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By Joe Sawyer

Until recently, many companies approached e-business globalization in a piecemeal manner - addressing the translation of a web page, modification of a graphic, or localization of a product without much attention to the bigger picture. But as the Internet continues to entrench itself in the heart of business, web globalization too is becoming increasingly far-reaching and complex - with implications from the boardroom to the server room. How can firms understand what's involved, and whether they're ready for the challenge?

To help answer these questions, Idiom recently launched a new business planning tool on WorldWise (http://www.idiominc.com/worldwise). The tool measures a company's ability to successfully launch and maintain global web sites by calculating its Globalization Quotient (GQ).

Critical issues in globalization
Executives walk through 15 statements about their strategic, organizational, and technology resources. Based on their answers, the tool produces an overall GQ score, ratings in each of the following three categories, and a report containing advice for likely action items and next steps.

Here's a preview of the critical issues that indicate a company's readiness for launching and maintaining international sites.

  • Strategy. The goal is to develop an effective planning process that includes:
    1. a well-thought out approach to product and market selection and
    2. a detailed roadmap that addresses overall goals, milestones, resource requirements, and anticipated ROI.
    But even the most meticulous plans won't fly without enthusiastic support from senior management - and, increasingly, the presence of an existing international infrastructure. In contrast to online-only players such as Boxman and Letsbuyit.com, global online success stories such as BOL and Monster.com have successfully leveraged their access to brick-and-mortar offices, international staff, and local know-how.

  • Organization. Are the right people and workflows in place? In addition to a dedicated team headed by a full-time senior executive (the more previous globalization expertise, the better) you need processes that track the creation, flow, and publishing of all content. Content includes not just text, but graphics and everything from contact information to pricing and merchandising. The goal is to avoid creating a Globalization Gap between domestic and international sites - a situation in which the new efforts are constantly out of sync.

  • Technology. A solid technology infrastructure enables the effective management and growth of an international web presence. Companies have four requirements here:
  1. an inventory of their existing Internet infrastructure and back-end technologies;
  2. a target list identifying the new technologies needed such as tax, shipping, and logistics software;
  3. software to automate the maintenance of global content;
  4. and an internationalized web site that can support multiple markets.

Proper planning is necessity
It's a daunting to-do list that, properly addressed, will impact nearly every department and geography across a company. But it's also a necessity, if firms want to transform globalization from an afterthought to a cornerstone of their e-business.

Joe Sawyer is director of globalization products at Idiom, Inc., the leading provider of software and services for e-business globalization. There, he oversees WorldWise, an online resource dedicated to helping companies use the Internet to expand their businesses internationally. He can be reached at jsawyer@idiominc.com.

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