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Friday, July 29, 2011

Localization: Our Backwards Industry

After so many years of LISA plowing time and effort into standards, it is odd to see GALA jump on the failed LISA standards bandwagon.

Does anyone in the industry really care about standards?

Talk of standards and how to maintain them is mainly used by sales departments to dazzle impressionable clients. Discussion about standards also allows clueless management to conjure up the impression that some sort of bureaucracy can compensate for the inexperienced (i.e. cheap) project managers that localization firms are forced to hire to cut costs.

This has created the phenomenon of the localization vendor manager as a bureaucratic paper pusher, requiring endless forms and notifications that are inevitably ignored by their resources. (We don’t think localization companies actually believe vendor management brings value either--it is most often the first department to go when companies cut back.)

After all the promises of unsupported processes and standards are forgotten by the production department, what is it that really guarantees quality and thus maintains the client relationship?

The answer is personalized service by industry veteran project managers. Experienced, professional project management is the key to solving the inevitable challenges that arise. Deep down, salespeople know this is true. Project managers who have to face both client and salesperson ire know it too.

Project management is also a part of sales. Their interaction with the client and the impression they make creates customer confidence and loyalty.

Inexplicably, the focus of localization companies has been consistently moving in the opposite direction.

The trend is to hire younger and less experienced project managers. When projects start wandering off track and salespeople and clients are complaining, these people get burned out and leave. Staff turnover because of this is detrimental to the consultative relationship we should be trying to create with our clients. (How many novice project managers have left your company this year and who did you replace them with?)

Localization companies are moving further and further away from personalized service by implementing expensive workflow systems to handle projects. These workflow systems go hand in hand with reduced project manager experience and competence. The less experienced project managers are, the more necessary management believes it is to have a “system” to compensate for the failings in all other areas.

This slide to employ cheap novice project managers in conjunction with impersonal workflow systems is a big shift away from anything that can satisfy and keep a customer.

The real answer is experience and client interaction that demonstrates you can and will provide the solution that a client needs.Clients may think they are choosing on price, but the reality is that they stay with companies who create a consultative relationship.

They stay with those who make them confident that their projects will succeed even when unforeseen challenges arise. They stay with those who get results in the face of crazy circumstances that could cause project disaster. They stay with those with the experience and knowledge to make them look good.