February 2020
Text by Aisling Nolan

Image: © akindo/istockphoto.com

Aisling Nolan is the Director of Customer Success at Smartling. She’s responsible for ensuring customers achieve their global content objectives and realize significant value from using the Smartling platform in order to assure satisfaction and account growth, while maximizing Customer Lifetime Value and fostering customer relationships.

Assessing your organization’s localization maturity

Picture this: you receive an invite to dinner at a friend's brand-new home. You ask for the address. But it's in an area you're unfamiliar with, so you need to rely on your smartphone's GPS to get you there. Along the way you pass several landmarks, as your GPS transmits information from satellites orbiting the earth to pinpoint your exact location.

The same premise applies to content localization. You first have to identify your current location, then pass a few milestones on the way to your destination. The localization maturity model acts as your roadmap, pointing you in the direction of where you ultimately want to go. Without it, you're lost. Ignore it, and you'll likely take a few unwanted detours adding unnecessary travel time to your trip.

But by strategically leveraging the localization maturity model, you can easily spot roadblocks, and implement solutions to help you move more quickly through the process.

In the following we'll cover the five stages of localization maturity – based on CSA Research's Localization Maturity Model™ – how to assess where you are and how to move up the ladder. Here's what each step looks like:

Stage 1 – Manual

Most organizations localizing content start out by using a variety of manual processes — from copying and pasting strings to merging code to capturing and sending screenshots. It's only natural to start here. But, many marketers never leave this stage. Why? Because they simply don't know a better way exists. Translation software has blown these archaic manual processes out of the water, significantly speeding up the time it takes to localize content, which takes an organization to the next level in the maturity model.


Stage 2 – Automated

Organizations in the automated phase of the localization maturity model are just beginning to introduce automation into their content production processes. Often companies start to explore this option after deciding to expand globally at a faster rate. They realize that in order to scale, they'll need to ditch the manual processes and simplify their entire workflow with some sort of automation technology.


Stage 3 – Agile

Once in the agile phase, companies take automation even further by applying automated, scalable content localization processes across multiple languages. Agility is achieved by processing content in small batches at a continuous pace to quickly deliver localized content in various languages and locations around the world.


Stage 4 – Centralized

Companies in the centralized phase have made the leap to implementing a process of strategic centralized translation management across multiple languages and channels. Graduating to this phase is critical for companies with an omnichannel marketing strategy, offering personalized content via several different platforms. These organizations leverage translation management technology to centralize content in one place and instantly deliver localized versions to end-users.


Stage 5 – Expert

Companies that reach expert status have achieved the dream of benefiting from translation as a revenue center and using analytics for growth. These organizations take what they gained in the centralized phase and build on it. With all content now housed under one roof, they enjoy the benefits of centralized data, metrics, and reporting for more informed decision making. Data-driven decisions help experts save time and money while deciding what content to localize next.


The business value of moving up the localization maturity model

If your business doesn't evolve, it will likely die. If your competitors are expanding at the speed of light and your go-to-market strategy is stuck in the stone ages, you're in trouble – and so is your share of the market.

Science-fiction author and aeronautical engineer Robert Heinlein once said, "Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something." Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of automation.

Automation allows your organization to achieve more by doing less. With reduced manual efforts, you can scale without going on a hiring spree and get to market faster than ever before. Along with automation typically come more streamlined processes and the designation of critical KPIs.

Companies that move up the localization maturity ladder reuse content strategically and no longer duplicate efforts. Automation leads to significant cost savings, more consistency across localized content, and enhanced customer experience. Progressing along the localization maturity model drives business growth by ultimately positioning your company to reach a wider global audience.


Four ways to improve localization maturity


  1. Assess organization’s culture – How does your organization typically make decisions regarding the adoption of new processes and technology? Leverage your knowledge of your company's existing culture, along with proven change management techniques to position your recommendation to upgrade your content localization process in a way that will make it easy for leaders to say yes.
  2. Data evaluation – How has your global content performed historically? Use the data you have available to make the argument that your company's localized content has achieved some success, but that there are clear opportunities for improvement.
  3. Dedicated localization program – Your ultimate goal should be to bring all of your content localization efforts under one roof to build a turn-key global content program across your company. Making it to expert status on the localization maturity model will require a dedicated content localization manager. This person can act as a liaison between the marketing, product, content, and engineering teams to coordinate your company-wide globalization strategy.
  4. Automate. Automate. Automate. – Stay on the lookout for where you can add automation into the mix. Consider any manual, repetitive task as something to possibly remove from your team's list of responsibilities, allowing them to focus on more specialized tasks with a higher ROI.



Aim for continuous improvement

Do you think your work is done once you reach expert status on the localization maturity model? Think again. We live in a fast-paced world that is continuously changing. Organizations wanting to stay at the top of their game must not rest on their laurels. Emerging technologies, updated business regulations, new types of content, and the adoption of modern languages and dialects all threaten to knock you off of your perch. By staying vigilant and continuously monitoring new trends, you can maintain your competitive edge and keep on track with your globalization goals.