Beyond Operations: Localization Relevance


You’re a seasoned professional in the localization field.  You have responsibility for or are managing, a localization organization. Your team or function may be humming along. You manage global-ready software; localize, translate and deliver content; and provide internationalization guidance. You evangelize, either through your deliverables or your work with internal stakeholders, on the importance of localized support for global customers/users. In short, you have an established functional organization.

Step back for a minute, though.  Are you and your localization team relevant? Are you both a high functioning operational organization and a key corporate partner?

Identifying the Shift

You have put in place your team and structure for managing file/content localization deliverables. Yes, it’s part of your job, but it‘s just that, a part.  Your larger role goes beyond localization operations. This is where most localization groups stall. They never become more than the trusted worker bees, forever cycling on the immediate deliverable, always counted on to manage the file/content deliverables.

Evangelization is clearly the wrong concept to gain relevance. Evangelizing is about becoming a known quantity.

Relevance is the achievement of ongoing mindshare at corporate and C levels. Relevance means the global and localization functions are firmly embedded in the company culture and DNA.  Relevance is the base for localization as a corporate partner.

Building Relevance

Four inflection points are keys to making your localization team and global initiatives relevant company-wide.

  1. Business focus: As a leader, build business acumen to support global customers and NOT the immediate file/content deliverables. Understand your company’s product mix so you can make the right decisions and connections between products and your international markets.
  2. Customer: In the journey, create a baseline of customer requirements and analysis. Prioritize customers along with purely internal stakeholder wants.
  3. Growth Levers: Think about future channels, services and opportunities that will enable more effective global content and reach. These don’t have to be major programs. Small, rapidly delivered solutions can be big wins.
  4. Communication: Foster and lead internal communication and team activities to embed global issues as key components of company culture. Learn to lead across and up in your company. Identify and work with company groups outside your immediate circle of influence.

In addition to these four key areas, broaden your strategic approach with additional data and vendor methodologies.  For instance, look at ways to work better with your vendors. Understand how your relationship with your vendor is parent/child vs. adult/adult. Changing this greatly helps you with the growth and customer inflection points as well.

Begin to understand and expand your data capabilities. Go beyond your internal performance measures. Reach out to integrate global customer data points, pipeline and local market data. Add prototyping and user testing techniques to your toolkit. These steps position your organization as more dynamic and ready to adopt new technologies and processes.

Stepping Stones

Building relevance is never a quick solution. You need time. Changing anything in your work takes sustained effort. Try to delegate some of the everyday tactical tasks to your team, your vendor, etc. You will need to focus your efforts in a strategic direction.

View building relevance as an exercise. Put aside your weekly schedule and create an annual schedule instead. Look at the big picture. Try to identify patterns in company behavior around localization — the cycle of products, documentation, support and anything else that requires localization. You may find that others in your company have, and can also act on, this information. Try to identify “empty” patterns, like products that you don’t localize, or documents that for some reason have not been translated. These exercises can provide elements for your strategic recipe. Next, build an Influence graph (such as Stephen Covey’s circle of influence) and map your company.  Work with your company allies to build alignment between company goals and global expansion. From there, move to localization. This is strategic globalization at work. Review and modify how you talk about your organization.  Present and expand your organization’s skills and scope as a partner in global expansion, global reach and global growth.  Minimize using words like translation and localization.

Communicating

Communicate upward in the organization with the “what”  and “why” rather than the “how”. Building relevance for localization and global investment is successful when you demonstrate what localization will provide and why it’s important. Focusing on the “how” can easily move the investment conversation to tactical issues and lead to potential failure in your quest for relevance. 

Compelling stories, presentations and results can be key elements in gaining long lasting corporate mindshare for your global organization. If you go to your executives with a complex plan, you are setting yourself up for failure. If, instead, you come to your executive team with a focused story — a clear problem statement and a solution that emphasizes wider business and ROI results — you are now capturing your audience.  You display relevance to the overall company business.

Communication requires repeated and clear messaging. Pitches, plans, and presentations are never single events. Collaborating and communicating your global values is a long game, not a single short win.  Get to know your various stakeholders across the company and build consistent visibility about the importance of international market offerings.

The Long View

Achieving and maintaining relevance as a localization organization is a journey. It may require active changes in direction and priorities. It takes time and nurturing.  Relevance mandates continued focus both upward and outward. That focus is on continuous corporate visibility of international customers and markets, internal management stakeholders, or external vendor partners. Relevance is a hallmark of a corporate strategic partner, the mature localization organization.

Locale Solutions can assist you and your localization team in understanding and using effective techniques to achieve relevance in your organization. We offer process analysis consulting, coaching and strategy reviews.  You can contact us at contact@localesolutions.com.