Many well-funded companies succumb to the lure of soup-to-nuts localization technology solutions well before they have the market experience or personnel required to deploy the sophisticated features they’re buying.
Localization technology is like any infrastructure investment: buying more than you need robs budget from the services required to put that investment to use — and that dampens the revenue growth you’re counting on to propel your global presence.
We’ve found that incremental investments are a much more cost-effective way to align localization tools to program growth. Here’s a quick overview of key localization technology tools you’ll encounter along the way, and how to know whether you need them.
Desktop Translation and Localization Tools
Most globalization programs kick off using desktop-based translation and localization tools. Your vendor and freelancers may already be using one or more computer-aided translation (CAT) tools to do various tasks like generate a word count, look up words, create style guides and the like.
Translation Memory (TM)
Translation memory tools will help you leverage past translations and potentially save a lot of time and money in future translations. They also contribute hugely to quality by helping maintain linguistic consistency.
Terminology Management Systems
Terminology management is helpful when your company has created a significant amount of content and you need to promote consistency on how to translate certain terms in different languages.
Translation Management Systems (TMS)
A TMS with workflow automation is necessary for companies that translate large amounts of content continuously. TMSs manage the flow of content through the localization process, but they vary quite a bit and choosing one suitable for your business can be a challenge. A TMS will often include built-in Translation Memory functionality and a Terminology Management system within it. Transition to a TMS is a heavy investment: proceed with care.
Machine Translation (MT)
MT is a good option for companies whose content volumes are so vast that human translation alone is neither feasible nor affordable. Setting up an MT engine and training is costly and time-consuming, but once in place, MT can generate massive cost savings.
Community Translation Platforms
Community translation is less common, but appropriate for companies who wish to invite their users, fans, or volunteers to translate some or all of their content. They must withstand a vast numbers of users logging in simultaneously and enable very flexible translation workflows.
Quality Assurance (QA) Automation
QA tools check the source and target content to find translation errors. QA software may be included as part of some localization tools or TMSs.
Localization Business Process Systems
Adding to the typical functionality of a TMS, localization business process systems are focused on the nuts and bolts of running localization programs, such as resourcing, rates, vendor selection and grading, creating invoices, financial reporting, and so forth.
One increasingly popular option is not to bother with technology at all. Outsourcing your entire localization program to a single vendor lets you offload the day-to-day management hassles to an expert who is incentivized to improve over time, while you stay focused on your core business. The right approach to vendor selection can help you preserve the intimacy and control of an in-house program.
To make the most of your technology investments, focus on establishing your workflows upfront using only the essential tools and adding more advanced technology and automation over time. Integrate with content development, website publishing, and all other parts of your organization that will generate content that needs to be localized.
Above all, deploy technology strategically over time to maximize revenue gains across your localization program at each stage of growth.