In-Country Review is hard

Some of you reading this are not sure what I mean by “In-country Review.” Those of you who do are nodding your head right now. In short, In-Country Review“ is the process companies use to review translated content before going live, either in product software or web content, or whatever.  I am knee deep in my own challenge as we speak, and it’s not fun.

The irony is that at my last company we talked extensively about the bottleneck that often craters large-scale translation projects. I even wrote whitepapers on the topic. In fact, one of them is good enough to still be available online.

So how come we still go t stuck?

Good question. We did follow a number of best practices:

  1. We established a glossary of common terms and went through a translation review and approval process before beginning
  2. We trained the reviewers on what to expect when they got the content
  3. We started translation (and review) well in advance of the end-systems being ready to accept translated content realizing this would take some time)
  4. We reminded the reviewers of their role when we got the content for review
  5. We broke up the content in batches to make it easier and not feel as daunting.
  6. We paused translation on the second batch so we could get comments back from batch 1 and incorporate those prior to sending batch 2
  7. And we delivered the content “side-by-side” to facilitate easy review (no easy task when the language is Hebrew!)

And yet, we are still stuck.  Two things happened to us that happen to everyone I think.

First: Our players changed.  Not surprising in the time from kickoff through development and translation to review, the people involved in-country shifted. One person left, another started, another went out on maternity etc.  As a result, the current reviewers have not “lived the project” from the beginning.

Second: Review is hard. There is a certain math that comes into play here. A good translator can only translate x number of words a day, a good reviewer can only review x number of pages a day. No matter how fast you think you are going, there is an actual maximum speed. And since these are never full-time jobs, the “crush of the now’ always destroys proposed timeframes.

Third: We are all human.  No matter how many times you go through a glossary process, or a training process, or remind people that you are reviewing for accuracy only not for nuance, you always get trapped “finessing” the language.  I know I do it when I get content from my global peers that was translated into English, why shouldn’t I expect them to do the same?

So what to do when you are stuck? Also a good question. Time will tell if we did the right things or not but here are the steps we are taking

  1. Acknowledge that we are stuck (read the above!)
  2. Marshall as many resources a possible to lower the total commitment of each person on the project
  3. Identify “cant miss” deadlines and lay-out the clear project plan for achievement
  4. Escalate as required to establish the delay as a business problem to unstick additional resources, or gain leniency on deadlines.

My last piece of advice on this topic: when starting the project, calculate how much time you think it should take for review and double it. Communicate THAT to the team on the project. But TRIPLE it for your own internal planning processes. After that, hang on because you still might be off by an order of magnitude!