If your responsibility is to ensure your company’s products and services are properly localized in all your markets, you already have your hands full. Digging into technology and process innovation can be a whole can of worms, especially if your current localization end-to-end appears to be functioning just OK. Maybe you’re aware of the occasional glitch in the matrix, but you know that, overall, you’ve always managed to make it work. Maybe you want to avoid causing a stir, or the challenge of revamping your tech stack looks too daunting. Our brains like to block out questions to which we don’t have an answer. But in the word of the philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, “to ask the right question is far more important than to receive the answer.”
Uncomfortable questions lead us to a willingness to see what we didn't see, to learn what we didn’t know, and to create a perspective that helps us leapfrog or solve a big problem. Here are five such questions you will want to ask.
If you’re thinking “why bother, it’s the translators’ job,” you may believe that outsourcing the problems solves the problems. But localization is bigger than what is usually outsourced — it starts higher upstream and ends when the end-user interacts with the content. If you feel that there’s space for improvement, it’s because there very likely is. Many localization managers today miss out on some of the key capabilities and opportunities that technology offers, even though they want to stay ahead of competition, deliver faster, and decrease costs. Although the technology features themselves are important, it’s primarily about having a sustainable end-to-end workflow supported by a relevant tech stack. So you should care in order for your business to stay relevant, to continue being supported by your internal customers and stakeholders, and to be able to use this knowledge to innovate when the right moment comes along, instead of simply relying on doing your best to catch up when the need arises.
Change is uncomfortable. Having the autopilot on saves energy and effort. But here is the question lurking behind the question: “How do you know your overall localization process is actually working well, and what exactly constitutes your definition of “well”?” The answers to this question often range from dead silence to assumptions instead of being backed by valid data. If you don’t know how and where your localization system is improving over time, then your approach is perfectible. To answer the question “why change” means to uncover inefficiencies that many managers are not happy to bring to light. Modern technologies are highly supportive of agile and streamlined end-to-end processes. There is so much more localization leaders can achieve tech-wise than they’re currently doing. On the other hand, it’s not just about looking at new technology. Asking this question may help you discover that you already have a hidden software gem in your company, only it’s not used effectively or it hasn’t been properly integrated.
The concrete localization innovation initiatives undertaken by top players today differ greatly, but their various strategies all display repeating patterns and principles. Insights about technology and best practices are often not publicly available because they constitute the company’s competitive advantage. We know that the approaches to global content quality, leverage frameworks, and system setups can be adopted, customized, and accelerated in your own unique environment. An independent view of your whole process and localization lifestyle will help you understand which models are most suitable, and will also help you build a best-in-class localization program.
Too many gadgets, bolt-on quality steps, and excessive resources thrown onto an ecosystem without understanding the whole content environment typically increases complexity. You may well be facing business requirements to deliver faster and achieve better ROI, while you also know that automation alone is not the solution. A well set-up technology system can help you understand demand from all your customers in all its types, sizes, and frequencies. Then you can start reducing variation. The first step is to have meaningful data about demand.
It’s sometimes hard to get your bearings in the localization technology landscape when you're trying to assess a need for tech innovation or you’re already looking at an upgrade. To know where to start and have a sense of direction when choosing a better translation management system, leverage framework, or business platform can be challenging. It can take months to narrow the choices down to a shortlist of three. Also, the truth in terms of the capability and fitness for your scheme is often hidden behind elaborate sales pitches. If you want to stay up-to-date on technology capabilities, accelerate the change within your organization, see through the sales talk and even peek into the kitchen, consider using independent resources and guidance.
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