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
- 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.
- Take time to educate every role in your supply chain on what happens before and after them
- Everyone benefits from clearly understanding their place in the overall process, the roles and functions of their peers, inherent expectations, and key risks, as well as opportunities to contribute and/or ease the burden.
- This also helps to uncover inefficiencies/waste in your process, for example, duplicated work or other types of Non-Value Adds.
- 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.