In this blog, I’m going to focus on an issue which is something that everyone in business has to think about, irrespective of the sector in which you operate, the fact that we live in an increasingly globalised world.

When it comes to implementing an international data management solution for your firm there are a number of key things that you need to think about.

Whilst English may still be the “first” language of international business the balance of power amongst the economic powers of the world is changing and those of us in CRM must understand how we are going to meet the international data management challenges that this shift presents.

Data Management

The first 2 things you need to think about are the current structure of your data management resources and what it is you’re actually going to do with your data.    People often think that “internationalising” your data means that every single field has to be in the local language, but that’s not necessarily the case.  People would certainly expect to see their names in the format with which they are familiar but does that necessarily mean that everything else is translated?

You also need to consider not just what the client would expect to see but also what your internal users would want.  Having the name of a key contact in Tokyo in Kanji might be helpful for the local team but will present real issues for the UK client partner managing the overall relationship with that organisation.

So ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where will the data management resources be based and what will their roles be?  For example are you going to have data management resources in more than one country where English might not be the first language?

  • What will the data management processes be for countries that might require communications to be sent in more than one language?

  • How do you determine in what language to communicate with someone?  It can’t be just based on country as in professional services it’s very common for people from one country to be posted to other offices around the world.

  • Where you’ve identified a need to support multiple languages, which fields in your data set actually need to be in different languages?

  • How are you going to manage Outlook synchronisation?  What happens if collectively your fee earners have different language versions of the same person in Outlook?

  • Are you ever going to allow the contact to validate their own data and if so how would you present this to them?

What is it we’re trying to achieve?

Before we can really embark on a process for implementing any kind of multi-language solution we have to ask ourselves “what are we actually trying to achieve”?  “Which specific functions within our CRM system are we aiming to support”?  For example:

  • What are the reporting requirements and do these need to be in non English languages?  If the language of your firm is typically English is it necessary to translate everything into local languages?

  • What % of communications are electronic and what % are hard copy?  As we move increasingly to an electronic method of distribution and web-part technology we have the opportunity to be more sophisticated when it comes to the storing versus presentation of data. International hard copy mailings need to capture the address components in local language so that the local post office knows where to deliver your letter but this is not true for electronic communications.

  • Do you need to start thinking of international taxonomies?  Increasingly firms want to categorise job titles in to a more helpful list of codes based on “function” and “level”.  Job titles would typically be in local language so you’ll need to know all the international versions of lawyer, accountant, finance director, company secretary etc.

I’ve only covered a few key points here, but the thing about embarking on the road to internationalise your data management strategy is that it really isn’t about data or systems at all.

Whilst all the software vendors have “ticked the box” when it comes to supporting internationalisation, you have to take a business process and not a system or data centric approach to your thinking.

It’s also important to bear the following 2 fundamental things in mind if you’re going to be successful.

Firstly you’ve got to be realistic about what you can achieve, it’s much worse to set expectations of an “all singing all dancing” solution but then find you’re unable to deliver everything you’ve promised.

Secondly you absolutely have to think about Integration, and understand what impact your multi-language solution within CRM may have on other systems and consumers of that data elsewhere in the firm.

Bon chance!

Watch out for our Golden Rules and Directors’ Briefing Room updates on Internationalisation to give you a check list of everything you need to know to implement this successfully in your firm.