What is Leveraging?
Leveraging, as it applies to localization, is a simple, yet critical consideration. In the most basic terms, leveraging is using any element of a previous localization effort as a guide or reference for a new project. We can see that even though this definition is fairly straight forward, the application of leveraging to any localization project will become quite broad. There are practically unlimited ways in which leveraging can be applied.
In order to analyze and evaluate leveraging within a localization project, we can break things down into two elements.
- Content Leveraging (more details coming in Part 2)
- Process Leveraging (more details coming in Part 3)
Content Leveraging, as the name implies, refers to utilizing previously translated content as a reference for a new project. A simple example of Content Leveraging is using a product’s Version 1 translated manual when localizing the same product’s Version 2 documentation. There will probably be significant content from the original version that remains unchanged in the updated manual. Content Leveraging is often applied using project glossaries and translation memories (TMs.)
Process Leveraging, again, as the name implies, is using the same process or methodology from a previous project as a guide for new localization work. An example of this is creating a step-by-step checklist for documentation screen shots (here’s a great reference for Best Practices for Screen Capture Localization.) This checklist will simplify capturing new screen shots and also ensure that images match the previous content, thereby eliminating the need to recapture all screens. Process Leveraging is often created using standardized workflows and process documentation.
In this introduction to leveraging, we will continue to examine both Content and Process Leveraging as they apply to localization efforts. For more specific details, please refer to Parts 2 and 3 in this blog series.
Why is Leveraging important?
Before spending time looking at everything that leads to successful leveraging, it would be beneficial to first understand why leveraging is important in localization efforts.
The objective of all localization projects should be to receive the highest quality deliverables, in the shortest time, at the lowest cost. This sounds reasonable, and represents the ideal localization environment, but we all know that we don’t live in a perfect world. We often have to balance these objectives based on a specific project’s requirements; higher quality for longer time, faster delivery for higher cost, etc…
Leveraging allows a localization project manager to ATBE (all things being equal) optimize each of the three key elements (quality, time, and cost.) For example, within the same quality and schedule requirements, proper leveraging will result in the lowest possible cost.
First, it’s important to recognize that high leveraging doesn’t necessarily equal high quality. Leveraging ensures consistently improved quality – all previously implemented quality improvements will carry over to new projects, and all new quality improvements will be available to leverage for future efforts. All approved and successful translations will be replicated within new content.
Leveraging also applies to localization teams. Having the same linguists complete new projects allows them to leverage their experience with the previous content, thereby providing consistent translations and style. The same concept also applies to project managers, internationalization engineers, desktop publishers, QA resources…
Project schedule is probably the most obvious benefit of localization project leveraging, both with Content Leveraging as well as Process Leveraging. Rather than translating each project totally from scratch, linguists only need to work with new and updated content. This can result in a significant reduction in time depending on the scope of a project. Likewise, working with the same team and process as previous localization efforts will lead to a much more concise schedule.
Project cost is not directly related to time, but there definitely is a relationship. “Time is money” applies to most all service companies, including Translation Agencies and Language Service Providers (LSPs.) Leveraging an efficient, consistent methodology will allow your LSP to minimize expenses, and you should be able to realize a direct cost savings as a result.
What affects Leveraging?
Now that we understand the benefits of leveraging in localization projects, we want to look at ways to maximize our results. In the simplest breakdown, we can identify one single element that will affect the leveraging we receive.
Let’s look at two examples. If we start a new project that is already completely translated, using the exact same team and methodology, we would expect to receive 100% leveraging. Conversely, if we have brand new content, in a brand new format, and put together a completely new team of project managers, linguists, engineers, publishers, using a new process, we would end up with 0% leveraging.
Comparing the two examples above, it becomes apparent that the one factor that negatively impacts leveraging is: CHANGE. Obviously, nobody is going to have a 100% leveraged project as above, but the goal should always be maximizing each project’s leveraging. This is accomplished by minimizing any changes between projects.
Here are a couple general areas where leveraging should be watched in localization projects. (For more specific examples and remedies, please check Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.)
LSPs often utilize more than one Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools. CAT tools should not be confused with Machine Translation (MT) which is translation done automatically by a computer – think Google Translate. CAT tools are used by linguists to manage translation & editing and to save translations into TMs for future leveraging.
Unfortunately, not all CAT tools process files and save translations in the same way. Each may prepare file segments or treat text formatting differently. Changing CAT tools between projects will most certainly result in a loss of leveraging.
LSPs also work with multiple translation, engineering, and desktop publishing resources. These resources may be internal, part of a dedicated team, or freelance. It is unrealistic to expect that there is no turnover on the team at any time, and most of the time there are backup resources in place to cover both temporary and permanent needs. However, any changes to the localization team will lead to reduced leveraging.
Schedule pressures are a typical part of the localization process. Often times, final deadlines for a project are very firm, and delays may occur in source content sign-off. Squeezing the localization schedule may be unavoidable, and most LSPs will work with clients to meet specific deadlines. However, delivering a project in 4 days, that previously was allowed a week, will need changed processes or tasks, and definitely incur missed leveraging.
The above areas are just three among many where leveraging can be lost between localization projects. But at this point, rather than focus on other considerations, it is more critical to mention that these changes not only occur with the LSP, but also on the Client Side. In fact, since the LSP is focused on protecting leveraging across projects, the Client Side changes are often ignored and end up having the most negative impact on localization project leveraging.
In relation to the above examples, you can ask yourself:
- Are we using the same software and version between projects?
- Do we have the same writers & editors, and are we copying the exact content from previous projects?
- Have we included enough buffer in the development schedule to have the same timeline for localization, even if our final source files are delayed?
- What other changes have we introduced between the last project and this effort?
How can my l10n project manager help me maintain and improve Leveraging?
Now that we understand that change has a direct impact on localization project leveraging, we must also recognize that changes are inevitable – and not all changes are bad. The benefits of process improvements and efficiencies can often outweigh the negative impacts to leveraging in the long-term. This is where an experienced and knowledgeable l10n project manager (that’s me) is your greatest asset.
Am I involved in your project from requirement through development?
If not, I should be. The more background I have on your content development, the better I can facilitate implementation of localization ‘best practices’ and help establish a foundation for solid leveraging. I will have experience and suggestions that will help your team avoid many of the typical translation pitfalls that will require future process or content changes.
Am I documenting both your internal and external localization processes?
If not, I should be. Not only should I have specific process documentation for the localization stage, but I should also (to the best of my knowledge) have detailed process documentation for your development and final use stages. I should be recording any deviation from these standard processes within each localization project. I should evaluate each process change for both positive and negative impacts on leveraging.
Do I discuss your project leveraging during post project reviews?
If not, I should. If you have to ask me about your leveraging, then I am not doing my best service to your localization projects. Successfully leveraged localization projects are predicated on the shared knowledge of the impacts or both standardized processes and the impacts of change to those processes. It is my responsibility to ensure that all team members have a clear understanding of these factors.
Where do we go from here?
With your introduction to localization project leveraging in hand, there is one simple step you can now take to have a positive impact on your future projects. You should contact your l10n project manager with a simple request… “Let’s talk about my project leveraging…”