If your company’s CEO, president or vice presidents have any desire to go global, you need a globalization team. You do not need just a translation team or a localization team, you need an intentional globalization strategy that will utilize all the elements to yield truly global success. To this end, you need a globalization team that can drive this strategy to fruition.
CEOs often have typical and traditional structures under them—a chief strategy officer, a sales executive vice president, a product executive vice president, a chief marketing officer (CMO), a chief technology officer (CTO)—and there is typically no go-to-market (GTM) body that looks across these groups to see how a company deliberately goes global. I have seen a few presidents who run GTM teams to be supportive about globalization and help elevate it. That is a win! Today, however, few companies do this; globalization teams remain rather hidden under a vice president or director. The department can be from marketing, IT, engineering or human resources (HR).
Companies with sales models that partially or fully depend on e-commerce need a fully globalized digital presence. They tend to introduce globalization via their digital or web teams, and expand from there into other departments. If a business is on full global display via a digital experience, and that is how your company envisions global success, this is an easy department to justify as the first to go global.
Placing your first localizers there tends to be a good choice. The danger of just having a localization team under a digital team is that you may miss the opportunity to enhance customer satisfaction via other teams and departments. You may need to eventually expand outside of digital, and globalize your support organization, research and development (R&D) organization, legal, sales offerings, channel programs and so on. Otherwise, the local customer experience breaks down quickly. Globalization is an orchestra!
However, many companies selling internationally often do so with independent bodies making decisions on their global approach liaising directly with a general manager (GM) for a region of the world. They have a mandate or plan to sell in a set of countries. Ideally, this can happen with the support from a centralized body, which typically sits in a corporate setting. The lack of globalization plans across headquartered departments can slow down a GM as the team misses what could be coming in from headquarters, leveraging content, programs, discounts, ideas and resources.
It is essential for a company to have a clear and well-published mapping of the countries they want to be in business with. It is important for the globalization head to have access to this GTM vision and country groupings, and she or he needs to be comfortable with the approach to be able to make decisions on resources and budgets. Each country requires different globalization entitlements. It is not the same to globalize the eBay digital experience or to globalize a backend storage system that needs to be installed by a systems administrator.
Targeting departments to globalize depends on the type of globalization team you are in. Maybe you were hired to only globalize one part of the company. Maybe you are the support localization manager and report to the support organization toward the support teams’ goals. It is possible that your company is so decentralized and big that you are not in touch with other departments, and their globalization leads or goals. In this case, your job is to localize and internationalize your area of responsibility. Hopefully, the number of countries and languages coincide with other globalization leads in your company. Ideally, the company has a centralized model or a well-aligned decentralized team of globalization leads (who should be ultimately all on the same team) that understand all these threads.
Being able to create a globalization map for each department can make the experience of your team and your customers a success. A globalization team allows you to reach for a truly global setup that benefits your customer, but only if the team believes in geo-alignment and is invested in learning the local realities. This team may end up being part of decisions on country and language selection, local support models, what products to globalize, what compliance is needed where and what internal communications need to be localized. It can’t all be decided independently by trusting that each departmental vice president knows how to do so. The truth is that all these elements need to be coordinated as a whole for the company and presented as a cohesive plan.
It isn’t always easy to identify where a globalization team is situated within an organization. And when they are hard to find, it doesn’t bode well for efficiency. It is also common for companies to have more than one globalizer or globalization team working under different groups. The more divided the teams, the lower the flow of talent, innovation and customer benefits.
The good news is that resources tend to centralize or align, preferably under one lead, as a firm’s globalization plan matures. But this process can take years, so proactively moving to unify your globalizers pays significant dividends. Ultimately, having a centralized model dramatically improves the internationalization process, especially in areas such as vendor pricing negotiation, mapping what customers need and expanding areas to be globalized.
You don’t have to go big to begin globalization. Start with a neighboring market, then group countries per their priority and gradually widen your reach in an optimized manner. But if you are going global, do it right.
Globalization isn’t about just having a localized website. It is about the geo-alignment of your company with other markets. Thus, it’s critical to understand how to make your offerings relevant internationally. Indeed, a globalization plan starts with looking at your business from a foreign customer perspective. In every market, your target customers should be able to deal with you in the local currency and language. And that means at minimum, you need to globalize the following departments: marketing, sales, legal, engineering, customer support and training.
It is also critical to understand that foreign markets can be frustrating because they are different. Do not let problems poison the process. This may be apparent to end users. Your customers are always right and a truly global enterprise will feel local to each one of them.