want to succeed you have to become an accomplished sales person within your own organization. If you drive your services as a business with strategic value, you have a much better chance to succeed than if you drive it only as an operational activity.

For questions and further information feel free to contact me at Antoine.Rey@welocalize.com.  A great case study in moving from operational to strategic is the NetApp’s Globalization Programs Strategy Office. Click here to read more.

Antoine Rey is Senior Director of Welocalize Europe and Asia Sales.