Centralized Vs De-Centralized Localization… What Is The Best Strategy?

eLearning Localization Strategy - Centralized Or De-Centralized Localization… What Is The Best Strategy?
Creativa Images/Shutterstock.com
Summary: How will your company effectively train and develop a global workforce? Should you manage the process at the hub of your corporate Learning and Development operations or push this task to the local office? In this article, we'll compare centralized vs. de-centralized localization strategies.

Comparing The Differences Of A Centralized Vs. De-Centralized Approach For Your eLearning Localization Strategy

How will your company effectively train and develop a global workforce? What type of resources and investment are necessary? Should you manage the process at the hub of corporate Learning and Development or push this task to the local office? Does your company want to have a centralized or de-centralized localization program? We believe that to make these decisions, one must first "begin with the end in mind". There are really two approaches to take, so let's consider them:

eBook Release: Creating An Impactful eLearning Localization Strategy: A Complete Guide For L&D Professionals
eBook Release
Creating An Impactful eLearning Localization Strategy: A Complete Guide For L&D Professionals
Within this book you can find questions regarding ROI, investment costs, schedules, cost drivers, and engagement techniques for successful implementation of localized L&D content.
  1. Centralized Program
    A company with international offices/facilities creates all multi-lingual versions of its training content from its central L&D location so that ownership and control of every language version remain in the hands of a central body.
  2. De-Centralized Program
    A global company with offices/facilities in multiple countries decides to hand off all training responsibilities to each international entity in order that they assume responsibility for communication, training, and development of local staff and employees.

We believe that a centralized program produces the most desired outcomes. Let's consider an example of why beginning with the end in mind is an important factor in choosing the right type of localization strategy.

David Kwong is a Harvard-educated magician and puzzler who designs and advises on illusions for film and TV and writes crossword puzzles for The New York Times. His skills are fully on display in the “Now You See Me” films that were highly popular for their creative genius and story-telling. In 2016, David was a keynote speaker at The eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions conference where he spoke on the storyteller’s most important skill: "With the end result in mind, you must plan backward all the events that will carefully orchestrate the big revelation or outcome.". The essential message was that the master illusionist maintains complete control of a set of seemingly random circumstances so that s/he can produce a guaranteed outcome. David demonstrated this impact over a 45-minute performance using the Guild’s 3,000 attendees as live participants. In the end, he created a crossword puzzle that incorporated every piece of information discovered through a series of unrelated magic tricks during the presentation. The audience was stunned and wildly impressed at the conclusion… the result David had planned for and knew he would accomplish.

So, you can see how this theory would apply to your localization strategy. The first step, the most critical step, in building a successful eLearning localization strategy is to define the desired end result. From this point, and planning backward, all individual components can be identified, organized, and executed such that an expected outcome(s) can be achieved.

As a quick illustration of how some companies decide on the de-centralized route, let’s peer into the world of book publishing. For over a hundred years, book publishers have decided to de-centralize their marketing, sales, and distribution channels in international markets. Book rights are sold to international publishers from regions around the world. With this transaction, the original publisher has decided to take a simple royalty for the asset in exchange for leaving the international publisher with the full ownership and responsibility to sell a localized version of the book to its own target audience. This approach to globalization has the financial benefit of gaining some additional (small) revenue with no additional investment costs. The international publisher absorbs the costs of book translation, print, distribution, marketing, and inventory. At the same time, the international publisher captures 100% of the profit from international sales realized -- less the small royalty fee.

But for the original publisher, there are many lost outcomes in choosing this option. Behind the decision to sell book rights is also a decision to not engage and learn the global market. It is an admission that learning how to market, how to sell, how to deliver product in another country is too complicated, too hard. Yes, the learning curve may be steep and expensive, but the outcome of connecting with global users ultimately gives the publisher knowledge of not just selling a book, but thousands of future book titles. Amazon has chosen the route of knowing international markets and in so doing will probably dominate the publishing industry in years to come.

We offer the following 5 benefits in embracing the centralized strategy for eLearning localization:

  1. Engage and know your global learners, global workforce
  2. Control the accuracy of L&D content localization, and therefore, the purity of the instruction
  3. Assure the standardization of processes across all operations – obtain consistent data
  4. Manage the speed of change
  5. Understand the ROI of eLearning localization investment

An entire chapter could be dedicated to each of these benefits but the following concise explanations may be sufficient for this discussion.

  • Engagement Of Global Learners
    Leadership styles in many cultures do not include the desire to inform employees of “why”. Local supervisors may simply demand compliance, and shortcut the explanations when training is left to them to both design and deliver. To properly engage and equip an employee on how certain procedures will keep them safe from injury means to inform them of potential consequences when precise steps are not followed. An informed employee has a much better opportunity to become a motivated employee.
  • Control Of Localized Products
    A company’s reputation is at stake everywhere it has operations. When specific policies are created in one language and then handed to an international office for their interpretation and translation, instructions often lose their purity. When policies involve sensitive or controversial subject matters (bribery, sexual harassment, equality, etc.), then certain cultures may deliberately alter descriptions and consequences for non-conformance. For precise sales strategies or data security measures, local translators may not grasp terminology or capture the true intent of the instruction. Whether sales or IT, there is too much risk of having confused, local employees.
  • Standardization Of Processes
    When a manufacturer has facilities in multiple countries and is exporting from each facility, the ability to make the most profitable export decisions will depend on understanding costs. If the reporting of costs is not standardized across all facilities, then poor decisions will be made. Localizing training on processes and reporting standards within the control of a central L&D body gives a global company its best opportunity to standardize its global data.
  • Speed Of Change
    This factor may be the most overlooked of the five. In the modern global economy where dissemination of information and strategy is extremely time sensitive, does a company really want to risk providing on-time, localized modification instructions to a data security policy? Or, does the company want any delay in getting localized sales training protocols for a new product launch? Expecting international offices to localize training material for their local staff means it will get done when someone finally has the time…
  • Return On Investment
    The effectiveness of any eLearning localization strategy is very difficult to measure when the creation and delivery of localized products are not our responsibility. Identifying true costs is a muddled endeavor. The product itself may be compromised. The results, positive or negative, may be difficult to correlate back to the training content.

These benefits make clear the advantages of a centralized localization strategy, specifically for eLearning purposes. It may not be as glamorous or amazing as David Kwong in front of a live audience, but hopefully, with a similarly successful result!

The Learning & Development professional is facing a growing demand for global adaptations of corporate training content. Download our eBook Creating An Impactful eLearning Localization Strategy: A Complete Guide For L&D Professionals to discover how a great eLearning localization strategy can help you turn your employees into rising stars and unlock their true potential. It also features tips to go global by launching an engaging program for your multicultural workforce.