Q&A with Globalization Leader Lyena Solomon on the Globalization Strategy Playbook

In October 2021, a group of 12 globalization professionals published the Globalization Strategy Playbook, a free guide aiming to instruct leaders in the fields of globalization and localization on applying strategic thinking concepts to their industry. The playbook, which was first unveiled during the LocWorld keynote on Oct. 21, is available for all those interested to access via GitHub.

Earlier this month, MultiLingual spoke with Lyena Solomon, the director of globalization at ServiceNow and the leader of the group that put the playbook together, to learn a bit more about how it came to be and what readers will find in the playbook.

Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.

[MultiLingual]: How would you explain the overall scope of the Globalization Strategy Playbook, and what kind of information does it cover?

[Lyena Solomon]: The Globalization Strategy Playbook introduces common strategic thinking concepts, such as vision, pillars, objectives and goals, and guides you through how they apply to the process of globalization. The playbook offers a wide variety of tools and an expansive globalization framework. It is a compass in a globalization leader’s journey and helps them define the right problem to solve.

The content of this playbook spans from tactical tips to more creative insights. However, the recurring theme of this work is to guide globalization leaders through a strategic thinking process, where the strategy is the approach one takes to achieve a goal, and a goal is the primary, measurable outcome of a strategy.

The playbook gives an overview of vision by answering the question “What does the future you are trying to create look like?” It explains strategic direction as the overall framework, annual objectives, goals, and roadmap. It provides a guide for conversations and goes through the topics, the metrics, and the rationales that a globalization leader should address with stakeholders and the C-suite. The readers will find tips and best practices around procedures and processes that represent the most effective course of action in localization.

[ML]: What do you believe to be some of the most important ideas and concepts presented in the playbook?

[LS]: In order to be truly global, companies need to include globalization strategy in their business strategy. In the Globalization Strategy Playbook, we shared our strategic approach to solving challenges in global markets and how we continuously elevate the voice of international customers in our companies.

The ideas and frameworks in the playbook connect the strategic thinking process to real-life situations. Globalization strategy should fit into a company’s strategy and amplify the business in international markets. Those ideas are a practical handbook on thinking through and creating a strategic framework for a business. It is a foundation, a guide through today into the future.

[ML]: Could you tell us a little bit of the story of how the playbook came to be? How long did it take you and the team to develop it and where did the idea come from?

[LS]: It took us seven months to develop the playbook. The idea to write a playbook came out of a discussion on data around localization. I was discussing success metrics with Jean-François Vanreusel, who runs Globalization at Adobe and how all metrics discussed are tactical. We agreed that a playbook around globalization strategy does not exist and we should create one. 

Jean-François and I called on our network of localization industry professionals and asked if they would want to join a Strategic Thinking Task Force to write a Playbook. I led the effort and Jean-François was one of the authors of the book.

The world is changing. People who do not speak English deserve to have consumer grade experience in their native languages. Shifting from tactical to strategic thinking will enable globalization leaders to create beautiful experiences for their customers. At the same time, they will be able to show that globalization is much more than just translation.

[ML]: What was the target demographic you had in mind while developing the playbook? Is it primarily for people working in the localization industry, newcomers to the industry, or for outsiders looking to learn about the importance of localizing their brand’s content?

[LS]: Our primary audience is any globalization leader in a company who works with international markets and wants to make a case for g11n strategy. The Playbook is for people who need to make strategic decisions about i18n or L10n. It could be an international enterprise, a global corporation, or a start-up trying to expand into global markets. Whether a reader is a globalization leader of a small company or of a seasoned corporation, the strategic framework to navigate to pursue a specific objective is the same.

Early on, we discovered that literally millions of books, articles, and online classes were dedicated to strategy topics. Most of them cover a tactical approach to strategy and are very market-specific. Most of the information is known to any practitioner who works in international markets.

For example, you can figure out what languages people speak in Germany, but no guide was available to think through a plan to go to a German market and be successful there. No instruction was available on how a person in charge of such a program should think through particulars of doing business in Germany: how to convert the experience they offer in English, for example, to resonate with the local audiences. Leaders who tackle challenges like this will benefit from reading the book. 

I believe we are investing in the future of our teams and our customers. Those who are interested in strategy will be the ones defining user experiences for multilingual audiences. We ourselves could be a part of one of those audiences in the future. As true professionals, we do not stop learning. We learned from each other and, I am sure, we will learn from the comments and feedback we will receive from the readers. We look at it as sharing experience and knowledge so those who are struggling can succeed faster and learn from us.

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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