The Pillars of a Future-Proof Localization Workflow

Localization Workflow

Explore what it takes to build a sustainable localization workflow that enables scalability and boosts growth in the long run across global markets.

According to a 2020 McKinsey survey, 66% of business leaders across multiple industries were piloting the automation of at least one business process—an increase of 9% compared to 2018. Whether in developed or emerging countries, companies are finding themselves under more and more pressure to streamline internal workflows to support scalability and growth.

This is especially true if they need to adapt their products to different target markets simultaneously. For successful localization in today’s global marketplace, you need to get rid of spreadsheets, lengthy email threads, and disparate desktop applications before competitors start to weigh in. Learn how to optimize your localization workflow to start getting ahead.

Map out a localization-aware global strategy

As a crucial endeavor for any business seeking international growth, localization often comes to light only when it’s done poorly. For many companies out there, localization still comes as an afterthought and isn’t reflected in their global growth strategies.

Back in the day, succeeding globally was mainly about having a strong brand. Today, we live in the age of the customer, where sustained growth goes hand in hand with customer satisfaction and centricity.

Companies need to address their existing and potential customers like they know them intimately, regardless of their language and culture. This means delivering a range of assets—product information, marketing collateral, technical documentation, customer service interactions, and a long list of etceteras—in a way that feels truly local and authentic.

Localization is all about adaptation

When you decide to launch your product in one or more new markets, even before you set your localization workflow in motion, you need to assess how the product fits the requirements of each market and identify any modifications it might need. What are the linguistic, cultural, legal, political, and business specificities of the target region?

The lack of awareness of linguistic and cultural differences has caused a few expensive marketing blunders over time. The quick translation—or lack thereof—of a product name or a slogan can poorly impact product adoption, and it has happened countless times. For instance, the Ford Pinto launch wasn’t a success in Brazil because ‘pinto’ is Brazilian slang for male genitals.

Fully considering localization right from the start of a project is the best way to avoid Ford’s mistake and ensure that all aspects of the business collaborate effectively towards the same goal.

Optimize brand consistency with translation technology

As your customer base grows in several markets simultaneously, ensuring globally consistent messaging—a crucial factor in driving brand loyalty—while fulfilling local market expectations can get tricky.

The best approach to optimizing brand consistency is adopting translation solutions that will:

  • Ensure complete continuity between departments by enabling a workflow that brings all stakeholders together onto the same platform.
  • Allow you to group users in teams (e.g. by language) and in projects so they can work collaboratively throughout the localization process.
  • Increase efficiency, output quality, and terminology unification through term bases, translation memories, error detection functionalities, and other features.

Foster team collaboration across functions, time zones, and geographies

Most of the time, the source content that needs localization originates from separate teams. However, approaching the localization workflow in silos puts you at risk of dealing with quality issues (like inconsistencies in translated assets) and an overall lack of efficiency, including in terms of costs.

Centralizing efforts proves more productive. Having just one team keep a helicopter view of all things localization is an excellent way to keep all your departments more in sync on all aspects of the business.

A one-team, one-tool approach will keep your localization workflow streamlined, effective, and timeproof. The result will be no more duplicated efforts or tools, with undisrupted growth.

Awareness is key

Raising the profile of the work of the localization team to internal stakeholders lays the foundation for a future-proof localization workflow.

On top of educating every company department, making everyone aware of your localization process is crucial for the success of a global brand.

Keep the different company divisions—product, marketing, design, development, customer service, etc.—in the loop about every step of the process by having your program or localization manager present your team and work to them. People collaborate better when they understand each other and how they work.

What makes a strong localization team?

Selecting the right professionals is going to be key to the success of your company’s localization effort. A great setup combines management functions and people with specialist skills.

Here are some must-have roles for a strong localization team:

  • A strong team-lead visionary: You need someone who can rise above the specifics of a particular situation and see the big picture of the localization strategy and overall team efficiency: think localization manager or program manager, for instance.
  • A reliable project team: This is the part of your overall team in charge of the day-to-day work of localization projects. It includes translators, localization engineers, and project managers.
  • Dedicated quality assurers: This area typically involves linguists focused on checking the overall quality of the work produced by your translators, as well as testers for products like apps.

Combining in-house power and external support from a language service provider (LSP)

While having an in-house expert team in charge of localization is a must, your workflow might involve outsourcing some tasks to an external provider of localization services. It might either be on an ongoing basis or when there is an uptick in work. Here are a few tips to make that work for you:

  • Vet your vendors: When you reach out to an LSP, ask them about their workflow (including quality assurance) and their requirements when hiring their resources (do they ask translators to take a test, or do they check degrees, or both, for instance?). Do this before you have a translation project which needs outsourcing, so you don’t rush through the process.
  • If you work with small LSPs, have at least a couple of vendors for each language combination, so you’re not at the mercy of your language provider’s availability.
  • Have your team regularly perform linguistic quality assurance (LQA) on the output of your vendor’s work and share the feedback with them. This will be beneficial to the overall quality of your localized assets and the collaboration with your LSP.

LQA is the most effective when performed by a linguist using an automated quality assurance tool, a feature that is a core element of most computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools and translation management systems.

Choose a single platform to centralize, automate, and integrate your localization efforts

In addition to centralizing your localization efforts under one team, you should also centralize them on a single platform. Having everything in one place often makes things more manageable, and localization is no exception. The good news is that a translation management system (TMS) allows you to do just that.

A TMS works with all types of file formats—from Word and PDF for your legal team to HTML and INDD for your designers and web developers. That way, all the work is done and stored in one place.

A TMS also makes the life of your localization project manager easier. They can manage in-house team members (from any department) and vendors alike on one platform, adding users and allocating access rights. They also have easy access to reporting and invoicing capabilities.

Meanwhile, your translators and editors log into the same platform to do their work, accessing linguistic features such as a translation memory and a termbase. Users are able to leave comments and questions and upload documents, which is very useful when translators have questions for the legal team or the web designers—no more information lost in long email chains.

Seamless integration and end-to-end automation

A translation management system is your best ally to achieve a sustainable localization workflow because integration with your digital ecosystem is part of its DNA.

For example, integration between your TMS and Figma or Sketch will allow your designers to easily send their work for translation and retrieve the translated output. Integration with Git or GitHub will let your developers do the same. And if some of your tools are not covered by default by a TMS, you can create your own integration thanks to an API.

Go for agility and continuous delivery

Adopting agility is a great way to avoid expensive localization mistakes. Let’s consider your product development process, for example: In a waterfall approach, localization typically happens at the end of the project lifecycle once your product has been fully designed, developed, and tested.

Under agile product development, embracing a continuous delivery approach for your localization workflow is only logical. When your designers have created a draft version of the app homepage, for instance, the translators can access it and do their part. They can raise any issues they may see (think “the Spanish call to action doesn’t fit in the screen”), allowing the designers to go back to the drawing board before it’s too late.

Integrate machine translation into your localization workflow

To localize all your digital assets, especially when dealing with multiple target languages at once, you need strong tools that allow you to work at an increased speed. Machine translation (MT) has a lot to offer in that respect. It’s powered by artificial intelligence, doesn’t include human intervention, and can quickly produce a high volume of translations.

Raw machine translation has considerably advanced over the years and is useful for low-visibility or low-traffic content, such as internal documentation, website footers, or repetitive technical content like instruction manuals.

To ensure machine translation quality, your translators can go through the output and do machine translation post-editing for:

  • The translated output to be legible and accurate—this is called light post-editing (LPE)
  • The translation to be error-free and ensure it takes into account important aspects such as style, tone, and cultural nuances (full post-editing or FPE).

To increase your translators’ productivity and reduce translation costs, you should look for a TMS that comes with the ability to estimate the quality of machine translation output. This way, you’ll be able to focus post-editing resources where they are most needed.

Equally important, if a modern translation management system comes with fully managed machine translation engines, it should also be able to automatically select the best-performing one for your translation project, based on engine performance data.

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