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Centralized Global Program Office

A centralized framework for managing localization will make you more efficient. Watch Antoine Rey explain the idea of a Global Program Office.
As an organization grows, in its early days, funding and investment is usually directed towards product and services development. You have to develop features, test the product or services, and start selling it, usually to a domestic market. Less emphasis is given to international sales and marketing. This is usually a very reactive phase, and companies at this stage try to sell their product or services to a few marquee clients that they can use as case studies and create further interest for their product with clients and investors. As a result, it can become quite a decentralized, siloed approach, where product as well as a sales and marketing efforts react to the demands of a client.
We usually see some initial efforts at localization driven by client requests, or by sales and marketing people who have noticed an interest from the international community. It can lead to having various pockets of translation requirements. For example, an initial request from a client to have the product localized into one or two languages, or maybe visitors from France or Germany to your website triggering marketing to translate the website in those languages, or a salesperson attending an international conference requests a marketing brochure or collateral to be translated for the event. These are all great initiatives, but they usually are not coordinated, and the company is in a reactive mode rather than a strategic mode.
It usually leads to load of duplication of efforts, a lack of asset centralization, multiple standards, or more likely, a lack of standards across the organization. We’ve observed that it drives a high administration cost and poor supply chain management. We commonly see internal resources being asked to translate content. For instance, a marketing person or salesperson– whoever speaks the language. Those resources are usually more expensive than a professional translator and are not qualified to do the job. Plus they have a day job, which may impact the turnaround time and availability of the content in a different language in time for an event or a launch.
Alternatively, the company will employ individual external contractors, which leads to higher administration cost and poor supply chain practice. Finally, a decentralized approach will have an impact on your brand inconsistency, tone of voice, and overall user experience, which is critical at the early stages of product or service adoption. For all those reasons, we have seen organizations mature towards a centralized model, commonly referred to as a Globalization Program Office, or what we call here a GPO. The organization usually becomes aware that there is now a repeatable nature to translation requirements across the organization and recognize that it needs to put some processes in place
and be managed adequately to address a number of things: Budget management, brand consistency, process standardization, for example, development practice, content creation format, resource optimization, asset optimization, better time to market, establish a scalable model, manage acquisitions. The structure of the GPO we have commonly observed usually
looks like this: The development of such a structure usually opens in phases, but the functions are usually the same. There’s a head of GPO or localization director or manager, program a program management function, interacting with the internal stakeholders, and chosen suppliers a technical team, working on source format standardization, content integration and translation management system, as well as internationalization of UI content, a vendor management function, who also sometimes manages an internal quality function. Language managers become the gatekeepers for language quality, content fit for market, tone of voice, terminology and consistency. And then external partners.

Once your organization is ready to compete globally, a centralized apporach will make localization more effective. Having a centralized localization or global growth function is a north star you can aim for early on, even in the first stages of your growth roadmap. This positioning prevents you from becoming reactive when you reach the point of localizing your marketing materials for new target markets.

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Localization for Marketers

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