As a solutions architect with 15 years’ experience in the industry, I often work with organizations trying to evolve their localization programs in order to try to achieve the trifecta of reduced cost, increased quality and improved TAT.
It’s common that these growing global organizations think that they are at an advanced level of maturity: they feel like they’ve got things under control and their program is running fairly smoothly. For them, localization is no longer ad hoc in the organization, and it is being managed as a program (albeit perhaps differently in different divisions).
They have recognized common problems, and have been able to document basic processes to be used across business units to resolve them. But chances are they’re still not operating as efficiently as they should. Let’s explore the common characteristics of the most mature localization programs.
A useful framework
In order to analyze the stage of localization program evolution of a global organization and figure out what to focus on next, we can rank the state of localization maturity using the framework established by Common Sense Advisory called the Localization Maturity Model (LMM). Released 10 years ago, this adaptation of a capability maturity model (CMM) shows the five stages of localization programs, highlighting the activities and characteristics of globally growing enterprises. By the LMM description, the organization described above would be an LMM3.
Today, I share my experience with the enhancements many of them consider — or should consider — when moving past maturity level 3 (Managed).
Localization Maturity Model Stage 4: Optimizers
Localization managers start to have specific concerns around process and technology at around Localization Maturity Model (LMM) level 4. In LMM Stage 4 (Optimized), companies look at taking a more “scientific” approach to deploying a localization program, including implementing technology, working on process, and looking at metrics.
In my company’s extensive experience with maturing Fortune 100 clients, similarities have emerged among clients pushing forward into LMM4:
1. Tools to facilitate process maturity
It is at this stage that the need for a Translation Management System (TMS) becomes most acute. Increased volumes, the need to handle more complex processes, and the requirement for standardization demand it: there is no other way to manage a maturing program. Technology (language and process) is required to achieve goals and derive more benefit. In our experience, most companies at this stage look to TMS to meet the following goals:
- Realize time and money savings via better leverage
- Provide workflows based on content type (including automations)
- Provide a portal for easy job submission and tracking
- Centralize TMs, terminology and projects
- Track data related to localization activities across the entire enterprise and provide analytics
This said, in practice, many enterprises do not have a dedicated in-house technologist to help select, deploy or support technology. It’s also expensive, features vary widely, and the choice can be overwhelming. We see many organizations at the LMM3 stage proactively seeking help selecting and deploying a chosen TMS.
2. Quality standards to ensure best user experience
Businesses at LMM4 normally have a strong and comprehensive linguistic quality management program, spending years building and fine-tuning it. Prior to this, quality was managed ad hoc with mixed results. Through this evolution, most LMM4 companies objectively measure linguistic performance against an established benchmark.
We often see that they strive to make quality consistent across departments, and all translations are sent through predefined review cycles. With few exceptions, this framework also includes the management of in-country reviews, which are critical in getting internal buy-in for all published content.
3. Oversight to drive improvement
You can’t measure what you don’t track. Most organizations we work with at this stage have solid oversight — also known as governance — in place. This defines how program issues are resolved and how innovation impacts growth.
This is an area where each company’s unique culture has a role, but oversight in most organizations invariably includes the following four components:
- It requires Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) — such as target metrics around quality, turnaround time, project management and financials. These help unveil trends and issues which bring resolvable business problems to light. Each enterprise creates their own KPIs.
- A clear escalation path. Who is responsible to resolve problems, and if the fix is inadequate, who handles the escalation?
- Data and analytics. Companies must aggregate data, analyze it, and then review that data to drive solid business decision-making. Many TMS can aggregate data and provide reporting.
- Regular business reviews to enable visibility, innovation and collaboration. Most enterprises have biannual or quarterly reviews to measure enterprise objectives against the goals in mind, and to develop action plans. Attendees include business owners, program and project managers.
4. Consistent pricing to enable budget and vendor controls
Pricing rationalization and standardization — a feature of most LMM4 organizations — are required in order to tightly control spend and manage vendors. Budgets must stretch to cover the new volume, and there is an ever-present mandate to reduce costs over time.
To get to LMM4, we see enterprises driving a competitive model and consistent industry pricing. Luckily, their growing localization programs are in a good position: increased volumes can inspire vendors to stabilize or even reduce pricing. This would be driven by a central procurement team — another characteristic of a mature localization program. Pricing initiatives are typically driven by a Request for Proposal (RFP).
5. Centralized localization enables consist access to services
Localization, in a mature organization, should be a central, shared service. This refers to a unit within the organization with clear and visible representation, and a seat at the table in every localization program in the company.
There are myriad advantages to this: one service supports all business groups neutrally. Localization can be tracked organization-wide to show trends like spend and language volumes, which will enable better business decisions. Further, it enables centralized control over workflows and technology implementations: development and execution of processes will be exact across all corporate projects.
What other characteristics are you pursuing as you involve your localization program?