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How to Build a Localization Team That Can Grow With Your Needs

Building a localization team

Reached the point where you need to communicate with audiences in multiple countries and/or languages? Now’s the time to build a strong, multi-talented team to ensure your localization is carried out efficiently and to a high standard. As you’ll know, localization is an area requiring a variety of specialist skills, and it’s rare to find people who are proficient in more than one or two of them. It can also involve fluctuating and increasing volumes of work, and pressurized timeframes for completing projects.

So how should you build your localization team? What roles should it comprise of – now and in the future – and how will you structure it? How can you get buy-in for your team? And what other challenges might you face?

A decentralized team can present problems

Let’s first look at how your team will fit within your organization. Should you build one centralized team or split your resources across territories and functions?

Often, a company’s approach to localization evolves in a decentralized manner, especially if there’s no strategic plan to guide its development. Localization may be initiated by the marketing or product team, for example, and they develop processes and approaches that work for them. But what about when the legal or HR team needs to localize materials and they have different priorities and needs? Alternatively, localization efforts may begin in disparate languages or regions, with each using separate systems.

In both of these decentralized scenarios, opportunities for efficiency, consistently high-quality outputs, and easy scalability are missed.

Centralized localization brings control

Taking a centralized approach to localization, and building a dedicated localization team, may seem daunting initially – especially if some of your localization systems are already entrenched. But it tends to offer high rewards.

If you have global aspirations, localization should, ultimately, touch every part of your business. It will become an ecosystem involving a large range of stakeholders, tools, systems, processes, and resources. Having a central team will enable you to set a solid foundation for localization, so you can keep control of it as it grows, and more people, languages, channels, and resources become involved.

Advocates for globalization

What if you’re struggling to get buy-in for creating a dedicated localization team? Take time to emphasize to stakeholders and decision makers that localization has a key strategic role in your organization’s international and commercial success. And having a strong team will ensure your localization is carried out with reliably high levels of quality and efficiency.

At this strategic level, your localization team’s key responsibilities will involve:

  • Ensuring the technologies and processes used serve the whole organization globally.
  • Setting a consistent approach for every language and project.
  • Centralizing and making the best use of localization assets, such as translation memory.
  • Raising awareness of the importance of localization, across your organization, as part of being global.

Which model should you adopt?

Now let’s look at how you could structure your localization team. The most common models are:

  • In-house as part of the marketing, content, or product team.
  • In-house as a standalone department.
  • Outsourced through a partnership with a translation consultancy.

There are reasons and benefits for each approach, so consider what would work best for you given your resources, priorities, and strategic plans.

What roles will be in your localization team?

If you decide to set up an in-house team, one of your first challenges might be working out which roles you need. When you’re doing this, it’s important to not only consider the roles you need now, but also the roles you’ll need as you scale your localization efforts. By establishing a formal team structure with the right balance of roles from the beginning, you’ll be able to maximize efficiency, and achieve consistent quality. And you’ll be well placed to scale easily when you need to.

Your localization team should have the following capabilities or divisions:

Top-level management: to guide and oversee your localization program, and ensure it says on track in terms of efficiency, quality, and strategic goals.

Roles within this division can include:
- Program director
- Program manager
- Localization manager
- Product manager Production: to create localized content.

Roles within this division can include:
- Translator
- Content generators (such as marketing writer, technical writer, and trainer)
- Localization or software engineer
- Project manager
- Workflow manager Resource management: to source, manage, and support the people and resources involved in production.

Roles within this division can include:
- Resource manager
- Vendor manager
- Technology manager

Quality management: to ensure your localization projects are of a consistently high quality.

Roles within this division can include:
- Quality manager
- Localization tester

Specialist skills

You’ll probably find that some of the roles you need for your localization team can be filled by people already in your organization. Don’t make the mistake, however, of assuming that people can do more than their core role. A software engineer is unlikely to have the skills to localize software, for example, and many translators won’t either. For projects like this, you may need specialist freelance support if it’s not an ongoing requirement. In fact, freelance or temporary contracts can be a sensible, cost-effective route to expanding and contracting your localization team in general, as and when you need to.

People supported by localization technology

You’ll also need a robust support infrastructure to support your team and streamline your efforts. This could include processes and support staff, as well as technology such as translation management software, machine translation, a translation memory database, and artificial intelligence.

Human effort is always the most expensive aspect of localization, so any tasks you can automate, without affecting quality, should be automated. This will help to avoid human error and leave your team free to focus on what they’re best at, while also maximizing your investment in localization.

Manage your budget wisely

If you’re facing budget constraints, bear in mind that cheap often isn’t best when it comes to the people, technology, and suppliers you appoint. It can be better to localize fewer items, or work with fewer languages, and produce high quality work, than try squeeze too much out of your budget and let quality slide.

Another key point to bear in mind is that localization involves many different stakeholders, including people who commission and approve localization projects. Many of them won’t be within your localization team, but almost all can have an impact on your efficiency and costs – for example by causing delays or repetition. It’s important, therefore, to factor in how to manage that.

All set for future scalability

As demand for localization grows in your organization, you’re likely to need more managers, more production staff, and more specialists. But with a well-defined structure around key divisions, it will be straightforward to scale your localization team in the future according to your needs.

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