SDL localization roundtable event

Wednesday 11 March, 2009

I attended this event recently SDL Round Table Event: Chicago which provided some interesting insights into how the current poor state of the world economy is affecting global firms.  The moderator Allison McDougall of SDL posed questions to the panelists from Garmin(G), GE Healthcare (GE), Johnson Controls (JC), & (SDL).

Is localization’s visibility higher or lower now compared to 2008?

  • GE-more important now because you need to be proactive & ready to simship (ship simultaneously to all markets) when things turn around
  • JC-intense pressures are leading to a focus on emerging markets for growth
  • G-you need to go where the $ are & do more with less in seeking new markets-spend the same, but get more for your $, i.e translate software strings, but not necessarily technical documentation until needed
  • SDL-traditional markets are tapped out, so work with the minimum by testing to see how much you need.

What are the current trends?

SDL-immense focus on cost, but outsourcing to low cost locations only gets you project managers from those countries.  Otherwise you have to use the same in-country resources.  The per/word cost is only 35-40% of the whole GILT process.  CMS, XML, etc. strategies still matter.  Community-based translation doesn’t work well.

What can be done to minimize the cost of localization?

  • JC-to not translate is not an option.  Pick & choose which components to translate by asking what touches end customers in which countries.  Some (Germany) require more than others.
  • G-avoid hidden costs (i.e. indirect labor costs)by planning upfront & do it right the 1st time-revisions are much more expensive.  If your distributors do your translations “when they have time” they lack quality & timeliness.
  • GE-use a common user interface wherever possible to drive commonality.  Changing 1 word @ $.25/word into 32 languages costs $8/word.  Manage translation memory & terminology well.

What have you learned/what process would you change with hindsight?

  • GE-focus on 1 brand for the customer.  Single source & translate on an ongoing basis rather than ad hoc.  Simplify & standardize the process by using proper English to deliver on-time. Negotiate with your provider.  Reexamine 100% word matches every 2 years.
  • JC-translation costs are invisible to management, so you need to get them to understand those costs.
  • G-educate new engineers so that they don’t fear the “localization police.”

open Q&A

Are small-medium-sized businesses hunkering down or continuing global expansions?  SDL-going global is no longer a choice, but it depends on what you’re selling by balancing revenues vs. costs.

What arguements work with top management when considering outsourcing GILT?

  • G-distributors doing translation is not for free.  You lose time to market & hence missed revenues.  Quality suffers when not done by professional linguists.
  • GE-focus on quality-corrections cost more after the fact.

My take-this is all good stuff.  I was just disappointed they weren’t able to get more people out…& there should be more from smaller firms, not just the big guys.


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