How Much Should Localization Be Automated to Remain Cost and Time Effective?

Jan 07, 2015

Article ImageManaging localization in a time and cost effective way is critical for the definition and execution of digital globalization plans. It is therefore no surprise that product leaders and content owners need process enhancements while making the most of localization budgets according to clear requirements and indicators. This is where automation comes in to play. However, it may turn out to be a great efficiency enabler as well as a dangerous pitfall if it is not used at the right time and within the right framework.

A couple of essential questions underlie the implementation and measurement of the proper level of automation in localization operations. What content is in your scope? Who should get it? Where does automation really drive effectiveness? Defining content as well as the scope of your globalization-including localization, understanding customers requiring content and evaluating how far automation should go- are crucial to keep your job on the right track.

Dividing your content into the following "buckets" may help to keep the picture simple and to avoid mixed bags, especially as far as the discrimination between translation and localization is concerned.

  • Leveraged content that can be defined as general or generic content created and maintained by local, regional or global content owners, which can be used in other geographies without any translation, localization or customization effort
  • Translated content that can be defined as informative content containing no geo-centric or customer-specific reference, provided by local, regional or global content owners to be conveyed in one or multiple languages
  • Localized content that can be defined as engaging content from local, regional or global content owners for one or multiple locales with potential transcreation or clustering needs
  • Ad hoc content that can be defined as business-critical content localized and customized for specific customers within one or multiple markets

Localization management adds much value in tha area where governance, funding, and operational excellence are key drivers. Automation is quite straightforward to share content, but requires clear guidelines and rules to translate and localize it-and has to be used very carefully to customize it. Each "bucket" may cover content that is unstructured, descriptive, or narrative such as marketing materials and content that is structured, technical, or tutorial such as user manuals. Automation may generate different perspectives, as a sensible choice for the latter and as a risky one for the former. That is why determining the type and level of automation is the next step.

Considering the many various tasks involved in localization management, it is worth considering which ones should be the focus when implementing automation and delivering on a promise to make content better, faster, and cheaper. Valuable room may be found with some technology and in the following directions.

  • Re-use and re-purposing of content are greatly facilitated by authoring and translation databases (aka memories) to localize content in a consistent, safer, and quicker way. The level of automation varies as there are fewer opportunities with creative content that may be less structured than with technical content that is created and maintained according to strict patterns. Yet it may also be a good case to highlight why writing should be as controlled as possible. In any case, it is a major source of savings and content effectiveness that content managers must bear in mind
  • Terminology management should not be underestimated, as gaps and mistakes in that field definitely impact brand effectiveness and customer experience. By automating the creation, maintenance and use of terms through glossaries or other tools, less time is spent on repatriating and cleaning these terms for all locales. And it applies to any "bucket" and type of content
  • Machine translation is another time and cost saver, specifically for selected types content. Obviously its power has been unleashed with structured content that may be repeated and very similar across updates. However, as this technology has evolved significantly, it has become a nice option for certain types of more creative content when being combined with human translation and localization to some extent. The right balance depends on criteria such as speed, sensitivity, or target audience. Ideally pilots help determine which percentage of machine and human translation brings the most value to content owners and audiences
  • Review and sign off of translated and localized content are the most challenging and time-consuming steps in localization management. Whether it must be done centrally or within local markets, assisting reviewers reduces the number of iterations by providing them with a controlled framework to focus on actual corrections rather than on preferential changes. Using applications or utilities to do so online makes reviewers more productive and accelerates cycle times of content and products globally.
  • Streamlined and integrated workflows which cover an array of tasks such as project requests, content analysis, quotations, and content delivery. A unified environment enables people involved in the localization supply chain to describe, approve, and comment on most important tasks. And automation replaces manual intervention via dispersed management and communication tools with online collaboration.

While there is no one-size-fits-all automation approach for all globalization programs, the goal should always remain cost and time effectiveness. Localization management is complex and automation must always be a synonym for simplification or optimization in globalizing organizations.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)

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