What is a dashboard? As it is commonly understood, a dashboard is a panel on which important information is visually presented. When you’re in the driver’s seat of your car, that dashboard tells you, among other things, how fast you’re driving, how much fuel is in the tank, and whether or not there is sufficient oil pressure to protect the engine. The dashboard provides key information at a glance so that you, as a driver, can enjoy a smooth and safe ride to your destination.
As a business intelligence tool, a localization dashboard should deliver the same functionality to your localization program management. But are you using a dashboard? And, if so, is it providing you with the right kinds of information to drive your multilingual products to the right destination?
The K.I.S.S. Principle
In just one screen — one easy-to-digest table of information — your dashboard has to provide the right information to help guide your localization decision making. Psychologists tell us that we really cannot process more than seven or eight pieces of information at a time. And as I noted in my last blog on metrics, indicators, and key performance indicators (KPIs), while there may be a lot of data to process, just a few warrant the label “key.”
Again, using the car dashboard as a metaphor, one does not need to know any of the hundreds of error codes an onboard computer can throw. You just need to know that there was one. Knowing that there is a problem, you plug in a diagnostic tool or take your car in to be checked. So one KPI in this car is simply “Is there a problem with the engine?” (yes/no). If “yes” then you should do something.
The key to key performace indicators is to ask yourself what are you going to do with the information. If you can’t do anything or don’t trust the information, then the only thing you really have is an “idiot light” decorating your dashboard.
Even if you want to have a dashboard that includes more than KPIs — that is, other indicators as well — you have to keep your dashboard simple to increase its usefulness to you in daily practice.
So, only the highest priority indicators should be on the dashboard. Don’t call them all KPIs. There are only one or two. Update them regularly and validate them regularly because if you don’t trust them and you can’t rely on them, you can’t manage them. They are basically worthless if they don’t make sense, if they can’t be really easy to summarize, comprehend, and act on. K.I.S.S.: keep it simple and straightforward.
Using Your Dashboard
I noted in my previous blog that KPI standards are less important than KPIs that are tailored to your specific localization program. Nevertheless, a localization dashboard should include some basics. Why? As in the car example, when the oil indicator light blinks, you know to immediately add more oil to prevent engine failure. In the same way, if some of these basic indicators fail, next steps should be clear, even if they must involve higher levels of your company’s leadership.
Tracking on-time delivery is important to any localization dashboard. If you can pace your programs and control your throughput, lots of other efficiencies start coming into play.
Documenting output quality keeps you from the kind of crises that result from last-minute (and time-to-market-delaying) error corrections. Quality tracking helps you plan your capacity appropriately, which itself contributes to achieving higher level of quality and experiencing fewer failures.
That cost is listed here last is not so much because it’s not the most important metric but because if you’ve got your schedule down and you’ve got your quality down then your costs will, naturally, start coming down. There will be less rework, there will be fewer crises and mistakes — everything works better. On the other hand, if you start with costs, you may find yourself cutting the very things that your organization needs to succeed.
Putting Together Your Dashboard
So, what does a dashboard look like? Here below is an example from Mozilla.
It is free — you can login and check this out yourself. Look at what they are focusing on in their localization program and its voluntary translations: how much of it is there, how many pages are missing, how many mistakes there are, whether a deadline is critical, and is the deadline missed or not.
In just one dashboard, you can see where they stand with a language. For example, German is green — they are totally on top of it, no missing errors, nothing. This information helps senior leaders make language-specific decisions. As you can see, it’s very simple; there are only a handful of issues going on.
But what are all the performance metrics that a localization dashboard could show?
- Linguistic pass / fail
- Percentage of on-time delivery
- Feedback score from clients
- Localization engineering errors / breakdowns
- Invoicing timeliness rates and correctness
Ultimately, your localization dashboard has to meet your specific business needs. While there are sophisticated ERP systems out there that propose to magically generate dashboards for you, there is no substitute for starting from the bottom and working your way up to ensure that your data is solid, that your metrics mean something, and that your indicators are actually driving your decision making.
Once you have identified the metrics, indicators, and KPIs that are most valuable for you, handing your parameters over to a developer to create a visualization is actually the easy part of the localization dashboard picture. I’ll write more about how then to make the best of it!