How to Localize: The 3 Pillars of Localization Process

Mladen Stojak 3 years ago 5 min read

One of the perks of having been in the industry for decades is the ability to calibrate your laser line and get to the core of things easily.

Surely, the language industry is extremely fragmented and each project is a separate universe with specific aspects and requirements, but when you reach that point where you have successfully executed all kinds of projects, more or less complex, with millions of words and in dozens of language combinations, you inevitably begin to see it more clearly what is really important and the undercurrents that lead to success or failure across the different projects begin to show on the surface.

The Purpose of Localization

While each localization program may have its particular goals and KPIs, they always, one way or another, point to a seamless adaptation of a product / service / delivery / brand into the cultural, linguistic, legal and technical environment of the target market.

The ultimate goal is always to achieve the impact of the localized content that is comparable to the content originally developed in the target locale. In other words, when done the right way, localization is invisible – if the end user can notice that it has been performed, something is not quite right.

And when we take that goal of localization invisibility as our starting point and take a step or two backwards, it is becoming easier to crunch all our experience and get to the essence of what makes the localization process an error-proof experience that generates the desired results.

Localization after the Pandemic

At the same time, in the post-covid world of 2021 characterized by the ongoing content explosion, increasing digitalization and globalization of business operations, localization processes need to be far more agile, faster and integrated than ever before. They need to be remodeled, reimagined and recontextualized to answer the increasing globalization demands.

To achieve this, we need to have a clear understanding of what a localization actually is at its core and why do we do it in the first place.

While localization has always been critical in the sense that it enabled the smooth performance of marketing and sales activities on the international markets, it has always been a background process that, while achieving its main goal of invisibility, more often than not also managed to hide its true colours, which led to localization often being misidentified as a nuisance and a little more than a cost factor.

It took the content explosion and the digital transformation accelerated by the global pandemic to restore localization to its rightful position of a major business driver in the digitally transformed word.

The 3 Pillars of Localization Process

There are many pains related to translation and localization – from purely linguistic issues such as inaccurate and awkward translation or wrong terminology, to purely commercial and technical issues such as high costs, long turnaround times and incompatibility of the localized content with the existing infrastructure, and the remedies to all of these pains are to be found in the process itself.

As I have mentioned above, every project is a separate universe, but it all actually boils to 3 pillars of successful localization process: People, Context and Technology.

People – Because localization is an activity that requires bursts of work by a relatively high number of people from very different locations, and the ultimate success of a localization program depends upon the knowledge, agility and dedication of the people driving the process.

While we use all kinds of digital wizardry to make our work easier, leaner and faster, it is ultimately the human knowledge that powers the localization machine, all the way from content production to its release to the end-users.

Context – Because knowing the type, the medium and the target audiences of the content to be localized is essential for the localization program success as it dictates how the process will be performed.

Focusing on the buyer-side enterprise programs can often result in a black box or dump over the fence reality that is of disservice to both sides, where buyer lacks the understanding, oversight and quality control while the supplier struggles to meet the quality expectations.

Successful companies don’t mind getting their hands dirty because they know they need to apply the global first approach, which means that the traditional waterfall model where localization is the last to happen simply does not work anymore.

Localization is back where it should have been all along – in the product/content development phase.

Successful companies are also aware of the existence of content silos and that localization may sit in many business functions such as marketing, regulatory, UX, CX, customer support, product management etc., and that requires a shift to more automated, cross-functional, agile localization programs.

They are also aware that they will achieve best results, better scalability and higher output quality only if they provide suppliers with the proper information and guidelines and view them as their strategic partners.

Technology – Because localization for the international markets requires technical skills, robust workflows and technological infrastructure that can meet the business requirements.

The real magic comes from the interaction between the human mind and the machines.

Technology enables leveraging access to in-country localization specialists and digital translation assets that enable productivity boost and process automation.

In addition, smart application of technology enables all stakeholders to make better and more informed decisions and improve tracking and management of localization KPIs such as quality, time to market etc.

Stay tuned for The 3 Main Benefits of Localization article coming next week.


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