Today’s economy is increasingly borderless. Global transformation and expansion have become a key driver to company growth. Many industries, however, are not accounting for differences in business practices, culture, and language as they branch outward to different regions and countries.
With this background, check out Lingoport’s interview of Anna Schlegel, Head of Globalization at NetApp and Co-Founder and President of the Board of Women in Localization (4,000+ members), exploring smarter ways to go global and enable your brand to connect more deeply with local users.
In this webinar recording, you’ll not only uncover what you need for a successful software globalization effort, but also key strategies for effective communication involving global teams, including everyone from executive management to remote team members around the world. Learn to avoid common mistakes and pitfalls that besiege many companies, and so much more.
Interested in reading the transcription instead of watching the webinar? Say no more! Check out excerpts from the webinar below.
Excerpt 1: “A True Veteran of Internationalization Localization” [00:00:00-00:10:24]
We’re fearlessly leading global expansion, a behind-the-scenes discussion with Anna Schlegel and her strategies for global transformation at NetApp. [We’re] very pleased to have Anna with us.
She does… just a fabulous job of escalating localization from a checkmark in many organizations, and a reactive activity, to a true strategy for moving forward, and changing the company’s global footprint.
So, a little bit about Anna. Anna, if you could just say hello, people will hear your voice.
All right, good, good. Anna’s a true veteran of internationalization and localization. She has 20 years of experience in the industry in many different roles, at a lot of big companies you’ve heard of. She also authored the book, Truly Global: The Theory and Practice of Bringing Your Company to International Markets, and cofounded the 4,000 plus member association, Women in Localization.
A little bit about both: Anna’s book is short and to the point…it’s like a mini cheat sheet of everything she’s learned and concisely put together. So, I do invite you to go and get the book afterward.
Right, let’s get to the questions. The format of this webinar is I’m gonna ask a question, Anna’s gonna answer it and we’ll proceed. Each one of my slides has one to three questions. We’ll probably move ahead regularly, and then at the end, if you could submit your questions or even submit your questions during the webinar, I will take those questions at the end… we’re targeting to finish around half to the hour, whatever your timezone is, and then go into our Q&A period, which usually lasts about 10-15 minutes depending on how active.
So, we’re depending upon you to participate in that last section.
Right, Anna, let’s look at a now and then, kind of like a before and after. Can you describe for us the globalization perspective you see currently at NetApp compared to years ago?
The globalization perspective of years ago… it’s night and day. The reason why I took the job is because I was the head of globalization at VMware at that time, and somebody…[asked] me, “You know what NetApp is?” I’m quite familiar with it, and I looked at the website… they wanted a French website, and I saw some Spanish on the French website…
[So I said,] “I’m taking the job.”
…[back then] there was very little thought on how NetApp was presenting itself or positioning itself globally. And today, it’s a sophisticated machine – one of the best teams in the world… it’s the dream, but it’s taken a long, long, long, long time. It’s night and day [from when I started there].
Anyway…so one of my favorite terms you have in your book is “Geo Alignment.” What do you mean by Geo Alignment?
Geo Alignment is a term that we created in my team very quickly… 10 years ago.
So one of the first things that I noticed was… the headquarters. NetApp is a US company, thousands of employees… [I asked] “where are these thousands of employees? Who is driving the agenda here?” And I saw that most of the employees were in the United States, most of the employees driving the larger goals for the company were based in Sunnyvale at headquarters.
I did a mapping of…those goals that are coming about…themes or brand or marketing or product, [and asked] “How do they make it to the offices in Israel? Or the offices in Russia? Or the offices in Korea? How is that connection made?”
And I saw that it was broken at many stages.
And so we’re like, well, we have a Geo Alignment problem. We have a headquarter-to-country problem. And we started mapping how much information can you offer from an enterprise to the actual doers in the country offices, and we created a program we call Geo Alignment… we hired Geo Aligners. And so that right there made the localization team a globalization strategy team.
We opened so much business, we removed so many barriers, and then we tailored the amount of information that somebody at a small office would get, at a medium-sized office would get, or a large office would get.
You can’t treat every country the same; you have to treat them differently. There’s different team sizes; there’s different goals; some products do not resonate in a particular market; some products are encrypted; some products are not allowed; some products haven’t taken off.
When you map all of this, you run business really fast… you stop wasting your time in explaining things that do not resonate or are not relevant in the field. This is the concept of Geo Alignment.
Excerpt 2: “We hear everything. Everything.” [00:10:24-00:24:13]
Alright, very good. Moving ahead, what are the roles of key personnel on your team?
We started with being a localization team, we moved to being a globalization team, and then we moved to being the global strategy for NetApp.
And so when you think about that, when you say, “I’m gonna form the global strategy for the company,” you don’t need project managers; you need strategies… and you need metrics people, and you need to dip into trends and analyses, and market trends, and country plans, and country managers…
And we don’t forget the fact that we are the translators, and we are the reviewers, and we are the internationalization engineers, and we are the machine translation experts. So, we have all those roles.
We have a small team of strategists. They’re the ones that look at the country plans for the country that we care about the most… they open up those country plans and they look at what are the products that these country managers want to sell, and that’s what we go and work on.
We have all the typical, traditional roles, from a product lead that does all the product globalization, where we do the internationalization of the product; the localization of the product; the technical publication… that’s one team. We do have a head of localization that: she manages the localization operation… [and] the large millions of volume that we pass as well.
We do have content strategists, because we are very concerned and very passionate about the health of content. [They ask,] “How was it authored? Are the taxonomies proper? “Is the search engine grabbing the right key words?”
So we participate a lot in content strategies. We… [also] have an operations team: we have a chief of staff that has a small team that does communications, that does all the invoicing, all the vendor relationship, all the QVR’s; and then we have a futurist… a globalization architect that roams around the country looking at…the data cloud services, data services bit. [This team asks,] “How are we going to be delivering our product: via the cloud, or more of the traditional storage security systems there?”
So those are some of the main leads. The other thing that we do that has been the best thing we’ve done in a long time is we united the globalization team with the content strategy team for the company – so now I’m very lucky to run globalization and content strategy. And once you have content strategy, you can influence… [the] content that we write…[the] types of content that we write…we influence that.
Very good. So you’re proactive, not just reactively translating. Alright, very good. I’m gonna keep moving along: we could stay on this subject a long time.
How do you garner market information?
We do a few things. So we read… papers, we open country plans, and we run anything that the company does to stay close to their customer…we’re there.
So if [for example] there’s a major… customer conference,… we have a booth there; we talk; we do surveys; we get a lot of responses through that process… [whether] online or in person, we are always there.
We’re constantly grabbing what the market needs, what the customer needs, and we rely a lot on the country managers. It’s that Geo Alignment…
That’s no shortage of work, to get worldwide opinion flowing towards you. That’s pretty cool.
Yeah, it is very well organized, so there’s a process for that. It’s not that I pick up the phone whenever I feel like it, [like] “Hey, how’s it going in France?” No, we have the right team… we create small tiger teams that we call Champion teams that gather market information for every single department that we support.
Alright, very good. I’m gonna move on to the next slide which is a pretty loaded single question, right?
Let’s talk about the stakeholders at NetApp, and the objections you hear, and how you work with then.
The objections I hear come from…up and down the chain, so it comes from the highest executives to individual contributors that are working at a project level. And the list is very long: there is no money; there is no mandate; how do you know; who are you; what’s your title; how long have you been at NetApp; people understand English in Japan; I don’t have money; my boss has never said anything about this; what is internationalization; or we are in other countries?
We hear everything. Everything.
So the way to confront these objections is: we are so well prepared. We’re so well prepared with the analysis and the data, and I don’t let just anybody represent the team. I mean we have very specific people in my team that go and fight those battles, and we preload and we train and we prepare…
Right. Well, I do wanna emphasize that in our position, we have seen that it’s one thing when a company has a commercial product… it’s sometimes a little easier to get a localization program in place. But when a product is technical, like NetApp products are, one of the pushbacks that we see in a lot of customers is, “We don’t have to translate because all of our customers speak English because they have to.” What would you say to that as a sample objection?
Sure. So we have the data on English tolerance for our product type. We have a lot of competitive analysis also, so we know what are the equivalent products to ours. And we know if they’ve been globalized or not. We talk a lot with the channel also, so channel partners in Japan, China. We are a vendor. We are a vendor to major organizations like the Chinese government…
…So, we know the English tolerance, we know in what situations that’s true and what situations it’s not true, so we’re very careful… We study what products we need to globalize and what products we don’t need to globalize.
Again, we are in the data storage business… we need to be very careful with language tolerance. We are dealing with highly trained engineers around the world. But it’s very different if you’re dealing with a business in Beijing than if you’re trying to sell something into a remote province of a third tier, fourth tier city, you do need to be localized.
And to that point, we just globalize the product, period. Because it’s just gonna reach a much larger pool of people…
Okay. So make sure the product is internationalized and you’re ready and, go ahead.
Yeah, I mean product internationalization is just the most basic thing you have to do, so that’s number one. And then you do a study of language tolerance for your product, and then you pick your countries. And it’s very different, you need to have a language map for all these departments you’re supporting. It’s not the same language; it doesn’t have to be the same language.
Excerpt 3: “Luck Meets the Well Prepared”- [00:24:57-00:34:25]
How do we target countries? So, we target countries by understanding their companies, so we are very well aligned with the general managers for APAC, for EMEA, for the Americas. And then we all have specific budgets, so you put your eggs in several areas and not in other places, right? So again, we target the country differently, we target the countries through a reciprocal process of annual grading plan, where we know exactly what are the countries where we’re gonna globalize for what languages.
The second question, “what local data do you measure for executive and stakeholder review” – so we have this mapping because we serve 14 departments and each department tackles different languages…we line up to 14 executives, and so we’re constantly presenting this to the 14 groups through these little champion teams or tiger teams that I was explaining before.
And so we talk about the good, the bad, the average, the opportunity, and that’s how we keep tracks with the executives.
Very good… now we get into helping people: the general attributes. What are some of the key personnel attributes you look for on your globalization team?
Do you know the word “Grit”? Grit, G-R-I-T? That’s what we’re looking for. So it, it’s tough, right? I mean, we are in the Silicon Valley where many, many companies are offshoring, outsourcing, looking for lower cost solutions. And we, I think the globalization team were in 20 or 22 different countries. So the key attribute is patience, is continuous learning, is shake it out, don’t be afraid, you know, step up, lead.
We make everybody lead a major program or project, so we spend a lot of time training on how to lead something that they have in their head that will go to our mission. So trainable. I’m very passionate and very on top of some specific things, so people that don’t shy away from very open conversation; we do a lot of candor, we do a lot of, how are we gonna talk to each other, so we do a lot of values training also.
Teamwork. People that can work really well in a team, is very important-
Good. This is really great. I wrote down patience, continuous learning, shake it up, trainable, passionate, open conversations, values teamwork. Very good.
So looking back on your career, what might you have done a little differently knowing what you know now?
I remember when I started, I was always the pain in the butt in the meetings, saying, well, “You haven’t thought about localization.” And I know that I used to be the pain in the room, like, “Well this doesn’t look like this is globalized or internationalized, or why haven’t you done this, or you don’t know better,” I used to be a bit of a smartass person years ago, and I don’t think that helped me.
What I learned was it was much better to listen and then go and ask after the meeting, or tackle this very difficult conversation, ’cause they’re usually about somebody wasn’t thinking in the proper, or somebody doesn’t know what they don’t know. So going after the meeting, maybe, to ask about globalization plans and sitting one-on-one, rather than putting people and evidence in big large rooms, because I think I made a lot of people feel very uncomfortable.
But that’s something I learned, and then, so having these more strategic conversations outside of the major forums is better, is much better. That way you create the relationship with the person to say, “Hey, you know, do you understand what localization is, what we do? Have you ever thought about how this will resonate in Korea?” You know, that.
Okay, very good. And any particular advice? I mean you’ve got this incredible machine going, but there’s people on this call that don’t, necessarily, and are just getting started. What advice might you give to people starting out in globalization leadership?
So number one, be very patient. When I started at NetApp, I was one person. You need to be very patient, you need to be very brave; very brave. The way I went from one person to many is I decided to come up with the 12th session task force, I called it a task force, and I went to grab different people from different teams, I’m like, would you help me figure this globalization thing out?
…I would say ask your vendors for help, to strategize. You can have your vendors if you’re on your own or it’s a very small team, you can put a vendor day, you can put a globalization day, your vendors will help you. Even if you’re on your own.
There are people out there who can help you look bigger or amplify what you want to do. The other thing I would say: Join forums… If you don’t belong to a forum, you should join one, because you’re gonna find the people like the way I found Adam, right?
And so you start creating these networks, and Adam is who taught me about internationalization, so you need to network. Networking would be something very important.
And the other thing I would say if you’re a localization manager just with a band of one or two or three is to start creating some sort of awareness, so maybe you create a monthly newsletter or a quarterly newsletter. There’s so much information out there, that you can start parsing that out or mailing that out through the company as a subscription model and see who would be interested.
So thinking, what are the things that you can do, when you start moving those engines, things start to happen. Luck meets the well prepared, so sitting alone and just sending products to the localization vendor is not healthy if you wanna move from localization to globalization.
“Luck meets the well prepared”- very good.
Excerpt 4: Q/A Session [00:34:29-00:44:28]
Alright, so we’re into the QA part of our presentation. We have a couple of questions already, which is great, which I’ll read off, and we’ll continue on…
Our first question here is from Gary: what are the top three questions you ask a new product team or business unit?
A new product team, I ask who’s the development manager, who’s the release manager, and who’s the executive.
And then you have a conversation with them, and some of the first questions can be, “Have you ever thought of going global?” Many, many times, the product teams are formed by excellent developers or QA leads that have done this in other companies, maybe they’re not doing this in your company, so one of the questions would be, “Did you do this at IBM? Did you do this at VMware?” One of the questions I ask is “Where did you work before?”
But you want to find the right people, and you want to start having the conversation. Some other way of looking at this is, can I look at the business requirements? Because many, many times, the product managers are working through business requirements, and so you need- it’s almost like pulling a thread of like, who didn’t put the right business requirement for the product to go global? Maybe it was product marketing, or there’s so many disconnects, again, that Geo Alignment of doing the detective work of who didn’t put the right requirements, why did they think that placing this product in Japan is not a good idea?
It might be because it is not a good idea, but you need to find out if the product is in the country manager’s plan.
And so that’s why you wanna prepare before you go to these product teams, just say like, “Hey, have you realized that there is a lot of action around this particular product in China, or in Japan, or in Italy, wherever.”
Really good. Alright, I should move us on to the next question, we have quite a few here: Jack…said globalization is going through growing pains…What is your take on this?
It’s very true! So for example, Jack, I travel a lot to China, so many, many Chinese companies are trying to [go] global and they don’t know how to, so that would be one thing. The other thing that I would say is many are looking for US companies to help them with joint ventures or EM partnerships to get in to a particular country like the states. You have a lot of nationalistic spirit popping through, a lot of countries tightening borders, and so that’s part of what he’s talking about: entering countries is very complicated. You have the government in between, they might wanna tax you higher, they might wanna put impediments into the global trade compliance; I mean, there’s so many issues around global trade compliance, and you constantly need to be looking at new tax laws. Is it worth it to put a product in a country that’s gonna give you low revenue?
So that’s why you need to be very, very careful into where you’re putting your product. What are the countries, and you need your legal teams, and you need your global trade compliance teams lined up. Just localizing to localize is not a good strategy any more.
What do you say are your current biggest challenges when it comes to the way forward with globalization in the near future?
The rapid growth of data, the way that artificial intelligence is offering very quick response back into vertical access. So how are we gonna be able to keep up with the decision making process of, data’s coming in very quickly through artificial intelligence where you used to have dozens of analysts trying to figure a particular problem, you can figure it out in seconds with something like IBM Watson.
So how are you able to react to that is gonna be the advantage of any company. And so how fast you can globalize that, how fast can you put it on digital, you know the digital transformation, the access to data and information, that is, I think, the next frontier here.
Alright, so I’m gonna call it good here; we’re at the end of our time. Thank you very much, Anna, this was really a special webinar for me to hear this strategic view. I think this is really a beautiful thing, because we work with a lot of companies around the world, and they are really struggling to get where you are now.
So clearly you’ve had a vision for this that you’ve realized, but there’s as you’ve said, luck meets the well prepared, you’ve really done your work over the years. It hasn’t been instant. And I think that comes through. Again, everybody, if you don’t have it, go and buy a copy of Truly Global; it’s well worth the read, and find some people to network with and mentor and help you, whether you’re on top of the world or just getting into it, there’s always a place for that…
Again, thank you Anna, and to everyone who joined us, thank you for joining us; the recording will be available shortly, it usually just takes us a few days, and you’ll get a notice about it.
Take care everyone!
And thank you, Adam! Thank you.
Alright, bye bye!
Bye bye everybody.