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Localization Maturity Model: Where are you at and what to do next?

This week, we will take a look at the popular localization maturity model, focusing on what it is and how you can plan for your next step of global expansion.

Localization Maturity Model 101

Ever since Common Sense Advisory Research (CSA Research) came up with the original localization maturity model, the concept has been widely adopted by the localization industry and global enterprises alike. Before going into the where and how questions, let us take a quick look at what the localization maturity model is.

Technically, there are six levels of globalization/localization maturity, but we usually do not talk about level 0 as much, since if you are here reading this article, you are at least at level 1 already. The remaining levels are:

  • Level 1 – Reactive: At this stage, a major character of your globalization work is “ad hoc”. There is no systematic approach, and you are playing Whac-A-Mole. Translations and other multilingual/multicultural needs are dealt with only when they come up.
  • Level 2 – Repeatable: Now you have had some experience and have some general tools and processes in place, but only for the repeating core tasks.
  • Level 3 – Managed: You are at a stage where localization tasks are recognized and managed at an enterprise level. Processes are established for each of your locales.
  • Level 4 – Optimized: This is the stage where your company has well-established processes to manage and undertake localization tasks with clearly defined tools, structured processes, and performance metrics.
  • Level 5 – Transparent: Congratulations, you have achieved nirvana! Now localization is not just a supporting function. Your company is doing everything with a global vision in mind. Your products and/or services are ready for localization from birth.

Next, let’s take a closer look at each maturity level, learn how to determine your localization maturity, and how you can keep moving up the levels.

Maturity Level 1: Reactive

This is the baby stage of the localization maturity levels. At this stage, localization tasks are largely reactive and ad hoc. You have little experience with organized localization processes. Your localization projects are set up only when new needs appear like putting out fires. Instead of relying on established, repeatable techniques, competent “firefighters” are called for duty to address the issues.

Common issues at this stage are unpredictable turnaround time, budget overruns, scale creeping, delayed deliveries, and poor quality consistency.

The first step to getting out of this slump is to do a “postmortem” on past projects and come up with a bare-bone process for localization workflows specific to your company’s needs.

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Maturity Level 2: Repeatable

At this stage, you have a basic localization workflow designed, documented, and employed. From here, your team starts to have guidelines to follow when handling localization tasks. Due to the high-level nature of the workflow, it is better at processing frequently repeated, generic core business tasks, while still promotes quality issues with limited applicability to more unique localization tasks.

Although there is still a long way to go, at least you have begun to look into localization workflow and set up the scaffold for a structured and effective localization process. Also, on a company level, more relevant stakeholders are not seeing the need for standardized localization processes.

This is a good start, but to promote to a fully functional level, you need to focus on the following:

  • Technology needed for automation and higher efficiency.
  • Language service provider management.
  • Ways to measure localization performance.
  • Quality assurance measurements and processes.

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Maturity Level 3: Managed

The third stage is a pivot point of your globalization program. At this stage, you finally have somewhat detailed localization processes tailored to your company’s needs. You have established repeatable processes incorporating necessary technology, some metrics for key aspects such as QA and turnaround time, and investment from relevant stakeholders to build a dedicated system to manage localization tasks.

However, there are still some common problems at this stage. Given the fact that this is the initial stage of a comparatively mature localization program, there are improvements to be made but would require operational data first. For example, process efficiency, resource allocation, etc. More importantly, maturity level 3 is where your localization approach starts to fundamentally change from reactive to proactive.

Here are a few aspects you can work on to keep leveling up:

  • Improvement on defining goals and objectives.
  • Processes integration at a corporate level.
  • Technical solutions.
  • Training and further improvement on existing processes.

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Maturity Level 4: Optimized

At maturity level 4, you have officially entered a mature stage of handling your organization’s localization needs.

Not only now you have an established program, but it is also tested and improved with experience and performance data. You have managed to promote localization-ready processes across the organization, obtained buy-ins from all relevant stakeholders, and integrated your localization processes into the workflow of all related departments.

At this stage, advancing to the next and final localization maturity level is not fixing problems anymore. Rather, you start to focus on growth and continuous improvement.

With matured processes in place and being able to consistently repeat success predictably and systematically, it is a good time now to think about the following aspects:

  • Full cycle localization metrics integrated into the larger organizational metrics.
  • Growth need from a global expansion point of view.
  • Advocate for organization-wide adoption of global mindset and process integration.

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Maturity Level 5: Transparent

Congratulations, you have beat the localization game. At this stage, operating with a global vision and mindset is part of your organizational principles now. From interns, all the way to C-suite management, the global positioning of your company is a consensus. Everyone works to create global-ready products, services, and authentic local experiences for your customers around the world.

Localization processes are constantly measured and improved in all aspects. The focus of your localization program is no longer fixing issues or introducing processes to other functional groups within the company. Rather, more effort is spent on innovative improvements of the current globalization framework that brings the highest impact in a forward-looking way to the company.

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Be Aware…

Although the maturity model is presented in a level-by-level manner, the development of localization maturity, in reality, is often not so linear. As shown in the following figure created by CSA Research, you will likely hit roadblocks and setbacks along your way to nirvana. So, be aware of and be prepared for the backtracks and detours along your way to localization nirvana.

The Wolfestone Group Difference

At Wolfestone Group, we treat our clients as customers with a tremendous amount of understanding. Unlike the stream-line approach of a lot of other large agencies, we respect and take our time to learn the localization landscape of each client, and come up with customized solutions that are tailored to your specific need. Whether you are struggling with getting started from level 1 to level 2 or hit a bottleneck that is preventing you from moving to an optimized or transparent level, our expert consultants and solutions architects are here to help you set up a plan that solves your unique issues.

Contact us today to learn how to move up the localization maturity level and maximize your ROI in the increasingly connected global market.

We offer website localization, software & app localization, video game localization, and more.

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