Let’s start with what may seem like an obvious point which you may have heard many times. If you’re launching an effort to make your whole localization program more efficient, a good way to start is by listing every single activity and workflow step in your program and identifying whether they are automated or manual. Note that this process can lead to surprising results, and in particular will help you define what you mean by automated. Pro-tip: Semi-automated is also a valid category to use here. Automation is one of the most important baseline characteristics in the efficiency of any localization program. Automated tasks not only take less time, they also remove the risk of human error. If a task is manual and can be automated, this evaluation will identify that for you, and also illustrate if you’re tooled up to further automate other processes.
Director of Support Services, XTM
Nowadays, dealing with localization management in any manual way is not good business practice at best. It becomes fully unsustainable as the workload starts to increase, which comes from increased output volume, new markets, and additional languages you’re localizing into. In localization, the clearest example of a manual task which should be automated is the export and import of files for translations from your content system. If your content system is not connected to your localization process/technology, it’s safe to say that someone in your team is manually importing and exporting files for translation and sending them via email to the linguists. Furthermore, they may have to spend additional time fixing errors such as label or tag issues in the translation.
This normally means hours of work as opposed to an automatic workflow which takes seconds. To move toward automation you need to underpin your localization program with the right SaaS technology.
Underpinning your localization program with SaaS technology like a translation management system (TMS) enables you to leverage automation features and options that will considerably increase efficiency levels. One of the key features that drives this newly found level of efficiency is the use of a connector. A connector is a tool which links your content system to the TMS and automates processes that were previously done manually, such as importing and exporting files, thus making the process much quicker and more efficient. Also, thanks to how a connector is able to automate processes, the risk of human error and communication delays decreases considerably, which results in faster time-to-market goals and improved brand image in global markets thanks to the higher quality of the content being produced.
However, the power of automation in a translation management system doesn’t stop at connectors — with a TMS, you can also create project templates. Project templates are a set of preconfigured workflow steps that, when applied to selected content, will assign it to the correct person and move it along the designated workflow without any human input until the project is completed and returned to the content system, fully localized. The only human input needed is selection of content, target language and project template, and the TMS does the rest. These automated features free up valuable time for everyone involved, allowing them to focus on more valuable tasks, such as area specialization or process reassessment to keep the program cost-efficient and ready to embrace all of the industry’s latest trends.
If your program is working well, you may deem that a reassessment is not necessary. However, this approach can have a serious impact on your future plans. What works for today may not work for tomorrow, so assessing whether your technology is enabling you or holding you back, now or in the future, should be an exercise you carry out regularly. Future-proofing your technology stack is a great way to guarantee long-term success for your program.
When companies start their localization journey, their budget is usually capped, and resources are limited. This is a direct result of perceiving localization as a commodity and not a necessity or a revenue driver. With these financial limitations in place, localization stakeholders resort to making the most out of their limited resources in order to achieve their goals, and one of these consequences is the development of the “Swiss Army knife” approach to team members.
As its name suggests, a “Swiss Army knife” team member is someone put in charge of many different tasks despite some or most of them not being their area of expertise. This approach does not make a program unsuccessful, but this level of success is inversely proportional to the company’s expansion plans or size—the more the company expands to new markets, the less efficient it becomes. This is a direct cause of its team members simply not being able to fulfill all their tasks within the set time frames or at the desired level of quality due to not specializing in all their required tasks. One of the scenarios that we see many times in localization is the persistence some companies or people have in fulfilling different roles and persevering with them until they realize it’s too late.
With this “Swiss Army knife” mentality, you may have a localization or program manager who set up the program from its inception and runs many aspects of it. Whilst there is no question that these people may be highly skilled, they do not specialize in most of the tasks they carry out–just like the Swiss Army knife’s scissors or corkscrew are fine but not as good as the proper ones—, and when they encounter problems or issues, they do not have the time to address them appropriately due to also having to focus on the program’s tactical elements. As a result, the program’s operations and strategy elude them, rendering them unable to apply lessons learned or implement new features or technology. Consequently the program does not evolve or improve, content quality deteriorates and the product suffers as a consequence of it all.
To prevent this from happening, specialized roles within the program need to be assigned. Versatility should only be an option if the program is relatively simple, small, and without expansion plans. However, as soon as the output volume starts to grow, this approach is setting the program up for failure. When building your team, you don’t necessarily need people with experience in localization but rather experience in the different fields that make up the program, such as marketing, engineering, and design to name a few. For example, even if the manager has some knowledge of Photoshop and basic HTML coding, they should not be in charge of or involved in design and web-development tasks, simply because the time used on these tasks takes the focus away from their managerial tasks and since they are not experts in these areas. By having team members working only on their area of expertise, the program as a whole works more efficiently—tasks are completed in less time and their end quality is a lot higher. The difference between producing content at, say, 60% quality and 100% quality may be the difference between brand success and failure in certain markets.
Having a versatile team may work for your current structure, but it can result in unforeseen issues when it comes to on-time deliveries or quality if you decide to scale up and expand into new markets in a few months’ or years’ time. Instead, having a team of specialists in each area of your program is what will really help you maximize your program’s potential. Ensuring that your brand’s content is of the highest quality and delivered in a timely manner will prove to be far more valuable to your company.
Knowing that you need the right technology to have the necessary automated processes in place to be more efficient or that your program requires specialized team members is the first important step. Being successful at the following step, obtaining these resources, is the biggest challenge of all. In order to be able to support your localization program with all the tools it needs, you will need to obtain organizational buy-in.
Visibility is always a challenge for any localization program. Lack of knowledge of the localization process can lead to erroneous concepts such as “it’s just translating” or that it’s an expensive commodity, but this is where the most common mistake is made. Localization should not be perceived as an expense but rather as a revenue driver. Adding localization technology and building a specialized localization team requires an investment. However, the conversation with your company’s decision-makers should not be about saving money but rather about how much more money the company can make thanks to appropriate and smart localization.
In order to build a case on the importance of localization and the revenue it can drive, there are many market-research studies out there which show the benefits of localizing your content. With only just under 26% of the Internet’s 4.72 billion users being English speakers according to Statista, not communicating in the native language of the other 74% is a big segment to overlook. With 87% of non-English speaking customers refusing to buy from an English-only website, 72% of them more likely to buy from a website in their own language and 55% only willing to purchase products with product information in their language, considering localization as a commodity is a big mistake and an opportunity cost, especially in the highly competitive global landscape we find ourselves in.
A manufacturing enterprise from the EMEA region finds itself in this same landscape. Its four main competitors have already expanded in the APAC region but they haven’t. Market research stats show that the APAC region is worth $15 million per year to this enterprise. By choosing not to invest in localization, this enterprise has already missed out on the whole $15 million plus their market share, which was predicted by comparing it to market shares in other regions. This opportunity cost also expands to a lack of footprint and brand presence, which can also be economic enhancers for the enterprise, not just in that market but around the world. The question then becomes, albeit a rhetorical one, is it worth saving money on localization?
For these reasons, the conversation to obtain organizational buy-in for your localization program should not revolve around saving money or expenses but rather on investment, growth, and avoiding opportunity costs. If the current economic landscape predicts times of uncertainty, global growth becomes the best antidote, especially when in today’s business world, thanks to technology we are able to achieve and produce more with fewer resources. Localization is no exception to this concept. Localization technology advances at the same pace as technology in general, which is why investing in it is the only way to future-proof your localization program.
Gain visibility | Make your program visible to decision-makers by defining clear strategies and goals, and commuicating regularly with them with progress and results. Localization isn’t a black box.
Leverage market statistics | There is no better way to make a case than by using statistics. Fortunately, there are hundreds of market-research websites out there with thousands of relevant stats that perfectly illustrate why investing in localization is a must.
Focus the conversation on growth | Many times, people want to talk about savings. Localization should not be perceived as a cost but rather as a revenue driver. Use market projections to illustrate A/B scenarios and opportunity losses of not localizing.
Showcase relevant KPIs | The difference between efficient and inefficient localization can easily be quantified. Use resonating KPIs, such as time-to-market, cost per word, projected market share, or translation ROI to show why investment in localization technology is necessary.
Localization should be perceived by all as a business driver and not an expense, which is why opportunity costs and comparative revenue projections are key when making the argument as to why investing in localization is no longer a commodity but rather a necessity. Focus the argument on growth opportunities and obtain all the necessary supporting information from the wide range of market-research studies related to localization that are carried out every year. With hard numbers and facts supporting the benefits of localization, organizational buy-in should be a lot easier.
Leveraging technology when seeking ways to improve existing processes is an inevitable path to localization success. By implementing these three tips in particular and this approach in general, we hope that the answers to the questions at the start of this article will be more satisfactory, and that efficiency can go from being a strategic target to a defining characteristic of your program.