Building Your Localization Team From Scratch
We’re releasing a series of articles titled “Content With Purpose“—12 articles focused on localization meant to help you connect with people from different countries and cultures and grow globally. The last article focused on how SaaS companies can benefit from localization. This article will focus on how to build your localization team from scratch.
When launching within new markets, localization is critical. However, a localization strategy is only complete with a team to execute it. Regardless of the size of your business, you must first decide who will be involved in the process. That may mean assigning tasks to current team members, bringing on new hires, outsourcing roles, or a mix of all three. Fortunately, setting up a localization team is easier than it sounds.
Why You Need a Centralized Localization Team
Before we dive in, it’s essential to understand why you need a localization team, even if your company is small.
Localization is a complex process that involves team members from across the company. Marketers, designers, and developers all play a role in bringing a brand’s vision to life. To ensure everyone follows the same guidelines, you must develop a centralized process.
This is especially important as your localization program grows. For example, the marketing team starts by localizing the company website to Spanish. As a result, the company sees a significant increase in sales in Mexico and decides to establish a new location in Mexico City. If you have a centralized process, HR can easily localize materials for recruiting and onboarding new hires there.
In the scenario above, the company only expanded into one new market. Yet the localization process gets more complex each time you introduce a new language and/or region. You must establish a localization team to guide the process to see the same quality or brand standards across all markets.
Simply put, a localization team increases efficiency, improves quality, and enables scalability—all three of which are essential for your success.
Three Localization Team Models
Now that you know more about the benefits, let’s look at three different localization team models.
- In-house standalone localization department. This model involves building a team dedicated to most, if not all, aspects of localization. It typically requires hiring new employees with experience with these types of projects. Large organizations with frequent localization projects, such as Netflix, Facebook, and Uber, often adopt this model.
- In-house with localization spread across existing teams. With this model, team members don’t focus solely on localization. Their primary role may involve marketing, design, or development, but they work on localization projects as needed. Elements such as translation and multimedia localization are typically outsourced.
- Outsourced localization through partnerships. This model involves hiring a localization agency to complete the entire process. The company appoints an in-house project manager to work directly with the agency and may seek input from internal teams as needed.
Your chosen model will depend on your ongoing localization needs, goals, and budget.
How to Structure a Localization Team
Once you decide on a model, it’s time to set up a localization team. While every company’s team is different, the structure can be roughly split into four divisions. These include:
The top-level management team oversees the localization process. This involves setting goals, establishing workflows, and ensuring quality and efficiency across all projects.
Top-level management typically includes:
- Localization project manager. This person oversees the entire process of entering a new market.
- Program director. This person researches, plans, and implements the company’s localization programs.
- Program manager. This person supervises localization team members who are executing a particular localization program.
- Product manager. This person identifies the customer need and larger business development goals the product will fulfill in a new market.
Not all localization teams include every one of these roles, especially smaller ones. For example, a company with a team of 20 people may only have a localization project manager who handles most or all of these tasks. Others may have more.
The production team is an umbrella term covering various roles in the localization process. Here are some of the roles within this division:
- Content creators. This can include marketers, technical writers, and videographers. They identify which content should be localized for a particular market.
- Designers. They adapt the look and feel of a website, marketing materials, and/or product designs to better fit the cultural norms of the target market.
- Translators. Most companies outsource this role, but you’ll still need to collaborate with the translation team to ensure they follow brand guidelines.
- Software developers. They develop websites and software that can be adapted for new markets, upload translated content, and push translations live.
- Localization engineers. They plan and execute a workflow for exporting, translating, and re-integrating content and metadata for websites and software applications. Some companies hire a full-time localization engineer, while others employ a freelancer or a consultant.
Depending on the localization team model, members may focus solely on localization, be assigned to projects as needed, or serve in an advisory role.
The resource management team is responsible for sourcing, managing, and supporting the people and resources involved in localization. Roles within this division include:
- Vendor manager. This person manages relations with vendors, including localization agencies, software vendors, and consultants.
- Technology manager. This person coordinates information systems within the company to ensure the localization team can access data, information, and digital products.
- Resource manager. This person collaborates with project managers to ensure they have the necessary tools, technology, and staff to complete a project. They may also allocate inventory and financial assets.
Smaller localization teams may need a dedicated resource management division and may merge these roles with other positions. For example, the program director may be responsible for managing vendors, while a software developer may be responsible for managing technology.
The quality management team ensures localization projects meet quality standards. Roles within this division include:
- Quality manager. This person manages the internal quality control process, including quality checks, evaluating resources, and optimizing operations.
- Localization tester. This person checks how well a website or software has been localized for a particular language, including the user interface and region or language-specific functionality.
While other localization team members can perform these tasks, keeping these roles separate is best. That’s because it’s easy to miss errors and mistakes when you’ve been working on the same project for an extended period of time.
How to Get Buy-in from Decision-makers and Stakeholders
As you can see, setting up a localization team takes time, money, and technological resources—not to mention buy-in from decision-makers and stakeholders. And while your current team may look forward to the challenge, convincing higher-ups can be more difficult.
Here are a few ways to position yourself as a localization leader and get them on board:
- Emphasize the critical role localization plays in international growth.
- Define localization KPIs to outline how you’ll track success.
- Ensure technologies and processes serve the organization as a whole.
- Develop a consistent approach for every language and project.
- Use localization assets such as translation memory and machine translation to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Remember, you can always start small and scale up as your localization needs grow.
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