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Michelle Hay

How to navigate the tensions between global and local digital teams

General


Large, global and complex companies with high numbers of locations, services or subsidiaries can end up with a complicated and extensive digital footprint. This potentially means a multitude of disparate websites, social media channels, micro sites and apps, often in different languages and with different aims. It’s also likely that the entire digital estate may be run by multiple teams, perhaps in different locations.

Usually, there will be a central digital team that is responsible for the main corporate website and possibly setting the standards for other local websites to follow, with ongoing oversight to make sure that these standards are being met. The day to day management for local sites and their content then may be down to local digital teams or managers. 

Typically, there can be challenges and tension between digital and local teams when managing the digital estate. This is not true of all organisations but it’s certainly not unusual to find anything between gentle misunderstandings to fully blown stand offs. Tension works both ways with central teams wanting local teams to tow the corporate line and local teams frustrated that they don’t have the power to introduce the degree of localisation needed to create experiences that resonate with local audiences or specific groups.

Areas of Tension

Typically, tension between global and local digital teams is usually seen across six key areas:

  • Control
  • Compliance
  • Content
  • Culture
  • Capacity
  • Change 

Let's explore each of these areas in more detail.  

Control

Most digital teams want to have a degree of control and autonomy over the websites and channels they manage on a day to day basis. It’s professionally dissatisfying if you’re not able to exercise and demonstrate creativity or technical skills, Control can be a bit of a minefield when there is ambiguity and overlapping responsibilities between global and local teams. Even if things are clearly written down, ambiguity can still exist in practice. 

Compliance 

Compliance is a key area where central digital teams need to set standards around compliance of digital channels relating to accessibility, regulatory commitments, legal requirements and other similar issues. These concerns tend to be greater in regulated industries, but they do impact everyone. 

Similarly, there will also be some need for internally driven adherence to specific brand, design and content standards that central teams can struggle to enforce across the entire digital estate. Compliance can also work the other way around where some local teams have specific regulatory legal requirements for a particular jurisdiction that the central team are less aware of, and don’t consider when driving standards from the centre.

Content

Sometimes getting the balance right between global and local content can be tricky, and the degree of influence and involvement the central team have in local content management processes is not always specified. Do they approve content? Do they review it retrospectively? Do they offer support (and budget) for translation?

Sometimes issues around content are related to compliance and the issue of having good quality content standards. Content issues may also relate to SEO, and also be around levels of localisation, ranging from differences in US and UK English spellings to the appropriate tone. 

Culture

Cultural differences between teams in different countries can occasionally lead to tension and misunderstandings. For example,  content from the global team may be culturally appropriate to one country but less so for another. 

Capacity 

Capacity is the ability for either the global or the local team to be able to maintain their website to the standards that the global team are expecting or that are required to deliver the intended customer experience. 

Capacity can relate to both the necessary headcount and access to the right skills. It can be a real challenge because some local digital roles may be under resourced or lack the necessary technical skills and experience. At the same time, central teams may also be seriously stretched, not able to provide the central guidance and oversight and guidance that local teams need. 

Change

Making changes is often the flashpoint for when there are global-local issues. When a central team need to apply changes to the digital estate quickly and make sure it's done, the ability of some locations to do this efficiently and on time can become very apparent. The logistics of time zones can also be a challenge.

Tactics and approaches to help

Of course, there are a number of ways that central global digital teams and local digital teams can work together more successfully. Approaches and tactics that work include:

  • writing down exactly the different responsibilities of teams in order to remove ambiguity
  • having regular checkpoints, check ins and meetings to ensure a good flow of communication.
  • making sure that the central design and publishing guidelines as well as related assets are easy to reach and follow, even contained in a design system
  • using publishing workflow and page templates in your CMS to support compliance
  • centralising some functionality for example, a tool that helps you look after your cookies and privacy notices across the entire digital estate
  • taking a change management approach to initiatives like GDPR so everyone is compliant.

Another tactic it to use software that supports bothglobal and local digital teams.  For example, we’ve observed how Sitemorse’s automated assessment capabilities and other related tools helps in the following areas: 

  • Control– by automating alerts about page-level issues needing to be solved, it removes much of the politics and awkwardness of a central team telling a local team to make improvements.
  • Compliance– automated assessment of areas such as accessibility with prioritisation of issues means that compliance is realistic to achieve rather than feeling like a mountain to climb and a “big ask” from central teams to local teams.
  • Content– the automated assessment capability applies to other elements of content, including everything from spelling to guidelines you set, delivering digital improvement across central and local channels alike.
  • Capacity– Sitemorse automation is prioritised so everybody’s workloads are still manageable, while teams are upskilled through just-in-time training, making capacity far less of an issue.
  • Change– because you can easily adjust assessment criteria it means you can identity what needs to be done when you need to make a content change across the entire digital footprint; meanwhile Sitemorse’s site recording capability allows you to ‘record’ the fact that changes have been actioned.

Working together

Global and local digital teams are prone to misunderstandings and even falling out, but there are approaches that can help smooth out relationships, establishing clarity and helping everybody to focus on excellent customer experiences. If you’re interested in how Sitemorse can help you navigate global and local challenges then get in touch!

Training

Automatic delivery - Just-in-time

Direct ‘just-in-time’ training materials are offered against actions, delivering immediate understanding and confidence in actioning. These videos provide help prevent the same issues being repeated.