Without a designated internal ‘localization’ function, responsibility for ensuring the quality and market readiness of products for new geo-linguistic regions can be thrown around like a hot potato from one department to another, often settling with the product team who holds overall ownership for product design, functionality and user experience.
Tasked with successfully launching products into markets representing vast new international revenue potential, Product Managers who own localization responsibility can be under pressure to deliver in an area outside their field of core competency.
But while product leaders are not usually language specialists, entrusting the localization process to the people who work most closely with the product itself can have some important benefits – as long as the process is supported by a clear workflow which keeps all stakeholders on the same page.
If you’re a Product Manager who’s been thrust into the hot seat – don’t panic! Here’s our guide to building a cohesive localization workflow that helps everyone stay aligned, ensuring no surprises, gaps or miscommunications.
The first step in developing a localization workflow is to draw up a comprehensive list of everyone who is connected to each stage of the project.
This can often be longer than first expected, but it’s important to understand who will
be impacted or have an interest in the way products are adapted for new linguistic markets.
A workflow which doesn’t take into account the full range of project stakeholders can result in key people unavailable when needed, or time lost to updating unexpected groups who request information or changes to deadlines, processes or budgets.
Your map of people to include in your workflow might cover:
Not every group of stakeholders will need updating or briefing as often on project progress, so it helps to establish a cadence and structure for communication broken down by group.
Those closest to the project will likely need regular collaborative meetings with detailed agendas, while peripheral stakeholders may be adequately informed with a monthly summary or notification of key deadlines.
Communication plans may include:
Just as with communication frequency, choosing the right channel to share and exchange
information is also critical.
Before your product can be translated for foreign language users, workflows should include a pre-launch phase known as ‘internationalization’.
localization vendor will be able to support you in planning this step, which
centres around readying the product for efficient adaptation into new languages
before the process kicks off.
Internationalization identifies and remedies any easily visible design obstacles in the way of translating a product – such as ensuring that digital product interfaces (e.g. buttons, dropdowns and icons) can accommodate longer or shorter text in translated languages, or work with foreign alphabet characters.
Some of the many important steps of internationalization involve:
Before getting going with a project, there are a number of things which can be shared with your localization vendor that help simplify the process and accelerate project completion.
Listing these out in advance gives you time to prepare materials, ultimately leading to a shorter time to market in new target regions.
On your list may be:
Developing a project schedule sets the key deadlines and milestones which will keep localization on track, and results in a timely launch in new markets.
Getting scheduling right can be tricky, but there are several best practices which help ensure agendas are realistic and built around real world data. Creating a project schedule which is nothing more than a hopeful sketch is a recipe for frustration and delays, so anchoring your plan with tangible markers is critical.
To guide schedule development, it can be help to consider:
The tools supporting your localization process play a key role in shaping the design of your overall
Although the right technology will significantly accelerate overall project delivery, time must be
factored in for selecting and configuring tools, as well as potentially
providing any necessary training to project team members.
The core stack of tools in your process may feature:
Your core Project Management tool will provide the framework for planning and monitoring project delivery. Implementing the right platform involves a balance of functionality and ease of use – choosing a system which has the capability to effectively drive your localization process forward, but is also simple for team members to get to grips with and consequently generates strong engagement.
A tool which is comprehensive in the features department but leaves intended users confused or disengaged can be a major misstep, as project data may not be logged accurately or frequently enough to get the benefit of the software.
One of the main decisions to be made is whether to use a general purpose project management tool (which your company may already use in other areas, and as such might be familiar to your teams), or to opt for a localization specific platform. Known as Translation Management Systems (TMS), these purpose-built platforms are designed specifically to handle localization projects, anticipating all of the common workflow steps and collaboration features required.
Together with the PM backbone of your localization project, additional technology will help the translation process and improve speed and quality levels.
The most widely used translation tools include:
The final workflow step to define is quality assurance – a comprehensive process for testing your localized product to ensure it reads, feels and operates as though produced natively in the target market.
Quality Assurance is a critical piece of the localization puzzle and a robust testing framework should be developed to explore and approve every aspect of the localized materials.
When it comes to quality assurance, it can help to focus on:
Rolling out a mistranslated, glitchy or bug ridden product can have far more serious brand and financial consequences than the additional time and investment required to ensure thorough testing.
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