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How to Avoid the 3 Most Common Pitfalls Which Can Derail a Localization Program

How to Avoid the 3 Most Common Pitfalls Which Can Derail a Localization Program
How to Avoid the 3 Most Common Pitfalls Which Can Derail a Localization Program

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Can your technology handle your localization output increasing by 30% to accommodate new languages?”

“What does your localization strategy need to look like to seamlessly transition from 5 to 10 markets?”

“Where do your language assets need to be located to make sure that your brand message will be consistent across all your markets?”

All of these questions are interesting challenges that most localization programs come across at some point. To avoid potential pitfalls, here are three tips that will help you to spot these bumps on the road and avoid them derailing your localization program.

Ensure Your Technology Can Grow With You

The choice of localization technology can make or break a localization program by either growing with it or holding it back with its limitations respectively. The goals of a localization program can change rapidly, meaning that the way your localization program looks today can be very different from how it will look in 6, 12 or 24 months’ time. For this reason, you need a technology that not only will cater to your needs today but which can also adjust to your growth in the future.

This need is best illustrated with an example: A company was present in 5 countries and localized its content into 7 different languages. When it came to choosing a loc-tech solution, the company’s decision-makers did the math and chose the solution which just about covered their current expected output and the licenses needed for the required linguists at that time. With this solution also being lower-priced than the rest, it was a no-brainer to go for it. Two years later, the company decided to expand to 4 new markets and 6 new languages, and they suddenly realized that their decision two years prior was going to prove costly—their technology could no longer accommodate the new output volume and licenses needed to localize their content for the new markets. In the “best” of cases, the company had to pay considerable amounts in hidden costs to increase their number of users and translated words—in the worst of cases, they had to migrate to to a more scalable and cost-effective technology. 

Global content plans can change from year to year, whether that is expanding or decreasing, which is why your technology needs to be flexible to meet these needs and not disrupt the flow of your localization program. Whether you need to move up from 20 to 200 people working on localizing your content, or to increase output from 1 million to 10 million words, your localization technology must be able to adapt to these changes seamlessly by giving you the ability of having infinite customizable workflow steps and no word cap respectively. Sofía Bolontrade, localization Xpert at XTM, explains why scalability is such a key feature in localization technology:

Sofía Bolontrade, Xpert at XTM

By giving you this freedom to adjust to any circumstances or, in other words, by offering you scalability, your technology becomes an enabler instead of holding you back. When a customer wanted to add 5 markets to their localization program, we worked with them to define the workflows, automate as much as possible to streamline the localization process and leverage any assets they could reuse. With scalable technology and a tech provider to guide them through the process, the customer was able to focus on growing their brand globally without hidden costs and in a timely manner instead of struggling to localize all their content on time and seeing the costs pile up.”

Sofía Bolontrade, Xpert at XTM

Key Insight

When choosing your localization technology, ensure that it can cover all of your needs. The next step in the decision-making process needs to be assessing how your tech providers plan on embracing future technological trends and features, so that when the time comes when they are no longer a commodity but rather an industry requirement, you will be able to seamlessly transition to them and maintain your competitive advantage.

Continuously Reassess your Tools and Processes

One of the biggest mistakes localization managers make is not continuously reassessing the status of their localization program. Does your technology support the latest advances such as artificial intelligence or natural language processing? Is your supply chain cost efficient? What KPIs are you using to evaluate your program’s performance? By embracing the latest localization technology available, you will be able to localize content a lot faster and at a fraction of the cost. For this reason, it’s important to focus on the bigger picture instead of on the day-to-day when purchasing your localization technology, because having tools at your disposal that can future-proof your program will help set it up for success in the long term. This is why it’s vital to not just have a strategy in place but also to see which current processes have room for improvement or optimization—and there is no better way to optimize your processes and make them more efficient than by assessing if they can be automated.

Automate to increase efficiency

We still see companies that are starting their localization journey localize their content in a reactive manner, i.e. as and when needed, with no strategy in place and no buyer personas to target. It’s not uncommon for these companies to employ archaic processes, such as translating with Excel spreadsheets and using email as communication between localization or project managers and the translators. When they expand globally, in many cases we see how instead of updating, scaling or modernizing their processes they still maintain the same old, outdated ones. Due to the multiplied workload and output, the inefficiency of these processes becomes increasingly apparent, and soon enough the program’s time-to-market time increases while the productivity and efficiency of the team members decreases. This can eventually lead to additional costs and damaging delays, namely losing 33% of after-tax profits in the event of a six-month delay in product shipment, according to McKinsey

When coming across these cases, we see the immediate solution being the deployment of modern localization technology, a change which revolutionizes the whole existing structure thanks to the ability to automate tasks that were previously carried out manually. Automation drives efficiency in the localization process, a step in the right direction but by no means the answer to all current or future problems. In order for a localization program to stay ahead of the curve and see the bumps in the road coming, it requires all of its processes to be evaluated on a regular basis.

Key Insight

A top tip in the localization industry is to never stop reviewing and reassessing your program and everything related to it, from its tools to its supply chain and its processes. But in most cases we see that this only happens when things start to go wrong. Stagnation is one of the biggest dangers out there in terms of performance for a localization program, which is why rain or shine, you need to constantly reevaluate everything about your program on a regular basis, even if it’s performing well.

Centralize your Language Assets

Does the following sequence of events sound familiar? You have had a particular language service provider (LSP) as a supplier for a great number of years. They provide quality translation services and are always on time. However, they are not a particularly big LSP and do not provide services in the new languages you need for your global expansion. Nevertheless, because you have built a relationship with them, you continue to work with them and hire the services of another LSP to meet your new-language needs. This new LSP works with a completely different localization technology, but you go ahead with their services since you need your new content localized quickly. 

An XTM expert training AI

Some time later, you require specialized legal content to be localized for these markets but neither LSP provides legal translations. Therefore, you need to hire another LSP to localize your legal content, who work with their proprietary technology. At this point, your language assets are scattered across three different suppliers who do not communicate with each other. Consequently, some of your content is getting translated in different tones and using varying terminology, resulting in your brand voice getting lost and coming across differently in every market—a brand voice that you have spent a lot of money, time and research on coining. If this sequence of events sounds familiar, you have a decentralization problem.

By having your language assets scattered across different platforms, you no longer have full ownership over them. Any changes you want to make to your terminology or to existing translations need to be communicated to each supplier individually, but any delay in communication can result in the suppliers using outdated terminology for new projects. Furthermore, if you decide to change suppliers, your language assets will remain with the previous supplier, in such a way that the new supplier will not be able to leverage existing translations and you will be paying again for the same translations. The issue here is not with the multi-supplier strategy but rather in how your localization ecosystem is built, and the way to solve your centralization issues and maintain your brand voice and tone is by bringing everyone together to work on the same platform, which can be done with the right technology.

Most translation management systems (TMS) are vendor-agnostic, which means that if you own it, you can have any supplier you want working on it. By having a single platform, your language assets will all be in the same place and will be leveraged equally by all suppliers. Any changes that you make to them will be applied instantly across all ongoing translations, and all communication with suppliers can be carried out through the platform itself, making it a lot easier and effective to send a generic message that will reach them all rather than an individual one to each. Bolontrade summarizes the main benefits of having a centralized approach and their effects on your brand: “By centralizing your language assets, you will have full control and ownership over them, which translates into full control of your brand voice. As a result, this will improve your brand image in all your markets thanks to being able to communicate with your global audiences in the way it was always intended.”

Key Insight

Ensuring that you deploy vendor-agnostic technology means that it can be used by any supplier of your choice. This enables you to choose the best supplier for the job and not have to worry about the decentralization of language assets. This way, you can make better, more cost-efficient decisions without having to worry about the linguistic-ownership issues that come with employing a new supplier.

A localization program is a journey that never stops, and any complacency in its day-to-day running can quickly turn a well-oiled machine into an inefficient vehicle with a smoking engine. Unexpected issues will always happen, but having a proactive rather than a reactive approach will allow you to navigate them more easily and, more importantly, not have them affect the flow of your program.

These are the three most common pitfalls in localization, but there are many others out there to be aware of. By applying this guidance and approach in general throughout your program, most bumps on the tracks will turn into tiny stones, allowing you to smoothly continue your journey to localization success full steam ahead.

Aleix Gwilliam

AuthorAleix Gwilliam