Writing, speaking, and translating the future

How the C-Suite can enable international expansion

In a previous post I discussed how the C-Suite can accidentally cause global expansion fails. As I promised, in this post I will identify what the C-Suite can do to make sure global succeeds. As in the previous post I’ll list all the ways the C-suite can help global succeed and then explain them in depth.

What is global anyways?

Before telling you how you can help make sure global succeeds you should have an idea what needs to be built or adapted to repeatedly launch in other countries. The short answer is you need infrastructure to handle the same work you are doing for US markets everywhere. But if you work smart this is not an exponential increase in costs. It is about ensuring what you’ve built can support the new locales and regulations. There’s a lot of internal facing work I mentioned in the Organization as Organism that I will not cover in this post, so if you haven’t read it I’d recommend you read that post as well. The below are the things your software should be able to do. However, most engineers and product managers do not learn best practices for this work in school or even on the job, so there will be a ramp up time to train leads and explain how and why these things are important. Designs for any product integrate cultural assumptions that teams will not immediately identify so expect multiple iterations of a design before it finally gets built with extensible, scalable, and configurable components you will need.

  • Privacy/Legal – Ensuring your product meets GDPR, state privacy, and the privacy of any country you plan to launch in is a part of the work that goes into a templated process. So building configurability into privacy is important. And product should make this a part of their planning or you will continually end up with designs that do not account for work outside the US. 
  • Internationalization – Your software should be able to handle languages, date, time currency, sort, order, and any language/script specific components. This will require changes by product, eng, and UX.
  • Localization – You should have an established and functioning localization team with the proper tools and integrations.  A rule of thumb here is that a product should be fully localized. If it is not then you should explicitly call it out as either a deficit you are working or a product choice that you have justification for doing.
  • Marketing – Marketing and outbound product will need to do a lot of work to make sure your product gets well positioned. And of course product and UX should have done a lot of validation and testing to make sure to find product market fit.
  • Script support – Supporting the written format of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Arabic, and Hebrew presents some of the largest challenges especially on the web. Fonts, text boxes, UIs and many other components will require work by teams and the global leads will have to help them understand what that work is and why.
  • Location-aware products – To present the right privacy, store data, or point to the appropriate languages your stack should be able to identify where someone resides (or is at least located). There are many different ways of doing this but teams need to know this is an essential requirement.

Eight things the C-Suite can do to help successfully launch in international markets

Choose one stack if you have multiple stacks

  1. If you have multiple stacks running your software, get the product and international teams to review them for ease, potential revenue, and strategic need. Choose the stack that meets the criterion you’ve outlined and tell your directs to make global a Priority 1 feature set. Ideally your software shares a stack. It costs less, and requires less randomization of your development teams. Realistically this is not always the case so you will have to help them choose where to invest their efforts while tempering the expectations of global revenue with your board.


  2. Ask for OKRs that require global capabilities rather than global revenue. Requirements around revenue or relationships will not lead to extensible and scalable methods that will help you launch repeatedly outside your home market. The rush to get revenue or meet partner needs will lead to manual hacks that are of no value for sustainable processes. OKRs for privacy. script support, or internationalization are incremental steps towards a global stack.


  3. Only acquire companies that are well built and that match your existing stack as you begin your global journey.  Avoid randomizing your engineers on integration projects that will create operational burdens and heavy integration tasks without providing new capabilities. This is hard to do because acquisition feels like an easy route to enter a market. It is not.

    Understanding Partners

  4. Have the sales org identify partnerships and opportunities with understanding partners that will expand your team’s knowledge and generate smaller revenue while you build your capabilities. Partnerships are especially appealing for exploratory work that doesn’t require production-ready development on a timeline. Your teams will need to learn how to do global. It is best if you find ways to garner revenue from that process.

    Localization and I18n are only part of the work

  5. Make sure your directs recognize that localization and internationalization are necessary infrastructure enhancements that help build out your global capabilities rather than fast routes to revenue. Marketing, brand, and relationship management all depend on adept communication which will take time to build in new markets and languages. This work is not the same as direct translation work you’ll do for the website. But make sure your marketing teams know this is almost always line-item work done by localization vendors.

    Communicate with the board

  6. Work with your board to help them understand that a global stack will require a refactor of your existing stack that will not lead to fast revenue. but it is an investment in long-term sustainable growth. Global is exponential growth if it is designed efficiently, but if it isn’t it is exponential expenditures.

    Get updates from the global team members

  7. Ensure that the global team has clear access to the C-suite through monthly or quarterly reporting. This will allow for transparency on actual work towards international capabilities. t there is not middle management interpreting accomplishments and blockers. Your directs are not as incentivized to deliver on work that they don’t fully own so this cross-organizational work will fall through the cracks unless it is required and that there is C-level visibility on progress. Depending on senior management to report the work will not allow you to see the blockers clearly as they pop up across the company.

    Continually emphasize the value of global work and hold senior management to progress on incremental work towards international capabilities.

    Emphasize the value of global company-wide and drive eng, ux, and product teams to allocate development to incrementally enable global. Mandate managers to consider it like KTLO work or have them create a new category of work with a percentage allocation and quarterly goals. If teams are over-burdened they will deprioritize the global work unless it is mandated.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.