As we’ve explained in previous articles, connectivity is one of the most vital features a localization program needs to have, simply because of how many tasks it automates and how this automation speeds up the localization process as a whole and makes it more efficient. One of the most important tasks connectivity automates is the management of translatable files, and automating this process is one of the key differentiators between an efficient and an inefficient localization program, especially if we want to enable continuous localization and have our content always updated.
What actually makes a localization program more efficient? There are different ways of approaching this question but one which is universal is whether it automates all the manual tasks that can be automated, i.e. it allows localization team members to focus their time on tasks which actually add value to a program and specialize in different areas, rather than spending four or five hours a day (in other words, most of a working day) importing, exporting and sending files for the next workflow step.
File management is one of the most time-consuming tasks in a localization program, but good connectivity puts an end to that. Without connectors, localization managers have to manually export all the files for translation from the content system (CMS, CCMS, PIM solution, design tool, etc.), paste it on an Excel spreadsheet and send it to the different project managers for translation, a laborious, time-consuming task. Once the file has been translated, it has to be imported back into the content system, and this is where the errors begin to occur, since the more manual interaction there is, the higher the risk of human error. For example, one the most common human errors in translated files are the non-inclusion of certain tags or labels in the translated file. If these tags or labels are excluded or not spaced correctly, they will cause an error when imported, and this requires additional time to fix, time which can be extensive if the error is made throughout the translation.
Another issue with offline translation is the lack of in-context view the translator has. Word lengths vary greatly from language to language, and this means that the translation may not fit in well with the existing user interface. If this occurs, localization managers only realize it when the translation has been imported, which results in the translated content having to go back to be adjusted to the correct parameters—another considerable delay. If we multiply each delay by the number of languages, it becomes a serious problem.
These problems can all be solved by having localization technology like a translation management system (TMS) complemented by a solid connector. A connector will connect the TMS to the content system of choice, i.e. the original authoring platform, so that the localization manager only has to select the content that needs to be translated, which is then automatically sent for translation through the TMS in as many languages as needed. This allows each localization team member to work with the platform they know and feel the most comfortable with—localization managers and marketing specialists with the content system, and project managers and linguists with the TMS. Once the translation is completed, it is automatically submitted back into the content system, without any of the previously mentioned risks of human error or delays thanks to no manual tasks involved. Taking away all manual import and export of files means that file management is as efficient as can be. Localization managers can now spend the four or five hours they would spend importing and exporting on tasks which provide much more value to the program.
If you want to make your localization program more efficient, you need to identify which tasks are carried out manually and whether they can be automated or not. By automating as many tasks as possible, not only are you saving valuable time on processes but also reducing the risk of human error, sparing yourself from unnecessary problems, and delays and preserving your brand’s image in its global markets.
Connectors allow you to select content directly from the original authoring platform and send it for translation to your TMS, but content is not always of the same type. For example, you might need to translate a product description followed by some terms and conditions, and so the level of review these two content types need is quite clearly different. A product description might just need the regular workflow steps (translation, review), but a terms and conditions text might require additional steps, such as legal review, sign-off by the regional manager, etc. By not configuring these steps at the start of the process and by using the same workflow templates for all content, we will be creating more delays along the way.
For this reason, to maximize the benefits of connectivity, it’s key to create workflow templates for different content types. This way, once content is selected for translation, a specific workflow template can also be selected for it depending on what content type it is and when it’s sent for translation it will be assigned to the appropriate workflow. This way, localization managers can always rest assured that the content they select will be going through the appropriate workflow steps and assigned to the right people at the right time, relying on automation to guide the content through every step. This is particularly important and helpful in the context of continuous localization, since changes may need to be made on short notice and with the highest priority. Knowing that the whole localization process can be assigned automatically is a vital feature to have when time is of the essence.
One of the greatest features of a TMS is that it has high scalability, which means that you can configure as many workflow templates with as many steps as you wish. Connectivity expert and Xpert at XTM International Steve Maher explains how granular you can go with customized workflows:
If every language you localize content into requires a different workflow, then so be it—you can configure as many templates as you need and assign them to the appropriate content when necessary. Just select the content you want to translate, choose the workflow you want for it and let the connector do its job. Templates make the localization process quicker, more simple and pain-free. It couldn’t be any easier.
Xpert at XTM
Workflow automation is one of the key features in an efficient localization program. Since there are so many different content types to localize, it’s important to be able to have as many people work on each of them as needed without your technology holding you back. Whether you need two or twenty-two workflow steps, you need technology that can support this diversity. Having a solid connector which can support not just connectivity to your content system but also the ability to go as granular as you need in terms of workflow steps to ensure the quality of your localized content is what can take your localization efficiency and content maturity to the next level.
We mentioned in the previous section that it’s advisable to automate your manual processes as much as possible, but automation does not mean simply leaving your content in the hands of machines; you configure the workflow steps and the technology does the rest. As the Localization Manager of a US-based manufacturing company put it, “We need to find the sweet spot between automation and a human-centered approach. After all, we’re localizing content for people to use, not machines.” With automated workflows, you get the best of both worlds.
Ensuring that you have high scalability in a TMS means that you can add as many workflows and workflow steps as you want to a template, even during an ongoing project. This way, any last-minute changes can be applied immediately without waiting for the job to be completed, enabling you to still reach your time-to-market goals despite any hiccups that may occur along the way.
As mentioned previously, localization is an industry where change is the only constant. Whether it’s technology that keeps getting better and better, an extra workflow step or additional content being added at the last minute, everyone involved in localization needs to be highly adaptable and ready for things to change at the drop of a hat. Continuous localization is the continuous delivery of content in multiple languages, and many companies require continuous localization in order to always keep their content fresh and up to date. The continuous addition or editing of content can be due to many different reasons, such as big fixes, new features, changes in the product or schedule, etc. Sometimes, these changes can even come up before the actual translation project has been completed, which is why it’s important that your connector allows you to make these changes to the content before the translation is completed.
Just like in the previous section we mentioned the importance of being able to add workflow steps on the fly, being able to add or remove content on the fly as well is just as important. Having to wait until the whole translation batch is completed in order to make edits can have serious repercussions on brand image, for example if updated information is not published on time or if a bug is not picked up soon enough. Maher explains how a connector can enable continuous localization: “The connector allows you to select the same project created in the first instance from the initial content system and add or remove specific content, notifying everyone involved in the project of the change and recalculating the cost, thus giving full, real-time visibility of the updated project.”
Without the ability to enable continuous localization, any update required to an ongoing project can become chaotic, untimely and at a higher risk of human error. Maher continues: “If you need to make changes to ongoing projects but your connector doesn’t let you edit existing ones, you will most likely have to start a new project with the new content. If you are adding content, it is an inconvenience of having to monitor two different projects for the same content, but if you have to remove content, then you have to wait until the translation is complete before removing, which is highly impractical. The more changes you have, the more the projects multiply and this can become a bit of a nightmare for the localization team.” Continuous localization therefore allows you to manage a single project no matter what the changes are, making it easier to manage and therefore an essential feature of any efficient localization program.
To keep your global content updated, you need an agile methodology which allows you to implement changes when needed and not when possible due to technological limitations. If you have a waterfall methodology, continuous localization will not be an option and you won’t be able to make the most out of your connectivity options. Therefore, ensuring that your methodology enables changes on the fly will allow your program to be more efficient and you will be able to use all tools available to you at their maximum potential.
It’s easy to make the assumption that your connector is just there to help you send and receive content from your authoring tool to your TMS and vice versa, but as we’ve seen there is much more to it. Localization is an industry in which having in-depth knowledge of its tools and trends can give you an advantage over your competitors, simply because with knowledge at hand you can squeeze every single drop of juice out of your tech stack. We’re all well aware that time is money in localization and that changes need to be made at the drop of a hat, sometimes on a regular basis. Optimizing or not optimizing your connectivity options can be the difference between going to market at the start of the week or at the end of it, or by always having your content up to date or outdated every third day. By efficiently accomplishing your continuous-localization goals, you will most likely be able to enjoy the former in both scenarios.