One of the most useless questions I can ask a new client is, “Is your localization program growing?” Of course it’s growing! And if it isn’t, you certainly aren’t going to admit that to me (go ahead and let me know in the comments section, I dare you!). The more important questions are how you are growing, what is driving this growth, and what your plans are to manage this growth.
Some clients grow quickly, and some evolve more gradually over time. Of the clients I’ve worked with who have successfully managed their growth, I have noticed that they all have some of the same practices. Growth is never easy, but if you learn from these experiences, it doesn’t have to be painful.
Proactive resourcing is key to growing localization teams
I always find it useful to remind people that the most crucial part of a localization program is the linguists: the people actually doing the work. We often get so excited about new tools and processes that we forget that there are real live humans working diligently at the single most crucial step in the process. This is why it is so critical to make sure that you have the right people for the job, as well as enough of them to ensure that they aren't working triple overtime to finish on schedule.
The tricky part to scaling your linguistic teams, though, is that as volumes increase, quality can and will most certainly decrease, unless this growth is managed properly. Proactivity is key! If you wait until the last minute to start assembling or growing your team, then you may end up onboarding less-than-perfect linguists in order to meet your deadlines, which will lead to big problems down the road.
Utilizing the services of a large LSP like Morava can help here, as most LSPs will already have a bank of existing resources to draw upon. You should still be selective, though, choosing only the resources that are right for your program.
Clean up now rather than later
In order to be scalable, your processes need to be, well…scalable. This means they need to be efficient, consistent, and easily reproducible. If your processes are inefficient to begin with, then you will simply increase the amount of work that goes through them. Garbage in, garbage out.
Take the time to build a good foundation and make sure your processes are efficient first. They will be much easier to fix in the beginning than after they have been rolled out on a larger scale. Once your processes are fine-tuned, make sure they are consistent across all projects. I really cannot stress how important this is.
A program with efficient and consistent processes can be managed easily by a small team of project managers. If you have a dozen different, inconsistent processes, though, you will need a much larger team to manage a much smaller workload.
For processes to be easily reproducible, they must not be overly dependent on any single person or team. Adopt appropriate automations and instill good knowledge-sharing practices in your organization.
Automate appropriately to optimize performance
If you are working with efficient, consistent and reproducible processes, then the natural next step would be to explore what tasks can be automated. Here are some suggestions:
- Query management tools make sure that when a team member raises a query, the answer is shared with all team members.
- CAT tools allow multiple people to collaborate on the same file in real time.
- Workflow management tools automate handoffs and handbacks and eliminate the need for human processing.
There are many possibilities here. Much has been written about technology-based solutions and I invite you to explore our other blog posts on the subject. As always, though, I beg you to remember that the goal of automation should not be to replace the human element completely, but to optimize the performance of your team by making their jobs easier and allowing them to focus on higher-value tasks.
Document and share knowledge to make learning scalable
If you need to hire one person, you could probably onboard and train them personally. If you need to hire 20 people, I doubt that you will have the necessary time to spend with each of them. Put a system in place that allows them to self-train as much as possible.
This means not only reviewing documentation on their own, but also allowing them to learn from and provide training to each other. I recommend having a centralized knowledge base that can be used to train new team members and support more experienced ones. Incentivize your experienced team members to contribute to the knowledge base or provide training and support to newcomers.
This will also encourage a culture of teamwork and make sure that nobody is operating in a silo. Set regular sync ups for team members so they can share their learned lessons and best practices with each other. Don’t let five different team members make the same mistake five different times: allow them to communicate with each other and learn from each other's experiences. This applies not only to your internal teams, but to cooperation between you and your vendors as well.
Sell the growth plan to team members
All of the above is good advice (if I do say so myself), but it is worthless if it is not managed properly. If you’re looking for just one takeaway from this post, it’s this:
When it comes to scaling up a localization program — whether you’re doubling the number of languages, increasing volume throughputs, decreasing turnaround time, or consolidating work from multiple vendors to a single partner — the most challenging situations will not be from the sources you’d expect, but rather from internal struggles within your own team.
Growth, after all, is nothing more than a form of change, and we humans are usually not big fans of change. As a manager, you need to provide leadership to your team (internal and external) to make sure that everybody is fully on board with your growth plan. Get them excited about it! Show your team how this will benefit the organization and, more importantly, how it will benefit them directly, whether through new and exciting challenges, making their jobs easier or more satisfying, or providing new opportunities for career growth.
If your team members are not aware of the growth plan, they may fight your proposed changes at every step of the way. They may see process and workflow optimization as a pointless exercise, automation as an attempt to eliminate their positions, and contributing to knowledge-sharing repositories as an annoying burden. On the other hand, if your team has fully bought in, they will give 110% to ensure continued success as your program doubles and triples in size.
Create an environment conducive to growth and make sure your team members buy in to your vision. Build and fine-tune robust processes now rather than later, and similarly invest in team-building. Growth will naturally follow.