June 20, 2019

Localization 101: Key Considerations for a Global Initiative

A company’s decision to expand into global markets is one that should not be taken lightly. Not only do the overarching strategies of the business have to align on a global scale, but each program within the localized sectors must be customized to meet the unique needs of each location. Due to the diversity of international markets, understanding the preferences and interests of local customers is vital to developing a business strategy that will serve their unique needs. However, this can prove to be a challenge for a multitude of reasons, the most prevalent being the difficulty of understanding the nuances of a culture if you have not been immersed in it yourself. Therefore, it is highly beneficial to incorporate local expertise into your organization to assist you with strategizing from the start.

Steps to Take

The first step in any localization strategy is to identify the gaps within your existing processes and determine a clear, step-by-step solution. Consider whether your timeline and budget are reasonable given the scope of your project. Once that has been established, communicate the scope and objectives to your team, and maintain open lines of communication throughout the project. Ensuring that the team has up-to-date skills relevant to the local markets is key. It is also crucial to consider the risks involved in order to proactively plan for, and prevent, any issues that arise. Be flexible, and be prepared to update your strategy as needed. Local requirements should always take priority over any initial plans to ensure a thoughtful approach is taken. In addition, be realistic about the gaps within your existing team, and consider the value of augmenting your team with experts in specific areas.

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Roles and Positions

In addition to speaking the language native to the country you are expanding into, the person or persons you employ to assist with your localization strategy should have experience understanding localization challenges and regulations in the area. Financial Localization Consultants, Change Managers, Rollout Managers, and Trainers should all have a part on your localization team. These individuals can assist you with the full life cycle of the project, from gathering requirements and designing solutions through deployment training. The key is to identify those individuals who have experience not only with localization, but with large-scale projects so that no detail of the project is overlooked.

Localization Details

Before your localization project begins, consider where you are rolling out to. What is the local market like? How many users will you have in the given location? What is the local language? What does that content look like on your website? What are the pain points of the consumers in this location? What are your competitors in that area and market doing?

Some countries have unique and involved processes that need to be examined when you are attempting to achieve compliance and establish your business. Various taxes, regulations, and cultural considerations need to be taken into account as well, lest the scope of your project continue to grow and crucial deadlines end up missed. A deployment in Europe might look completely different from a deployment in China. As an example, Oracle states that “all businesses operating in Mainland China are required to use a government-certified tax software, referred to as Golden Tax software, to generate VAT invoices, VAT calculations, and statutory tax reporting. Chinese government policies require all businesses to issue all VAT invoices through the Golden Tax system.” Beyond that, regulations and rules in any intended market may change more quickly than you are accustomed to, so it’s vital to stay abreast of current regulations as they stand. If your team is unaware of such taxes, regulations, or other cultural and local requirements, you may miss vital business opportunities.

Although localization is an incredibly involved process, following these best practices and ensuring you have the right local expertise on your team will ensure that your initiative achieves success — both locally and globally.

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