Is “One Hour Translations” a Game Changer for Global Marketing?

I am fascinated with this interview with the CEO of One Hour Translation on the Global by Design blog. And not just because of our American fixation on speed– Think “1 hour Dry Cleaning” or “10 minute oil changes”, or Pizza that is “delivered in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.”

No, I am fascinated because localization is really hard work, and this company threatens to make it easy. Particularly for the marketing organization at a mid-sized company, this really has the potential to be a game-changer. Here’s why.

I have my own experiences with the translation process both from inside and outside the industry.  I have written about some of them here in this blog. And some of the whitepapers I wrote on the subject live on in my former company’s whitepaper archive. I can summarize the challenges for a global marketing team thusly:

  1. It takes time: Sucking content out of whatever systems you use, getting it out to translation, reviewed, pushed back into your systems, reviewed and published… All adds up, it’s painful
  2. Volume rules, and you don’t have a lot of it. Localization is a volume game, and on the marketing side, volumes can often be low, but the amount of work feels the same if the job is 10,000 words or a million words.
  3. There is never enough budget: You budget $10k, it will cost $15k. If you budget is $15k, it will cost $20k. And the corollary to rule #3 is…
  4. The countries don’t want to pay for it: It’s amazing. When the “bill comes due,” often a team materializes out of thin air to handle the translation in-house. It’s one of those things that falls rapidly out of the budget cycle when the details become real.

What the promise of One Hour Translation does is to streamline the whole process for you. (Full disclosure, I have never used the service so I have no idea if their quality is any good, if their TM process works as advertised etc.) Instead of having to negotiate every job, have a file analyzed for the number of words, check for matches against the TM database, manage the glossary, deal with a project manager as the go-between to the faceless translator, it’s all right there for you. A flat 7 cents a word, send off the job, and back it comes. Interact directly with the translator if needed, adjust quality on the fly. Poof, “so easy a caveman could do it,” with or without an “Easy Button.” And for a marketing team that is rolling out slowly in a few countries, or has just a periodic volume of work, this model will be very attractive.

There are surely a number of problems with this as well, starting with the languages supported, the inability to build a true glossary, reuse, translation memory, and scalability, to say nothing of the costs. But if you are sophisticated enough to manage those things individually, or have such a high volume of content that scalability is a concern, well you are not going to be using this service plain and simple.

For the rest of us, it will be a development worth keeping a close eye on.

 

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When Rolling out Global Web Sites, Who Manages Localization Process?

I have already chronicled our challenges managing the translation review process for our global web site roll-out. But another issue that crops up is who is really managing the translation agency and the internal review teams? Large organizations will often have a dedicated localization manager. But most mid-sized and small organizations likely can’t staff that role full-time.

So what then?

In prior companies I worked at, the person managing the web site took it on, and relied on the project manager from the translation agency to make sure it goes smoothly.  Problem with this model is that the agency isn’t much help on the internal side of things, where projects often get stuck.

We were fortunate to find a contractor who could fill that internal project manager. He had been at an agency and could help bridge the gap between what the agency needed and what we needed to accomplish. And since he worked for us, he was able to push the agency when it was required, and yet still partner with the internal folks to keep things on track.

This wound up being a crucial role for us as the scope of the project constantly shifted, and the internal strategy shifted around. If you have someone in the role, good for you, make sure you have the tools in place to support them. If you don’t, make sure that everyone knows what aspect of the project they own.

Launching a Global Web Site, Continued

I am pleased that we were able to launch our first local site this weekend serving the Czech Republic.  If interested, you can see it here: www.ness.com/cz

It was hard work for sure, (as I wrote about earlier this year) and comes out many months later than we first anticipated, but it is still satisfying to see it live. Still to come, the team in the Czech Republic now has to add additional country specific content and make sure it represents their interests in the context of Ness as a whole.

We aren’t done yet either, we are getting set to launch Slovakia, shortly followed by Romania, Hungary, UK and India. Israel is in the works as well.

Though it’s still a work on progress, a few lessons learned so-far:

  1. Deadlines help. At Lionbridge we managed to launch 25 sites in just 4 months. But there we had no choice but to launch all of our sites at once and I vowed to never do it that way again.  But the flip side is that deadlines can help drive towards a completion.  In absence of them, things can linger forever.
  2. Be willing to compromise: Sometimes it’s important to give a little to get a lot. For example, we had envisioned utilizing a single website localization partner for all languages. But it turned out that we had an in-house Czech team that could handle the project.  It worked out just fine.
  3. Be flexible:  If we stuck to our original plan put in place in late 2008, we might never have gotten it launched. We listened to the needs of the local teams and adjusted course along the way. Surely made the whole process much easier.

Stay tuned for future launches in the coming weeks, which represents a flexible compromise brought on by an impending deadline!