Driving Localization Leadership

Chapter 4: Becoming a strategic partner

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Driving localization leadership playbook from Global App Testing

Chapter 4 

Becoming a strategic partner 


Here’s what we’ll cover in this chapter: 



Offering strategic advice. How do you begin to start identifying strategic opportunities?




Creating & influencing policy. How do you represent local users to your organization?




Being a leader. Here’s how you can exercise amazing leadership in localization



Offering Strategic Advice

What is a strategic partner? Here’s our idea of the difference between investment and strategy: 

An investment is transactional. A strategy is about the bigger picture.

An investment works on its own. A strategy works in coordination.

An investment is about return. A strategy is usually about users.


Francesca, the Head of Internationalization and Program Management @ Pinterest, said:

“The actual decision [to launch in a market] might be made at a higher level, so if you want to have that strategic presence in the company, your language strategy must entail something else.” 

“You could [argue to] invest in content safety in an unmanaged market – or we could help define the legal policy for data compliance in a high-risk market. We might suggest an ad hoc [built from scratch; non-localized] app for a market where the infrastructure is poor, but which is a big market. There’s a lot you can do to help other teams manage risk, and it depends on how much you want to step up and do that kind of work.”

Another angle is to create localization which is more than the sum of its parts. An investment narrative organization might see localization activities as a number of one-off investments, for example. 

Robert, Product Program Manager @ HubSpot, said: 

“Our approach [to localization] was initially quite cosmetic. I think that’s pretty common – we were in a similar situation and businesses get focused on TAM [Total Addressable Market] and try to get really quick wins… there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

“One of the first pushes within the first couple of years was driving away from the cosmetics. Towards the needs of our global customers. It stops becoming just about content… that’s the start, but it becomes more about, “how do I create a full experience for this particular market?”

  The strategy difference

Here’s a table of how we think the “strategic” narrative is different to the previous narratives.





Localization is a


Activity differentiated by depths & standards

Process of identifying policy / strategy & governing 

Localization acts as 

A barrier to releases

An investment in effectiveness

Core business tenet

The L10n team is a 

Cost center

Revenue generator

Voice of local users

You are measured by

Expense & speed  


Global business success

Successful teams will 

Run workflows better

Identify opportunities better 

Understand users well; influence stakeholders successfully 

“Better quality” means

Fewer bugs or errors

Improvement in local metrics

Experiences which feel natural to users

You need to focus on….

Solid core materials 

Differentiated playbooks

Automation & machine translation

Agile deployment 

Scope & suppliers

Elastic LQA 

Understanding ROI 

Prioritizing localization activities

Building value narratives

Opportunity-based quality insight 

Understanding users

Exercising leadership

User-based quality insight 


  Advice on strategic governance


What is strategic governance?

What percentage of your assets are non-localized; are localized; or are built natively for a particular market, is an open question for any localization team and depends on lots of factors. But as businesses get larger it is likely to invest in more native content, which can create questions over who does what.

For example, Francesca, the Head of Internationalization @ Pinterest is responsible for all assets, including non-localized ones, across different markets. She set up the teams to deliver content in smaller markets.

But when Oleksandr, the Localization Operations Lead @ Shopify, first joined former employer and HR SaaS software product Ceridian, he was asked to create a l10n department and found everything was being built natively.

“There were already product managers for payroll for Germany that delivered Germany-specific features”, he said. Instead, Oleksandr built an internationalization team instead, advising other engineers. “My team would show them how to do things, to create tools, and APIs, and libraries.” 

Strategic governance is the process of encouraging the rest of the business to deliver in line with best practice; and requires managing this kind of environment.


Advice on strategic governance

One business which does strategic governance exceptionally well is Google. Natalia, the Terminology Content Manager @ Google, described her approach to governance, which we’ll quote at length: 

“The biggest challenge in Google is scale”, said Natalia. “We put several approaches [to governance] on the table at the same time.”

“The first is self-service. We have some processes which are automated. We have some processes as part of the overall localization playbook – where stakeholders can go, and know that…”I find the information here, these are the processes I need to follow, this is what I need to submit” This is the most transactional part.”

“The second approach is partnering with the teams that have a direct influence over the main decision makers, and that's usually marketing. Marketing have their own playbooks – so embedding localization there is an incredible way to reach wider audiences. 

“The third approach is getting the support with, and of, any project owner. So we start seeing what our key products are based on. What's the priority for the organization? We identify a main point of contact. Those are going to be our sponsors.”


What does great policy look like?

Policy tends to involve decisions made at the strategic level and then adapted into processes; once there, policy is harder to change. 

Great policy processes optimize for clarity, communication, and solid process thinking. It might be contained in a single-source of truth [SSOT]; pinned in a clear central place; and should embody the right level of detail that it gets read and tells you something useful.

Great policy documentation also tends to ensure that at the moment an employee needs the information in the policy (e.g. the correct translation of a specialized word) the correct document is presented to them (e.g. a glossary in a process embedded in a TMS). 

What does great strategy look like

Great strategy is harder, but at its core, we believe that great strategy is about users. Our advice for generating as rich an understanding of your users as is practical is below.


  Data for strategy: what you should have when you start

In chapter 3, we identified the following things that all businesses need when they begin to 

International performance dashboards

to represent your product performance in different countries, preferably focused on the KPIs which drive your organization or your stakeholder teams.

  • Release-oriented QA  to ensure that your localized product changes are getting released to the highest standard, preferably within an elastic format to avoid slowing down the amazing speed which enables you to focus on strategy. 

Some investigative and responsive QA, based on things like tight local user metrics in areas where your product seems to be exhibiting sub-par performance based on metrics in other markets. For this, we’d recommend product flow testing.

  Data for governance: what you should consider

 As we arrive at data for governance, the approaches taken by our team are wide-ranging.

  1. Deeper sentiment analysis 

Many businesses which work with Global App Testing are able to use sentiment analysis to identify what users are saying about their brands and products, and use that information to supplement their QA to make decisions around what to prioritize.

If you’re a B2C brand and you don’t have access to the level of feedback that B2B businesses use to improve their product, sentiment analysis is a good place to start.

  1. In-house expertise centers

For your larger markets, it is likely to be too thin to ask analysts or third parties to tell you what a local user thinks. You’re going to need product managers or local speakers on the ground in those countries to continuously assess user values and needs.

Rober, Product Program Manager @ HubSpot, explained how this might be more relevant in some countries than others, even after market size is taken into account. “With Japanese, you have to have somebody who is ingrained in Japanese culture and language to have an app which is perceived as high quality.” 

Most of our interviewees hired experts for their top relevant countries; even where they could not afford a translator for every market they used.

  1. Local user research 

It’s tough to generalize about the way that top teams conduct local user research, much of which is sensitive and highly bespoke. 

With Global App Testing, there are some off-the-shelf products like qualitative user surveys in which you can get in touch directly with users in any locale in a 48h timeframe; or think-out-loud testing.

Here’s an example of what they mean:

  • Think-out-loud testing

For think-out-loud testing, we set up a panel of local users to talk through their use of your product as you undertake it. This gives you a chance to observe your users in incredible detail, and get a picture of local users which your business is likely to only process at the product level 

Because of the bimodal structure of Global App Testing – with the delivery “crowd” around the world and a team of analysts in London – we’d pull out insights based on the finding in addition to the raw qualitative feedback.

  • Competitor benchmarking 

One thing that often gets lost, even among extremely sophisticated localization teams, is the different competitor mixes in different markets. This is because of the tremendous complexity involved in expanding the scope of “quality” from narrow questions like “does it work” to broad questions like “how does it sit in the market?”  – for hundreds of markets which might matter for. That’s why Global App Testing produces detailed and rapid-turnaround competitor benchmarking reports. 

  What our interviewees said about leadership


One of the recurring themes of this playbook has been leadership. A final area we want to highlight is the role of leaders in encouraging the maturity and growth of localization teams. 

Robert, Product Program Manager @ HubSpot, described how i18n efforts were being thought about from the top of the company. “The COO, our CEO were in the room", said Robert. “Both of them were very interested in this… We had our MD of Global Sales, and then our VP of Engineering, who was my manager at the time.”

Oleksandr, Localization Operations Lead @ Shopify, spoke about how much weaker leaders can be than they appear: "Underneath themselves, executives see huge ambiguity. They don’t know all the details, but they trust the experts on the respective teams. Executives have to be consistent and believe in the mission and the goal. And continuously validate that their team understands the goals and are aligned." 

It was Slack which really stood out to me as an example of great leadership. “I was lucky to work with leaders who took a chance on me,” said Anca, now the Director of Localization at Slack. “It would have made sense for them to hire a person with experience. I was not that person.” 

‘I kept proving myself, taking on more work. Maybe they just thought “she’s figuring it out. Let’s keep it going.”

We’re excited to know generations of localization leaders at Global App Testing.

global growth toolbox


Check out our toolbox for global growth with Global App Testing.


Fast, thorough, localized tests  

Your full suite of functional tests taken to 190 countries with real users and real devices


Real, physical availability checks  

Identify anything blocking your users from using your product in a target country 


Native-speaker translation checks 

48-hour translation checking by native speakers in 160 languages 


Cultural bulletproofing 

Ensure your workflows are free from bad assumptions & sentiment risks.


Post-translation UI cleanup 

Eliminate overlong strings and date format snafus with the final stage of localization QA 


Product flow assessments 

Identify why some user flows are working better than others with a metric-oriented local review.


Qualitative user feedback

Ask local users whatever you like, either moderated or raw feedback format.


Think-out-loud user testing 

Observe local users as they think aloud about your product with think-out-loud testing.


Competitor benchmarking 

Observe local users as they think aloud about your product with think-out-loud testing.


Insight structure advice 

We can tell you how to build the ultimate local insight machine based on your business.


Let's go →

    Ask us about building your own toolbox.



Thank you! 

The lead writer of this playbook was Adam Stead. Please direct any questions to 

Some of the material in this playbook is taken from our recent interview series “Around the World in 7 Localization Interviews” which can be found via the button below. Participation in the interview series does not necessarily imply endorsement of every aspect of this playbook.

Finally, if you're interested in getting started with Global App Testing, you can apply through our online portal

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