5 biggest pitfalls of localization managers, and how you can overcome them

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Localization managers are tired of clicking — the same tedious manual work day in and day out, with not enough time for optimization and quality control because they’re often running to catch up. Here are some of the biggest mistakes localization managers make and some ideas on how to solve them.

Why is the job of a localization manager so complex?

Localization managers have an extremely intricate yet exciting, interdisciplinary job that requires knowledge in various fields: IT, linguistics, finance, and even human resources. They handle projects, budgets, workflows, and client communication and collaborate with a sea of international professionals. With a clear understanding of the company or client’s audiences, they aim to deliver translations that will fit the targeted regions.

Therefore, localization managers require the organization skills of a librarian and the planning prowess of an army general. Even with those equipped in their roster, they occasionally run into trouble without proper planning, communication practices, tools, and reporting.

1. Expectation management: over-promising and unassertiveness

Localization managers are usually under pressure to take on more work and meet — or move up — deadlines for multiple projects. That’s why being assertive in regards to the feasibility of a task is essential to success. Localization managers who answer “Maybe” or “I’ll see what I can do” to requests could be setting themselves up for months of stress.

When you say “Yes,” it should not be a knee-jerk reaction. First, consider the scope of the project. As a localization manager, you should be aware of how long tasks generally take. If you don’t know, then you’ll struggle to answer the question. Keeping track of the hours spent for each type of task continuously or asking specialists, i.e. translators, proofreadings, voice-over artists, will get you a better idea.

After gauging the project duration, try to avoid offering a specific date. Instead, provide a range that encompasses a safety buffer for both the delivery date and the budget. For example, by adding two weeks or an additional $500, you’ll save yourself the worry of taking too much time or overspending. The primary stakeholder will be pleased with the speed or the money “saved.”

2. Not making technology your best friend

The last thing you want to be as a localization manager is a digital paper-pusher with the tedious job of clicking, filing, uploading, downloading, and other mindless, time-consuming tasks. That’s why you’ve got to use technology to the fullest. Some systems provide you with workflows and all the tools you need for:

  • Assigning tasks,

  • Providing instructions,

  • Calculating budgets, and

  • Finding translators and other types of hired hands.

There’s been a rise in cloud-based localization management tools that fulfill these requirements. Web-based TMSs are a great solution because of their collaborative setup, better prices, and more frequent updates than traditional installable software tools. For example, Smartcat’s all-in-one cloud-based platform reduces localization managers’ manual work by up to 10 times compared to the traditional LSP combination of TMS, CAT, and spreadsheets. Its centralized and all-inclusive setup saves you from tirelessly jumping between channels, tabs, and other tools, while technology-assisted project distribution function allocates jobs to freelancers and vendors 30% faster than emails. After switching from a manual to a cloud-based TMS, the EthnoLink LSP reported 24% in average cost savings and days knocked off in completing projects.

Try it before you buy it

Whichever translation tool you use, make sure it will render your life easier. Write down a list of your biggest problems and test the software out in a live trial — avoid just reading about the features. Check off your list as you go through and see where it stands after your evaluation. You may also find some functions you never knew you needed!

3. Planning alone and in your head

Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.
~ Winston Churchill

You might not realize you are doing this, but many of us plan things in our head and think we’ll be able to remember it. However, this gets increasingly difficult when you’ve got 100 tasks with different prioritization levels to delegate.

A plan and workflow are crucial in achieving a successful and punctual project. It allows you to show your team what is expected of them, provides an overview for your manager, and even acts as a presentation to sell your services to potential clients. Smartcat offers the needed organizational tools with real-time, actionable workflows that you can arrange to meet your specific needs.

Plan out the project, so you don’t forget anything important.

Consult your team

You may be a smart cookie, but you can’t possibly know all the ins and outs of everyone’s job. Teamwork and getting members involved in the planning will increase the success rate. Some managers attempt to make the entire plan on their own, but they would be even more effective when listening to the opinions and experiences of other professionals. After all, they'll be doing the work. Considering their input helps them buy into the project and gain a sense of ownership.

You don’t need an in-house team of translators to consult with either — get in touch with freelancers via online communities for the information you seek. For example, Smartcat houses a flourishing community with many engaged professionals eager to swap ideas.

4. Communication breakdown: where are the instructions?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

Have you ever heard the phrase “if you assume, you’ll make an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me’?” This expression is highly applicable for localization managers. The more instructions you provide, the better. The clearer your wishes and intentions, the more precise the deliverables will be.

Far too often, localization managers provide little to no instructions to their translators and are surprised they get something back that’s different from what they were expecting. Occasionally, it’s due to inexperience, but even advanced professionals miss this step when lacking time. Translators can only know so much from the context. Assuming increases the amount of work to redo.

In the worst-case scenario, the project bombs. A study showed that 29% of projects fail due to poor communication.

Control deliverables with sufficient instructions

Here are some resources you can provide language specialists to equip with the required information:

  • Guidelines: language preferences and style guides.

  • Context: screenshots, examples, or CMS integration.

  • Glossaries: technical terms, branded terms, and spelling variations.

  • Target audience description (customer persona): whom is the translator writing for and how could they shape the text to be the most effective?

  • Company branding documentation: company culture, values, etc.

Smartcat offers the option to add style guides, reference materials, and comments for task-specific instructions. The built-in chat function and segment comments are great for answering questions.

5. Learning: lack of review and retrospective

The act of reviewing your projects is going to help you and your team grow and improve in future tasks. Unfortunately, many localization managers miss this step in a project life cycle, often due to lack of time. If they do have any takeaways, they don’t always share them either. The “War on Errorism” should be a localization manager’s main battle.

A team-wide retrospective — or at least one with all the team heads — is a great way to fix past mistakes. The localization manager should facilitate everyone’s feedback on what to do more or less of and stop or start doing.

To evaluate the various project measurables, such as productivity, speed, cost, and quality, Smartcat has a few tools up its sleeve. Its Team Performance Intelligence reports let you see how productive you were and monitor progress over time, while built-in quality assurance features show the number of errors in terminology, punctuation, date, etc.

Ditch the monkey jobs, ascend to project ninja

Using tools to reduce the number of repetitive tasks, monitor project progress, and assess results, localization managers can get back to the fun part of their jobs, such as localization and quality optimization, and even enjoy a break from time to time.

Isn’t it something to strive for? See for yourself with no strings attached — try Smartcat today.