Often, even when executive buy-in for translation exists, the significance of centralizing the function is somewhat lost on stakeholders. They understand the importance of translation in their global marketing efforts, but they fail to connect the dots between a centralized translation function and improved quality and productivity.
In our experience, many of the core localization issues, like those below, stem from the absence of a centralized program:
- Quality inconsistencies. Not all types of content that you produce retain the brand voice; nor do they have uniform levels of quality.
- Scalability. Content re-use lags behind industry standards, and the number of internal customers and stakeholders keeps increasing.
- Vendor management. You now have multiple LSPs to manage the huge content machine, creating the need for a dedicated strategy to manage vendors.
- Too many and complex workflows. It’s not the same as when you created content in one language and then translated into just a handful of other languages. Now there are more languages, more content types, more stakeholders and more platforms on which you need to publish.
- Un-integrated translation technologies. You have invested in various translation tools, but you find yourself locked down to proprietary technologies that may be getting obsolete, or you are otherwise unable to integrate into one coherent workflow.
Centralization of the localization function is one of the indicators of higher maturity in the CSA Localization Maturity Model (LMM). Importantly, this goes hand in hand with a similar trend that affects other key corporate functions, such as procurement or business intelligence.
From our conversations with buyers of localization services, we often see a centralized program, such as a Localization Center of Excellence, working toward solving many of the above issues in the following ways:
- Supports all business groups centrally. This saves managers of each department from managing translation and working with separate sets of vendors. As vendor management becomes more streamlined, you will be easily able to collect data on their performance, rate them and give them feedback.
- Easier to scale. One of the advantages of centralizing localization tasks is that, with time, the group starts to gain a lot of knowledge and expertise. So, when new languages must be added, the group already knows the processes to put in place for the new markets, which content to prioritize, whom they should work with internally and so on. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you enter a new market.
- Maximizes economy of scale, buying leverage and speed. Centralization always lets buyers achieve maximum savings and bargaining power in procurement. It also speeds up the entire process, because the program not only starts to manage processes better, but also owns and maintains the translation memory (TM), which in turn helps in content re-use across the company.
- Consistent quality and brand voice alignment. Thanks to various groups leveraging the centralized TM, quality consistencies soon start to emerge. This also helps create a unified voice across different products of the company.
- Inventories tools and manages them. The localization group is in charge of the technologies used in the organization. Hence, it takes stock of the tools already in use and determines which ones may no longer be relevant, which ones should be added, and so on. It not only brings down the level of investment in translation technology, but also makes stakeholders aware of the different translation memories that may be entrapped in different tools.
But what exactly does a Localization Center of Excellence look like? What functions must it include? Which roles should you be hiring for? Normally, the localization program should consist of at least three essential divisions:
- Support infrastructure
- International brand oversight
The figure below specifies the roles you need to hire for and their respective responsibilities.
Often, you can hire for these roles from your internal staff. There probably already are people in various groups who have been handling translation. Bringing them together will help you inventory existing knowledge, pain points and possible resolutions that some groups have worked out. You can also consult language service providers (LSPs) on the various localization job profiles and processes to put in place for the localization program.
Veteran global brands clearly see translation as a mainstream business process and as such do not deal with it in an ad hoc manner. So, while your tentative steps in global marketing may be to add languages, you mature as a localization buyer only by recognizing translation as a utility managed by a core group.