What Does Lean Six Sigma Have to Offer to Globalize and Localize Content?

May 18, 2018


BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Article ImageLean Six Sigma is a methodology that has proved to be useful in many business areas in the digital age. Specifically, it helps increase operational excellence and process agility. In my experience, content and product globalization is no exception. I've undergone the associated certification process with several projects and programs. When I have been asked about benefits of leveraging this methodology I have raised some points that are more or less specific to digital globalization. However, these considerations are all paramount to enhance global and local content effectiveness. Like for other improvement initiatives, the high-level goal here is to upgrade a tactical supply chain as a strategic value chain. Here are some recommendations for those considering using Lean Six Sigma to drive streamlining efforts in content creation, localization, testing, and delivery.

  • Engineer content and products in a simultaneous way—Synchronizing content supply chains with product lifecycles has been an ongoing challenge. Both tracks are expected to be tightly interwoven and should be managed in close conjunction to make timely progress. From this perspective, I like to see Lean Six Sigma as a best-in-class toolkit to assess and enhance workflows step-by-step, while retaining their existing value. By scanning, dissecting, and possibly restructuring these flows you can go deep into each building block and pinpoint all linkages whether they actually work or not. So you can ensure that both content and products meet customer journey requirements when and where it matters. All stations and milestones of this journey must be addressed flawlessly as customers align their money with your products and expect you to align with their aspirations prior, during and after any purchase. For instance, localization must be properly positioned and embedded in product roadmaps so that there is no disruption or delay in this critical adaptation for countries and regions. Lean Six Sigma relies on a no-nonsense approach to define, review or question tasks from end to end. They often turn content owners or product leaders into engineers building or improving their area of expertise to deliver content contextually and personally in local markets.
  • Identifying process variation and filling performance gaps in an objective way—Digital globalization is a cross-functional endeavor and requires engagement, alignment, and commitment. These efforts must be reflected in design, development, localization, testing, certification, and delivery activities. When setting up or evaluating processes human factors come up as frequently as technical specifications. Lean Six Sigma helps make both be synergistically compatible as need be. Technically speaking gaps and room for improvement must be thoroughly analyzed and put in perspective with their environment. Also, solutions or alternatives must be tried out and rated in order to ensure that tasks, systems, and tools remain efficient and useful in the long run. This cannot be done without connecting views and getting the buy-in from all involved stakeholders. For example, you should identify and fill performance gaps in global product testing by ensuring that defects are analyzed from a linguistic, functional, and design perspective. Functional bugs can lead to linguistic bugs and vice versa. Efficient bug fixing requires a holistic approach. Lean Six Sigma helps find common ground based on 360° validation, tangible outcome, and indisputable value.
  • Focus on enhancement for the sake of productivity—You may see or hear "waste" quite often in the course of Lean Six Sigma-driven projects covering content globalization. It is actually a direct way of referring to anything in content value chains and product lifecycles that may be redundant, inconsistent, or useless. Most of the time waste slows down people and processes and eventually breaks customer experiences. Therefore productivity is a catalyst for removing or replacing waste. Inefficient local content review and sign off is a typical example of waste for global products. If your product is ready to be deployed but its content still needs to be blessed by a number of people you may end with a bottleneck. Although it is just one step in the product localization phase, local content review should not be underestimated as it may depend on several people, especially at local and regional levels of your organization. It may take more time than expected if it is not well framed and governed, as diverging or conflicting opinions abound. In such cases, Lean Six Sigma can be leveraged to streamline this step and assign the best person to do the review job based on the most relevant skills, experience and expertise. Selecting people results in accelerating products and optimizing content quality. Needing less to do more.
  • Explore and link tasks tied to content globalization—As Lean Six Sigma (re)visits processes in greater detail and put them to the test, there are a number of opportunities to define and calibrate some specific tasks to globalize content effectively. For instance, terminology management that may be hidden, diluted, or delayed in localization workflows can be highlighted and addressed in a timely fashion, i.e. upfront and on an ongoing basis. It can also be strongly connected to other localization tasks such as language analysis, content engineering, and product testing to become an enabler and accelerator rather than just a dependency. When sensitive terms in marketing, branding, or user interfaces are not used consistently it has an impact on unnecessary iterations in translation, review, testing, and certification phases. From an external standpoint, it spoils local customer experiences with cheap or wrong content. Lean Six Sigma helps premiumize global content and products by promoting localization effectiveness and therefore strengthening customer centricity across international markets.
  • Bring the right people together at the right time—Lean Six Sigma helps dive into roles and responsibilities to ensure they are allocated in a rational way. It is a true challenge in digital globalization execution considering the number of tasks and people involved. It may take time to determine who should be a sponsor, a stakeholder, a resource, or a supplier both internally and externally, especially in large globalizing organizations. Timely alignment and engagement are required to put an effective digital globalization framework in place and bring it forward with quick wins. What should be the connection between a technical writer and a product leader? How should linguists and marketing managers work together? These are a couple of questions that often come up when setting up or improving globalization value chains. Lean Six Sigma helps foster collaboration with specific actions, permissions, and connections in light of a solid plan of records. It is actually another opportunity to put people at the forefront of digital globalization management.

Related Articles

Leading any digital content value chain requires a cross-functional and cross-disciplinary approach, especially when you need to coordinate with multiple content supply chains across the globe. From this perspective, effective alignment between technical and non-technical leaders is imperative as it has to bolster collaboration to drive and sustain content creation. With that in mind, making developers feel truly engaged is important, considering their key role in the seamless and timely delivery of global content.
What are the keywords of advice you would share with anyone who needs to accelerate the introduction, adoption, and profitability of digital content and products globally in 2018? While I have been asked this question several times for the last couple of months, my answer has been very similar regardless of industry and background. Think about investing in meeting the level of authenticity and empathy that your local customers require!
Since the most obvious wins of AI-driven content solutions are found in content effectiveness--including speed, cost, and relevance--it may be useful to briefly highlight how and why both automation in general, and automated intelligence in particular, do matter in global content value chains and digital product lifecycles.
Chatbots are now expected to be part of most digital experiences for local customers and product globalization plans around the world. When designing, developing, localizing, and maintaining chatbots the first and foremost challenge is to make them engaging and immersive in a world of human customers. In other words, the most effective chatbots should be driven by personal resonance while minimizing the feeling of interacting with a robot.
It is crucial to incorporate monetization drivers and enablers in most localization and globalization blueprints—especially when you consider evolving experience expectations across markets in the digital age.