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24Jul

Avoiding the Localization Maturity Shuffle

Do you ever get the sense that your progress toward best practices in localization takes a step forward, only to be followed by two steps back? You’re not alone in this shuffle. One problem that we see in our localization maturity assessments is that some companies abandon their hard-won best practices and return to an earlier, less evolved level of expertise and technology. Some companies even reverse direction, going from wise old localization sage to naïve infant as did Brad Pitt in the title role of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Many more stumble in a time loop like “Groundhog Day’s” TV weatherman Phil Connors, who repeatedly wakes up in innumerable replays of that fateful day.

For example, a company retained CSA Research to perform a deep analysis of technology and processes as part of an enterprise-wide project to justify investment in localization, centralized services, and global content platforms. Five years later we assessed the same centralized group to determine its progress and identify any regression. We recently evaluated another business unit within the same enterprise. It had ignored the company’s LMM expertise. Instead, it adopted an ad-hoc approach using developers without localization expertise, followed processes developed for its home market, and built software on localization-unaware technology. It now struggles with waste such as repetition, delays, rework, and reeducation (“Improving Efficiency through Process Mapping”).

That loss of knowledge and momentum costs them a lot of time, money, and opportunity. In our research and assessment, CSA Research has identified three common pathologies that lead to the localization maturity shuffle:

  • Localization loses business support. Setbacks in maturity occur frequently, resulting from a lack of alignment with corporate goals, lost or decreased funding, the departure of key players, or a failure to meet revenue goals for a given locale. We find root causes such as the lack of executive sponsors, the absence of middle management performance tied to international goals, and failure by localization teams to integrate their business cases with corporate globalization objectives.
  • Effective practices never leave the localization silo. Our research shows that functional areas outside of corporate translation or localization teams often don’t have access to the knowledge, technology, or services they need. As a result, they can’t move at the same speed as the localization team to support local markets (see figure). If a company is not mature enough for the translation group to act as a center of expertise for globalization, that means their colleagues will keep reinventing the wheel. Similarly, teams and companies acquired through mergers and acquisitions often perform at a lower level localization maturity.
    Figure1
  • Even successful teams stumble along the way. The core language group might have done a great job in formalizing its processes, but failed to keep pace with automating them. Thus, it may register at an advanced level in terms of process maturity, but lower for automation (“Why Benchmarking Localization Maturity Matters”).

The net effect is that many localization teams often find themselves taking one step backward for every two steps forward. Some keep rebooting their efforts in a time loop, while others continue performing the “localization maturity shuffle.” The shuffle typically occurs when groups have mastered day-to-day operations and are ready to move on to enable the rest of the organization to globalize their own business processes.

However, executives may still view the team as responsible for delivering only language services. They may underestimate or even miss the value that it can deliver if operated as a center for globalization excellence available to all corporate functions. For example, they don’t realize that localization teams can audit other teams’ processes for globalization-readiness, provide international input for business plans, and teach colleagues how to create code and content that fulfill international requirements.

How can you avoid the shuffle? We advise more communication and training: 1) Never lose sight of the strategic role that the localization team should play; 2) communicate that role consistently up, down, and across your company; 3) if you find yourself mid-step in the localization shuffle, explain your regression to your executive sponsor − if that person isn’t able or willing to help you move past this stage, then recruit someone who can; and 4) ensure that your globalization and global content strategies are in place and synchronized with your firm’s overall business strategy (“Strategy: Establishing Goals and Budgets Organization-Wide"). If in doubt, you might want to bring in a third party to evaluate your progress with a localization maturity assessment.

These policies form the basis for building the capacity for a localization team to function as a center of globalization excellence and to move forward once again. In the expanded role that your executives probably expect you to perform – without making it explicit – your group will need to expand beyond its silo to enable other teams to improve their support for local markets. Only by globalizing all core business processes can an enterprise meet the full mandate of going, growing, and gaining globally.

About the Author

Donald A. DePalma

Donald A. DePalma

Chief Research Officer

Focuses on market trends, business models, and business strategy

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