Follow These Keys For a Scalable Translation Strategy


“How far behind schedule, exactly?”

As your boss’s words crawl across the conference room table, your coworkers swivel their seats in your direction awaiting a reply. Your grand plan to add eight languages by the end of the year has stalled after only three — and now everyone knows it.

You smile nervously before launching into an explanation, but your boss’s furrowed brow alerts you to an alarming fact: Your mouth is moving, yet no words are coming out.

Our staff hear some version of this recurring nightmare seemingly every week.

Anxious localization leaders come to us with concerns and confusion over why their translation strategy that looked so promising has suddenly crumbled under the weight of rising expectations. And while we’re always happy to help guide their teams back on course, it’s safe to say you’d probably prefer to avoid their troubles altogether if possible.

So in the interest of sleeping easier, let’s build the foundation for a scalable translation strategy that helps you grow with grace.

Move Content Automatically

The translation process doesn’t begin with a blinking cursor on a translator’s computer screen. You first have to gather, package, and deliver the content you’d like them to transform.

This behind-the-scenes work has traditionally been accomplished by internationalizing code, assembling spreadsheets, and emailing attachments. And while these manual methods can keep a translation strategy afloat at the beginning, they’re a poor fit for the realities of modern business.

Today’s companies are continuously creating more content, in more systems, in more languages, and in more rapid development cycles. Any one of those trends would be enough to create chaos for localization logistics, but the convergence of all four calls for an entirely new approach.

Process automation is now a necessity for any translation strategy expected to achieve significant scale. Smart software should be used to detect new source content wherever it’s created and instantly pull it into a translation workspace. From there, automation should also carry content between workflow steps and place the approved final product back in its associated platform.

It’s worth underscoring what is and is not being automated in this arrangement, however. The value of software lies in the elimination of inefficiency — not the elimination of strategy or skill. So any teammates fearing replacement-by-robot can rest assured knowing people will always be the primary executors of translation strategies. They’ll just be filling fewer spreadsheet cells and sending fewer email reminders in the future.

Let Your People Pick The Workflow

With more platforms and more languages comes more diverse content and more diverse requirements.

Maybe you’ll want an editor with design experience to review the mobile app content you debut next year. Or perhaps you’ll decide a bilingual employee is talented enough to translate your first Brazilian ad campaign. Regardless of how your exact scenarios evolve, though, there’s little chance of finding one translation workflow that will suit them all equally well.

The meticulous approach that makes sense for your most sensitive jobs would be wasteful if applied to your least essential content. Conversely, the bare-bones approach that adequately addresses your least essential content would be careless if applied to your most sensitive jobs. As a result, strategically customizing workflows becomes a crucial means of balancing translation efficiency and quality as you scale.

Finding this kind of flexibility has never been easy in the language services industry, however. The convenience of working with a translation agency typically comes at the cost of deciding how that work is completed. Your process is bound by the limitations of their technology — and bound to the project management style their profit margins depend upon.

Inviting agencies to work within your own translation management software is the best way to reverse the relationship. This homecourt advantage will give you the freedom to pair content with whatever process you see fit, selectively deploying the agency’s services to create the outcomes you desire. As a result, you’ll gain greater confidence knowing you’re in full control of every hour invested and dollar spent.

Maintain a Vendor-Neutral Environment

Workflows won’t be the only issue that requires a flexible stance as you scale. Just as locking yourself into a single process leaves you vulnerable to inefficiency and errors, locking yourself into a single language service provider raises multiple strategic risks.

What if they can’t keep pace with your growing content volume? What if they don’t have the expertise to handle a crucial new language or format? What if they don’t have the technology (or incentive) to further increase efficiency?

Translation customers rarely extend their due diligence to this level. Most will happily accept the terms of an agency that can get content to market quickly, only to one day realize they’re no longer the ones shaping their own strategy. Worse yet, those that fail to secure full transfer rights for their translation memory may have serious switching costs to consider.

Limiting your exposure to these risks begins with planning for the possibility of multiple future vendors from the start. Once again, investing in your own translation management software gives you maximum potential leverage.

No single provider will have undue influence or perpetual control over your translation strategy — a reality that may very well help you negotiate more favorable contract terms. Additionally, reducing the friction associated with adding or replacing providers has a funny way of inspiring stronger performance.

Decide With Data

Our first three recommendations will keep your path clear of several common obstacles. But avoiding errors is not the same as achieving success. A prosperous journey will depend on your ability to actively choose the right direction at points when nobody knows the way.

What could you do to help launch a Mandarin website one week sooner? Which content gives your translators the most trouble and why? How will you continue expanding even with a flat budget?

These complex questions cannot be answered by gut instinct alone. Effective decisions are born from a baseline set of objective data, and software is the modern means of gathering that vital resource at scale.

Today’s translation management systems can record and report all team activity in real-time, giving you a clear perspective of how projects are progressing. Valuable insights on workflow speed, translator accuracy, and budget bandwidth all bubble to the surface to inform your future plans.

And if your translation strategy ever does skid slightly off course, you’ll always have the right words to assure your boss you’ve analyzed the issues and identified tactical resolutions.

Learn More Contact our experts today to troubleshoot your translation strategy and set a course for sustained success.