What makes for a successful project? What works well, and what doesn’t work so well?
Every localization project is unique, yet all localization projects are composed of a pre-project phase, an actual project phase, and then a post-project phase. Each of these phases presents an opportunity to do things well. They also pose different challenges and the appearance of unique problems. At ABC Translations we find that successful projects tend to have the following core localization best practices.
Understanding requirements and processes
The process starts with understanding customer needs at the business and production level. What are the key aspects of the project, who are your end users, what do you want to improve this time, what worked last time and what didn’t? What makes this project different? What happens before engaging localization and testing partners and what happens after the final feedback? What’s the best way to integrate customer and partner teams and work together? And what is the mantra of any project: time, quality, and cost requirements?
This is important because every project inevitably faces a number of risks, including missed milestones and significant increases or decreases in scope. Performance may be underestimated or overestimated. Resources may require additional training. Technology and proven processes may not work. These are examples of risks the team can prepare for by considering them in the project plan.
Expectations, commitments, and agreements
Managing expectations is important for both parties. Having a clear understanding of expectations and agreeing on commitments for both teams will help avoid surprises down the road.
Description of production model
The customer wants to know what production model the localization team uses and what processes are developed and applied. Customer needs vary: some require a certain level of detail, while others are more of a “black box”, relying entirely on the localization team’s results.
Description and criteria for the quality assurance model Similar to the production model, the quality assurance model must be described. The team must define and understand the quality standards for each element of the project. This includes quality metrics, defect definition and classification, and thresholds for “successful” and “unsuccessful” results. The team must also know at what point quality assurance will be performed, who will perform it, and what will happen in the event of a “failed” result.
Quality assurance is one of the most expensive and resource-intensive parts of a project. That’s why we strive to thoroughly analyze the entire quality control process and ask what quality controls should be included. In many cases, our clients do not need to look at every component, language, or phase of the project and it does not affect overall quality.
Determine the escalation path
Both parties should designate a person who can get a higher-level solution if needed. This applies to project management, engineering, and even the language and business side of the project. In addition, you need to have a pool of key resources on hand from the start.
Key milestones, quantities, and tasks
These should be defined and understood by both parties before the project starts. Because of the dynamic nature of localization projects and their close relationship to software development, changes and updates are inevitable, but milestones, current scope and tasks should be known at the beginning of the project and at each stage.
Start-up meetings Internal organization meetings and client meetings are an important start to any major project. Because a physical presence is not required, virtual kickoff meetings are usually conducted through web conferencing or conference calls.
Gathering information through weekly reports and conference calls is critical throughout the project. The project team establishes a weekly reporting order, followed by a conference call where appropriate project team members review the status and look for red flags (problems), yellow flags (potential problems), and green flags (problems resolved and progressing normally). Current status reports can be proactively and regularly distributed to the client team or posted on the extranet production site and ABC Translations ABC Go! for clients to view as needed.
An internal localization team meets weekly to review status, discuss any issues, and find solutions.
Project Resource Visibility
It’s important to have visibility into the resources used on the project so you can understand what the current tasks are. This may seem trivial, but because of the dynamic nature of localization projects, it’s important to make sure team members are working on planned activities.
This rule applies to localization projects as well. An effective, up-to-date project plan is necessary at all stages of the project and should be shared by the client and the localization team.
In large projects, the project team conducts a formal mid-project review to evaluate project milestones to date.
The minimum rule of thumb is to respond to all emails within 24 hours. For critical questions, the turnaround time should be in minutes. There should be no hidden questions, and it is important to always ask about what has been missed or unclear. Prerequisites are fine, but if they are important, they should be checked and documented in writing.
Post-project reviews assess the ups and downs of a project and find the root cause of problems. After a successful project, there are always areas where we can do better in the future and areas where we can improve our processes.
Autopsies don’t just happen between the client and the localization team, but also within the internal localization team. A successful autopsy is the first step to the next successful localization project.