Are your beautifully complex localization workflows keeping you awake at night? Do you feel like they’re controlling you more than you’re controlling them? Look no further! Worry no more! We have a cool, no-frills exercise to help you make them work for you. Ready to look at your workflows with fresh eyes? Let’s go!
Here’s the quick and dirty tip to simplifying and automating your localization process: look at your workflows using value-stream mapping (VSM). VSM is a lean technique that enables you to visualize all the steps involved in a process, leading you to identify the areas that need adjusting at a glance, to assess the true effort required for each area, and to come up with solutions to improve your workflow — stat.
In the ideal scenario, the exercise should be completed in person with a group of people who are involved or interact with your localization process. All you need is a run-of-the-mill whiteboard or even just a large sheet of paper and a pen. Alternatively, if you are working remotely, you can use an online tool like Trello, Miro, or any other platform that allows you to work collaboratively with others in a visual manner.
Make sure all parties involved with your process are asked to participate, because there may likely be some parts of the process that are not very visible to you. This exercise helps you understand the full flow and uncover areas of improvement you might not be aware of.
If you have several processes (for example if you have a different localization workflow for product strings, marketing material, app store content, email communications, and so on), pick one. Next, map your process out, starting from the beginning: what is the action, who performs it, and how long does it take? Continue through all the other steps until you get to the end, making sure you cover all of them. Don’t give into the temptation of skipping steps: only when you have all steps lined up right in front of you can you proceed to a full objective analysis. So even if a step seems small and insignificant to you, make sure it’s included!
You now have an unbiased perspective on what it takes to complete your localization process from soup to nuts, including how long it typically takes — and that’s already quite an achievement. For the analysis, you can proceed by calculating the overall end-to-end time your workflow takes, identifying the most painful points, and noting who is impacted by these. At this point, think. Consider. Reflect. What steps could be automated? Which can be skipped? Are there any tool features you can leverage to simplify your workflow? What can you, others (with or without the help of technology) do differently to eliminate some of the steps?
Some obvious quick fixes or tweaks will be very apparent to you when you have the whole workflow staring right back at you. Discuss these with the rest of the group and write down the corresponding actions together, assigning an owner and setting a deadline for each of them. It might be trickier and more time intensive to find a solution for other issues. For these trickier problems, list them down, assign an owner, and park them momentarily, as they will take up too much time out of your session. However, agree on a plan with the owners on how to proceed and assign timelines for investigating the problems or proposing solutions. Once the session is over, share your notes with the participants with a clear plan outlining actions, owners, and timelines, so you are sure you are all on the same page.
Once you have applied the changes, repeat the exercise and see how long and how much effort it now takes to perform the end-to-end localization workflow. This way you can quantify progress. While doing this, you may find more areas you can adjust to make the process even more efficient, but make sure you take the time to give a shout out about your results within the company to raise awareness. You can also use this exercise to prepare for the next iteration of your team goals as you set out your roadmap. Also, collect data from your stakeholders to see how your new improved process is benefiting them or the overall company delivery!
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