Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Our Blog Has Moved

Our new Blog Advocacy can be found on our website: http://www.langsolinc.com/blog/

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to evaluate your buying decisions? - Brute-Force Stage

Brute Force Stage
Organizations have a regular schedule and larger scope, requiring more resources, technology and processes. Risks are tangible.

This stage is
by the need for
process management.
The Brute-Force stage is a important moment as there is a threat of overspending if the organization does not support global communication improvements.  In fact, we feel it is the most important stage in growth as organizations have to invest time and resources to overcome barriers of growth that may happen in the future. This stage requires disproportional process attention over financial means and financial outcomes, which is what makes this stage a challenge.

Looking at the Global Communication Maturity Model, the Brute-Force stage is characterized by repetitive projects requiring more resources, technology and processes. Those resources are often still found at the vendor side, but organizations need to help enable those resources. What's important at this stage is that an organization is open to involve that LSP in managing projects with the organization.

Content strategies, writing and design strategies and organizational strategies can help to mitigate risks. Process management in all of those areas protects budgets and prepares the organization for growth.

Process Focus
Managing processes at this stage can be challenging. Most projects are still ad-hoc and customized, but are becoming more repetitive. Here is one case study that we would put in brute force to manage the sales process:

Case Study: Multilingual Online Portal
Our client was selling an incentive reward program to Fortune 500 companies. We had been involved in several sales cycles to get their online portal translated for their client's specific need. The portals were all customized for each customer, sales cycle was long and the sales process was not very repetitive.

Through collaboration with our client, we translated the basics of the portal in several languages as a way to demonstrate their portal to different markets. Further customization could be ordered as needed. It helped our client to sell a multilingual solution to their client without having to reinvent the wheel. It also greatly reduced the upfront investment needed to attract a new client as their solution already provided 80% of what their clients needed from their client in several different languages.

Have a Task Force
In order to build a systematic process you need to involve a team of people with various disciplines. In the previous case study, the success of this program was that we worked together with both the Account Managers who were involved in the sales and scoping process, the Programming Team and Department Leads who can enable these resources to work together.

It was clear that this team was passionate about getting it right. Several attempts had been made in the past to get a global solution to their clients, but this was the first time the department was in line with all their account managers on how to handle a global rollout in the future.

Management buy-in is very important at this stage. We've seen these types of case studies either succeed or fail based on whether there was a passionate management team involved that could free up resources and manage the process. The management team needs to be able to look down the road and see opportunities for global expansion through systematic processes.

Define SMART Goals
The term SMART Goals may be overused, but this stage can't be managed without a goal oriented approach. We have done something similar to the client in this case study with our Localization Maturity program. We have defined a standard set of objectives based on years of research and best practices that we can apply to any stage of growth.

With this client, we've identified a couple of meaningful goals that we worked on through the process:
  • Build a business case for translating for a particular market
This was the most involved objective that we worked on. For the portal, we had to decide what languages would be chosen and what content needed translation. Based on our client's cultural research on participation rates and incentive reward preferences and our research on Hofstede's dimensions, we defined the main markets that the basic portal would be translated into.

Based on that and other figures, we determined what countries would have similar preferences to the English model that already existed. We've also defined those modules that may need to be customized for other countries so that customization can be accelerated.
  • Increase the number of times your content can be reused
This objective was met with other objectives that involved collaboration on standardization for coding, standardization of terminology and standardization of release of files for translation.

We introduced Terminology Management and Translation Memory Management early on and created a standard database for the portal to be used consistently for every client who wishes to use the portal in the markets we have translated it. This ensured that customized content was consistent with the basis portal that has already been created.

The Programming Team and Project Team standardized their approach with us to deliver content in a predictable manner, shortening the time to get customized content through. More Account Managers started to use the basic portal in their sales cycle without needing our immediate involvement. We've also looked at content management technology solutions down the road to prepare the team for further automation.

In conclusion
The Brute-Force stage is all about enabling people to work together on meaningful process improvements. This stage is a true test of management to capitalize global opportunities into a competitive advantage. We also find that this stage can be very polarizing. Some clients are just not ready to take on the opportunity and we've seen dramatic decline in global efforts from that. Those that have taken the challenges faced in this stage have since taken on more global oriented projects and are using it in their own careers and work as a competitive advantage.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Global Communication Maturity Model 2.0

Our Global Communication Maturity Model™ (also known in our industry as Localization Maturity by Common Sense Advisory) has undergone further enhancements:

(click to enlarge for a printable version)

Our LSI Global Communication Maturity Model reveals the stages through which organizations will progress when implementing a multilingual communications strategy. Each stage represents a point in time when an organization faces unique challenges that must be met and built upon in order to move forward on their global business path.

Our updated model shows 4 key dynamics of maturity:
  • Scope of work increases exponentially and can take over domestic work. Volume increases by adding more content (usually top-down) and by adding languages. Language support of less strategic content is justified at higher stages of maturity due to automation and processes that make it more cost efficient to work with high volume levels. Levels of acceptable quality get more diversified as you go up on the maturity level as well.  
  • Process Focus is most important in the early stages of maturity before standardization and centralization (and certification) controls the process. The process focus in mature stages focuses more on control audit and improvement.
  • Technology Maturity is usually an investment in content management systems needed to move to a mature stage and grows further by means of technology automation . The level and timing of that investment differ between organizations as budgets usually control the decision making process, but the critical stages start at High Risk. Budget conflict is a possibility when organizations not able to justify their investment in technology. Organizations go out to find support from their LSP to manage and control technology until they make the investment to take control content for translation.
  • LSP Involvement shows that in the first 4 stages (reactive stages), the LSP plays an important role in Localization Maturity. That involvement continues in the mature stages, but organizations work to become more self-sufficient where LSPs are an integral part of a systematic process.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to evaluate your buying decisions? - Conscious Stage

Conscious Stage 
Organizations at this stage are just beginning to realize all that is involved in multilingual communications. The Conscious stage is still very project driven, but projects become more repeatable and cost awareness is growing. Organizations are testing out new markets.

Below is an overview of the Conscious Stage compared to the other reactive stages:
Global Communication Maturity Model Language Solutions

How do I protect my brand identity in foreign markets?
It's normal at this stage that organizations try to go through local affiliates (this could be your distributor, employee within a local office, etc.) for basic translation needs as local affiliates know the needs of the audience, are knowledgeable of the subject and provide a low cost option over a translation vendor. However, local affiliates usually lack time to translate materials on time and brand consistency is often a concern.

It's a challenge to control brand messaging and design standards over different local affiliates. Each have their own processes, resources and insights. We have seen with organizations in this stage, that decentralized efforts usually end up in dissatisfaction because decisions made at the local level do not align with the organization's expectations.

We find that the centralization effort is one of the first major efforts or organizations to think about process improvements in . Local affiliates are very useful in the process, but management of content and design needs to be controlled.

What can I expect from my vendor at this stage?
Aside from managing dedicated subject matter experts in client specific teams, in the case of centralization, your translation vendor should be the catalyst for process improvement. Translation becomes a cycle of content management, terminology and translation management and review management where the translation vendor can play a central role.

Also Read: Global Readiness Audit; It's our assessment model to assess the organization's needs for process improvement efforts that make the most impact at each stage of maturity.

Process management becomes a problem and a vendor should be able to control the process from release through translation, review and final product. Also, each step is managed so that the brand messaging is protected. There is an important role to play in understanding what could hurt the brand and how it should be managed from a design and terminology perspective. Vendors should be empowered with this information in order to manage and vendors should have excellent control over review processes with local affiliates and understand the dynamics at play.

Readiness Categories as it relates to
management levels in the organization
Also, a vendor should help to start you on the path of standardization. Style guides are very useful at this stage to define what elements are part of the global brand vs. what elements are local and how they should be implemented consistently. Organizations should rely on their translation vendor to have a process in place and to suggest process improvements. We have defined clear objectives and processes in our Language and Design Readiness Categories that are directly applicable to this stage of growth.

What input can I deliver in collaboration with my translation vendor to contribute to a positive outcome?
In earlier blog posts, we've written that it is important to protect the brand messaging. Translation is almost becoming a threat to brand consistency if not managed well. With your trust that your vendor will handle the management of the translation process, a successful outcome cannot be achieved without a clear understanding of the brand and brand messaging. Collaboration early on is essential to establish an understanding of the organization's goals and desired outcomes. Also, management of people and expectations need to be communicated from the organization to all parties. Too often have we seen that organizations who cannot commit to the process end up back to managing decentralized efforts, or at least, growing cost inefficiencies.

What processes do I optimize at this stage?
Considering that your translation vendor is trusted with most of the translation management, there are still processes that the organization can start to work on. In the Language and Design categories, we work to optimize the content and design creation process and make sure that the output is optimized for translation as well. Organizations should focus on small efforts with their writing staff and design team to plan projects ahead and standardize the output for translation.

Global style guides are also a good start as well as Translation and Terminology management together with Corporate Glossaries. This is an asset building exercise that requires input from the organization as well.

What are my risks?
Also Read: Case Study: How low cost purchasing decisions come back with a bite. This case study fits well with organizations at the Conscious level who manage repeatable projects.

Here are some of the risk factors we identified at this stage:
Risk factors in Conscious Stage
Consider that at this stage, your commitment to translation is growing. Translation work can quickly take its own path without any consideration for your brand or product. Consider that your brand is worth protecting as it is the brand and quality of work that brought you this potential. By taking care of your brand at this stage with a dedicated translation vendor that can manage your centralization efforts early on and by supporting the process as much as possible, the risks at this stage can be mitigated.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

How to evaluate your buying decisions? - Ad-Hoc Stage

We've blogged about the stages of maturity and how buyers of translations could use it as a benchmark. As a buyer of translations, it is easy to get overwhelmed with information, especially at the Reactive Stages. Therefore, we've developed a few basic questions that may help to get a conversation started with LSPs when evaluating buying decisions at each level of maturity.

Today, we'll cover the Ad-Hoc stage.

Ad-Hoc Localization Maturity
Excerpt from our Presentation on Localization Maturity
Ad-hoc Stage
The Ad-hoc stage is the first stage of maturity. Organizations at this stage are beginning to respond to international (or domestic foreign language) market demands.

Buying translations is a black-box to many. Because buyers cannot evaluate the value points when they purchase translations at this stage, price is the only factor to fall back on when evaluating buying decisions.

1. Why is there a price difference in my quotes and how should I evaluate the price difference?
Even at the basic level you should ask critical questions about what is quoted, why you get these services and how it would affect your outcomes. Is translation just based on word count or are there other critical processes that I should keep in mind, such as review and project management. What service level do I expect? What are my timeframe options? How can I be sure that the translation is done by a qualified team and how does the LSP evaluate this? How can I be sure that my project is evaluated and I don't end up with costly out-of-scope work?

Recommended read: We've written before about evaluating price differences in a previous post called "understanding what you buy."

2. What should I expect from my Language Service Provider (LSP) at this stage?
Translation could be a long-term commitment. When organizations start to support foreign language speakers with translated content, that creates a commitment. What will your LSP do today to make your project a success and what can you expect when you go back to them for more work? Are LSPs building assets for you like Translation Memory and Glossaries and do they share these with you? Do they care to explain how these assets can help your organization? Are they interested to help you move up the maturity levels; are they knowledgeable about your industry and interested to learn about your organization, goals and objectives?

3. What risks are there to my project's outcome?

At this stage, project outcome is the main concern. Even though the project may seem small, investing your time and effort to do this right at the start can not only bring a positive start in reaching out to your second language audience, it also is a positive start for your organization to start with translation.

A display advertisement by McDonalds went viral.
A proof by a Project Manager after this went to layout should have caught that the Hmong translation had no spaces in itThis is a case of a translation company just getting a translation and not even looking at it. 
No matter how small a project, each communicated piece is a purposeful effort to reach an intended audience. Start a conversation with your LSP about your audience and what your goals and objectives are. Does your LSP ask in-depth questions about that the content in relation to the intended audience and are they able to talk intelligently about the subject?

Translation gaffes often involve small things and where risk does not seem to be so apparent. Often, the smaller projects are the most complex projects. The risk of a bad outcome in - for instance - a work safety manual is very apparent. But a seemingly innocent and relatively simple and creative Coca-Cola project with random words ended up in a marketing debacle for this large organization.

That also brings another point about risk and maturity levels: even large international organizations may not always be a mature buyer of translation services. Even though Coca-Cola has done some very innovative advertising with their name in foreign languages (name and brand = risk) and other work that we have posted on our Facebook page, this effort clearly showed buyer immaturity and lack of project management.

In conclusion
Use these 3 questions to discern the value of what you are getting from their translation project and move beyond the price evaluation alone. Understand that even at this stage of maturity, a translation project has value to your audience and your organization.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How maturity models shaped our thinking...

In previous posts, we have written on the Localization Maturity Model that is being talked about in our industry. We have written on the maturity of suppliers as well as buyers.  Today, we take a look at other maturity models that influenced our development of the Global Communication Maturity Model.

In our model, we identified 2 stages of growth where conflict is at its highest point in the maturity of an organization: Brute-force and High-risk. The brute force stage is where conflicts start to impact project efficiencies. This is often a trial and error stage, but with potential long term effects as we have seen with organizations who have fallen back to low budget models as a method to control costs, without any return on the investment that they made beforehand.
Rather than downplaying these conflicting stages of growth by focusing on ideal situations,  we emphasize and recognize these stages as natural progressions of growth. We feel this is a departure from other models as we embrace the conflict and define these stages as crucial success points on the maturity model and ones that an organization must go through.  It's the journey that can be impacted though... 

Capability Maturity Model
Maturity Model
The development of our Global Communication Maturity Model was inspired by the Capability Maturity Model that was used in the software industry.  The Capability Maturity Model was based on a set of structured levels that describe how well the behaviors, practices and processes of an organization can reliably and sustainably produce required outcomes.

From there, the People Capability Maturity model evolved, where the human asset was placed at the central focus of continuous improvement efforts. Both models provided a foundation for our Global Communication Maturity Model.

Global Readiness areas
Our idea was to come up with a similar benchmark model for our industry by which we could identify where a company is located on the maturity model and define key processes, objectives and metrics at each level to manage the localization process and growth.  We had to look not only at the organization but at the individuals/departments/divisions/executive management within those organizations.  We all know that we don't deal with organizations.....we deal with people in those organizations! (Tweet this!)  In the model to the right, we align the readiness areas of our objectives for maturity with the people areas within an organization.
Reactive....not Proactive
global communication maturity model
Our model really focuses on the reactive stages (the first 4 stages of maturity). Buyers of translation services from 80% of organizations are most likely to overspend, impact quality and customer satisfaction. (Tweet this!)  It is these buyers/organizations who can benefit most from prioritized strategies and objectives.  These are the companies that will most likely benefit from best practices in the localization industry.

Even very large companies working with software localization and experiencing higher levels of maturity may not have this level of maturity throughout their whole organization. Many times, it is within one part of the organization but has not spread throughout.  It reinforces the idea too that there really is no such thing as a mature business.

Natural Conflict Arises: Organizations that experience larger volumes of translation needs also have a growing awareness of the costs involved. Project inefficiencies also start to compound as volume grows and it negatively impacts the decisions that are made to move projects forward. Based on research and in our experience, a sustainable growth model or maturity model is not self-evident to organizations and the people within them. At some point of growth, conflicts arise between budget, time and quality needs.

The goal of our model is to help buyers get through the stages of maturity and invest in their translation and localization processes as it fits their business needs. A maturity model can help buyers to see the road ahead and understand the goals that they have in mind as their needs grow. Most importantly, when buyers enter the brute-force stage, it is important to manage expectations ahead of time because growth undoubtedly will lead to conflict if expectations are not managed.

Organizations can be more proactive to look at the leading indicators that can influence their maturation rate and the pains that come along with it.  Too many organizations focus on the lagging measures such as profit, ROI, etc.  When you determine the lagging measures, there is nothing you can do about them.  Common sense would tell us we need to go back and examine our historical markers as to how we got there.......

A Word to Language Service Providers

We know that there are other LSPs out there that do want to help organizations succeed.  There is going to have to be a shift in our industry and a focus on helping organizations in the reactive stages.  You may think that it is only the smaller companies who are in these reactive stages of maturity but a Watson Wyatt study found that 80% of organizations do not have a documented global communications strategy.  It can be any size of organization and you can probably see your own clients there.  What can we do together? We have tools that we have developed and are willing to share if you are an LSP that can effectively help your client.  Give us a call or email and let's talk ....

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Language Service Providers: Are you mature enough?

The Translation Industry (aka Localization Industry) is one that has a relatively low barrier to entry.  Anyone can enter this industry and set up shop as a translation company.  These new companies may have little knowledge of process or technologies and they may help in reinforcing the buyer's perception that translation services are a commodity purchase.  This low barrier to entry also indicates that the industry as a whole has no common platform of quality standards on which to operate.

In 2008, after working with a consultant and thinking of this idea of "buyer maturity", a team of us set out and tediously researched various maturity models and other standards such as the
Capability Maturity Model, the People Capability Maturity Model (because it's not just the organization but the people within the organization), the Business Process Maturity Model, the ASTM Quality Standard on Translation, and the LISA Best Practices Guide.

We developed the
Global Communication Maturity Model and then set out to identify a process management system for our industry with defined objectives, analysis, KPIs and measures, all set in a balanced scorecard framework. We are also heavily involved in Baldrige Performance Excellence and the balanced scorecard framework is second nature to us and seemed the right fit for this framework in order to provide our clients with a developed program to avoid the risks inherent in their own maturation.

At that time, unbeknown to us, Common Sense Advisory had offered a framework for buyers of translation services to consider in 2006, the
Localization Maturity Model.  Imagine our surprise when we came upon it about a year after we had been deep in our research.  However, lately, it seems to have resurged in the news in our industry so with that, it is also a good time to highlight the research we have done and offer to not only buyers of translation services but also to LSPs out there who also work with this mindset and want to do more in the industry to move buyers through the model.

An interesting blog post by Jörgen Danielsen from 2006 shares some interesting insights in reaction to the emergence of the Localization Maturity Model (LMM) at that time and how it could help the industry to overcome the lack of quality standards. He argues that the progression on the buyer side as a factor of success might also assume that there is a certain level of maturity on the supplier side. He states further that the Localization Maturity Model could provide understanding between buyer and vendor in relation to the quality that is desired at different stages of maturation.

Bert Esselink also wrote
in reaction to the LMM that "buyers of localization should really look at their procurement model and make informed decisions at different stages of maturation."

That was back in 2006 and progress, as well as news on buyer maturation, has been very slow. Our industry has mostly been preoccupied with technology disruptors like Machine Translation and crowd sourcing as a common threat to, and subsequently defined as a differentiating opportunity, in our industry.

Most likely, the biggest reason for lack of progress is that there are plenty of buyers out there who still do not know what to ask for when it comes to buying translation services. We've written earlier in blog posts since 2008 on buyer maturation and have offered tools, analysis, perspectives and case studies  with: Understand What You Buy, Too much focus on lagging measures, Global Readiness Audit and our personal favorite, Bring on the pain! When Translation matters....it's too late!

Esselink hinted at this lack of progress in his blog in 2006. "If there is no common understanding of what the cost drivers are of translation services, how can we ever expect buyers to compare apples to apples?" Some companies, however, do move beyond the price per word models and are getting a better understanding of cost factors. However, we have learned that even the most detailed client RFPs lack realistic expectations. Somewhere in the learning process, the client has misunderstood the important cost, quality and turnaround factors and how to evaluate these in relationship to each other.

The nice thing about RFPs is that you usually get to see questions from other LSPs as well. A recent RFP with a big Fortune 500 company revealed that our competing LSPs simply had no insightful questions to ask. While there were technical questions about payment terms and others about some erroneous omissions in the RFP regarding word count and various assumptions, we could honestly say that we were the only LSP to ask demanding questions about their level of understanding of the "cost, quality and turnaround" expectations.  We attributed more than 50% of all questions came directly from us. Perhaps our industry is tired of explaining the value of what we do. We're talking....is anyone out there listening?

In Danielsen's blog, Jorgen argues that the success of localization and optimization of translation processes is not only a factor of the Localization Maturity of a buyer, but also the Localization Maturity of the vendor (the LSP). So buyers....start asking this question to LSPs - "Where are you on the Maturation Model?"

We are really excited to see that now, in 2013, others in our industry are starting to talk more about this.  Is this enough?  What can we do collectively?

Consider that the top 10 Google search results for "Localization Maturity" include the two blogs from 2006 that we mentioned earlier. Their insightful questions still stand as something to be determined in our industry:

1. Can we as an industry help buyers to become more sophisticated in their procurement of localization? (Tweet this!) and

2. Can Localization Maturity be the answer to realistically define quality in our industry to our clients? 

Common Sense Advisory is currently offering training to LSPs to teach them to approach buyers of translation services with this maturity model.  At this time, it appears that it is being adopted by LSPs who are willing to pay the membership fees to attend their training or a conference, but this may certainly be cost prohibitive to many small to medium sized LSPs (the bulk of the industry) who are still influencing buyer perceptions.

While many LSPs may walk away with the entrée to offer to their prospects (the maturity model which is the framework for clients to assess their current maturity), there are no 'side dishes' being offered to the LSPs to give companies the tools to do assessment, a framework of objectives, a road map of key process areas to focus on, etc.  There is definitely thought leadership in this area from LSPs, but it takes time to develop and document these things when you are not paid to develop them unless hired as a consultant by the organization that is in a pain point on the maturation model. 

What can we do collectively?  There are other process minded LSPs that are out there that may have developed programs and tools that they offer their clients.  Why can't we come together and form a new niche in the industry? What can we do to change the status quo and not only move organizations through maturation with less risk and change their perceptions that come along with that but also set out and proclaim our status as Mature Suppliers.

We're willing to share what we have developed......who is with us on this?  We are seeking those LSPs that have a customer first culture, those that have agility and those who want to help organizations succeed with the knowledge we have developed.\

Read our follow up post on LSP Maturity here: