Localization Audit: What You Need to Know in Order to Assess the Shape of Your Localization Program

The business world was spinning round and round exceedingly fast even before COVID hit us. Now, with most companies recovering, their operations have returned to the whirlwind of activity that aims to secure more sales and growth. The added wrinkle is that where previously ideas of digital transformation were mapped out over several years, the pandemic forced companies to fast-track their plans.

Today is the future. A future in which digital channels are not only the primary work tool for millions of professionals but also the privileged avenue for brands to reach their consumers. The business world today employs words such as hyper-personalization and user experience, all in the name of appealing to end-users. And the localization industry has a lot to say in this arena, playing a key role in international growth. Now is the time when organizations should ask themselves: 

Is our current localization strategy able to sustain our organization’s needs and objectives as well as the expectations of our customers?

Strange as it may seem, right now, in a moment of crisis, is precisely the time companies should push the envelope on their localization strategy. But how, you ask? Enter the localization audit, the secret weapon that evaluates whether a localization strategy is valid and offers avenues to optimize it further.

What is a localization audit?

A localization audit is a comprehensive, systematic analysis of a company’s localization processes, dependencies and workflows, its supply chain, and technology stack. It assesses the organization's goals, objectives, strategies, and principles in order to identify how the localization program contributes to achieving them. Its aim is to uncover inefficiencies and blind spots and offer recommendations as to how to overcome them. A localization audit also offers a glimpse into areas of growth, the opportunities that lie ahead, and how to make the most of them. 

A localization strategy audit can (and should) be performed while taking into account the particular characteristics of an organization. There is not really a template or one-size-fits-all approach to deconstructing the ins and outs and the myriad dependencies of a localization program. Each company has different needs and objectives around the development of its international growth strategy. These in turn have a direct impact on the localization program, which grows as the company grows and are reflected in the areas covered during the auditing exercise. Each audit will be different depending on the desired aims and results. 

What type of audits are there?

There are several methods for evaluating a company’s localization strategy. The most popular or common are internal audits or audits performed by an external audit firm, or third party. And while it’s true that an audit can be performed internally, it may not make for the most judicious choice.

If the stakeholders are too involved in the day-to-day running of the typical localization activities, the risk is they may lack the necessary perspective to analyze what’s actually going on. In that situation, taking a step back and letting someone else step in with a clean slate and a mandate to provide a reality check can ultimately be a step towards making decisions the company has been putting off for a while.

Reasons to conduct a localization audit

If the company earns revenue from international markets, or intends to do so in the future, it is important to identify where the localization strategy is today and where it aspires to be a few months or years down the line.

Reasons to conduct a localization audit

Identifying this gap is essential because the value of localization moving up the ladder in the company’s strategic priority list is that the company might be able to do more with less. Or maybe the focus is, rather than doing more with less, doing more in the markets that have the most impact on the company’s bottom line. In that sense, a thorough review of the target markets and the expansion strategy can speed up the process of attaining these global aspirations. 

That said, it’s quite common for teams or companies interested in auditing their activities  to fear being on the receiving end of an assessment that points out their inefficiencies or leaves them staring at a mountain of possible improvements that will need to be implemented. The term "audit" carries a negative connotation for many, as it implies that the entity (the decision maker) demanding the audit doesn't trust the localization framework in place.

But actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. A localization audit can help to:

Align localization activities with the company goals 

Many localization professionals are so focused on executing day-to-day localization-related activities that they may lose sight of the big picture and the business' long-term goals. When this happens, it can be difficult to remember the reasons why a specific localization strategy was originally put in place (staff turnover doesn’t help either in this respect). It can also be difficult to obtain an honest answer when trying to determine whether the business is applying this strategy successfully. Going down the road of a localization audit is an excellent approach to allow the stakeholders to take a step back, observe, and make sure that the daily activities, processes, and tools continue to efficiently support the organization’s goals.

A localization audit can also be seen as a tool for internal alignment. 

The purpose of alignment is to move localization onto the upper management's radar by showing how localization activities support the greater company's business goals and those of their departments and/or business units. Demonstrating this through results obtained during an audit that highlights the positive impacts of localization can be a deal maker.

These results might change the entire perception of the organization towards the localization team, shifting the perception of the localization team as trusted worker bees ceaselessly plugging away on the immediate translation deliverable, to localization considered a central function for the organization’s growth ambitions. Relevance for a localization program means the globalization and localization functions are firmly embedded in the company culture, DNA, and business goals. Relevance means that professionals delivering it are considered growth levers.

Deep dive into areas of the localization program that might not be working 

An audit helps a localization team examine all current activities in order to understand whether they are successful. An audit is a time to look at the localization setup through the objective eyes of the auditor in order to identify where the localization plan might be underperforming. The outcome is a detailed list of areas to watch out for or improve to continue ticking off boxes in the company’s expansion plan.

Get exposed to new ideas and different strategies 

A localization audit requires a significant amount of research into an organization. It generally demands several dozen hours and the potential involvement of a number of internal or external stakeholders who interact with the Localization team — from Marketing to Product to language vendors. Combined with an auditor's expertise, it can be a powerful method for discovering new ideas for the program to try out. For example, during the research the auditor may identify a tool that allows automating file transfers between localization PMs and translators, thus saving countless hours of manual work for the team. Improvements such as these, and the cost savings they generate, can justify the cost of hiring an auditor in the first place (likely many times over). 

Save time and/or money over the long run 

An audit is no different from a health checkup at the doctor’s. Without a regular checkup, a company may be unconsciously wasting time and money on localization activities that are producing few results. Conducting an audit helps to maximize the localization budget by focusing on the activities that produce the most meaningful results for an organization.

A common misconception localization managers have is a compulsion to implement each of the areas of potential improvement identified during the audit. The reality is quite different. Auditing the localization program does not directly imply that the team must incorporate every suggestion that has been identified during the process. Actually, it doesn't have to commit to going ahead with any of the received recommendations if there is no buy-in or manpower to carry them out at the time. The objective of an audit is to identify areas for future improvement rather than to force their implementation. 

Nimdzi Insights helps localization programs in organizations of various sizes in different industries audit their processes, offering recommendations to future-proof their growth and focus on areas that best demonstrate the value localization professionals can bring to the entire organization.
22 July 2021

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