Shall We Become Transparent About Quality in Localization?

transparency has multiple facets

At the TAUS Quality Evaluation Summit in Dublin on June 8, 2016, a panel led by Antonio Tejada (Capita TI) discussed the topic of transparency in localization at large – and in multilingual content quality management in particular. The panelists who contributed to this discussion – and the co-authors of the below article – are Antonio Tejada himself, Anna Woodward Kennedy (Chillistore Technologies), Attila Görög (TAUS), Jeremy Clutton (Lingo24), and our own Kirill Soloviev (ContentQuo), who has also served as the article’s editor. 

The translation industry remains fragmented. Even today in our disintermediated era there are multiple participants in the same translation/localization workflow. Each participant (from the buyer through MLVs and SLVs down to the translator) has information that is not being shared up and down the stream. Yet, data on the impact, quality and productivity of translations is extremely useful to ensure efficiency and showcase the credibility of our industry.

Still, this type of information often remains a secret – or gets lost in the labyrinth of translation processes – because the mindset and the tools to unlock this data are lacking within companies. Why don’t we finally become transparent about the figures? And about our own quality and productivity and impact? An increasing number of buyers and their vendors, vendors and their translators have decided to collaborate on improving quality and productivity by offering each other full transparency, with mutual benefits.

At the QE Summit in Dublin, TAUS managed to gather several advocates of transparency from different parts of our industry for a comprehensive panel discussion of the topic: a localization industry veteran executive, an owner and operations director of a language quality services company, a global account director for a tech-savvy mid-sized LSP, and a co-founder of a technology startup focused on outcome-based localization quality management.

The panel was followed by a break-out session later in the day, where panelists were joined by like-minded audience members willing to discuss challenges with implementing transparent practices in their own translation & localization programs. Here’s a glimpse of the ideas that have been covered.

Why is transparency so important in localization?

Because localization is a complex system and it’s the only way to optimize it

Transparency enables a holistic view of this system that’s required to achieve optimal performance. If we only focus on a few of localization subsystems (downstream processes) and/or super-systems (upstream processes) while ignoring the rest, we can all too easily fall into a trap called “local optimization”: improving the performance of a single component while degrading the overall performance of the whole system. To prevent that, transparent sharing of data from all system levels is essential: it’s the only thing that allows us to truly understand all parts of the system and their relationships.

Because entire localization supply chain can strongly benefit from it

Each stakeholder, from customer-side management/sales/marketing teams to individual freelance linguists, already has valuable information to share with the rest of their business colleagues – but they seldom do. This information, when properly aggregated and equally distributed, has the potential to inform strategic decisions both for LSPs (because they will better understand what’s actually happening with their customers and with their suppliers) and for enterprises (because they can use it to influence budget allocation for their globalization efforts).

Because delivering real value to translation customers requires it

Transparency clears the confusion between translation buyers and translation vendors during the purchasing process, especially in a scenario with multiple competing offers around price, service, and quality levels. It also focuses the discussion on what the customer is hoping to achieve with translation (i.e. the value it will bring to her business) and build a tailored service offering (as opposed to only considering internal industry concepts such as process details – these might not make much sense, especially for less mature buyers).

What are some examples of data that we want to share transparently?

Sharing data about quality and productivity of localization projects already seems like a given, and is within easy reach of most companies nowadays: TAUS Quality Dashboard and other complementary tools already provide an easy and affordable way to do that. However, there are also many more subtle – and sometimes more important – data points that are not yet being explored enough.

For example, translation buyers’ global business goals. Customers seldom buy translations in a vacuum. Instead, they buy translations because they want to achieve a specific goal – be it sales, growth, employee engagement, risk management, or compliance. Each vertical and company will have a different set of drivers, and being able to have an understanding of the goal can help the language service provider match up with the outcome and deliver what’s right for the client.

Then there is the actual impact of translations on company’s global expansion metrics. In the digital world, it’s relatively easy to access and compare business outcome measurements that are driven by translated content (such as conversion, engagement, and even sales – e.g. in eCommerce) – for any language and country where a product, service, or piece of content is made available. Compare localization services to dentist’s services: if a dentist’s work has helped you cure your toothache, would you ever consider hiding this fact from her? If not, then why are we still not sharing the numbers confirming successful (and occasionally failed) outcomes of localization with our translation supply chains?

Being open about translators allows the supply chain to be efficient (for example, by significantly speeding up the linguist-sourcing process for rare language/subject matter combinations). Localization vendors that still cling to carefully chosen translators as their most prized possession (and a key to a particular client) will likely find themselves outsmarted by vendors who know how to add value to customers with other means, as well as by dis-intermediating solutions like translator marketplaces soon.

Too often, quality assurance efforts focus on showcasing deficiencies in translation. Negative feedback frequently passes through supply chains in a rather transparent fashion, unhindered. However, offering praise on a translation that was well done can work wonders for translators’ morale and motivation. So it makes perfect business sense to deliver it more often. TAUS DQF even offers a dedicated issue category for “kudos” – use it to compliment your translators today!

What barriers exist to transparency?

It’s the year 2016 now, with Internet of Things and Big Data marching loudly across the increasingly digital and interconnected planet – and localization has to keep up. Yet, in many ways, our industry still follows a mindset that dates back to the 1980s – when printing multilingual user manuals for a microwave was a still thing, and when storing, analyzing, and sharing even moderate volumes of data was practically impossible.

Freelance linguists have been so subdued for decades that it takes tremendous effort to simply have them respond to the rest of the virtual project team and start taking part in discussions as basic as saying “Hello!”

Silos inside organizations are unfortunately typical, especially in larger companies, and hinder the most basic kind of transparency: internal transparency (which is supposed to be easier than sharing across organizational boundaries!). Arduous evangelization is required to pull all these people out of their shells and get them to collaborate and share, as everyone seems to have some little secrets they are not keen on parting with.

After you invest significant efforts to achieve transparent relationships with an important stakeholder, they sometimes disappear (e.g. leave the company, or a new vendor joins in their place) – and you have to start the evangelizing work from scratch. If a new stakeholder has a different level of visibility into privileged corporate information (e.g. a contractor), you might not even be in a position to share the required data anymore.

What’s in it for me, the localization professional?

Transparency allows buyer-side localization managers to become champions for global business expansion

Talking about localization impact on business outcomes is key to making that happen, but it requires transparent access to relevant data and infrastructure. How do I make localization not just efficient but effective, and maximize value-for-money for my company or my customer? That’s the real question that today’s localization leaders have to answer convincingly if they seek to remain relevant in the convergence era heralded by TAUS.

Transparency empowers individual linguists and enriches their jobs

By becoming an openly acknowledged and transparently accessible element of large virtual project teams, they get a chance at working much deeper with larger numbers of important stakeholders on more complex and fulfilling tasks (as opposed to simply being an anonymous line item in some translation management system).

Transparency enables LSPs to build longer-lasting and more profitable business relationships with their customers

After all, what agency doesn’t dream of being able to clearly show how much its translations have contributed to its customers’ top line?

Are there situations where transparency might actually hurt?

In rare individual occasions, being transparent has a risk of negatively impacting the global team’s morale, but only if not handled carefully enough. Examples of this are:

  • Employee performance assessments
  • Unclean, irrelevant, inconclusive, or incomparable data
  • Negative ROI (e.g. low sales in a country with continued localization investment)
  • Confusing being transparent with delegating authority for decisions (e.g. expecting a stakeholder to choose a localization process for you, as opposed to simply informing him of the choice made)

However, the benefits of transparency described above are infinitely more valuable, and making a manager’s job slightly more complex is never a good excuse for not harnessing transparency’s full power – as our panelists and break-out session members have all agreed upon.

We do hope that our own experience summarized in this article was useful – and encourage you to take a step towards making your own localization programs and relationships more transparent starting right now, today!

This article is part of the TAUS Keynotes 2016 Summer e-Book. Republished in ContentQuo Blog under permission from TAUS. Download your copy of the full e-Book to get an expert overview of the present-day challenges and forward-thinking solutions for the global translation industry and multilingual content supply chains.

Measuring Content Quality with Error Typology: Step by Step Guide

Error Typology Analysis is all about neatly classifying your data

Previously, we’ve outlined our 6-step process for managing Global Content Quality. It can be applied by any company or team that produces global, multilingual content at scale and wants to leverage it for consistent, positive impact on their international business goals. We have already talked about content requirements management (how to define what “good quality” really means for your content) and data-driven quality evaluation (how to gather both objective and subjective information about quality from multiple sources for a 360-degree view). This time, we’ll provide a detailed walkthrough of Error Typology, a popular quality measurement (evaluation) method that you can apply to extract value from the data already stored in your Content Management Systems (CMS) and/or Translation Management Systems (TMS).

  1. Define and share requirements
  2. (Produce content – author and/or localize)
  3. Measure quality
  4. Analyze results
  5. Improve both content AND requirements
  6. Control and repeat

Error Typology Step by Step Guide

Error Typology is a venerable evaluation method for content quality that’s very common in the modern Translation & Localization industry. Despite having been popularized for translated multilingual content, it can easily be applied in a single-language context just as well, with only minor changes. Here’s how to use it.

1. Preparation

  1. Take the initial version of your content (in one language, or in a pair of languages if you’re analyzing a translation)
  2. Take an updated (e.g. revised or final) version of your content in the same language (or language pair)
  3. Do a sentence-by-sentence comparison of the initial version and the updated version
    1. Any modern CMS or TMS will typically store multiple revisions for each of your content assets automatically. This means you already have a wealth of information for potential analysis at your fingertips! The challenge is mostly about picking the right revisions since analyzing each revision versus each other is VERY time-consuming.
    2. If you don’t have another revision yet, consider revising the content yourself – or ask your peers, subject matter experts, editors, or in-country reviewers to do that for you (whatever works best for your content production process). Note down which errors to correct and which improvements to make, in order to have this piece of content better match your requirements.
    3. If you store these lists of corrections separately from the changed content itself, you will have a “virtual” revision (a quality evaluation) that can be implemented into content at a later stage (e.g. by your writers or translators in your CMS or TMS). This doesn’t really matter for Error Typology analysis since in either case you would still have 2 revisions of content to compare.

2. Classification

  1. For each individual change that was made to the content between revisions, assign a category (type) to it
    1. Spelling & grammar, style, and terminology are some of the most commonly used categories. Frameworks like MQM and TAUS DQF offer extensive multi-level lists of categories that you can pick & choose from.
    2. You can start from having 2 categories, and go down all the way to 20 or more! We suggest tailoring the exact categories and subcategories you use to your content types, audience profiles, and content production processes.
    3. If there were multiple changes done in 1 sentence, remember to classify each change separately. Otherwise, you risk skewing your analysis.
  2. Optionally, also assign a severity (importance) to each change, to reflect that not all changes or issues will have equal impact on the reader
    1. Severities might range from preferential (often those are not errors or issues per se, but subtle suggestions or improvements) all the way up to critical (those jeopardize the ability of this piece of content to fulfill its intended purpose).
    2. Using 4 different severity levels is a best practice, with the preferential severity usually not impacting the overall metrics (it’s not being counted).
    3. An optional positive severity (also known as “kudos” in DQF) can be introduced to reward content professionals for a particularly slick or impressive choice of words. In other words, “kudos” are a form of praise that strongly suggests keeping a particular piece of text intact (as opposed to making changes).
  3. Repeat the above steps for each revision, each piece of content, and each language (or language pair) being analyzed

Classification is most frequently performed by human experts, but can also be produced by automatic tools. Those tools “read” your content and find various types of content quality issues using algorithms (including Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning). Since automatic tools sometimes produce false positives (issues which are not really issues), it’s usually advisable to remove those first if you strive for accurate Error Typology analysis. However, even the raw output is sometimes enough to quickly gauge certain aspects of quality and guide further decisions.

Classification can either be performed at the same time as the actual revision or done separately at a later stage (potentially by another party). Essentially, any document revision can be turned into a quality evaluation at any time! This can be very useful for post-project analysis since it allows your global content teams to focus on producing top-notch content first and analyze their work later.

3. Scoring

Note: we describe just one possible way of how to perform content quality scoring which is based on MQM recommendations. Many alternative ways exist!

  1. Assign relative weights to each category
    1. The weights you pick depend on how serious you believe each specific type of issues to be for your content.
    2. Actual numeric values are less important as long as they make sense to your team.
    3. Examples:
      1. Medical device user instructions must precisely describe how the device is actually operated, so accuracy is key and should likely have a higher weight than any other category you use.
      2. Marketing brochures often benefit from creative, well-written copy that drives engagement, so style is key and should likely have a higher weight than any other category you use.
  2. If you’re using severities, also assign relative weights to each severity
    1. For medical content, incorrectly instructing the user to push a button which turns off monitoring for patient’s life support might be a recall-class error. However, suggesting to adjust a dial for brightness at a wrong point in time might still be OK.
    2. For marketing content, spelling the brand name incorrectly might be a recipe for disaster. At the same time, a slightly overused cliché might only be a minor detriment to style.
    3. As an example, MQM recommends using weights of 1 for minor issues, 10 for major issues, 100 for critical issues. This also implies using 0 (zero) for any preferential issues.
    4. If you use “kudos”, you can adopt a negative weight (e.g. -1) for them. Since we will be doing subtraction in the next calculation, the negative sign will act exactly as we need it to.
  3. Do the maths (e.g. in an Excel spreadsheet, or through dedicated QA features of your favorite tool)
    1. For each category, count the number of issues within each severity level (plus kudos, if you’re using those):
      1. Issue Count Minor, Issue Count Major, Issue Count Critical, Kudos Count
    2. Multiply the amount of issues by respective severity weight and add these up:
      1. Penalty by Category = Minor Issue Count * Minor Weight + Major Issue Count * Major Weight + Critical Issue Count * Critical Weight – Kudos Count * Kudos Weight
    3. Add up the penalties for each category:
      1. Penalty Total = SUM(Penalty by Category)
    4. Calculate the number of words in your original content revision
      1. Original Word Count
    5. Divide the total penalty by the word count and represent it as a percentage:
      1. Penalty Total per Word % = Penalty Total/Original Word Count
    6. Subtract this number from 100%
      1. TQ = 100% – Penalty Total per Word %

Now you have a simple single-number representation of how different aspects of quality have played out in your content according to your requirements. In other words, a content quality score. This score can be easily stored over time in large quantities (e.g. in an Excel spreadsheet, in a database, or even in a dedicated content quality management system that directly connects all types of quality evaluations to specific content items). It also lends itself extremely well to all sorts of quantitative analysis techniques. We’ll talk about those in a later post.

4. Limitations

Error Typology analysis is rather time-consuming and requires well-trained and well-instructed content professionals (writers and translators) to consistently do it right. That’s why in practice, companies usually apply it to subsets (or samples) of data in statistically sound ways that allow drawing conclusions about a larger whole (e.g. a set of documents) by one of its parts (e.g. a chapter). However, the level of detail you can get from this analysis and the resulting learning potential for your global content teams are unparalleled.

While Error Typology is very useful for detailed internal analysis, it is an atomistic, expert-based quality evaluation method. Thus, it doesn’t accurately predict the holistic perception of content by the reader, and might not be a good leading metric for content performance in many cases. For a true 360-degree view of quality, Error Typology should be paired with holistic quality evaluation methods and content performance metrics.

Are you currently using Error Typology or similar approaches when analyzing content quality in your company or team? If yes – how exactly do you do this now, and how does it help your team? If no – why not, and what obstacles do you face? Please share with us in the Comments section!

3 Steps to a Data-Driven Content Quality Approach

Today’s data-driven business world knows one thing well: what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done. And vice versa: what gets measured, gets managed. So how do we apply those popular truisms to content quality management in a global, multilingual scenario? And what are the common pitfalls to watch out for?

In day-to-day conversations at the workplace, terms like “data”, “metrics”, “information”, and “KPIs” are often used interchangeably. However, understanding the distinctions between concepts that are behind all those terms pays off big time when trying to manage and improve content quality and content performance across multiple teams, companies, languages, and markets. So let’s first set the terminology straight (as we always should whenever working on global content quality), and then see how to apply a data-driven approach to your global content Quality Management practice.

The map of the data-driven world is shaped like a pyramid

One way to interpret the idea of being data-driven is through the model called a “DIKW pyramid” (short for Data – Information – Knowledge – Wisdom):

Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom pyramid for data-driven content strategists (from
Being data-driven with your content strategy means understanding what “data” means

The raw signals we gather from the outside world are data. They are meaningless unless context is provided. For example, what does the number 3576 mean for your content quality management program? Hard to tell.

Now, what if I told that 3576 is the number of visitors to your corporate website? That’s more structured and has a specific context. However, it’s still far from being useful if you’re trying to make sense of how your global content performs and whether it’s good or not. So let’s agree that is still data which is trying hard to get to the next level.

OK, taking that one step further still: 3576 unique visitors have signed up for our free product trial in France during the last 4 weeks from the product web page. Now we finally have some information. It gives you a solid basis from which to draw further insights. For example, by asking questions like “How does that number compare across geographies?”.

So now you take the top 4 of your target markets with their respective languages – Spanish (Argentina), English (United States), German (Austria), French (France) – and compare this information for each of them. You notice that the first two locales (both based in the Americas) have brought in a larger absolute amount of trial users, while the second two locales (both based in Europe) have a higher % increase of trial users month-over-month, despite having lower absolute numbers. At this point, we have detailed knowledge about that particular situation.

Finally, you realize that you don’t have to do anything at all about this difference between Americas conversion rates and Europe conversion rates – because it is, in fact, not statistically significant. As you also know that all other regions and languages have smaller traffic when compared to the top 4, you decide to stop tracking this metric entirely for the next 6 months and focus on something more useful instead. That’s best described as wisdom.

Note: In the business world, an applied version of the DIK(W) pyramid is data – metrics – indicators. Here, metrics roughly correspond to information, and indicators roughly correspond to knowledge. The most important 1-3 indicators for a business area are often called Key Performance Indicators, or KPI for short. Why do we want to select and prioritize just a small handful of indicators? Because each measurement has its own cost, and because it helps us avoid “death by dashboards”.

Leading metrics and lagging metrics

Suppose we have knowledge about how well our multilingual digital content matches our pre-defined requirements. In other words, we’ve defined indicators of our content quality. Those indicators can be based on various models for atomistic and holistic quality measurement, or even a combination of such models. We actually can find out the value of quality indicators before we make our content public and expose it to our audiences. In fact, that’s what most companies do as part of their Quality Management strategy for digital globalization programs.

We also have knowledge about the business impact that the very same multilingual content has achieved after being published and read by our end users. In other words, we’ve defined indicators of our content performance. In the world of digital globalization, those indicators can be based on various web content marketing metrics (for example, bounce rates, clickthrough rates, and conversion rates). However, we can only find the values of those indicators post factum: once the global content has been pushed out to the big wide world, there’s no turning back.

Now comes the big question: how do those two indicators, content quality and content performance, relate to each other? For example, does a better quality score for Spanish (Argentina) localized email content always come with an increase in the clickthrough rates for those email campaigns? In other words, does content quality predict content performance?

If yes, we say that our content quality indicator is the leading metric. Content performance indicator then becomes the lagging metric. We’re using the values for the leading metric (quality) to get a notion of what the lagging metric (performance) would likely be in future.

Word of caution, though: correlation doesn’t always equal causation. The fact of content performance always going up (or down) together with content quality does not yet mean that one is the direct result of the other. There might be other independent factors that influence both quality AND performance (just like with ice cream sales and deaths by drowning). So finding out that, for your multilingual content, quality and performance are indeed correlated is just the first step on the long way to discovering the real nature of this intricate, yet strategically important, relationship.

Capture and analyze all data on quality, not just pieces of it

So you might ask: how do I make this journey shorter? How do I get to the bottom of what’s influencing my content performance and understand whether content quality is indeed the culprit? That becomes especially hard if you can’t read & understand most of the languages that your team localizes and publishes your global content in.

Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to this question. However, one useful piece of advice is to approach content quality from a holistic perspective. Focusing on just one aspect of multilingual content quality (e.g. only the translation quality, or only internal review feedback, or only human expert judgment) and ignoring everything else is highly hazardous because this is NOT how your end users and readers will perceive your content in the real world.

Instead, try to get the whole 360-degree picture by capturing the entire range of sources from which you already get, or can get, any data on quality of your multilingual content. This gives you a better chance of spotting any lurking variables affecting the quality-performance relationship. Here are some ways to do this:

  • If your global content is a software app and you’re localizing the user experience (and the UI in particular), blend the software testing results with linguistic quality inspection results.
  • If you’re producing technical content that gets translated into several languages, combine the source language quality measurement with the target language quality measurements.
  • If you’re crowdsourcing translations for your customer support portal, merge your senior translators’ or language moderators’ feedback with your end user translation quality ratings (e.g. 1-5 stars).
  • If you’re applying Machine Translation for your user-generated content, combine automatic metrics (including quality estimation) with human assessment.
  • If you’re doing a third-party evaluation of localized content that was done by another Language Service Provider, juggle your editor’s review results with the output from automatic translation QA tools.
  • If you’re using in-country reviewers to revise & approve your multilingual copy, make sure you’re capturing every single piece of their feedback (even if it had been sent through a text message, in the middle of the night, to the mobile phone of your boss that has been offline at the time). Then compare their feedback to sentiment analysis that captures what your customers say.

How do you currently compare your content quality measurements with your content performance metrics? What are some of the results that you’ve recently seen? Does quality correlate with performance, or do each of those live their separate lives? Are there other variables besides quality that influence content performance? Share your experience in the comments section!

Content Quality Management starts from requirements

Dictionaries are an early form of content requirementsWhen thinking about content quality management and performance of global content, many experts tend to focus exclusively on evaluation, measurement, or assessment of quality. However, there is so much more to Content Quality Management and Content Quality Assurance than the act of checking alone! 

Many of the processes essential for delivering high-impact, high-quality content in multiple languages actually have to happen before AND after any quality checks. If these processes are not in place, your organization might be wasting time-to-market and budgets on sub-optimal content and inefficient, costly QA practices. Here are 6 steps to avoid that, inspired by Six Sigma DMAIC approach:

  1. Define and share requirements
  2. (Produce content – author and/or localize)
  3. Measure quality
  4. Analyze results
  5. Improve both content AND requirements
  6. Control and repeat

Today, we’ll be focusing on the first item: establishing requirements for your content before you produce it so that you can tell “good” from “bad”, and sharing them across the entire global content supply chain. We’ll cover the rest in future blog posts, so stay tuned.

1. Define and share requirements

Why spend time on defining what “good quality” means for your content?

Most heated arguments about quality usually happen when people have very different pictures in their minds of what “good” quality is. To avoid this blunder ourselves, let’s first consider a few definitions of quality:

  • How good or bad something is” (Merriam-Webster)
  • “The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something” (Oxford Dictionaries)
  • “The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs” (ISO)

The key insight to take away from those definitions is that quality is always relativeWe can only have a meaningful conversation about the quality of a work product in question (a piece of content, for instance) by comparing it with something else: pre-existing norms, requirements, standards, rules, examples, metrics, or even past experiences.

So agreeing on requirements for content is paramount to even start hoping to achieve quality. The problem, however, is that these requirements are so often communicated implicitly that we don’t even pause to think about it. Everyone surely knows what type of content I feel will work best for our audience, readers, and users. Right?

Wrong. As your content production team gets larger than 1 person, you’re in for a big surprise. By the way, that happens much sooner than you may realize – just imagine a VP or another corporate stakeholder making edits to content that contradict your “common sense”, or a freelance writer you hire to produce a blog post for you, only to discover you end up with something totally unusable, off-brand.

By the time you are localizing – even if it’s just into 2-3 languages – the amount of people on your extended content team that need to know what “good content” means to your org will have grown by a factor of 10. If you’re the one responsible for content quality management and for driving global content performance in your organization, it’s YOUR job to keep all of these people on the same page. And you have to do it every time, regardless of their location or company. Otherwise, consistency will always remain an elusive goal.

How to explicitly define requirements in content quality management

We’ve already discussed that each piece of content is created for a purpose. Communicating this purpose to the entire team is a good start for achieving quality. However, that alone is usually not enough. What else do we need?

Over the decades, the content industry has crystallized two very powerful ways to define, store, and share content requirements: Style Guides (or manuals of style) and Terminology Databases (or term bases). They are similar in the sense that both are a collection of different rules, instructions, and examples of how to create content (in one language or in several) that will be considered “good” by an organization in a given context (e.g. a specific content type, or a particular project).

In the world of Globalization, Internationalization, Localization, and Translation (GILT), Translation Memories (or TMs) are often used for capturing “good” content for future reference and reuse, and thus can be considered a specialized form of content requirements. Another form of requirements in localization is instructions inside Localization Kits (or LocKits), which usually focus on technical specs essential to delivering “good” localized content in a software app or technical documentation to its end users.

Instead of going into details of how those sources of requirements work, let’s rather consider what they typically consist of. Here’s one way to categorize those content requirements:

  1. Formal wording rules
    • This type of rule prescripts a specific choice of words or sentences in narrowly defined contexts: “When talking about this, always phrase it like this”. For example:
      • Corporate brand terminology and rules for its usage
      • Approved and/or standardized technical terms
      • Canned phrases (e.g. for forcing content reuse)
      • Examples of “good” and “bad” sentences
      • Specific spelling of words to be used
      • Prohibited or banned words/terms to be avoided
      • Usage of abbreviations
    • Formal wording rules typically need human expertise to be validated when doing quality checks. However, sometimes automated methods may be called upon to assist or improve efficiency.
  2. Formal technical rules
    • This type of rule mandates how to present and format your words and sentences. For example:
      • Use of hyphenation, capitalization, and punctuation
      • Measurement units, date and number formats, addresses and phones
      • Character restrictions (e.g. accented/Unicode symbols, control characters)
      • Cross-references style and data sources, both internal and external
      • Length limitations, including sentence length and word length in specific usage contexts
      • Readability levels
    • Formal technical rules can often be validated automatically as part of quality evaluation.
  3. Informal rules
    • This type of rule provides high-level, sometimes even vague ideas on how to best craft text, but is difficult to define in algorithmic terms and often leaves room for subjectivity when interpreted. For example:
      • General expectations for accuracy and fluency, as well as priorities between the two
      • Recommendations on tone of voice, such as avoiding passive constructs or using personal pronouns
      • Style suggestions, such as being concise, clear, compelling, and credible in your headlines
      • Audience profile aspects, such as “13-year old adopted girls that prefer exciting language and use of teen slang”
    • Informal rules almost always require human know-how to be validated during quality measurement. Due to inherent subjectivity, they also often need a person with authority to confirm the final judgment if arguments arise in the quality inspection process.

Too many vs. too few: some requirements are still implicit, and that’s OK

When you’re just starting out to document your content requirements, finding the right balance between capturing too many and capturing too few is key. After all, if you go all the way down to listing basic spelling and grammar rules for each of your languages, your list of requirements will be as long as a good book (or, rather, a stack of those). And, even with software assisting you during the quality evaluation stage, it’s a huge effort to continuously maintain a large requirements database, train new team members (across organization boundaries) on each of those requirements, ensure that requirements are well adapted to each of the languages, and work through inevitable false positives that arise with any automatic validation process.

So how do we keep our content requirements lean and avoid non-value-added activities when evaluating content quality against those requirements?

  1. Design your requirements for specific personas. It’s not unreasonable to expect a certain level of expertise from anyone in your content supply chain, be it copywriters, technical writers, editors, subject matter experts, translators, reviewers, revisers, or proofreaders. This expertise may include a certain level of language proficiency, general industry domain knowledge, and professional experience (including knowledge of industry standards).
  2. Refer to pre-existing requirement sources (e.g. public style guides). Software engineers using Object-Oriented Programming techniques (OOP) leverage the power of inheritance extensively when writing their code to avoid duplicated effort and ensure the same behavior in different contexts. You can do the same with your content requirements, too, by referring to “master documents” for everything you don’t want to specify explicitly. Typical references include Chicago Manual of Style, European Commission Directorate-General for Translation’s English Style Guide, and Microsoft Style Guides (there’s a version for English content called Microsoft Manual of Style, as well as multiple versions for localized content in many different languages).
  3. Think of the worst outcome that may happen if you omit a requirement. Not all requirements have the same “quality” to them. That is, your audience (readers and users) might be more sensitive to certain aspects of quality when compared to others. So ask yourself: why do we really put this requirement in place, and what do we stand to gain or lose? What might happen to our content performance if our content producers interpret this aspect differently in every piece of content? Do we have specific data that proves that, or is it just a hunch? (or perhaps the loudest voice in the room?)

How do you currently define & manage content requirements in your organization, and how does your approach change across languages, content types, and departments? What key challenges do you face when trying to communicate your requirements for producing high-quality content to your team, peers, vendors, and stakeholders? How do you know which requirements are essential, and which should rather NOT be there? Share your experience in the comments section!

Driving content performance is just like washing your apples

This apple has just been washed. Or was it?The Apple Analogy (the fruit, not the company)

An apple a day keeps a doctor away. But is it always the case?

Imagine a day at the office. A colleague of yours, say, Helen, has brought in some apples from the grocery store. They are on the coffee table near the water cooler. Some are green, and some are red. All are shiny and glossy and look real yummy.

As you walk by, you reach out and grab an apple. It’s still 1 hour till lunch time, but you’re already starving. Your first instinct is to start eating it immediately. As your hand is moving to your mouth, suddenly a thought strikes you: did anyone wash the apples yet? You have no idea, and the lady who brought them is nowhere to be found. It surely looks clean, but should I really risk it?

Grudgingly, you head into the kitchen, turn on the water and rinse the apple thoroughly. Just in case.

As you’re heading back to your cubicle, you bump into Helen. She notices the apple in your hand and the water dripping from it. “My, you shouldn’t have bothered. I’ve already washed them in the morning”, she says.

Bummer. You’ve just wasted 10 minutes of your life doing work that has already been done. But then again, how could you know?

Comparing Apples to… Global Content!

Exactly the same thing regularly happens in global content supply chains due to lack of transparency. Our extended content authoring, copywriting, translation & localization teams continuously wash the same “apple” over and over again. It’s very easy for people to ignore the fact that their “apple” has already been washed multiple times before, as they have little visibility into each other’s information, processes, and added value. Here are some typical scenes of “re-washing the apple” from the daily life of internationalization & localization projects:

  • Didn’t we already check for the correct brand terminology for our latest German email promo campaign on the translation vendor side? Who cares, we’ll just have our in-country office check it again. They’ll do it manually, of course, for that extra highly-paid wasted time. Yeah, probably they are taking this time away from supporting field sales in their daily jobs – but for sure it’s not my problem, is it?
  • Did someone already review the Right-to-Left layouting for that 171-page Arabic product datasheet? I am not sure, let’s just send it to our LQA vendor and they will take care of it. Only 10 linguistic hours and we’re done. It’ll take a week, you say? National holidays? No problem. Let’s just delay our product launch in the MENA region that we’ve been preparing for the last 4 months.
  • Anybody tested the last build for Swahili mobile app for truncated UI strings? What, Linguistic Testing already covered that and found no bugs? I’m not sure I trust those outsourcers, they’re based in China after all. Let’s have Brian our senior test engineer go through all 13 571 screens once again before we push the final build to App Store. You know, just to make sure they didn’t miss anything.

Sensitivity towards Quality Attributes, or: Should We Always Wash Them Again?

So, why aren’t global content professionals, especially managers, around the world concerned with lots of money and time being wasted on their global content just like that?

That’s because of the perceived risk, which in turn is caused by lack of trust. Just as you won’t eat your apple until you’re 100% sure it’s clean (in effect, high quality), they don’t want to publish their global content until they are 100% sure it’s high quality according to some explicit (or, more frequently, implicit) requirements.

But what if you always knew up front whether your apple has been washed or not? If it has been washed completely, or from one side only? If a special washing liquid has been used, or just regular tap water? If a certified expert has been washing your apple, or a simple passer-by? That’s what real supply chain transparency should enable you (as well as anyone else) to learn effortlessly.

And here’s an even more interesting question: what if you knew that eating an unwashed apple has, say, only a 0.0001% chance to negatively affect your health?

Exactly the same concept can be applied to the connection between content quality and content performance. Let’s call it sensitivity. Here’s how it works:

  • If your readers and users are sensitive to a certain aspect of content quality, that may affect content performance to an extent, and you will see your global content business KPIs change.
  • If they are not sensitive to this aspect at all, content performance and KPIs are likely to stay the same no matter how much money you invest into improving content quality in this aspect.
  • Kano model is an excellent way to think about customer sensitivity to various attributes, features, and aspects of your products, services, and content.

Knowing all that, perhaps you might not care THAT much about re-washing that apple anymore. Right? Let us know in the comments.

4 ways for global content experts to slice & dice quality

A tool for slicing & dicing content quality methods into convenient bite-sized pieces
A tool for slicing & dicing content quality methods into convenient bite-sized pieces

Today, we are venturing into a more technical territory than usual. This article will likely be most interesting to globalization experts, as well as those specifically looking to deepen their knowledge of applied global content quality management. What happens to quality evaluations and how do they transform as we go into the nitty-gritty of multilingual content quality management frameworks? How do we make sense of these frameworks and their interrelations? How can we come back again to the level where it all makes sense to the people un-initiated in localization quality matters (that is, to 99.9% of the world population), and talk to them in their language?

Over the years, localization industry has come up with several well-structured methodologies to define, categorize, and measure various aspects of quality related to multilingual translated content. Notable frameworks in this space include TAUS Dynamic Quality Framework/DQF, Multidimensional Quality Metrics/MQM, and Logrus Quality Triangle. However, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest behind the individual trees. How do those frameworks fit together? How do established localization industry processes relate to those frameworks? What connection do all of the above have to the Ultimate Content Quality Question: does our global content actually impact the desired business KPIs?

Here is a method we might use to further structure and refine our thinking about some of the global content quality management approaches, processes, methods, and techniques. It relies on 4 categories:

  1. Contextuality*: bilingual versus monolingual4 axes for classifying content quality evaluation techniques
  2. Technology: machine versus human
  3. Expertise: untrained versus professional
  4. Granularity: atomistic versus holistic

Note that these categories are not mutually exclusive. That is, each quality method or technique actually belongs to all 4 categories at once. The only question is just where exactly it is inside each category. If we imagine each as a horizontal scale, is it close to the left side or closer to the right side? You’ll find details & examples below.

Those of us who are mathematically inclined may want to think of each category as an individual dimension in a 4-dimensional space. A four-coordinate vector (c, t, e, g) will then represent a position of a technique or method within that space.

Normal people, on the other hand, should just read on. I promise it will all make sense eventually 🙂

Contextuality*: Bilingual versus Monolingual

*OK, I admit: I’ve just made this word up. My text editor underlines it in bright red as I’m typing this article. Would welcome your suggestions on how to call it.

This spectrum is about the volume and nature of information that’s taken into account when making a judgment about content quality.

On the monolingual end of the spectrum, we consider just the content itself, in the language it appears in at the moment of evaluation. Proofreading for spelling & grammar mistakes is a good example of a monolingual process.

On the bilingual end of the spectrum, we can also refer to the original version of the content in its native language (the all-mighty source!) and are able to compare the translation with the source. Editing for translation accuracy is a good example of a bilingual process.

Technology: Human versus Machine

This spectrum is, surprisingly, exactly what it sounds like.

Some types of content quality evaluations or assessments are produced by actual people working with your content (for instance, stylistic copyediting, revision, end user feedback, or usability testing).

Others are produced by software that analyzes your content (for instance, MT quality metrics, automatic translation quality checks, readability statistics, or sentiment analysis).

There are also certain quality procedures that may be performed either way, with varying efficiency, reliability, and costs (for example, manual vs automated software localization testing or manual vs automated spelling and grammar checks).

Expertise: Untrained versus Professional

This spectrum is applicable mostly to the human end of the above Technology spectrum. However, with some creativity one can find a way to apply it to machines as well. For the mathematically inclined among us, let’s agree we’re leaving this as an exercise to the reader 🙂

Here, on one side, we have methods relying on dedicated, educated, well-trained evaluators (for example, Error Typology reviews where professional linguists, typically after undergoing extra training, classify atomistic issues according to some metric).

On the other side, we find approaches that rely on evaluators without any particular expertise or training (for example, crowdsourced quality evaluation methods or votes, as well as acceptance testing techniques and end-user feedback). In a global setting, it’s usually implied those individuals possess language skills.

Granularity: Atomistic versus Holistic

This spectrum is the most developed and the most popular in the global content quality management domain. Feel free to skip to Content Performance Metrics subsection if you are very familiar with the atomistic vs holistic dichotomy.

Atomistic Quality

On the atomistic end of this spectrum, we operate at the microscopic level of “content atoms”. That is, individual sentences, words, and characters that make up a piece of content in a particular language.

  • The negative impact of any quality issues on this level is usually limited to the confines of the sentence (or, at most, the paragraph) where the issue has occurred.
    • An important exception to the above rule is showstopper issues, best captured by the Logrus Quality Square model. Showstopper errors actually impact the holistic level (see below), despite being atomistic by nature.
  • Example process steps operating mostly on this level:
    • Language Quality Inspection/Error Typology reviews (e.g. using MQM taxonomy, DQF, older models like LISA QA Model, or arbitrary translation error taxonomies)
    • proofreading for spelling, grammar, and style
    • editing (certain types)
    • software localization testing (in many occasions)
    • Machine Translation quality metrics, e.g. BLEU and METEOR
    • DTP QA
  • How people might talk about this level:
    • “This translated term doesn’t fit the context of this sentence.”
    • “This comma is not needed here”
    • “Completely ignored the grammar. Should be future tense, not the past”
    • “The word A was mistranslated as B”

Holistic Quality

On the spectrum’s opposite, holistic end, we operate with overall perceptions and impressions that a piece of content as a whole has on the end reader or end user.

  • Holistic level relates to people acquiring desired knowledge, performing desired actions, or changing their attitudes in the desired way after coming in touch with your content.
  • In other words, this is all about user and reader experience, not the “atoms” that make it up. Think of it as a total that exceeds the sum of its individual parts.
  • Example process steps operating mostly on this level:
    • Accuracy (Adequacy) and Fluency reviews of the entire text (as opposed to individual sentences)
    • ratings (e.g. 1-5 stars)
    • end user feedback (in some cases)
    • in-country review (in some cases)
    • usability testing
    • “overall feedback” sections of Error Typology reviews
  • How people might talk about this level:
    • “This doesn’t sound like a native speaker.”
    • “Was this translated by a robot or something?”
    • “I don’t understand the point they are trying to make”
    • “So many errors I couldn’t find the right button to click and deleted the app in disgust”
    • “It. Just. Doesn’t. Work.”

Content Performance: the Pinnacle of Holistic Quality Evaluations

Out of all holistic metrics, some are actually “more holistic” than others. Content performance metrics evaluate the overall, ultimate success of global content in any given language. They provide a sense of whether the content has actually reached the desired outcomes for the business that has commissioned it, as well as for the people who have consumed it or interacted with it. Example include conversion rates, customer satisfaction, learning outcomes, Return on Investment, and many others.

Content performance metrics are, thus, among the most important ones to measure wherever technically possible and practically feasible. They also are rarely made available to the entire global content supply chain, lowering the transparency significantly. This lack of opacity should also be very concerning to all managers: the very people whose work strongly drives those key metrics (for instance, individual authors and linguists) often don’t have any access to this powerful form of feedback.

Note: While quality factors (such as atomistic and holistic quality) are not the only ones influencing content performance, they obviously play an important role in it and are best viewed in the same context.

Hopefully, this overview was helpful to structure some of your thoughts around the many methods in the localization quality evaluation toolkit. What made a lot of sense for you, and what didn’t? What do you agree with? What do you find controversial? We’d LOVE to read your comments!

1 Thing That Truly Matters for Global Content Quality

A Very Personal Analogy: Holistic Approach to Coffee

Only from above one can gain a holistic view of things

I have a small confession to make: I love drinking coffee. It’s a rare day for me that goes without a cup of a cappuccino or a latte or a “Raf coffee” (a surprisingly good local variety which features cream instead of milk, mixed with espresso and then whipped together). I’ve been to a lot of coffee joints around my city, and always eager to try coffee from a new place every time I go out – as well as during my travels in other parts of the world. My most recently uncovered world coffee treasures happened to be in Greece (where they like their coffee particularly strong and flavorful), as well as in Latvia (where they like adding a healthy dose of Riga Black Balsam, a famous local herbal liqueur, to their cups o’joe).

Of course, I can’t avoid subconsciously comparing every new cup with all the previous cups I’ve had before in my life. They all have strongly shaped my “user experience” as a coffee “user”. Is this new cup good or bad? Is it better or is it worse than the ones before it? Should I ever buy coffee here again, or should I spit in utter disgust and pour it away? However, until recently I’ve never really pondered what is it, exactly, that makes my coffees good or bad? Why do I like some, and dislike the other?

I had, at best, a vague notion that it has something to do with variables such as coffee beans, grinding, roasting, water, milk, temperature, pressure, the espresso machine in use, and the skill of each individual barista. I also have heard that beans are being planted, grown, and harvested by one group of people, transported by another group, ground by yet another party, roasted and brewed separately still. In other words, coffee making depends on a rather long and complicated supply chain with a sophisticated multi-step process (not unlike creating global content, mind you).

But you know what? I’ve realized that I don’t really care that much about WHY my cup of coffee is good, and HOW to make it good – as long as I have an easy way to get the type of coffee that I like for a fair price. As a consumer, I have no intention of becoming a professional barista – heck, I don’t even intend to brew my own coffee at home! So understanding the “why” and “how” of making good coffee is far from the top of my priority list.

For all I know, it might have been prepared for me in a myriad of different ways. Maybe there’s just 1 omnipotent wizard behind my perfect cup, or maybe there’s a small army of a 100 highly specialized workers across interconnected global organizations – it doesn’t matter that much to me at the point of consumption. In other words, I do care only for the holistic experience of drinking an enjoyable cup of coffee and don’t really think about all the work that went into it while I drink it. Maybe it appears somewhat morally misguided, but that’s just how our human brain is wired to deal with the inherent complexity of the universe.

Quality of Global Content is also Holistic

Now, it’s not hard to see that any global content, from an end user’s (reader’s) perspective, is very much like coffee (and, by the way, it doesn’t really matter if your content is, in fact, a mobile app, a website, a marketing newsletter, a complex enterprise software product, a user manual, or a brochure). Your readers usually don’t stop to analyze content as they experience it (contrary to us, industry professionals). Your readers are not able to easily deduce what components, processes, or supply chain elements were put together to deliver that app or that blog article. Especially when your content is available in 15 different languages and your readers are accessing a localized version (which overlays an extra ton of complexity on top of the original process for your source locale). Nor, should I add, would they ever want to deduce this.

What readers and end users do care about, and do perceive, is the overall, holistic user experience they get from using your globalized product and consuming your global content. That, and only that is their true measure of content quality. That, and only that determines whether your products and content will be successful in fulfilling its purpose and contributing to your business goals. They don’t care if you have proofread your content. They don’t care if you have done your localization testing and fixed all the major bugs. They don’t care if your content ever went to an in-country review. They don’t care if your multilingual DTP/layout process was carried out. They don’t care if there are zero accuracy and fluency errors detected in the content by a 3rd party linguistic QA. They don’t even care whether you have engaged translators or transcreators or copywriters.

To sum it up: your readers and end users don’t have ANY use for ANY individual part of your global content delivery process, even if it has been perfectly executed. They simply wouldn’t realize that there’s more than one part to start with. Your readers and users want it all, together, in a nicely wrapped and timely delivered package.

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?

If it does, though, could anyone please tell me this: why is the Globalization, Internationalization, Localization, and Translation industry still so obsessed with separately measuring various types of atomic-level quality attributes? Why do entire localization programs (and even entire service providers) run on a myopic notion that ensuring just one aspect of content quality (e.g. linguistic quality, or functional quality, or cosmetic/visual quality) is all it takes to for content to truly succeed globally?

What if your copy’s language is perfect, but a simple layout error makes the entire web page unreadable? What if your language-agnostic Software QA team has reported perfect results on a test run for your localized app, however, the entire text in there is in a different language than intended? What if your layout and visuals are stunning like a gift from the ancient Greek gods to humanity, but the content inside this perfect layout is not culturally relevant and downright offensive to your audience in a particular geography?

How much longer can we afford to focus on just 1 single part of content quality at a time, while ignoring all the others? Maybe it’s time for us to take a holistic view, combine all the aspects and types of quality (not just linguistic) into a single big picture, and make better decisions as a result?

After all, that’s what our readers and users do on a daily basis with our content and our products. Their emotions and their actions are our most important quality evaluation of all. So let’s make sure our content always scores a “PASS” with flying colors.

Merry Global Christmas, or 13 Days that Messed Up a Campaign

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!It’s Christmas eve today in many countries around the world. Companies of all sorts and sizes use this opportunity globally to boost their end-of-year revenues. Our imaginary friends from Healthsoft Inc. (Marta, Lisa, and Erin) have also been working on a multilingual Christmas-themed campaign. However, it didn’t really work out as they expected. Was quality to blame for low performance, or was it something else? Read on to learn all about it.

It’s early November. Marta, Senior Regional Marketing Manager for German-speaking countries (DACH) at Healthsoft, is both excited and a bit stressed out – and not because of the weather. Her team has shown outstanding performance in the last quarter, and because of this, she’s just been entrusted by her Global VP of Marketing to run their Christmas promo campaign. However, this time, it’s not only for her own geography but also for 19 other countries across all of Europe and Asia. In many of them, Healthsoft doesn’t have any local marketing staff at all. In other words, Marta’s now responsible for Christmas pretty much everywhere Healthsoft is selling their products (except Americas). And she’d better be ready to bring in the numbers once December is over…

First thing Marta does is call Erin, Healthsoft’s Localization Director. Marta explains to Erin that she will need support – lots of support. Despite her seniority, Marta has never before run projects on such a global scale, and she figured out Erin and her in-house Localization team must be doing it all the time. Luckily, Erin is more than willing to help, and promises to assign her best Localization Project Manager, Peter, to this project, as well as oversee it personally – despite being busy with several high-profile product localization projects that will be ready to launch in Q1 next year, as well as ramping up the Machine Translation program for Healthsoft’s Customer Service content.

Next is Peter’s turn. He is certain that in order to succeed, he will need to have their Language Services Partner, TransMe, fully aligned with the goals and process for this global campaign. In a regular situation, he would have just approached their account manager at TransMe. But now, the schedule is tight and end-of-year marketing KPIs are at stake. Peter’s been working with Lisa, TransMe’s Quality Manager, before, and thinks he might be able to help. He gives Lisa a call, and together they are able to agree on the requirements and draft out a quality assurance process for this project. Lisa takes up the job to document all of this and discuss/approve with TransMe’s production team.

The next morning, the final project plan sits in the mailbox with Peter, Erin, and Marta. TransMe is proposing a transcreation approach for all countries and languages, including English for UK/Ireland, South Africa, India, and Australia/New Zealand. The US HQ’s original Christmas campaign idea, which is based around the images of hospital staff and outpatients playing baseball among piles of snow, is very unlikely to work without adaptation. Even though the localization investment is higher than usual, Marta approves the quote without hesitation. She badly needs this global Christmas content to be as effective is possible.

Fast forward 3 weeks to late November. After intense teamwork, the global campaign for 22 countries is ready in 14 languages. All the quality assurance steps have been passed, all minor issues were rectified, and Marta’s ready to launch. The campaign is supposed to be running for the whole of Advent up to the Christmas Day, so there are 25 different sets of touches – one for each day. Happy to have the campaign finally ready, Marta flips the switch on Dec 1st.

Carefully prepared Christmas-themed multilingual content starts trickling down the designated distribution channels for all countries. Marta monitors conversion rates every day, and things are looking good so far. On Dec 13, Friday, a couple of seemingly campaign-related comments from social networks in Russia and Egypt (both important consumer markets for Healthsoft) do reach her. However, nobody on her team speaks those languages, and Marta figures the comments are safe to ignore…

On Dec 28, Marta is chatting to her marketing counterpart in Poland, Agnieszka, about how the campaign went for them. Agnieszka is happy: the results for her market were great, and she’s already planning for the holidays, meeting some old friends coming over from Ukraine to visit her in Warsaw. She mentions that her friends will only be around for a week because they must be home before Christmas time on Jan 7th… Christmas, in January?!

Marta suddenly realizes that they’ve screwed up with Orthodox Christmas, big time. Her Christmas campaign is already over, and all the nicely transcreated and approved content has been pushed out. But there are still 9 days to go until Christmas in Ethiopia, Russia, Egypt, and a bunch of other countries on her list! There’s no way she can recover from this quickly, and no way she’ll now get to the required numbers in these countries (which have already been less than stellar during the past quarter). “Oh god, how am I going to explain this to my VP?”

Luckily for her, the global company all-hands meeting comes on January 5th. Healthsoft’s President announces that the VP of Sales for EMEA & APAC has stepped down over the New Year, and they are now looking for a replacement. In the meanwhile, Healthsoft will be concentrating all Sales & Marketing efforts and key personnel on the Americas region for Q1. It means that Marta’s Global VP is now going to be too busy to dig into what happened to her campaign. Phew! That’s a true miracle for her. Now she can analyze in detail what happened, find the root cause, and make sure she will never ever repeat such a mistake again…

Merry Global Christmas and a Happy Multilingual New Year to all our readers! We wish for your content to be always of the optimal quality, to achieve all your business KPIs, and to bring the best possible Return on Investment. May your team’s cross-cultural expertise and your trusted partners guide you on a path to avoid costly blunders such as the one faced by Marta, Erin, Lisa despite their best intentions!

Transparency in digital globalization programs: why and how?

Strive for transparency in your global content supply chain Last week, we talked about the importance of being Lean for your digital globalization initiatives. However, this is not the only aspect to consider when optimizing multilingual content from a complex global supply chain for maximum effectiveness and quality. Transparency is also critically important for content quality. Let me explain why.

I’ve long noticed that people from different backgrounds, vocations, and levels of expertise often have difficulties when trying to realize the existence of impenetrable, invisible walls that exist between different parts of their global content supply chain (not to mention the negative impact these walls have on their resulting global content). They are simply not aware of the extent and complexity of the end-to-end process and the intricate relationships between its individual parts that influence the resulting whole. This leads to a “black-box” or “throw it over the wall” approach, where each person taking part in a process has very little idea of what happens before her, or after her. Here’s how this total lack of transparency might look like from outer space to an inquisitive observer.

Lack of transparency: an elephant in a dark room

Picture your global content creation process as a long line of people who are all queueing up behind each other in a room that’s fully dark. Pitch black. If you’re in the middle of this queue, you would have no way to make out the facial features of the person standing in front of you. Is is a woman? Is it a man? No idea.

But that’s not all. Each of these people in the line actually has their mouth gagged, so the only type of sound they can realistically make is a soft grunting noise. Not very helpful when trying to communicate to each other, is it? And even worse – if those people could talk freely, they would very soon discover that they are all talking different languages, Tower of Babel style.

The are two doors in this room. Every now and then, the first door opens. There’s no light on the other side, of course. A hand extends from the door and passes an object to the first person in line. It’s really hard to say what kind of object this is (it’s pitch dark, remember?). The only certainty is that it’s BURNING HOT – so the first person cannot hold on to it for more than a couple of seconds. She pats the next one on the shoulder with her free hand and passes the object on to him…

And so on and so forth, until the last person in the room is reached. She is standing right before the second door. She reaches for the door knob, opens the door, throws the object out hastily, and closes the door again. It’s all black on the other side of the door, and no sound ever reaches back to the room. Neither she nor anyone else has any idea of what happens to the object afterward.

That’s the only kind of interaction the unfortunate people in this room ever have – touching hands, passing down the object, making soft disgruntled noises along the way. To them, that’s what life is all about. They have no idea WHY they are doing all of this. Boy, imagine how they must dream that somebody turns on the lights!

Or maybe not. In fact, many don’t even realize that light exists, because they have never ever seen it.

As you probably have guessed by now, this room is your typical run-of-the-mill global content supply chain with a content authoring & localization process spanning multiple teams and organizations. Looks sad, doesn’t it? But fear not: we actually don’t have to accept the status quo!

It’s about time we help the global content industry, both the authoring/copywriting part and the translation/localization part, find the light switch in this dark room and flip it.

Yes, it will take deliberate and persistent effort even in the best of the organizations to achieve the right level of transparency, but the results are, as you can probably imagine, totally worth it. Let me share a blueprint for a set of floodlights that you could install in this big dark room of yours. They will help increase transparency in your global content supply chain and enable everyone involved to work together more efficiently on creating high-quality global content that drives your business KPIs.

3 tips to increase transparency in your global content supply chain

  1. Share the purpose and goals for each piece of content (in addition to your overall content strategy) with the extended team
    • It’s not surprising that people perform better on a team when they share a common strategy, common goals, and a common understanding of them. This applies to both strategic and tactical levels.
    • When explaining your goals, remember to focus first on the “why?” part (the “how?” comes later). Why are we creating this marketing campaign, and how is it supposed to contribute to our sales this month? Why are we localizing this software product of ours into Farsi this quarter? Why are we writing a bunch of Knowledge Base articles around this particular customer issue?
    • As before, remember to cover both people or teams who write in your original language AND the people who adapt to other languages/cultures/geographies. This includes both company staff and any external partners you engage. Digital globalization is always like a beefed up version of tango – it takes much more than 2 to succeed.
  2. Take time to educate every role in your supply chain on what happens before and after them
  3. Collect and publish data on the effectiveness (quality) of your global content to your entire supply chain
    • It’s certainly true that few things are more demotivating than learning that a content masterpiece you wrote or translated actually had very little impact on the company’s business, end users or readers.
    • However, the opposite is also very true: there is hardly anything more pleasing and motivating than being part of a huge success, sharing it openly with the entire team, and allowing everyone who contributed to get credit.
    • Here’s the best part about it: Actual performance of your content is less important than the act of giving timely feedback to your supply chain. Feedback enables your team to learn on their mistakes and reinforce the best practices. This ultimately ensures continuous improvement for your digital globalization program.
    • Not all feedback is actionable, of course. That is why it’s so important to connect and link your content performance/quality metrics from all levels. Only this way your team can detect correlations, discover root causes, and gain valuable insights.


Does the problem of transparency (or, rather, lack of it) also plague your content authoring and localization processes? How do you currently try to combat it, and what results you’ve had so far? Will be glad to hear from you in the comments section.

Lean, applied to your (mean) global content machine

Yet another meaning of the term Lean
Yet another meaning of the term Lean

“Lean”. A trendy buzzword recently. Everyone and their mother seem to try on being “lean”, as if it were a new pair of shoes that you try on in a boutique (and, in many cases, never buy in the end). Yet, what does “lean” actually mean? Specifically, how does it apply to those of us in the realm of global content – be it marketing or technical or legal, in Latvian, English, Arabic, or Norwegian? Or, perhaps, even in all those languages at once? (in which case, do we automatically qualify as being L.E.A.N.? 🙂 Let me share a story that might be helpful to understand one of many original Lean quality management techniques called Value Stream Mapping, and suggest how to fit it into our world.

Customer Value-Add, Business Value-Add, and Non Value-Add

Imagine you’re in a bookstore. A traditional, brick-and-mortar bookstore. You’re strolling around the store without any particular need, just looking at the shelves randomly. Then a particular magazine catches your eye.

It’s an old-school magazine – not the fancy digital kind that you can keep on your tablet by the dozen nowadays. No, it’s a magazine that’s thick, heavy, printed on glossy paper, fresh off the press, with a faint smell still radiating from its pages. Intrigued by a catchy headline, you take the magazine off the shelf and start flipping the pages.

First thing you see: a huge ad taking the entire double-page spread. It’s an ad for a new sports car from a globally famous brand. You don’t really care much for fancy sports cars, but at this point, you’re probably OK with seeing that ad. You realize: ads help keep the magazine running by helping the publisher pay their bills.

That’s exactly what Lean calls “Business Value-Add”, or BVA. That is, activities that aren’t directly bringing any benefit to the customer, but that are essential to keeping the overall business processes operating smoothly. Take them away, and things will inevitably fall apart – the product might never even make it to the customer.

You continue flipping through the magazine pages. More ads, large and small, greet you on each spread. You slowly start to get frustrated. It takes you 7 flips before you get to the headline article. “Aha!”, you say to yourself. “Finally, found it!” You start reading, and it turns out to be quite interesting indeed… now why didn’t I ever think about this idea before… hmm… hmm…

You return to reality only after another visitor accidentally bumping into you. “Sorry!” Taking a look at your watch, you realize that 10 minutes have flown by while you were absorbed by the article, and you’re already running late for your dentist appointment. But boy that sure was a good read! You make a mental note to look for this author online. Perhaps she has a blog I can subscribe to?

That’s exactly what Lean calls “Customer Value-Add”, or CVA. That is, activities that shape and mold and change your inputs/work-in-progress items in a way to provide tangible, visible, and important benefits to the customer. Take them all away, and the resulting product will likely remain useless for your client – even if it meets your own business needs and processes perfectly.

By this point, you realize that you’re still holding the magazine in your hands. Since you’ve already spent a fair deal of time with it and it’s hard to let go – perhaps there are more great articles like that in the remaining part? – you decide to purchase it. You pay at the counter and toss the magazine into your backpack only to forget about it until the evening.

Once you’re at home flipping the pages again, you notice that something is stuck between the last two. “Oh my, what’s that? Looks like an envelope.” You try to tear it off since it’s obscuring your view of the last few paragraphs of an article you’re trying to finish. “How did it get here? Yuck! It’s STICKY! Must be some kind of glue. Ewwww… I’ll never get it off my hands now. Who the hell had the idea of putting it here?!?”

Finally, you manage to tear the sticky envelope off your fingers. However, a large chunk of the magazine page was also torn out in the process, and now it’s stuck to the envelope. With the text facing inwards. Now you’ll never learn how the article ended…

As you might have guessed by now, that’s what Lean calls “Non-Value Add”, or NVA. These are activities in your process that do not generate any value neither for the customer nor for the business. And in some cases, they might even be harmful, just like with this magazine example of ours. A related, though somewhat wider, Lean concept is “waste”. The classical Lean Manufacturing theory identifies 7 deadly wastes – read all about them here.

Putting it into practice: 7 steps to Lean epiphany

In Lean, analyzing your process and categorizing each step into either Customer Value-Add (CVA), Business Value-Add (BVA), or Non Value-Add (NVA) is known as Value Stream Mapping. It’s one of the core techniques in the Lean measurement toolbox and can be leveraged to optimize all kinds of processes in various business situations.

Now, knowing these Lean basics, how can we actually apply them to our global content supply chain? Here’s a quick overview:

  1. Define and frame the problem with your global content that you’re trying to solve
    • For example, let’s assume that you’re trying to increase the ROI of your global marketing campaigns.
    • You agree up front with your stakeholders that your primary focus is going to be reducing the I (Investment) part since that’s what’s currently more important strategically.
  2. Create a visual map of the process used in your organization to deliver global content
    • It’s important to capture the entire horizontal scope – that is, all process steps in each part of your global content supply chain, regardless of the organizational and team boundaries.
      • In particular, remember to cover both authoring/copywriting AND transcreation/localization. Each of these sub-processes is equally important to delivering high-impact global content.
      • If you’re outsourcing some parts of your process, talk to your vendors and request their help in order to map what they’re doing as well. Often, companies might not even realize the kind of activities that happen on their vendor’s side and the impact they might have on costs and returns.
    • Be careful not to go too deep with the vertical scope – that is, into the level of micro-processes and individual operations.
      • If you’re starting to see individual mouse clicks or keypresses in your process map, it’s a sure sign you’re taking it too far 🙂
  3. Gather quantitative data on each step of the process and add it to the process map
    • Although a process map is a helpful tool by itself, it’s only with numbers and metrics that it becomes a full-blown Value Stream Map and allows to uncover really powerful insights.
      • Durations, number of cycles, waiting times, and costs are some examples of numeric data that could be gathered at this stage.
    • For global content production, a few important quantitative metrics to look at could be the number and the magnitude of edits (changes) done to the content as it transitions from one step to the next.
      • Think about an editor fixing what the author originally wrote, or an in-country reviewer making amends to a translation of a content piece that an editor has previously worked on in the original language.
  4. Categorize each step as Customer Value-Add (CVA), Business-Value Add (BVA), or Non-Value Add (NVA)
    • Once you have the right data, it should be relatively easy to do this if you ask the right questions:
      • Does the step reduce financial or compliance risks, or help keep the process going? If yes, it might be a BVA
      • Does the step enable a competitive advantage (e.g. lower price or faster time-to-market), or would the customer pay us more if they knew we were doing this? If yes, this might be a CVA
      • Does the step show potential for elimination/reduction, or would the customer ask us to STOP doing it if they knew we do it? If yes, this might be a NVA (or a Waste)
    • Remember to do this exercise in a cross-functional group, so that you don’t accidentally throw away any hidden value.
  5. Decide where to focus your improvement efforts
    • It might be tempting to try and improve the Value-Add steps. However, Lean practice shows that it’s often Non Value-Add that’s worth looking at first since these are often overlooked and under-optimized.
    • Thus, it might be easier to accomplish an improvement to Non Value-Add steps than a corresponding improvement to Value-Add steps.
  6. Analyze the focus area for possible improvements
    • Remember to think about the purpose of each step, the place where it happens, the sequence of activities, the person doing it, and the means used to deliver it.
    • Consider the 7 deadly wastes of Lean, how they would apply to the focus area, and how to avoid them.
    • Say, if you find out that a particular step in your process has never ever generated ANY changes to the global content being produced, perhaps this step could be a candidate for elimination?
      • This also applies for any step that tries to add the same type of changes – or perform the same type of quality checks – as any previous one.
    • Or, if another step in your process is always generating the same type/nature of edits, it might be a good candidate for rearranging (e.g. by generalizing the changes into an instruction and moving it upstream into the previous steps in the supply chain) or simplification (e.g. automating this quality assurance step and significantly reducing the cost).
  7. Apply the improvement idea on your next project and measure the results
    • In many cases, you won’t really know if you got it right or not until you have the data on your hands to confirm it.

Next time when you’re challenged with a problem in your global content strategy, consider applying some of these Lean principles to identify the bottleneck and collaboratively devise and test a solution. Let us know how this approach works – we’ll be happy to hear from you and support you if you need help.

What global content pros could learn from designers (hint: Customer Centricity)

Previously, we’ve looked at the challenges that Erin, Lisa, and Marta face on their quest to deliver high-quality, effective multilingual content for Healthsoft, Inc. Today, we explore how a designer mindset can help overcome some of those challenges, and outline specific steps to make your global content quality management program truly customer-centric.

some tools of the design processContent as Design: User Needs vs Business Needs

Have you ever thought about the difference between design and art, or designers and artists? It seems that many people often confuse the two. Yet there’s a very strong, fundamental divide between them:

Designers solve problems. Artists express their personalities.

The same perspective can be easily applied to content creation and localization. In a commercial setting, content is rarely, if ever, commissioned just for the sake of unleashing the creative spirit of its authors, reviewers, translators, and all other people that collaborate to publish it. Ideally, each piece of content (be it a caption for a button in the mobile app UI, a video ad on TV, a technical manual, a landing page on a website, or a legal contract) has behind it a specific purpose and serves a specific need.

Now, designers know very well that there are two types of needs: those of the people who will use the product, and those of the company that will create and sell the product. They work very hard to balance user needs and business needs when solving design problems. No design can be considered “good” unless it is able to reach and maintain this (often fragile) balance. To make this balancing act easier, specific design criteria are established to evaluate the quality of each design in a more objective fashion and guide subsequent iterations.

While design criteria may include a number of different things, they are usually NOT focused purely on aesthetics. Instead, designers ask themselves (and the people around them): “Does my design solve the users’ problem in a way that’s viable and feasible for the business?” Granted, there’s always a lot of room for self-expression and personality to shine through. However, those factors are rarely the key criterion that distinguishes “high-quality design” from “low-quality design”. After all, that’s exactly why design is not art.

Contrasting Monolingual and Bilingual Worlds

Let’s now venture back from the world of design to the world of digital content, specifically multilingual global content. What do we see?

First, let’s check out those parts of the global content supply chain that are mostly working in a monolingual context: content marketers, copywriters, technical communicators, instructional designers, and – partially – user experience designers.

  • Their processes seem to be pretty well aligned with the notion of “quality as effectiveness”, as found in the world of design.
  • They are usually quite proficient at measuring the impact of their content on the readers by using outcome-based KPIs as primary quality metrics.
  • These quality metrics often include campaign conversions, clickthrough rates, learning effectiveness, problem resolution rates, user scenario completion/error rates, and customer satisfaction.
  • However, they are rarely concerned about how their content performs in another language or culture. And even if they are, they wouldn’t understand how to improve its bad performance or how to capitalize upon good performance.

Now, let’s take a look at those parts of the global supply chain that are mostly working in a bilingual context: translators, localization managers, translation quality managers, in-country reviewers, software localization testers, etc.

  • Their processes seem to assume (and of course, I’m oversimplifying here): if source content is high quality and we faithfully replicate that content in another language, then translated content is also going to be high quality.
  • They usually approach this by implementing translation-level quality metrics (for example, around language rules, terminology, or accuracy) and arranging the processes to measure and improve them.
  • They know very well how to make their multilingual content better. However, they are rarely concerned by how these metrics actually correlate with meaningful business outcomes driven by this content.

To me, this situation with dual views of quality in the global content supply chain is a bit like a two-headed monster (and no, I don’t mean the one from the Muppets). Each head is looking in its own direction, and they are not talking to each other. Each head is trying to pull the body to one side, and as a result, nobody gets anywhere.

7 Steps to Make The Most of Content Quality Metrics

I think about time we help the two monster’s heads start talking to each other. Or, if you wish, arrange a strategic marriage between members of those two slightly hostile factions. Here’s one way how this could be done:

  1. Remember that all business content, whatever the language, is created for a purpose.
    • If this purpose is not being fulfilled, it means that content is likely low quality – regardless of what translation metrics might say.
    • However, if this purpose is met, on the other hand, then the quality is at least good enough.
    • Whether to improve quality further or not is a separate decision and requires extra analysis.
  2. Use the same set of customer-focused, outcome-based KPIs as the final, highest level measure of content quality in ALL languages (= not just for your source language).
    • Keep in mind that different content types have different customer-centric quality (or effectiveness) metrics. What would work for an email campaign might not work for an e-learning course.
    • Often these would be lagging metrics. That is, you won’t get good data until after you publish the content.
    • Comparing this data across languages will enable you to pinpoint the weakest and the strongest performing locales in your global content strategy, and help focus your improvement efforts.
  3. For each language (including your source language), collect interim content quality KPIs of different types, levels, and from different data sources.
    • Many of these are leading metrics – you can get them before you make the content publicly available.
    • There are many examples of such metrics and evaluation approaches: human and machine, holistic and atomistic, review-based and testing-based, bilingual or monolingual, etc.
    • There is no single approach that works universally. For localization, TAUS Dynamic Quality Framework (DQF) recommends dynamically choosing the evaluation method based on content type.
    • Typically, global content programs have a mix of different content quality data sources within relatively easy reach.
  4. Correlate interim metrics with final metrics for the equivalent content and language.
    • This will uncover patterns and provide insights for further deep analysis.
    • However, be careful: correlation (the fact that 2 metrics have similar trends) doesn’t always mean causation (the fact that one metric directly influences the other)
  5. For selected languages, perform root cause analysis to identify the factors that affect final metrics most strongly.
    • Remember to look both at positive influence (drivers) and negative influence (inhibitors).
  6. Rearrange authoring & localization processes to leverage drivers and negate inhibitors.
    • Careful, controlled changes are key to make sure that no external forces can distort the outcome.
  7. Evaluate the results via final metrics and plan the next experiment accordingly.
    • The quest to deliver higher quality global content for less investment never ends.
    • Using the right tools for the job helps make the process easier, but, as with any other complex process, it needs people to be effective and efficient.

How does the content quality management process work across languages in your organization, and how do you enable its continuous improvement? Please share in the comments.

Global Marketing: content quality vs efficiency debate

Balancing budgets vs efficiency in global marketingMarta is a Senior Regional Marketing Manager at Healthsoft, Inc. She’s joined the company just 2 months ago, working out of the German office in Munich. Marta is now responsible for a growing number of diverse lead generation & nurturing programs, incl. content marketing and social media. While the DACH region is generally treated as a well-established market for Healthsoft (contrary to those “new frontiers” in Asia that she heard somebody mention on the last Global Marketing call), the company’s sales in the region have started to plummet during the last quarter. So their VP Marketing has decided to strengthen the local team in order to help combat this decline – that’s how she was brought on board.

One of the first things Marta decides to do when she arrives is a content audit – so that she would know exactly what marketing assets are already available to her. After a lot of digging, she finds out that, out of all the marketing content that the US HQ has commissioned over the years, only 65% is available in German. The rest is not localized at all! And the worst part: one of the most successful Healthsoft’s global campaigns of all times was never launched in the DACH region. The exact messaging was deemed highly inappropriate under German healthcare regulations – but an alternative punchline was not found on time, and then they never got back to this idea…

Moreover, from her peers in the Munich office, she’s heard a number of rumors about “low quality German content” and “our marketing friends in other EU countries have the same type of issues“. Marta takes a quick look at the most recent German language collateral and web pages created before her arrival, and doesn’t find anything that really catches her eye. So she decides to arrange a call with Erin, the Director of Localization at Healthsoft, and find out her view of the situation.

What she learns is eye-opening. Healthsoft’s previous Regional Marketer for Germany/DACH, Hans, was extremely uncooperative when working with Erin’s team. He would escalate to his management every minor issue he was able to find in the translated collateral – so over time the relationship between the two teams (working together on the same goal!) has deteriorated to a point where they would avoid each other (and mutual projects) by all means possible. Even if it meant skipping or postponing localization of key marketing assets!

Marta is determined to make the collaboration between Marketing and Localization work again. She understands that Erin’s team is a key partner, and so aligning their needs and processes is indispensable. If only they could agree on how they approach the quality of their German content and how to budget their funding in the most efficient way to achieve that required level of quality…

After a brainstorming session, here is how they formulate their common problems to be solved:

  • How to shift the focus of global marketing messaging from a US-centric perspective to a more local one, while sticking to the same general theme and NOT creating each piece from scratch?
    • Marta is thinking whether implementing localized personas could be a good idea, but is a bit cautious about how to maintain and disseminate this information quickly & efficiently.
  • How do we define which content quality attributes are really important for German marketing copy and its audience in the region, and which are less key?
    • The idea of a style guide pops up, since Erin mentions they already have something like it in place for a few other key geographies. It might be possible to reuse some of it for German/DACH.
    • Marta is surprised to learn that Healthsoft’s Global Marketing doesn’t have any global style guide yet, despite heavily leaning upon decentralized content authoring teams and not using any Enterprise Content Management Systems.
  • After we define the key requirements, how can we efficiently evaluate localized content in terms of adherence to these requirements?
    • Marta & Erin are sure that having a local marketing specialist manually review 100% of the translated copy (as Healthsoft used to do in the past – and still does for some regions) to find ANY types of quality issues and make a big fuss about them (like Hans used to do) might not be the best way. Especially given the limited time frame they have for each campaign, and the opportunity cost that this effort implies.
    • Perhaps each requirement is best verified at different stages in the global content supply chain, using the optimal method for each? Can they push some QA work to HQ, and some QA work to their translation partners, while still being able to audit whether those have been validated for each piece of content?
  • Once localized content is published, how can we check that our hypothesis about the quality attributes we picked were actually true? Is our content truly effective (that is, do our readers actually do what we want them to do after reading it), and do we have the data to prove it?
    • This is where Marta and Erin argue a bit about the terminology to use. But in the end, they conclude that Marta’s “effectiveness” is pretty much a substitute for Erin’s “quality” in this regard.
    • Both quality and effectiveness seem to be just slightly different levels of abstraction they use to describe whether the team has done a good job on creating a piece of content that delights local prospects and partners, as well as helps the company meet its business KPI targets.
  • Knowing the translation isn’t the only way to get to locally effective content (and often, not the best way), how do we allocate our global marketing budget between local creative agency spending, parallel multilingual copywriting, transcreation, and regular marketing translations?
    • The goal is pretty clear: create and evolve a strong local brand with global roots to execute on the company’s business objectives around global marketing.
    • Can efficiency/quality metrics and the insights they generate actually guide us towards the right decisions on the process to follow for each piece of content and ultimately achieve that goal?

How does this work in your Global Marketing projects, do you find any challenges that are familiar? How do you address them? Let us know in the comments.

Content Quality in the eye of a Language Service Provider

sorts of olives are a bit like sorts of quality for multilingual content - you never know which's good for you until you try

Sorts of olives are a bit like sorts of quality

Last week, we’ve looked at how the world of multilingual content quality might look like for frustrated localization managers. Let’s now switch gears and hop across the fence to their trusted translation partners, Language Service Providers (LSPs), who are often downstream from localization managers in a typical global content supply chain.

Enter Lisa. She’s a translation quality manager working at TransMe, a regional translation & localization vendor that has been lucky enough to win Healthsoft (and Erin) as an account earlier this year, and now working on localization of Healthsoft’s new product line into 7 languages. Lisa has been with TransMe for 4 years now, having previously worked as a Quality Analyst at a customer service department of a large e-commerce multinational. With her small team of 2, she is responsible for language quality on all the TransMe’s accounts and personally oversees strategic ones, like Healthsoft.

Last week, Lisa had a call with Erin and her localization vendor manager, and knows that Healthsoft’s regional marketing team in France is recently quite a bit unhappy with TransMe’s French translations they are reviewing. So she’s not particularly surprised when her fellow Project Manager calls on her for help with a quality escalation that just came in this morning from Healthsoft.

Of course, client reviewer’s feedback is all in French, and – how inconvenient! – Lisa doesn’t speak any French herself. Pretty much the only French word she knows, from god knows where, is “merde“, and boy it’s all over the comments in the reviewed file that she’s just opened! And they are in bright red, too… Deep inside, Lisa starts bracing for an unpleasant shock. Despite many years in this role, she’s still sensitive about her team’s hard work getting smashed to pieces.

But a job’s a job. So Lisa contacts her favorite French linguist, Jean-Luc, with a request to categorize all the edits – and back-translate all comments, even the M-word – coming from Healthsoft’ in-house marketing reviewer. While waiting for his response, Lisa shudders, remembering their previous attempt to get Healthsoft’s French marketing folks actually write the feedback in English and assign types and severities to each change as they go (her ears still hurt from the shouting she’s heard on that call). Jean-Luc’s estimate is 3 hours of work that need to be paid out of the project budget, so Lisa gets an OK from the PM first. Now she has to wait (and let account management handle the angry client).

Next morning, Lisa’s got all the data she needs in her mailbox, neatly categorized according to her in-house model for Marketing content quality built with MQM. And what does she see? Almost 90% of angry comments actually relate to a single reason – the French version of the email campaign that was being reviewed is mentioning a Healthsoft product which is NOT going to be available in France at all, and this alone has got the French reviewer pissed. But now it’s Lisa’s turn to be seriously angry. All this fuss, and it’s not even related to language whatsoever? What does it have to do with our translation and TransMe at all? Couldn’t they have told us about it in advance?!

Little does Mission Lisa now that a few months before, a huge battle took cheap nfl jerseys place between Healthsoft’s Country Manager for France and the Healthsoft’s  corporate HQ in the US in order to decide whether to launch this product in France or not. HQ won, the product was cut, and the entire French sales & marketing team is now extra sensitive to anything related with this incident. So when enraged Lisa contacts Erin to explain things and clear TransMe’s name, Erin just shrugs her off.

“Marketing knows better”, Erin says. “That’s what content quality means to them. It’s a critical issue whether you like it or not. Me and you are professionals, we need gli to deal with this.”

Now it’s back to Lisa again. After venting off and reflecting for a squeezed while, the following questions come to her mind:

  • How can we make sure that we’re spending our Quality Assurance budget to check those aspects of translated content quality that really matter for our client? Not the things we believe to matter, not the things we know we can check for – but the things that are known and proven to move the needle for our client, decrease their quality risks, and increase their satisfaction (and consequently boost their retention and lifetime value for TransMe)
  • How can we help the client clearly define and document the requirements for each type of content they translate? (if wholesale nfl jerseys not for each individual piece of content, that is.) This will enable us to communicate the task clearly throughout our entire translation process, have a single source of truth for any conflict situations, as well as Challenges trace any content quality evaluation actions (and content quality issues) back to those requirements.
  • How can we help our client save money and time on the entire content quality assurance process? For instance, can we make sure that each requirement is verified once and only once throughout the whole day translation supply chain in the most efficient place and method? E.g. in the Healthsoft French case, can this wrong content about the wholesale nfl jerseys product that has been dropped be removed already at the authoring or localization handoff stage? (or at least on the publishing stage, before it gets to review?)

Pondering those for a whole, Lisa knows that it’s not going to be easy – but it’s strategically important, and so she is highly determined to push this project for completion (and hopefully, improve TransMe’s relations with Healthsoft while at that – her CEO was very eloquent in her speech about this being the most important win of the year, and Lisa definitely doesn’t want to disappoint her).

Has any of you had a recent experience similar to the one that Lisa’s had – being accused of violating rules that you didn’t even realize to exist? Please share in the comments.

Hi, my name is Erin and I struggle with global content quality every day

An Irish heritage lady hard at working managing localization for a global companyLast time, I’ve promised you a story. Everyone loves a (quality) story, don’t we? So, meet Erin. She is a Director of Localization at Healthysoft Inc., an established medium-sized tech company developing & marketing world-leading software solutions for hospital patient records management across the world, and today she’s seriously frustrated.

Erin just had a meeting with her boss, a Senior Vice President, and he told her that the company is now focusing heavily on improving profitability, due to rather disappointing results in Q3 and an overall downward trend during the entire FY2015 to date. Serious cost cutting is drodze going on all over the organization, and budget for her localization programs is going to be slashed by 20% for FY2016.

Still, her SVP makes it very clear, company’s global expansion is going to continue. Two new geos, Indonesia and UAE, have been committed for next year already on the last board meeting. Erin’d better find a way to deliver all the required multilingual content despite the budget cuts, he says.

Oh, and this time we’re not getting away with just the marketing collateral, like the last time with Brazilian Portuguese. Regional distributors were very clear on the last week’s call that there’s NO WAY they can sell this type of advanced technology in their geos without localized software, technical documentation, as well as ao support & training content. BTW, I’d suggest you take a look at your ROI per language – perhaps you can find places where you can squeeze things a bit without too much impact?

Not an easy challenge, by any means. After doing some preliminary research on the Internet, Erin decides to get her extended global team (both in-house colleagues and her translation partners) together on a call for a brainstorm. She knows that bringing down the globalization investment will very likely have an impact on the quality of her global content – and she cares too much about her international end users (customers & and prospects who will this content) and her company’s reputation to simply allow it to sink.

So she brings in lots of people: writers of the original (English) marketing & tech content, translation project managers on the Localization Service Provider side, in-country reviewers for translated collaterals, translators themselves, and even folks who test the localized software. To no surprise, they all start arguing about quality and what it actually means.

“Quality is when there are no cosmetic & functional bugs left worth Getting fixing”, says the senior SQA engineer. “No, quality is when there into are no commas missing”, says the regional marketing manager who’s reviewing Catalan. “You both are wrong, quality is when we have accurately conveyed the intended meaning”, says the translator for Estonian. Technical writer is sure that quality is when the user can complete her task correctly after reading the instructions. For marketing copywriter, quality is when her reader has clicked that big shiny “Tell me more” button and converted into a hot sizzling lead which has lead to a sale on the next day. And the discussion goes on and on and on…

Now, Erin didn’t spend her 10 years in the industry for nothing. She’s aware of the TAUS DQF model, and her team has even been toying around with those ideas for a couple of months by now – so she does have some hypotheses on which parts of her quality assurance workflows for which types of content she might be able to wholesale NFL jerseys optimize. Can they try Machine Translation with Post-Editing on learning & training content? Can they use self-certification for her translation partners? So far, she’s got more questions than answers, though:

  • How does she know which steps in her quality assurance process generate the most value-add, and which simply waste money? How much money exactly? Which steps are safe to skip or downsize, and which are critically important? Which steps can be replaced with cheaper, more efficient steps that achieve the same goal? Which steps are being used only in is very specific circumstances, but deserve to be replicated across content types and languages?
  • How can she be sure that when she downsizes one part of her multilingual content quality assurance approach, her internal customers (say, regional marketing managers) aren’t going to be mad at her because THEIR business KPIs (for instance, global campaign conversion rates) start going down from poor quality content?
  • How can she demonstrate that all her investments into global content quality are indeed bringing positive ROI, e.g. by increasing revenue and/or Customer Satisfaction for her company? She’s been very good at throwing Linguistic Error Typology metrics at her translation partners (and having them push wholesale jerseys each other), but now she’s having a hard time to show to the management team that these type of metrics are actually connected to something meaningful, and are not just a localization industry obsession.
  • How can she help her translation partners, her in-country reviewers, and her localization testers align to a common understanding and metrics of quality for each piece of content & type of project, and spend their efforts wholesale MLB jerseys on cheap nfl jerseys things that really move the needle for the company and the readers, instead of arguing & wasting cheap jerseys their efforts on trivialities that end users won’t ever notice?

By now, Erin knows for sure that Q4 is going to be a HUGE stretch for her if she really wants Sonneborn to get that promotion that she was hoping for. Or to keep her job at all, if things go really bad…


Now, does this sounds familiar to any of you? If you’ve been feeling a little bit like Erin lately, please share your story in the comments section – will be glad to discuss your perspectives!

Multilingual Content Quality, squeezed into one limerick

Note the bilingual signs in English and Gaelic

Limerick city

I long wanted to start this blog from a story. And the story from a (crude) limerick.


(OK, so I’ve just made up the limerick bit. But the story about the story is a The true story! :))


Anyway, here it goes:

There was once a lady from Townsend

Who managed multilingual content

She spent company’s money,

But it wasn’t that funny

Since her ROI went down by 10 percent.

And this is what our blog is essentially going to be about.





OK, now to explain this in a bit more detail:

  • What’s so special about getting your content right in a multilingual setting when compared to just producing content (of any sort) in cheap jerseys one language only? Will What does “right content” or “high-quality content” actually mean in a global scenario? (hint: everyone typically wholesale jerseys China has a different opinion about that.)
  • Why do companies large and small spend money on what they believe to be high-quality multilingual content, why so much, and where does this money actually go? (hint: it might not always make sense to spend it like that)
  • Where does the universe of translation quality management meet real-life business situations that call for increased conversion rates from global digital marketing campaigns, higher ROI, more satisfaction and longer retention of customers, while being given the same or smaller budgets? (hint: looks like in many organizations, these 2 never meet.)
  • How does the typical content supply chain for multilingual content in a typical global organization look like, and Cheap why does it, due to its inherent complexities, often turn high-quality multilingual content into a cheap jerseys very fuzzy, fragmented, and hard-to-achieve goal? (hint: it doesn’t HAVE to be this way.)

In other words, what the heck is multilingual content quality, why should we care, why does it seem broken, and how can we fix things & make it useful?

(The answer to the last question is, of course, “by taking a customer-centric, holistic, end-to-end, lean, transparent, dynamic, data-driven approach“, but we’ll get to every last buzzword of that. Eventually. I promise :))

Stay tuned for the story, which is coming up soon.

Note: in this blog, we’re going wholesale jerseys to be using the term “content” to mean all sorts of things that prospects, customers, readers, and users are interacting with as part of their journey towards (hopefully not away from!) your organization: Marketing, Communications/PR, Legal, Technical Publications, Software UI, Multimedia, Training & eLearning, etc.