Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Translation Management Strategy

Does your organization have a translation management strategy? Many organizations rely on their LSP (Language Service Provider) to effectively manage their translation projects. However, there is only so much efficiency that can be managed on the LSP side. Are people within your organization aware of how they impact the overall costs? Does your LSP make this visible to you and mentor you to achieve efficiencies in your own processes so that you can not only affect your costs but also the quality of your communications? Would your organization take advantage of this if it were available?

Many organizations that we work with are in the 80th percentile of companies on the GCMM. Many of these organizations won't realize the value of efficiencies until they are in the High Risk stage of which overspending is a common symptom. It is the overspending that causes them to finally understand the pain and consider the value of efficiencies. At this point though, organizations cannot go back and change what has happened to get them to this point.

Our approach is to be proactive early on and help mentor organizations throughout their stages of maturity. However, we have found that until an organization experiences the "pain" associated with the High Risk stage, it is very difficult to get them to be proactive early on. So what causes you to take that proactive stance in your organization? Perhaps it is an opportunity to bring a new strategy to upper management. Perhaps it is an opportunity to be able to defend the budget that you are asking for....

At LSI, we have metrics defined in 4 areas that we assess for a client's own translation management strategy. It is not necessary for a client to implement all the metrics in the 4 areas that we assess but rather focus on the 1 area in which they can gain success. Each area has 4-6 metrics with an action plan for continuous improvement and for measurement. If your organization has a quality management system, we can help you to interpret that data as well that you are already tracking and add our metrics to yours. It might be a strategy for the new year that you can implement!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Do you risk losing control of your brand?

We have mentioned in earlier posts that the decision to centralize control over your messaging will impact your brand identity. Centralization of brand messaging is the first step in creating a consistent brand identity. When it comes to multilingual communications however, some organizations rely on local experts to market and sell their products. These type of organizations must find a balance between ownership of their messaging at the corporate level to protect their brand identity and allowing for customization of their communications by local experts such as their in-country distributors.
Our spotlight is on the profile of a company that is emerging in several foreign markets at the same time. This company is using local distributors to market and sell their products in-country. Until this year, they have relied almost entirely on the local distributors to translate their packaging and marketing materials. When this organization approached us to help them develop a strategy for their global expansion, one of the key objectives that we determined in our SWOT analysis to be a top priority was to establish “control and ownership of messaging to protect brand reputation and identity”. This is one of the 6 metrics we have identified in the area of Strategic Readiness for companies managing their multilingual communications. In the Balanced Scorecard framework, this metric falls under Quality.
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Mitigation of risks with this objective include:
  • Brand management

  • Competitiveness

  • Legal requirements
If the distributors had full control of creating the messaging used to market this company's products, the company had no way of knowing whether the distributors always adhered to the guidelines and messaging on their U.S. packaging. This is a classic case of an organization risking brand dilution with no way to evaluate which claims were being made or how their brand appeared to buyers. Furthermore, the company's competitive advantage is driven by the claims that are made to entice buyers to purchase their products. A marketing strategy centered around a specific claim may work in one market while it would not be effective – or even legally acceptable – to make such a claim in another country. The U.S. based headquarters of this company had no control over these individual strategies and no way to ensure that each country's legal requirements were being met.
The first step for this company was to centralize and take ownership of the messaging. The second step is to take ownership of the distributor relationship in regards to their control over the messaging. These distributor experts can provide insight into the target market and how best to approach buyers. The distributors sell the product and should be involved in choosing terminology used in the translations. Terminology management became the central focus of this strategy to strengthen the brand, engage the distributors and "hear" their voice and provide linguistic evaluation for the organization to "own their messaging."
This metric in the LSI Client Mentor Program™ provides an action plan of 6 steps that an organization must evaluate and act upon for this objective. The organization is then measured not only on a number of quantitative issues but also on their change of perception in their committment to the objective. A score of "ingrained" with this metric is one more measurable way to move this company efficiently along the path of the Global Communication Maturity Model™.
The benefits of having a centralized approach with well-defined roles and responsibilities are clearly evident to this company We have an efficient and repeatable process (think Baldrige criteria) that can be applied to each new market as our client expands. In addition, we are able to scale efforts within existing markets in a cost-effective way due to the Translation Memory assets we’ve built.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Are you intentionally diluting your brand with your multilingual communications?

We are passionate about opening minds and shaping perspectives of people and organizations as they create communications for their global audiences. By making organizations aware of the impact that culture and values have on the language in their communications and connecting that with their overall strategic business goals, we can bring the global community a little closer together. In effect, we can be a catalyst for global change... person by person, communication by communication.

We seek to shape perspectives that your multilingual communications is a valuable element of your brand assets, not a commodity. With translating an organization's marketing publications, we consider brand equity. How is the brand affected by translation? Does the organization’s brand risk dilution at any point in the process? Do you maintain a consistent brand while respecting cultural nuances? Is there a strategy for global brand consistency?

To answer these questions, we look at the critical processes around the creation of an organization's source publications and translations. It's important to be able to identify gaps in the processes that can be improved and prioritize objectives throughout the whole Content Lifecycle. Management of these critical process steps can bring internal process efficiencies affecting the multilingual communication strategy while also protecting the brand identity.

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How do your marketing publications drive results? To build a business case for your multilingual communication strategy, it is necessary for your Language Service Provider to understand your organization's business objectives (Tweet this!) and to demonstrate that effective communications can move your organization toward achieving those objectives. How do these goals relate to the processes that are in place to create the communications for the domestic market? What processes need to be in place for multilingual communications to match that success? Can you also determine the messaging that has a direct impact on the brand identity?

We have defined 6 objectives for clients in the area of Strategic Readiness. Consider the objective to "Establish control and ownership of your messaging to protect an organization's brand reputation and identity." (Tweet this!) In order to achieve this objective, an organization can take on a number of action items. We start clients on an inventory path of current messaging in their international markets. We then determine which messaging has a direct impact on their brand identity and determine the languages in which those brand materials are published as well as the level of content required for baseline translation.

From here, an organization can determine their processes to eliminate or revise messaging that has not been approved by their corporate office or that which may be a risk to their brand reputation or identity. Drill down further to technology assessments and determine the role of technology in the channels for communication and how terminology will be managed to centralize control of that messaging.

Which indicators help you to measure control and ownership of messaging? We have 8 metrics to determine this and among these, we quantify the number of documented communication strategies for each target market, the number of markets in which messaging originates with corporate, the percentage of content reuse in translation, the number of languages with terminology centralized as well as the client's change of perception in commitment to a global strategy. Within the Balanced Scorecard framework, this objective is within Product and Service Quality. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post and we'll write on an actual case study of a client that implemented this successfully and the impact it is having on their brand!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Leading Indicators for Building a Business Case to translate for a particular market

During a consultation with one of our clients, the question that came to the table was how to measure the impact of culture on HR communications for one of their clients. This conversation gave us a good opportunity to present our metric around cultural distances and how it can impact your business case for translating for a particular market.

There are many leading indicators for building a business case, but generally there are two decisions to be made:
1. Do you translate for a particular market, and in what language(s)?
2. Do you internationalize or localize for a particular market?

The first point deals with the language of the communication; the second with the cultural distance of the target market as compared with the domestic country of the client as a leading indicator to support this decision. Both of these factors can have a great impact on the effectiveness of the communication, but the second decision was the most important for our client to quantify and to be able to tie into the strategic outcome of the end client's business.

In the proposal meeting, we were able to provide our methodology for measuring the impact of culture on the effectiveness of communications. The measure is built around a couple of key cultural dimensions and the ranking of each target market on that value based on the value as measured in the domestic country (in this case the US). The cultural distance metric ranks how far target markets are culturally removed from their client's domestic country. The metric also gives good insight as to how cultures of different target markets correlate. This would determine whether the messaging needs to be edited for an international audience (internationalize), for a particular region (regionalize) or customized for the particular market (localize).

This metric fits very well with our strategic partner, an HR Global Consulting Firm, who can do further research towards each cultural dimension and relate it to the cultural values that are present in many corporate communications. With this metric, a more informed decision can made towards a directive for localization. We will continue to bring this metric into further practice with our clients and report about the results.

Too much focus on lagging measures

A number of factors affect an organization’s position on the Global Communication Maturity Model™ (GCMM). In organizations that are just beginning to respond to international marketing demands, process management efficiencies are usually driven at the operational level. Upper management in organizations at the Reactive and Conscious levels rarely drive process management initiatives. As companies mature, the strategic top is increasingly involved in and focused on process management because their global communication endeavors have a bigger impact on the overall success of the company.

Innovation usually finds its roots at the operational level. How can lower and middle management help to innovate in process efficiency for global communications? How is their contribution to the overall success of the company validated?

The position that an organization is in on the GCMM is indeed a lagging indicator. Too many organizations focus on the lagging measures such as profit, ROI, etc. Those are the existing metrics currently in our industry. Metrics are critical to global thinking, but failing to measure the right things can lead one off the path. Language Service providers in our industry have plenty of metrics, especially TM (Translation Memory) leverage percentages. However, global organizations need to look at the leading indicators that influence and forecast the amount of leverage an organization can get from their TM. Those leading indicators need to be aligned with the people in the organization that impact those measures. At Language Solutions, we help organizations to tie key objectives to people and processes within their organization, providing insight on accountability and decision support.