Localization Audit: 12 Signs Your Localization Program Is Ready for a Health Checkup

27 July 2021
localization-audit

A localization audit is a powerful tool to help validate an organization’s language program and to reposition its role as a key growth enabler. Whether it’s carried out internally or a company hires external specialists for the job, an audit can serve as a validating pat on the back that will boost the localization leaders’ confidence and/or a much-needed sanity check that will point out areas where the program can do better. 

Localization or translation managers who hold decision making power may rightfully be thinking: Do we need an audit? The answer is it depends. Having helped many clients through the process, we at Nimdzi have seen great value in going through such an exercise. 

Now, another question these very same leaders might be wondering about: When is a good time to move ahead with an audit?

When to audit?

There’s no single indicator that tells people they are ready to have their program audited. If asked directly, there likely never will be a good time. However, the key here is to be proactive and get ahead of the game rather than wait for the moment when business as usual turns into crisis management.

It’s pretty standard for organizations to spend vast amounts of money on tactics, strategy, ads, and various social media and marketing activities. However, an approach that is oftentimes much more effective is to be measured and take the time to evaluate the organization’s entire international growth plan — and that evaluation is intimately tied to evaluating the localization plan.

Conducting an audit can make a massive difference for an organization, as it'll save time, stress, and problems associated with running an inefficient operation down the line. So one of the typical questions that assail teams curious about auditing their program is how to get a sense of when exactly is it a good time to run an audit.

Localization audit when to audit

Below are some of the telling signs that now is probably a good time to hire an auditor:

1. There's been a change in company leadership

If there are changes in the organization's top management, this will be an excellent time to evaluate the localization program. New leadership will undoubtedly come in with a new method of distributing monetary and human resources and new ideas about expanding the company's horizon. A localization audit that zeroes in on the value-add of localization activities will ensure that visions are aligned and any new company-wide objectives are properly reflected in the way the localization program is set up.

2. International growth is at a standstill

When the perception starts creeping in that the company’s current markets are saturated and not growing much, it may be a sign that it’s time to review just how localization operations are run. If a company thinks it’s doing everything right but doesn't know what results to expect, it’s a good idea to bring in outside experts to see how tweaking the localization strategy could revitalize the entire business. Redefining the strategy based on audit results will help the business overcome cross-border differences and successfully reach target areas, as well as bond with future customers with just the right amount of effort.

3. When competitors seemingly start pulling ahead

There are different reasons why the company or its products may be behind the competition. Sometimes even with a superior product or service to what’s being offered by competitors, the company may still be lagging behind. In such a situation, a localization audit helps to provide the substance and strategy to try a different path to bridge the gap and possibly hand the advantage back over to said company. The audit will help you get there through research around what competitors are already doing and by identifying ways to one-up them.

4. When you, as localization manager, have some idea of what you want but are not entirely clear on how to get there

There are times when the team has a general objective and a strategic plan to deliver against those goals. If you know what you'd like to do and think you've got a solid strategic plan but don't have a clue about what resources are needed to get there, an audit can confirm or refine the plan — and offer recommendations on the right strategies to put in place. An audit can even estimate costs associated with outsourcing localization activities, and whether an in-house or a hybrid model for outsourcing is needed, so that decision makers can decide on what’s best for the company and its product.

5. When communication is hindering the progress of localization activities

Poor communication makes it very difficult for the various individuals in an organization to work in an aligned and streamlined manner towards achieving the most important goals. Few things are more critical in a company's dynamics than the need to have a communication strategy that informs on the localization program's progress in a structured, transparent and centralized way.

The risk of poor communication increases exponentially as the size of the company increases. It’s the nature of a localization team to collaborate and communicate with different stakeholders, and as the number of contributors increases, so does the risk of misunderstandings. Not having a clear communication strategy, not using the right collaborative tools or processes, and not involving everyone participating in the localization process may be signs that communication needs to be tweaked.

6. When there’s a lot of manual labor involved in delivering the localization work

Often content that needs to be localized has multiple touchpoints, going through multiple hands, tools and processes before it gets to localization. If it seems that the workflow is too manual, it’s probably because it is. This may be a sign that it’s time to evaluate the workflow for opportunities to streamline. Certain tasks, however small, are repetitive and end up impacting the overall budget and the team's productivity. An hourlong administrative task that an individual has to perform manually  may mean that across, say, a team of eight people who need to repeat that same task as the content moves down the line, the organization is losing a whole day of productivity. An audit can provide good feedback on how to change workflows or what tools to implement to eliminate repetitive tasks such as sending/receiving files to the translation team, tracking POs or updating glossaries. If anyone is asking how to make localization a predictable, scalable process, it's a sure sign that the processes and tools need an honest and thorough review. 

7. When there are no impactful KPIs showcasing the value of the localization program

You cannot improve what you don't measure. This is something you have probably heard on multiple occasions. Sometimes it's not just about what is measured, but about selecting metrics that show the value of what is being measured and how the localization program impacts the company's bottom line. If you feel that you don't have the right metrics to have a meaningful conversation with your C-suite about the value of your localization activities, that’s a sure sign that you need to revise your KPI framework.

It's not enough to just set goals. You need to establish localization metrics that represent specific achievements you want to reach within given time frames.

8. When there is poor integration between the localization tools and those used by the rest of the company

If the localization tools that are being used are not integrated in the company’s general product or content-generation workflows to the degree desired, then that’s a sign the TMS integration needs to be rethought in order to connect it to the CMS and any of the other tools that are being used to develop the company’s digital product or service.

9. When localization services are not being used to their full potential

Localization can live and thrive in different places within an organization. If its current home does not allow the localization team to support all business groups centrally in an efficient way, or if its current place does not help the team deliver its work at scale, it’s a sign that the structure of the program and where it sits within the larger organization needs to be audited.

If the objective is to position Localization as a center of excellence in the organization, an audit on how the team oversees day-to-day logistics or satisfies internal customer needs can provide valuable information to position localization activities beyond being simply considered a utility.

10. When you are no longer sure whether your vendor management strategy is the right one

Translators are an essential cog in the machine of adapting the company’s content for different markets, but the service a company will need from its translators is likely to vary depending on its overall objectives.

To achieve and maintain a well-thought-out and well-performing vendor management strategy, a company needs a combination of available translator volume and pricing aligned with its localization budget. Let’s suppose that your current vendor management strategy is prone to inefficiencies and unexpected hiccups. In that case, an audit can help optimize the relationships with the people doing the actual language work in the chain of localization activities: translators, editors, proofreaders, DTP specialists and the like.

11. When the quality management system may not be robust enough

A strong quality management system represents one of the most crucial aspects of any localization program. However, there may be no suitable mechanisms in place to allow for an honest assessment of the quality of your localization program. Linguistic quality is key to any company’s brand perception abroad and, in severe cases, critical in preventing accidents and gross errors. People may not notice high-quality localization, but they WILL notice when the quality is insufficient (and be vocal about it too). For this reason, auditing the quality program can reveal very relevant insights in areas such as source content accuracy, localization quality, intrinsic quality of the work delivered by the translators, and also serve to carefully analyze the LQA setup.

12. When the technology framework may not be solid enough

Today multiple technological solutions can help advance any localization program. However, in this ever-changing landscape of brand-customer relations, you may feel you don't have the tools necessary to keep up with your company's speed and quality requirements, while keeping costs low and managing multiple content types.

And it’s precisely the abundance of available technology solutions out there, coupled with the feeling of not having the right tools for the job, that triggers the need to audit the localization program. Help may be required for assessing the best tech solution for the organization based on the current localization needs and level of investments. Evaluating the technology framework with a critical eye will help ensure that technology platforms and integrations can accommodate the agile, fast-response content and processes the organization needs. 

Every organization has its own goals and localization strategy to deliver against those goals, and that means that every localization audit is different.

A localization audit is a way for you to turn your localization plans inside out and rediscover the strengths and weaknesses of your current setup. Figuring out how to conduct an audit that improves the company’s growth in international markets and enhances a company’s ability to connect with its customers isn't easy. Talk to experts that can help!
 

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