Applying Agility to Content Globalization

Like most buzzwords, “agility” has taken over during discussions regarding time, cost, and process effectiveness. It covers flexibility, scalability, capacity, and speed among other expectations. At the very least, it is useful to pinpoint characteristics that content must contain to be effective anywhere in the digital age. Agility fits nicely in any expansion plan and in any effort to shape processes to handle large amounts of content. It also tames the inherent complexity of articulating a variety of responsibilities and aligning a number of stakeholders internationally. Ultimately, striking the agility balance ensures that the content supply and management chains remain competitive.

“Perfection is the enemy of the good.” This commonsense rule should also be applied to the content globalization journey. The risk of making agility counterproductive should not be overlooked. Many players and practitioners in the field of global content are more or less familiar with oversized flow charts and countless iterations. Adding agility can be a driver to optimize management and move closer and faster toward what local customers really want. To achieve this, you may start to focus on a few areas in which agility should add value when and how it makes sense for the business.

Simplicity may be the first objective that comes to mind to put agility into practice. Content globalization is complex by nature, as it has to accommodate global diversity and local dependencies. Therefore, making and keeping your content simple is a priority. The target is set. But agility may help hit it as much as miss it. To increase effectiveness of content and experiences around the world, agility needs to bring fluidity forward. This requires due diligence and no nonsense. For instance, streamlining content creation and deployment may be seen as a way to deliver faster. But will a lack of accuracy, or poor quality, be the end result? In the same vein, centralizing or decentralizing content activities may come up as a natural catalyst to become leaner. Will these activities still be properly resourced centrally or locally, and will there be no disconnection between various levels in the organization as a result? Counterproductive agility is caused by oversimplification.

Centricity is nurtured by customer understanding and delight. Local customer experiences thrive on uncompromising relevance and acceptance. Agility must boost all actions making experiences personal, specifically to enable timely design, development, or localization. It may imply (re)organizing the chain of tasks to ensure that it is balanced and realistic. It should also address potential overlaps or conflicts and possibly group tasks such as functional, linguistic, and design testing for international markets. By doing so, agility strengthens the focus on what customers need instead of spending too much time and energy on internal considerations. Agility does not mean swapping or splitting roles and accountabilities systematically. Counterproductive agility comes from unnecessary fragmentation that is assumed to enhance control and empowerment.

Automation powers agility by broadening the content impact and shortening cycle times. The definition and integration of automation usually determine its actual effectiveness. In addition to productivity and speed, automation promises to do more with less, so it reinforces agility in terms of resources and processes. Translation memories and localization management systems are examples of automation supporting the agile deployment of content across countries whether it is simultaneous or phased. These assets help replace, accelerate, and remove steps in cycles, while reallocating time and resources to more value-adding milestones. However, they may also lead to issues if they are used in close conjunction with all content process and objectives.

Agility has to go hand-in-hand with best judgment and proven effectiveness. Do not force the means at the expense of the ends. Look beyond the surface of simplicity to consider deeper takeaways.  

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