Grow fast or die slow. This McKinsey mantra serves as a warning to any entrepreneur with dreams of building the next unicorn, but some have also interpreted it as an invitation to make rapid success a core feature of their business model.
Industry disruption, viral adoption, and agile innovation aren’t regarded as idealistic goals — they’re framed as the only way forward.
For these ambitious businesses, international expansion is more likely to be viewed as a key to continued survival than a product of gradual progress. But when your brand needs to be everywhere overnight, traditional translation strategies just won’t do. Instead, a special set of tactics will be required to generate the speed you need.
Automate Content Collection and Distribution
How will you get source text to translators and how will you publish their completed work? Traditionally, companies have answered these fundamental questions with a mix of manual methods that create all kinds of speed bumps.
Developers spend months sifting through website and application source code, isolating and extracting the necessary text as they go. Project managers spend days copying and pasting strings into a spreadsheet format translators can understand. Completed translations spend weeks sitting in inboxes, waiting until developers are ready to issue updates.
For fast-moving businesses that find such delays unacceptable, the only option is to automate the exchange of text between content repositories and translation environments.
This arrangement can be achieved in one of two ways. Companies can take the time to configure individual API-based solutions, or implement a translation proxy that hovers above every repository and parses content from the presentation layer. The latter solution is the answer for absolute speed — and it has the dual advantage of drastically reducing developer requirements. But in the long run, any degree of process automation at these critical steps will still deliver exponentially faster turnarounds than the manual alternatives.
Centralize Team Collaboration
Imagine marketing teams without Basecamp or Trello and imagine development teams without Jira or Asana. Collaboration would spread across a sea of emails, chats, and spreadsheets; managers would struggle to see exactly how projects are progressing; and deadlines might be missed as key tasks slip through the cracks.
That’s what localization looks like without a dedicated translation management platform in place.
Bringing everyone together in a single space is the only reliable way for translation teams to maintain their speed (and sanity) at scale. Some of these spaces are more conducive to productivity than others, however.
Cloud-based translation management systems (TMS) are the logical choice in this era of distributed workforces and on-the-go employees. But more specifically, linguistic professionals will appreciate platforms that facilitate real-time issue management and business administrators will benefit from tools that offer sophisticated reporting features.
Translate and Review In-Context
Page layout, content type, intended meaning, and acceptable tone are just a few of the myriad contextual factors that must be understood for a successful translation. Leaving translators and reviewers without these vital nuances significantly raises the risk of misinterpreted strings, ceaseless editing cycles, and delayed deliveries.
Capturing all of the relevant context in an annotated spreadsheet is unlikely in theory, and it’s proven to be exhausting in practice. Progress lies in a more sophisticated, technical solution that presents linguistic professionals with a complete visual perspective of the content being translated.
In-context review has been a key quality assurance feature in content management systems for several years, enabling everyone from bloggers to email marketers to edit drafts and finalize content within a visual preview window. The more impactful innovation for localization teams, however, has been the emergence of in-context translation.
Translator interfaces that display source text situated within the full context of its associated site, app, or document immediately eliminate a number of the ambiguities that lead to errant translations. As a result, more strings are translated correctly the first time and more projects are completed ahead of schedule.
Customize Translation Workflows
If you translate legal policies for your largest international market with the same protocol you use to translate blog posts for your 12th-largest international market, you have a problem. Either your legal content isn’t getting enough attention, or your blog content is getting too much.
The first scenario invites errors and lengthy correction cycles while the latter causes teams to waste time on low-value tasks. And if your TMS only allows for a few rigid, one-size-fits-all workflows, you’ll have little choice but to settle for one of those unfortunate results.
Giving localization managers the ability to customize the length and sequence of translation workflows according to content type helps businesses reject the choice between quality and efficiency. Subject matter experts, internal reviewers, and in-country consultants can be strategically added to or removed from translation workflows as needed. That way extensive quality assurance procedures are reserved only for content that truly merits meticulous review.
The first four efficiency enablers we’ve described are all rooted in technical innovation. To make them work in your favor, however, they need to be applied in an agile framework.
Automating collection won’t make much difference if content sits for months waiting to be translated in a big quarterly batch. Centralizing communication can’t make up for the absence of a coherent plan and collaborative spirit. In-context review doesn’t accelerate work unless teams are equipped to accept and apply feedback. And customized workflows have to spring from clearly defined business requirements.
In the end, transformative translation speed can only come from teams committed to proactive plans, continuous operations, and flexible responses.