Localization Best Practices - The Essentials
What makes for a successful project? What works well? Not so well?
Every localization project is unique, yet they all share some common characteristics: each is composed of a pre-project phase, an actual project and then a post-project phase. Each of these phases presents an opportunity to make things right; at the same time, each poses different challenges, with the potential for something going wrong. At Moravia, we have found that the following are the typical characteristics of a successful project.
Understanding Client Needs and the Process This is a simple fact, yet it implies understanding the needs of our clients across business as well as production levels - what are the important aspects of the project; who is the end-customer for the client; what is the client trying to do better this time; what went well and what not so well last time? What is special about the project? What happens before the localization or testing partner steps in; what happens after the final handback? What is the optimum way of integrating the client and partner teams, and sharing activities? And the mantra of all projects - what are the requirements for time, quality, and costs?
Risk Analysis This is important, because inevitably, every project will face a number of risks. Milestones may slip, volumes can go up or down dramatically. Productivities may be under- or over-estimated. Resources may require additional training. Technology or established processes may not work. All these are examples of risks which teams can be prepared for when risks are addressed in an Implementation Plan for the project.
Expectations, Commitment and Agreement Managing expectations on both sides is critical. A clear understanding of the expectations, and then agreement on what both teams agree to commit to, will prevent any surprises later.
Production Model Explanation Clients want to understand how the localization team works - what production model is used, what processes are developed and employed. Clients' needs will differ: some will require a detailed level of information; others will work in the blackbox model, relying solely on the outputs from the localization team.
QA Model Explanation and Criteria As with the production model, the QA model needs to be explained. The teams need to define and understand what the quality criteria are for each project component. This includes the quality metrics, definition and classification of errors, and thresholds defined for "Pass" and "No Pass" results. Also, teams need to know at which phase the QA takes place, who does it and what happens in case of a No Pass result.
Quality Assurance is often a costly and resource-demanding part of projects. Efforts are therefore made to look close and hard at the overall QA process, and what QA checks need to be built in. Frequently, there may not be a need for the client to check every component, language or milestone of the project, with no impact on the overall quality.
Escalation Path Defined A person needs to be defined on each side that can see to a higher-level resolution when needed - this applies to project management, engineering as well as linguistic components and business aspects of a project. At the same time, back-ups of critical resources need to be defined from the start.
Key Milestones, Volumes, Tasks Defined These need to be defined before the project start, and understood on both sides. Inevitably, they will need modifications and updating, given the dynamic nature of localization projects and their close link with software development, but at the start of a project as well as at every stage, milestones, current volumes and tasks need to be known.
Kickoff Meeting Organized either internally or with a participation of a client, this is an important start of each major project. This does not require a physical presence, virtual kickoff meetings are often organized using Web conferencing tools or via conference calls.
Weekly Reporting, Conference Call Visibility during a project is critical. Project teams will setup a weekly reporting routine, frequently followed by a conference call, where relevant project team members review status, and look at any Red Flags (issues), Yellow Flags (potential problems) or Green Flags (resolved issues or things going well). The actual status reports can be actively delivered regularly to client teams, or made available on a production extranet website or Moravia Worldwide Passage for the client to review as and when needed.
Weekly Meetings Internally, the internal localization team will meet on a weekly basis, to review status, review any issues and look to their resolution.
Visibility Of Resources On Projects It is important to have a visibility of the resources used on projects - what the current tasks are. This may seem trivial, but with the dynamic nature of localization projects, it is critical to ensure team members work on the scheduled activities.
Project Plan Maintained And Shared Failing to plan is planning to fail, and this rule applies to localization projects as well. At every stage of the project, a valid and updated project plan needs to exist and be shared between the client and the localization team.
Mid Project Review On larger projects, the project teams will organize a formal mid-project review to assess the project to date.
Flexible Communication At a minimum, the rule is to answer any email within 24 hours. For critical issues, the turnaround time needs to be in minutes. There should be no hidden problems, it is important to always ask what is missing or is not clear. Assumptions are good but need to be verified and documented in writing if significant.
Postmortem A project postmortem assesses the highs and lows of a project, and looks deep into the underlying causes of problems. After each successful project, there will be areas that could be done better in the future, or process improvements possible.
Postmortems are organized between the client and the localization team as well as within the internal localization team. A successful postmortem is a first step towards a success of the next localization project.
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