How to Evolve Localization from Tactics to Strategy

How to Evolve Localization from Tactics to Strategy
April 11, 2018
Box, an enterprise content management platform that solves simple and complex challenges, including sharing and accessing files—with advanced security far beyond traditional methods—has a lot of benefits to offer localization professionals. Find out why. 
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Michael Welcome to Globally Speaking Radio. This is Michael Stevens, and today we’ve got a special guest on our show. Hanna at Box So, let’s get the conversation started.
Hanna I’m Hanna Kanabiajeuskaja, I’m from Belarus, and hence the last name that’s so challenging to pronounce, and I work at Box as a Localization Manager.
Michael You pronounce it very well, much better than I would have.
Hanna Thank you. People have given me that compliment before, many times.
Michael That’s great.
Hanna I now feel confident in my pronunciation of my last name.
Michael So Hanna, what are you responsible for here at Box?
Hanna I’m responsible for the international product, but I also help out other teams with marketing, with community content, so my general responsibility is focusing on product but I feel my personal responsibility for the entire customer journey for our international users.
Michael So give our listeners a sense of the size and scale of what’s happening at Box and how you’ve seen it grow since you’ve been here.
Hanna Yes, so in terms of employees we’ve grown maybe 30-50%. In terms of how we go about our strategy and the thinking around localization and around developing our products, I feel like we’ve grown a lot, because now we’re using more data; we’re less focused on what an individual sales person would ask us. For example, in localization, and it’s all across the company, it’s not just localization, because localization is just moving with the rest of the product, right, so product team gets better, we get better together, but one of the examples would be in the past days, pre-localization team, some engineer could just come in and just say “oh I want to add my language”, and they would just translate into their language, and then they’d publish the application in that language. I’ve seen random languages on our applications because of that, and it’s now that we have a team, and we see the data on who actually uses these languages, even if you have a few users in that language, it’s really hard to take it down. So to companies that are just starting, I think they need to understand first where their users are, instead of just throwing languages out there.
Michael That data is a cure to the passionate engineer or the passionate sales person who’s like “hey just let me get this out, I’ll do so much better”, and then you guys can look at the data and say “now might not be the time”, or “let’s find an intelligent way to test that to see if it is the time”.
Hanna Yes, and people really respond very well to data, so nowadays when I get a sales request that’s exactly what I do; I will show them the data and say “you know how to get your language in, just bring us more customers”, and that would be automatically reflected in our road map.
Michael Yes, some of the companies I’ve talked with, they look at number of users in a region or country, they look at website traffic; it used to be that companies would say “what are the top 20 companies in GDP, and that’s where we’re going”, because that was sort of the only metric they had to make those decisions. Are there any other data points that you see as significant that companies should think of?
Hanna Yes, I don’t think it’s fair to take a country’s GDP and just think that you will sell proportionately in that country; you have to really understand who your users are, and how many of them live in the country, and what is their purchasing ability. So these are all data points that you can actually get from research, and there’s the CIA world book site, or world facts, I don’t remember, site out there but it’s all free data, right, so if you’re doing your initial research it’s really easy to get that data. So people should really be focusing, not just on a very generic look at a country, but they should be focusing on the potential users, so yes.
Michael How does you team go with personas, like are there different personas in region or in country?
Hanna In any B2B company you will have at least three. It will be the buyer of the product, the user of the product and then the administrator, and then our fourth persona would be the developer. These are very generic personas; obviously when you are developing features then you have to think about the actual…the more granular use cases, but even when you look at the admin/buyer/user/developer, and you have all this content that’s catering to these people, you can see how effective this content is for them. As an example our marketing site; will the end user ever go there? Probably not so frequently unless they are subscribing for a free version of Box, or they are looking for some information on troubleshooting their issues and end up on the marketing site by mistake, so the marketing site is created for the buyer, right, and so the more buyers we get in, the effect is multiplied on the user side.

In product, because these buyers will get, you know, 100 seats or 1,000 seats for their company, so that site should really cater to people who are buying technology and should be more detailed and there should be more focus on security, on general content management. Whereas the product is for end users, so it needs to be user friendly, right, and in our products, security is kind of implied, and because the products are for users, we are trying to remove the security barriers, so it’s not visible to the user, and they just use it in their everyday life, while in the back end we have security. So it’s kind of a…I like how we’re kind of leading to security right.
Michael It’s a good segue.
Hanna But yes, so the product is more for the end user and also for admins; the marketing side is for the buyer, and this is what we have to understand when we think about the data inputs that go into deciding into which languages to localize.
Michael The more conversations we have with companies, the more we see the international or localization teams thinking like a marketing strategy team, and there’s a lot of overlap there in their use of data, in their focusing on personas and how to best capture the right person at the right time.
Hanna You can call it the marketing strategy, but it’s actually the customer journey strategy, so we are a very unique team, and I’m sure so many people have said it before, that the localization team is kind of across the company and works across the customer journey, and the good thing about it is that we can look at data across all of these steps, and we can actually service some data from marketing, for example the rates of customer acquisition to our customer support team, so that they know what to expect, right. So, we can be that funnel that brings data to other teams.
Michael Yes, that’s awesome; that’s awesome to hear that as an advantage for a localization team, because so many people we hear these stories of like the lack of impact they’re having in the industry but when you…or in their own companies, but when you see that you’re spread across the entire customer journey you have all this access to all this data, you can be a bit contributor.
Hanna I can give you a hypothetical example where data kind of moves down the funnel from acquisition to usage to support. So an example would be say you’re a person responsible for your support site, where you have all the articles that would describe how the product works and how it’s helpful to the user, so whenever a user has a problem they would go to the support site, okay. So a few months ago on our support site we were looking at visitor data, and we only have French and Japanese on the support site right now, so as you can imagine, there are very few people coming from other countries where the languages are not spoken.
Michael Because it’s not available to them?
Hanna Yes.
Michael Yes.
Hanna Or who knows why, you know, yes, it’s not available maybe like we don’t really lead to that site; there are a lot of reasons, but I suspect that one of the reasons is that they just can’t see it in their language, right? So when you look at the data from that support site, you may say “oh, there is not enough demand from users in Germany”, or from customers in Russia, because not so many of them are coming there, but that’s really the wrong way to look at the data. The correct way to look at the data would be to look at the product data and to look at the distribution of users on product, because that would give you the idea of who is using the product and how likely they are to come to the support site, just because there are more of them, right, otherwise why would you come to the support site?

I mean you could come to the support site if you were a buyer and wanted to learn more, but the major use for the support site is for the product users to go get more information. So the correct way would be to look up the funnel for the support people, right. They will look at product data and use it to plan localization for support. And similarly on the marketing side, so if I were to wonder what languages would come…from what countries will users come to product, I should be looking at the marketing site and at our sales data, because this is what…I don’t have these users on product yet, but they will come in soon, so where are they going to be coming from; I can look at the sales pipeline and at our marketing data, at our data from our partners, and that would give me an idea what should I add on product to be ready for these people to come in.
Michael Our listeners love hearing stories, so there are two questions: one is how many languages are you guys currently supporting? And then what is a user story, someone from Box that your team has had like an impact or what’s something that has happened in the program that you could share, that our listeners would enjoy?
Hanna Let’s see. So, we support 23 languages; we’re adding two more in the coming month. And a user story, there was this actor, very famous in Hollywood, a lot of you guys probably love this actor, but I can’t disclose the name, which is kind of lame because that would be so much more fun…
Michael Yes but I kind of love it; my mind is running wild right now.
Hanna Yes, who could it be? He’s in so many Oscar-winning movies, and he is kind of like…he has this kind personality… but don’t try to guess.
Michael Okay.
Hanna Okay so there is this actor, and one of the media companies that we provide our services to was in a trial period for Box, okay, so they didn’t buy us yet. So, they said “okay, we have this urgent script that we have to send to this very famous person”. Usually what they would do, they would upload the script to an iPad, and they would ship the iPad to the actor, and so by the time the iPad will arrive he would, you know, go over the script, or they would just send the paper version. So, instead what they did with Box, they gave him the app and gave him access… see now you know that it’s a guy, okay… they gave the actor the access to that script which was highly confidential because it’s a movie that they were planning, and so the feedback from the actor was that he was just amazed, and he read it on his plane from… I don’t remember what is was, LA to that company, and it was really quick, and he was just very impressed, and he even quoted Box in whatever he was saying, so after that trial they actually signed a contract with us.
Michael They signed with you guys, and the reason they were taking those other antiquated steps were to provide that security around the script; you guys were able to convince the company that your solution is just as secure, if not more, which it is…
Hanna Yes, probably more.
Michael Yes, probably more if you’re not mailing things, and your hard copies, you don’t even know whose accessing it and seeing it. That’s a good use case and a good story. Security has become a larger topic in our industry, especially last year after translate.com and their use of companies data publicly, though it was said in the users’ agreement that they would do that, people didn’t realize that that was the case, and so you guys are a company that’s very concerned about your users’ security; what you can share about that is great because I think that’s kind of a fundamental of your product, but then also as a buyer of localization, what’s the expectation from your partners?
Hanna Right, so we have all of this training on security and privacy, so now I slightly understand the difference between security and privacy.
Michael Well start there; start there for us.

So, at Box we really care about both, and we have a lot of trainings constantly and tests at Box to make sure we’re not violating security and privacy, and we are not letting other people violate that of our customers, because our customer data belongs to them, and whatever they have there, nobody is supposed to touch, ever. So day-to-day, I was going to share a few stories about day to day stuff and how we try to make sure that we observe all the secure rules while you guys don’t really notice the revolving doors.

Oh yes, the actual physical security in the space.
Hanna Yes, so there is physical security; we lock our laptops. If somebody forgets to lock their laptop, everybody notices, and we even have this shortcut to go to that would put something very embarrassing on your screensaver and lock it for you, and then your screensaver would, you know, display something very embarrassing.
Michael To remind you the next time to lock it when you leave?
Hanna Yes.
Michael Okay.
Hanna So, we try to warn people not doing it. So physical security…let’s see what else do we have. We’ve got badges. Have you guys been to…have you seen server rooms? So, there are servers, there are huge buildings; I was…my first server room that I visited was at eBay, and then I saw the one for Box. You walk in, and there is an armed guard in the room so that nobody breaks into that room, so data is… physical security is pretty good. So, if somebody comes to visit us, like you guys, you come to visit us, then I would have to follow you around to make sure you don’t take anything; that would be very weird, but I have to do that unless I know you very well, and you were going to the bathroom—I’m not going to follow you there.
Michael So, working at an LSP, I hear that sort of story, and I know that the LSPs I’ve worked for have nowhere near the level of security that you would have at a company like Box. How do you evaluate your partners and their level of security? What are the expectations there?
Hanna Yes, so there are a few different types of localization partners that we are working with. One of them is localization service providers, so the content that we’re sending to them, we send it through Box, or we send it through TMS.
Michael When it comes to customer data, that’s the highest priority; your product is responsible in it. If it’s a random set of software strings; that’s not…now if it’s a new product update, and that, like all these features or something that’s new on the market, that might be higher priority, but still not sort of business critical?
Hanna Yes, for sure. And still we check there is certifications; that would certify you as a company; that would protect the data of your client. We did put I think an additional clause into our agreements with vendors that they are responsible… if something happens, then they are responsible for the data that they leaked, so this is just for the service providers, though. When we buy tools that have something to do with our code or somehow integrate into our systems, that goes through a very rigorous process. We have a combined team, security, legal and compliance, that would review every tool, and they would ask a lot of questions; get documentation from the provider of the tool, and then one of the tools recently, we couldn’t really use it in the way that we wanted to because security blocked us. So, we had to create a completely separate site for international to be able to use that tool.
Michael Okay.
Hanna Because on our…it wasn’t the tool’s problem by the way, it was the kind of our…not a security vulnerability, but it would become if we had used the tool there.

And then this is also the reason why we decided to build an in-house continuous localization system for those strings, specifically because we didn’t want to plug in some tool directly into our codebase, so now we have this Mojito which we open-sourced, and can be just used in small companies for localization, but for us it also serves as a layer of security because it can pass around XLIFFs through APIs, but otherwise we would have to integrate a TMS directly into our codebase.

There are actually some translation agencies; some of our engineers moved to other companies; they are now trying to implement Mojito there.
Michael That’s great.
Hanna Yes, so a few companies are using it; it’s a very basic tool, it doesn’t have leveraging. It does… it’s good to separate your code from a TMS, and it’s good for a good overview of all of your strings and your product, and it checks the different variables if they’re omitted.
Michael Okay. Is it available in GitHub or where can people find it, if they’re interested?
Hanna Yes, it’s on GitHub, yes.
Michael Okay, well, yes, they should check that out.
Hanna We have a site, mojito.global, where you store documentation.
Michael Ok. There’s a great book out there called How To Lie With Data, and it’s a short classic novel, or novel book, but one of the principles is when you’re looking at large batches of data, often the outliers, you throw them out. if you want to have clean, uncorrupted data, that’s the way to do it, because it’s going to skew, it’s going to skew your mean, it’s going to skew whatever you’re trying to make your case from, if you have that one user in Antarctica, it’s going to throw you off. So the focus on it is really violating a lot of principles.
Hanna Yes, yes, and I mean do you really want to waste your time? Are you that interested in that user? But I know that there’s some stories in the news where company employers would actually go and look at that data, and that’s just…to those people I just say that’s wrong, and you’re wasting your time, could be spending it on much more useful things.
Michael Much better uses of that.

End of conversation

Hanna Kanabiajeuskaja

Hanna Kanabiajeuskaja is a data-driven and empathetic product manager with focus on global expansion.

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