How Agile Translation Moves 3 Metrics That Matter

Dull. Rigid. Lifeless. Lethargic. Every business professional has met the antonyms of agile, and each has an opinion on what tasks and teams within their organization fit those descriptions.

When people define agile only by its antonyms, however, the true spirit of the term is often lost. They start ascribing the adjective to anything they perceive as sharp and effective, and suddenly it’s on a path to joining cutting-edge and value-added in the Business Buzzword Hall of Fame.

In order to spare agile translation from such an unfortunate fate, let’s clear any confusion now. The principles that define the practice include:

  • Translating content in smaller batches and at a continuous pace
  • Simplifying and/or automating workflows to accelerate content delivery
  • Embracing requirement changes and encouraging collaborative problem solving

With these guidelines as reference, let’s examine exactly what localization leaders can expect to change once agile translation processes are applied.

Total Cost of Operations Come Down

Localization can easily look like a cost-prohibitive initiative when framed as all-or-none proposition. Either a company has the budget to translate 2 million source words and allocate 200 developer hours, or it doesn’t. Right?

Agile translation rejects this premise by breaking monolithic projects into incremental processes. Instead of waiting months or years to launch a completely localized customer experience, the goal becomes quickly delivering functional content that is continuously updated, expanded, and improved.

In addition to lowering initial barriers to entry, agile translation strategies also spare expenses once the work begins. Process automation is intelligently applied wherever possible to simplify workflows and reduce manual requirements. Staffing hours formerly spent internationalizing software code, preparing text strings, and implementing content updates can all be nullified by the right translation management software.  

Once localization teams master agile methods and translation cycles become progressively shorter, the likelihood of redundant work gets reduced as well

If translators need to start work on a webpage 10 weeks ahead of its localized launch, for example, source content changes issued two weeks before that deadline pose a serious problem. Localization managers will end up effectively burying the translations they paid for over the prior two months and potentially incurring rush charges to make the proper text updates in time.

By contrast, agile workflows designed to deliver translations in a matter of days are a perfect match for more dynamic content strategies. Instead of needlessly paying for translations they hope will still be relevant months later, localization managers can spend more time scrutinizing and finalizing source content internally before sharing the text with translators.

Customer Engagement Goes Up

Localization is ultimately a vehicle to customer engagement. Strategies are sparked by a desire to either expand a brand’s audience or deepen its connection to existing customers. Agile translation aligns with each motive.

Automated and accelerated workflows empower companies to pursue aggressive go-to-market strategies that quickly expand their addressable audience. And considering the emphasis on starting small and gradually gaining momentum, executives may decide it’s best to localize core content for many markets before broadening the approach to any one segment.

This is not to suggest, however, that agility inherently prioritizes impressions over conversions. On the contrary, agile translation actually introduces several safeguards that promote a superior customer experience.

Fast, frequent delivery reduces the traditional localization lag to ensure foreign audiences are always looking at fresh content — not a snapshot of what the source application looked like three months ago. At the same time, a collaborative culture and rapid feedback loop helps teams clear confusion and consistently resolve translation errors before they go live.

Staff Productivity Stays Predictably Smooth

When localization strategies start, prior work responsibilities don’t suddenly stop. Developers are still accountable to their product roadmaps, marketers still have domestic campaigns to manage, and content creators still have original assets to publish.

Agile translation respects these obligations by proactively limiting staff involvement in localization — and streamlining any processes in which their participation is required.

Companies can essentially eliminate IT involvement with translation proxy solutions, or pull in developers on a limited basis to help integrate CMS connectors or configure APIs. Meanwhile, business teams simply flag the content they want to be translated and wait for the alert that tells them when the completed text is ready for upload.

Last, but certainly not least, there are the internal staff and external partners who are exclusively assigned to localization. Agile translation empowers these essential contributors with the flexibility to apply smart solutions fast and overcome frustrating collaboration hurdles.

Project managers can execute faster translation turnarounds by customizing workflows to better match various content types and translation teams. At the same time, centralizing team collaboration enables them to retreat from the role of intermediary and act more like a strategic supervisor.  

Translators and reviewers are expected to communicate with each other directly to proactively resolve potential linguistic error or formatting issues. Translation jobs frequently sprint through workflows on the first try, as a result, instead of cycling through multiple rounds of redundant work.

In the end, these collective innovations add up to every member of the extended localization team spending more time in the places where they can deliver value to the company and its customers.

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