Driving Innovation through the Localization Process

487547467Innovation is one of Welocalize’s four pillars which form the foundation of everything we do in the localization industry. Steve Maule, Business Development Manager, offers four insights into how to best drive innovation through the localization process.

In our industry, we frequently use the word “innovation”. Next month’s Localization World and TAUS events in Vancouver feature a number of sessions and talks on innovation in translation and localization. We participate every year to listen and learn how we can better service our client’s with innovative ideas and shared experiences.  Our own web site has this “Innovators Blog” that you are reading right now. The fact is, if Welocalize and the localization industry did not innovate, we would all go out of business.

Innovation applies to individuals as well as companies and the industry.  Innovation starts with looking at oneself.  How innovative am I? What innovations have I been involved in that provide me a proper perspective of driving change? How do these innovations benefit our clients? How can we continue to be at the forefront of localization innovators?

To answer these questions, I have provided four key insights about driving innovation in the localization process.

You get what you ask for. I have managed the response to lots of RFPs and RFQs. Most of them ask similar questions – tell us about your company, tell us about your clients, what have you done? The ones that stand out, and the ones that are the most enjoyable to manage and respond to, ask questions that promote and nurture innovation. What can we do to improve our processes? What suggestions can you make to improve our language quality? How can we drive unnecessary cost from our translation process? These require an language service provider (LSP) to think carefully and creatively to explain new ways of doing things.

Find ways to promote innovation. If asked, I think most clients would choose “innovative” to be on their wish list when describing their perfect LSP vendor. How do they define what this means and how do they support and manage their vendors to achieve innovation? Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) are good indicators and forums to promote innovation between the vendor and client. LSPs should provide evidence of new ideas and suggested improvements. Innovation should be part of their formal key performance metrics and scorecard. Is it acceptable to simply deliver translation projects on time, to budget and to agreed levels of quality? LSPs should define how to go to the next level – beyond the expected.

Innovation is not invention. Often the best innovations come from small incremental changes in a process over time, as opposed to a flash of brilliance or a light bulb moment. Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group Holding, has been all over the press this month as the world’s largest IPO. The traditional US “eBay model” of e-commerce needed to change. In China, few people had faith in the Internet to protect their credit card details or in merchants to deliver what was promised online. Alibaba took those insights and developed its own secure payments system and returns policy, heading off competition. In localization, most of us won’t invent an entirely new translation management system; however, everyone involved with a client account has the opportunity to spot flaws in a process or a model and suggest ways of improving it.

Listen to customers. A new method, process or tool is only useful in business if it is valued by customers. Does it help solve a problem or need in the customer’s business? To be a commercial innovator, means listening to customers and understanding their needs, challenges and goals. With the resources, tools and experience at their disposal, many language service providers can do so much more than provide translated words. As an example, read how Welocalize and F-Secure developed Translator Innovation Days to promote ideas and bring translators closer to the client so they further understood the client’s needs.

What do you think? Is the localization industry as innovative as we think it is? Do you have the opportunity to demonstrate innovation in your role? What suggestions do you have around innovation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Based in the UK, Steve Maule is Business Development Director at Welocalize.