While Wim Elfrink makes headlines as Cisco’s chief globalization officer and developing human capital around the globe, Brian Shorey and his team have the more mundane task of globalizing the company’s internal systems. Last week, Cisco held a vendor-palooza to which program manager Richard Faubert invited language service provider partners (and us) to learn about the company’s globalization strategy, meet with buyers, and network.
Shorey kicked off the vendor part of the meeting with an overview of the current state of globalization at Cisco. The “our goals” slide in his PowerPoint deck resembled many that we’ve seen at the companies we’ve worked with. He wants to develop a world-class globalization capability, would like to turn around localized products within 3 months of shipping the English version of products, lower development costs, decrease translation costs, increase consistency and quality, increase availability, increase market share, increase revenues, and more effectively support marketing and sales by Cisco’s country business units. “Ending world hunger” and “solving the energy crisis” were missing from his list, but his focus aligns perfectly with what we saw in our research on Developing Products for Global Markets.
Before the team kicked into gear, Shorey said that there were lots of problems in Cisco’s globalization story. For example, they found 102 instances of a single sentence, 120 variations of a product name, thousands of pages of Asian content that had not been published due to technical glitches, no brand controls, hundreds of siloed translation memories, lots of language service providers cutting business with everyone at wildly varying rates, and no accounting for what was being spent. We have heard this tale many times before. What Cisco is experiencing is no different than what most companies see as they move from the reactive and repeatable stages of the Localization Maturity Model to the managed and optimized levels.
Echoing the Andy Grove nostrum that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, Shorey said that the company has made some progress in all these areas and that his team was working on solid metrics for measuring its success. Some of the measures for success will be financial, including top-line numbers such as increased revenue per PC sold in commercial markets and bottom-line results such as reduced localization costs per product per language. Others will revolve around share, such as increased bookings of localized products and greater share. Still other metrics will focus on quality, such as more consistency across products for terminology and interfaces.
What did we take away from the day at Cisco? The company is consciously investing to improve how it develops products that can be sold around the world, document them, market them, and support them. It faces the same challenges as every company we talk to — how to do that most cost-effectively and efficiently while their product lines increase in breadth and depth, the volume of words balloons, and the number of countries in which they compete mushrooms. Cisco looked into its engineering department for leadership, validating our regular call for cross-fertilization of localization with other corporate cost and profit centers.