For the earliest stages of localization, most companies rely on email to manage stakeholders and vendors, and spreadsheets to manage glossaries and TMs. This ad hoc framework is ideal for cautious global explorers: it uses existing technology investments, it requires little to no special training, and it’s fairly manageable for a one-time project with a few target languages.
Yet any hint of global success quickly whets the organization’s appetite for localization. More products! More services! More types of content! More target markets!
These new demands quickly reveal all the weak spots in the email/spreadsheet-based framework, which is unable to:
- Systematically transfer project data to and from translators
- Support Agile, complex, frequent and/or fast TAT projects
- Centralize project requests, tracking and management
- Manage program financial, delivery, quality and other KPIs
That’s when global organizations discover localization technology tools like Translation Management Systems (TMS), Content Management Systems (CMS), term bases, file repositories, portals, all of which play a role in centralizing, standardizing, streamlining and automating localization processes. (Check out my colleague’s recent blog about cloud-based TMS tools.)
Vendor-Centric Tool Investments
Global enterprises typically acquire a mix of localization technology tools over time, often whenever they add or change localization vendors, because some LSPs sell their own localization technology as part of their end-to-end solution.
Why? Bundling a technology package adds to the vendor’s bottom line. It’s also easier to force clients to conform to the vendor’s standard processes and file formats than it is to get the entire localization supply chain to conform to hundreds or thousands of different client systems — even if that means persuading every single client to replace an existing tool with a comparable one.
Unfortunately for globalization buyers, this piecemeal, vendor-centric approach to tool acquisition only delivers incremental improvements for global organizations: not the type of integrated, end-to-end system that fully supports the level of automation and workflow customization required for complex, fast, high-volume localization program management.
If your localization technology tools aren’t keeping pace with your global growth, they’re holding you back — and the costs are slower time-to-market, fewer target languages, not as many content types, and/or lower quality.
Pushing Back on Vendor-Centric Tool Investments
Let’s flip to a more client-centric perspective. Global leaders are unique: each organization has different goals, different metrics, different starting points on the path to global markets, different management styles, different stakeholder commitments across the various internal organizations involved in globalization, and so forth. You get the idea.
So how could any vendor claim to have the be-all, end-all, one-size-fits-all solution to all problems? How could they possibly know your organization well enough to recommend a large technology investment during the courtship stages of vendor selection? What happens if the product can’t support a mission-critical requirement on your end — will the vendor adapt the technology to support you?
Which leads me to a second note on this point: Why fix what ain’t broke? If you have already invested in a tool that can do the job — one that your personnel are already familiar with — why start fresh with something comparable? Why invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars implementing new technology, when you could instead use those funds to translate more content into more languages?
A Client-Centric Approach
There’s another — significantly less common — approach to localization technology that celebrates the diversity of global leaders and shuns one-size-fits-all recommendations. This client-centric approach starts by optimizing the way existing systems work together — whether they’re proprietary, in-house apps or popular third-party solutions — and extending those system functionalities to meet your specific requirements.
Just think: replacing one tool with another may yield incremental benefits, but investing in system integration and process automation is more likely to shave wasted time and costs off your localization program and yield exponentially higher returns.
That, at least, is our experience at Moravia. We don’t package or sell our own technology, and, as a result, we remain objective and client-focused in our technology recommendations. The following video captures our approach nicely:
If you’re wondering how we can possibly be efficient working across the hodge-podge of client-specific technologies and processes, that’s a great question — and it’s the topic of my next post, so stay tuned for more details.
In the meantime, have you ever encountered a compelling business reason to throw away your existing investments in tools and processes in order to work with a LSP’s solution? If so, please share in the comments.