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动态本地化管理
  发表日期:2008年11月25日  共浏览2752 次   出处:ClientSideNews, Oct, 2008     【编辑录入:giltworld
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Even though the tools and technologies of our indus­try are advanced, new clients are generally not well versed in localization. They often discover their need for localization late, and then, too quickly, services are bought, or a new team is built, without realizing the real needs. Implementing a localization process that does not suit a company can have dire consequences, result­ing in technically failed projects, financial losses in localization projects, and bloated human resource costs.

 

In the case of outsourced services, ill-suited localiza­tion solutions occur for sever­al reasons: Vendors often lack the necessary insight into the companies they are trying to service. Also, vendors achieve much of their profits from val­ue-added services other than trans­lation, which gives rise to the temptation to add these services into a client’s processes. Vendors do this to bring the quality level to that which they, the vendors, see as an acceptable level. However, it is not necessarily the level that the client is aiming at or that organic growth requires.

 

What this means is that vendor localization models are being imported into client-side operations without clients being knowledgeable of all the alternatives.

 

Often, the grounds for selecting a localization model are misguided. Someone makes a specific concept and process successful, and then offers it as universal. The temptation to pick a large corporation with excellent in­ternational revenue as a role model for a mid-size ex­panding company is very dangerous, indeed. This often results in large-scale investments and high maintenance costs, even before the first project is started. This imme­diately makes the expansion financially risky. In addition, large-scale investments can have an adverse effect on a company’s localization strategy. They further tempt the company into stepping into international expansion at a scale larger than what the current company structure can support financially.

For some companies, this may be the way to go. How­ever, there is also a different way.

A Dynamic Process

The field of Information Security is very dynamic and fast moving. Responding to the external threats that ha­rass our customers requires a great deal of flexibility from development. Projects are constantly re-scoped, as new features are always needed. This means that localization needs to re­spect the need for changes, fluctuating schedules, and relatively short product life­cycles. In localization terms, this means that we have had to improve and innovate considerably in the areas of reusability (for financial reasons), resource consump­tion (for timing), and flexibil­ity (for implementing last-minute changes).

 

So far, our approach to localization has proven success­ful. Of course, success is a relative term, and our defini­tion of success is explained below. For now, let’s just say that we have had very few failures. Moreover, our local­ization department has managed to accommodate the growth of our company and its demand for increasing volumes of localized content, while maintaining a team of only three persons over the past six years.

 

We have accomplished this under the following work­load: On average, we support four to five major releases  during  the year and support  a constant flow of effect on overall company strategy (extending product selection in existing markets). The absence of a rigid, complex process—in other words, dynamic project management—allows us to use a wider variety of methods to achieve a product’s target state. We also can make less-critical decisions with considerably less effort and less cost. mi­nor projects (minor releases, marketing, and miscella­neous linguistic services). The number of languages var­ies between four and 15. The number of platforms varies between one and six, ranging from hand-held devices to server environments. We are involved in all projects, starting from the business case and ending with the han­doff to the release team. We run localization subprojects as well as main projects. We outsource translation and a portion of the testing, but perform most of the remaining localization value-added services in-house. We also own the localization budget.

Defining Success

In a dynamic localization model, success depends on the project and the target for the project. Each project is evaluated regularly throughout its duration, to minimize risks, but also to ensure that no more or less is done than what is needed to achieve the target product. In our view, success is delivering what is asked for, not over perform­ing or under performing. We measure the success or fail­ure of a project, using three indicators:

 

Financial viability –A project that results in a profitable product (projected revenues outweigh current and future costs) is considered successful.

 

Enabling sales –Localization is sales support. Therefore, it’s critical to evaluate whether localizing a product into a language enables sales, either directly or indirectly. Put­ting a price tag on enabling sales in a region—before rev­enue is actually generated—is difficult. It is achievable, however, through good business-case planning.

 

Perceived quality –What is good enough? What level of quality is acceptable, considering the investment, the cor­porate strategy, and the current business case? Of course, the functionality of the product must be intact, but the level of acceptable cosmetic and linguistic bugs must be evaluated, and then measured against the degree of qual­ity that allows continuing on the projected sales path in a region.

 

Ultimately, for a project to be considered successful, at least two of the three indicators must be fulfilled. Aiming for all three often increases the expenditure for the proj­ect exponentially, both in direct costs (outsourcing costs) and indirect costs (extended project schedule, in-house resource consumption, and loss of market time).

Project Workflow

In a dynamic localization process, the ownership of the localization project must lie within the localization team. Thisteam should have the necessary expertise and the re­sponsibility.Other contributors are limited. They contrib­ute only through a project steering group.   Even  then,  discussions  are  limited,  to avoid the committee effect, where more time, and thus, more money, is spent than would be gained by having the localization team simply make the decision.

 

In order to maintain a high degree of flexibility, we have adopted a light structure or workflow to our projects. This workflow allows many customizations. The key steps in the workflow are listed below.

 

Evaluation –This first phase actually has two stages. The first stage involves a risk evaluation and documenting the product target  state  (using  the success  indicators  listed above).  In the second stage, the first-stage documents are evaluated, enabling a decision on the project. There are three possible outcomes: stop, hold, and go.

 

We use different evaluation tools and methods for dif­ferent projects. We use lighter evaluation methods for projects that do not require formal data or for projects where formal data is unavailable (new smaller markets, enabling sales). We use more complex  tools  and methods to evaluate projects that have higher requirements.

 

Implementation –Once a product’s target state is ini­tially defined, the plan is evaluated throughout the de­velopment stage. It is re-evaluated each time there is a possible significant change in the desired target state. Suppose a language or a new feature is added.

 

In order to achieve this degree of flexibility, the imple­mentation phase relies heavily on using outsourced tem­porary resources, especially for translation. If we were to use in-house resources, we would already be paying for the scope of work for a predefined project. Addition­ally, if the project is re-scoped to include more work, we would have a resource problem. On the other hand, if the project is put on hold or reduced in scope, we would have costly resources whose work would be forfeited, but would still be counted as expenditure in the project. Us­ing temporary resources allows us to change the scope of the project dynamically, without losing extensive amounts of work and money.

 

Another practice that enables flexibility is dividing the workload or project deliverables into components. This allows us to prioritize components that are least likely to change, saving us from costly updates.

 

Also during the implementation phase, we use an open interface to our vendors. Instead of stipulating all tools a vendor should use, we are more concerned with a vendor’s processes. By allowing vendors to use the tools they   are   already  familiar   with,   we  receive  all  the benefits of the training in which the vendors have invested for their own resources. We trust that the process, not the tools, is the guarantee of quality we require.

 

Validation –This involves validating the outcome of the implementation phase against the prevailing target-state definition. Depending on the product, the validation pro­cess can range from a full-blown, major-release validation effort, including outsourced linguistic testing, partner validation, and beta testing, to a minor market-specific test release effort, where the customer validates.

 

Release and Repeat –Throughout the project, the pro­cess itself is also reviewed and evaluated. Clear improve­ments can be implemented quickly, piloted on slightly lat­er parallel projects. This way, we keep the cycle between process improvements relatively short.

Team Dynamics and Continuous Improvement

Maybe the greatest resource in the dynamic local­ization process is the localization team itself. A dy­namic process requires the team to be flexible and open-minded. The resources in such a team should be fast learners who are not overly protective about their work and position. This requires a mindset geared to­ward doing things together, sharing knowledge, and granting visibility  to  each  member  for  the  work  they  do.  The following paragraphs briefly address some of the team and self-improvement dynamics that either are the result of, or have contributed to, our localization model.

 

Team Structure –Our team structure consists of two coordinators and a problem solver. Coincidentally, the problem solver is also the manager. A small team al­lows us to communicate with each other efficiently and to keep an eye on each other’s projects.

 

Problem Solving –Problem solving is the single greatest task in a dynamic localization model. Prob­lems help us learn. Thus, when a challenge is esca­lated to problem status, the whole team is involved in dissecting the problem and determining a solution, even though it might be the problem solver’sjob to own the solution and take the heat, if necessary. By solving problems together, we learn new thought pat­terns and new problem-solving models that can be ap­plied in the future.

 

Knowledge Transfer –Doing things together also means fast, first-hand  knowledge transfer.  In order to keep the skills and knowledge in the team rounded out, we regularly stop and teach each other the things we have learned in­dividually. This way, any team member can provide help when it’s needed.

 

Improving Things –In a good dynamic environment, new improvement suggestions are constant. If the whole team feels a suggestion is worth trying, it is usually implemented. Roughly, 9 out of 10 suggestions never make it.

 

The Big Picture –In our dynamic model, the whole team has access to the big picture. Each team member alerts others to the small changes in a project that can eventually affect other projects. In other words, each team member tries to see beyond the individual project for the mutual good.

Conclusion

A dynamic localization process such as the one described here might not be suitable for everyone or for companies of every size. Still, I believe this model to be a good choice if you are just starting localization and international expan­sion, or if you are streamlining your current organization. This model allows you to start small and progress organi­cally, without creating too much of a strain on the rest of the organization. In essence, this model allows you to do what localization is all about: to produce financially viable support for your company’s plans in the international mar­ketplace, with the right quality for the right price.


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