June 2019
Text by Rebecca Ray

Image: © 3alexd/istockphoto.com

Rebecca Ray is a senior analyst at independent market research firm CSA Research. The firm focuses on research related to globalization, localization, internationalization, and language services. Rebecca's primary focus is enterprise globalization, social media, multilingual SEO, and global product development. She is fluent in English, French, and Spanish, and proficient in Portuguese and Turkish.

Twitter: @globalizediva

Driving digital transformation on a global scale

Supporting a digitally enriched customer journey right across all markets is no easy task. It involves far more than introducing new interfaces or apps. What organizations really need is to upgrade their global strategies.

It’s rare to go for more than 24 hours without receiving an email that references "digital transformation" in some way. Organizations of all types – commercial, government, NGOs, non-profits, and educational institutions – spend a lot of time discussing the challenges and changes required by digitalization. But who’s taking responsibility for the global ramifications of these initiatives? How are companies measuring success or failure? How will global content evolve as a result?

Based on in-depth interviews with C-level executives across various industries and a survey of 53 content marketing and localization managers, CSA Research shares how challenges and responsibilities for digital transformation are perceived and managed.

How does the commercial sector define global digital transformation?

Some executives refer only to what's going on in their marketing organizations when CSA Research analysts ask them to explain the term. However, our research covers the much broader spectrum of what an organization must do to upgrade its overall global strategy, people, processes, technology, and governance structure to meet, engage, win, and service customers – wherever they happen to be in their digital world at any given point. Obviously, this is a tall order. That’s why it’s taking established medium- and large-sized organizations two to three years to reach their digital transformation goals across all areas of their business.


Who’s looking after the content piece of the digital transformation equation?

Or, as one of our interviewees put it, "Is our content managing us, or are we managing our content?" Hardly any organization bothers to appoint an executive to take charge of content as a strategic asset enterprise-wide. Top managers may claim to recognize content in this way and say the right things, but in reality, they trust their CMO, CDO, or CIO to "do the right thing." In almost all cases, this means that their digital transformation focus remains only on marketing content or the cost of producing content, with very little thought given to leveraging and monetizing this asset on a global scale.


Change management trumps technology

Executive interviewees report that processes and people typically require the time and the budget to catch up with the technology being implemented to support this digital evolution. At the same time, they point out that the alignment of people and technology are the easy part. What they spend more time on is the roadblocks created by the corporate culture as they ramp up their change management initiatives. As one interviewee put it, "Focusing exclusively on new user interfaces or apps is like ‘putting lipstick on a pig’ if you don’t address the underlying processes and organizational structures that must adapt adequately to support a digitally enriched customer journey – especially internationally."


A winning digital customer experience (CX) means globalizing business processes enterprise-wide

Companies must figure out how to globalize digital transformation, just as previous generations of executives had to decipher how to globalize e-commerce. It involves much more than simply improving the performance of marketing programs worldwide or reducing the number of content management systems in use. It means preparing your entire organization to support customers seamlessly as they shift platforms online or move offline – regardless of language, time zone, or geography.


Language service providers can add value

One thing that everyone agrees on is that digital transformation is difficult, but that it is fundamentally no different from any other type of business transformation. How so? To be successful, it requires support at the top and behavioral change, and this will be ongoing. As a result, enterprises have chosen to bring in large consultancy firms – their frequent partners for big initiatives – to provide guidance. While these third parties can sketch out broad strategies, they are much weaker at understanding what’s required at the local market level, or how to execute and scale their recommendations. Who can help? A small but growing number of language service providers have invested in deep content expertise and the ability to apply it to the global customer journey. These strategic LSPs are ideal for picking up where third-party consultancies leave off.


The executives CSA Research interviewed are the first to admit that they don’t have all of the answers, or as one of them expressed it, "There are things that we know we don’t know, things that some of us know but others don’t, and things that we don’t even know that we don’t know." Buy-side localization teams – and their global content service partners – need to increase their efforts at building credibility for the global value they can add to enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives. Doing so will allow the enterprises they work for to avoid the investment in re-architecting what global e-commerce required in the past.