Automation is on the rise. Taking the human element out of certain processes makes a lot of sense. You can increase productivity, reduce errors and have a more profitable business model. But you need to have a great deal of faith in complete end-to-end automation. Are you ready to get in your car and have it drive you to your destination while you sleep? Or would you feel more comfortable setting your speed and engaging the cruise control, but still being responsible for the steering and braking just in case?
These kinds of considerations arise when automation is employed in the world of localization, too. On the surface, expanding into new territories with new languages may seem suited to automation such as machine translation to handle high volumes and speed up the work. For example, open Google Translate, choose your destination language, type in your content and it comes out localized. The results can be pretty accurate, but it’s not always this easy, and sometimes what comes out needs a lot of fine-tuning to really engage with the local culture.
There are many factors that are making automation increasingly appealing:
- Return on investment – Because there are less variables in the process, costs can be easily mapped out and shouldn’t vary much over time.
- Speed – Technology can move more quickly and accurately than humans can.
- Productivity – Operating times can be around-the-clock, seven-days-a-week.
- Efficiency – Human error is greatly reduced or eliminated.
- Visibility – Processes are transparent and exactly the same every time.
When to automate
So, will automation help your business expand into new global territories? The answer varies on a business by business basis. There is no magic, one-size-fits-all answer. Keeping a human element in a process allows you to deal with nuances that inevitably appear when localizing your brand’s products or services. For example, for every opportunity where machine translation can help, there is creative content that needs someone to really understand it so its intended meaning isn’t lost in translation. Because of this, you’ll want to stay away from a ‘closed’ solution where there is only automation.
What to automate
There is, however, little doubt that some level of automation can be advantageous to your localization strategy. It can provide a consistency for core content that you can then adjust to individual markets. Automation can also provide a standard framework for local marketing teams to work within. Take a content management system (CMS), for example. When localizing, a strong CMS that allows your project teams to easily access and modify content is essential, and it might operate across a number of different platforms with a single interface. Often there are multiple users working on different stages of a single project, and a CMS automates the project workflow, timeline, stakeholder communication, approval processes and internal/external resourcing.
When content has to be localized for a specific country, a human needs to make sure the source content is correct and that the digital elements work with each other. Then, once the variables are in place, the CMS’s automation can be triggered and operate at scale, delivering value to the business.
The advantages of a translation management system (TMS)
Also, the growing use of applications and mobile technology puts an increased dependence on translation management systems in order to rapidly grow an app-dependent business on a global level. A TMS helps organize the localization workflow, track the progress of translation projects and reduce manual tasks via automation.
It’s important to consider each of the elements that are going to be automated. They’re not all standard and many CMSs and TMSs will not talk to each other. Once again, it is us humans that have to step in and sort out the finer details.
What about quality?
Quality assurance (QA) and testing are crucial to any localization process. Even the most straightforward translation process—create content, give it to a translation team, translate it—needs a QA step before it’s rolled out into the market. The QA process can vary depending on requirements. It could be as simple as a proofread by a translator with local knowledge and as complex as a functional and linguistic testing program. Even if the QA requires several steps that involve human input, automating as much as possible (such as file handoffs, quality checks and screenshot captures) will typically have time and cost savings that justify building the automations.
In addition, QA should be factored into the overall process during the planning stage. This way, the decision on where and when to employ automation is factored into the project early on and its development and implementation costs can be included in the budget.
This is where designing a modular approach from the start is the best route forward. A process can be broken down into components, some of which will suit total automation and some of which will need human intervention. As we move into the future, the ratio of these two elements may change, but they are both likely to be needed for the long term.
What does the future hold?
In the years to come, automation will evolve as different industries continue to embrace technology. Robotic processes are becoming more widely accepted and implemented in many fields, not just translation and localization.
What the future holds, ultimately, is anyone’s guess, but there are some exciting developments in bringing the global marketplace together.
First, the demand for real-time localization keeps growing. “Real-time” is contextual, but we understand it as meaning instantaneous. It’s the chatbot that replies to you milliseconds after you ask it a question. Or the technology that provides immediate translation, allowing us to quickly communicate in another language. This is where the market is heading, and it all relies on having the right technology and suppliers in place behind the scenes to make the magic happen. Immediately.
Second, advances in digital automation are helping brands move around the world. As those brands gain success in new markets, it’s inevitable that more resources will be put into this international digital landscape. As with a number of industries, the future of localization is moving in this digital direction because people want faster and easier access to the most up-to-date information available.
Building automations for your business
If you’re thinking of bringing automation into your business, just make sure you ask yourself these questions:
- Is it the best solution?
- What level of automation do I need?
- What is needed to do the job and facilitate faster work with fewer errors and less cost?
It’s rare that a process will be suited to end-to-end automation. Instead, targeting specific activities and automating them, with manual intervention where needed, is probably the best option.
Inevitably, the answer is going to be different for everyone. There is no single solution here, just a process of evaluation. Steps include:
- Communication – Who are the process owner and project stakeholders? How is everyone going to communicate?
- Goal setting – Why automate? Is the goal to save time? Save money? Have better visibility? Is there another reason?
- Historical process and adaptation – How was the decision made to automate? Who was involved in the process? Is there any further research that needs to be done?
- Current workflow and data collection – Keeping things as simple as possible, what are the steps in the process, including time frames, and who is the resource at each step?
- Automated workflow – How is this an improvement of the current workflow? What is the cost to implement it? What test comparisons have been run? What are the limitations and how will they be addressed?
- Return on investment (ROI) – What has been learned from the proof of concept? How does this validate automation and show ROI?
- Going live – How will the project go live? How will it be monitored? What will the ongoing quality assurance process be?
And if automation is the answer? Go for it, and work with an experienced partner that can help you roll it out in your current and future markets.