Where now for Localisation?

Where now for Localisation?


An article from leading international consultancy firm Common Sense Advisory discusses in the April/May issue of MultiLingual magazine where global business has reached in terms of employing localisation to help sell products and services in different overseas markets. The importance of localisation is now well-recognised and accepted by exporting firms all around the world. However, this does not mean everyone is doing it as it should be done.

The original, basic definition of localisation was that it consisted of adapting software products for international markets or rendering technical publications into different languages. Now we see it as tailoring products, website operations, and supply chains to international needs, or put another way adapting processes, organisations and technology to operate in global markets. Localization

In recent years Common Sense Advisory has been carefully researching and tracking the expanding role of localisation in international business. It has theorised that its implementation typically moves through five different stages. At stage five they say that – “companies at the most evolved stage of localisation maturity, (and they are still few in number) – recognise the importance of globalisation to their businesses and have internalised the concept into their code and content life cycles, business planning and corporate vision. They undertake a program of continuous process improvement with the goal of globalising every product, employee and consumer touch point.”

How then, does localisation progress through the earlier stages or levels? As you might expect, level one is the reactive stage, where a firm employs ad hoc measures in response to obvious needs arising in marketplaces they wish to enter. They have few, if any, established processes. Roles and responsibilities are unclear and there is little technology support for localisation tasks.

Level two is reached when firms recognise ‘ad hoc’ is not good enough and they must get properly organised. They begin by formalising processes for localisation tasks, redefine roles and responsibilities within their organisation, and recognise the importance of external providers and ‘re-purpose’ mainstream productivity and project management solutions to localisation and translation tasks.

Level three is what Common Sense Advisory call the managed stage, where level two challenges are beginning to be surmounted, and where required new processes are being applied and properly managed, including working together with external providers. Then all of this also requires developments on the technology front in the form of purpose-built and specialised translation and localisation tools.

The level four stage called ‘optimised’ is where level three basic essential developments are securely in place and there is now the opportunity to further develop, refine and extend processes across the whole organisation. “Operational roles begin trending toward centralisation in recognition of the importance of Localisation to the entire enterprise.”

If your business is exporting products and services, what level have you reached according to this Common Sense Advisory model? A 2007 paper by the US Localisation Industry Standards Association (LISA) reported that $25 was returned for every $1 invested in localisation? ‘Food for thought’, for anyone still not convinced.