When beginning a localization project, it can often be intimidating, overwhelming, and daunting. To break down and organize your project there are a few steps that are essential to dissecting a localization project into its component parts and processes. This will require you to have a clear understanding of the parameters and scope of the project you are beginning. Localization projects often tend to creep and can easily exceed your original idea without having a clearly defined vision, scope, target audience or language, buy in from the stakeholders, the right tools for the job, and a well-organized budget.

To help you map out the parameters of your localization project plan, here are 6 things to consider in order to help you create a successful localization project plan.

Step 1: Establish your Vision

Why am I localizing this content?

The first step in any localization project is to make sure that you are familiar with the purpose of the project. Understanding the why of a project will help you identify the target languages, markets, tools required, and the required budget for the project. There is a significant difference in how you would approach a localization plan for software versus, a website, or how you would localize a user manual versus a marketing advertisement or slogan. Understanding the vision of the project and the stakeholders ensures your localization project plan will receive the support needed to successfully execute your plan. With an understanding of the vision comes an ability to then relate your project to the intended ROI and in doing so you will be able to create a sustainable localization program. Establishing the project vision before you start the project will help you identify internal roadblocks, technical needs, and communication gaps before you are tied up by the details of the project. Understanding why you are localizing the content will prevent miscommunication, improve your effectiveness, establish a cohesive team, meet the expected ROI, and help you achieve your goals.

Step 2: Understand the scope

What is the breadth and depth of the content that I need to localize?

Knowing what the content to be localized is, will allow you to manage the scope and gather all pertinent materials for the localization project. If you have been asked to translate your training materials, make sure you consider what this would include. You could have user manuals, online product guides, e-learning materials, instructor lead materials, just to list a few. Figure out what the word count is for all your material, as this is the accounting basis for most localization projects. It will give you a good idea as to the volume and associated costs. Making sure you know what you must localize will help you establish and set a budget for the project.

Step 3: Identify Your Target Audience

Who is the material for, and what languages do I need to localize the content into?

Understanding who you are targeting, is a key aspect of any localization project plan. It is important to identify and know what language you will be targeting. Understanding if you are targeting a very specific language and community, for example, Argentinian Spanish, or maybe it is a more generalized regional version of the language like Latin-American Spanish. Understanding who you are targeting could make a difference in how your content is translated, the cost of translations, and the overall success of your localization project.

Step 4: Establish a Schedule

When do you need the content localized?

Having a firm grasp on your internal deadlines and understanding the time constraints for the translators can make all the difference between a successful delivery of a project and one that has been delayed. Establish a realistic expectation of translators’ daily productivity factoring in the roles that CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools, TM (Translation Memories), and Glossaries can play. This will allow you to forecast deadlines and project due dates. It will also give you a chance to better manage the project and create efficiencies.

Step 5: Pick the Right Tools

How do I identify and find the correct resources for my localization project?

This is where your research and preparation answering all the above questions come together. There are multiple options in the Localization tool box. You can hire your own translators, you can submit a RFP or RFI to multiple LSP’s (Language Service Providers), you can buy your own TMS (Translation Management System), you can use MT (Machine Translation) and NMT (Neural Machine Translation), you can use google cookie add-ins, and many other options. So how do you choose what will be best for your localization project? You have to decide what is most important to the success of the localization project and prioritize those needs first. Localization projects, like other projects, revolve around Time > Quality > Costs. You need to identify the most important parts to the localization project and then choose the tools that work the best to help you accomplish your goals.

Step 6: Create your budget

How do you establish a budget for your localization project?

One of the greatest fears of any project manager is coming in over budget. Localization projects are billed on cost per word, dependent on the target language. There are also services which are billed per hour, again depending on the target language. Costs can also vary depending on the industry or vertical your business sits in. The optimal localization project plan will allow you to go through all the previous 5 steps and then establish the budget you will need to accomplish the project. Often, you will be given a budget to work with and asked to execute a localization project. The steps are still the same, with the exception that rather than creating a budget you will have to reconcile your plan to the budget given.

To better understand how to plan for your localization project the following diagram explains the relationship between Cost-Time-Quality.

Localization Project Plan Venn Quality Time Busget

Now that you have an outline and an idea of the factors for establishing a localization project you can set your goals and work towards your success. As you build out your localization project plan you will have gained a vision, measured the scope of work before you, identified your target language and audience, established a schedule with realistic timelines, identified the costs and established a budget, and picked the right resources and tools to help you succeed.

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