Hub of the Wheel
you have what it takes to be always at such center?
What really is localization project management? First,
some concepts. Let’s look at a formal and somewhat
dry definition of localization project management.
is the process of adapting and manufacturing a product
so that it has the look and feel of a nationally manufactured
piece of goods. Thus, localization is the piece of the
global business puzzle that enables companies to do
business in markets outside of their home market.”
(The Localization Primer, LISA)
project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to achieve
a particular aim. Projects differ from operations in
that operations are ongoing and repetitive while projects
are temporary and unique.” (Project Management
we put it all together, localization project management
is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques
to localization project activities in order to meet
let’s look at a more dynamic view. The accompanying
graphic shows the localization project manager (LPM)
as the hub of the localization wheel.
did localization project management evolve over
time? Initially, LPMs were mainly expediters and
file movers. They worked in a pre-planned environment,
and their entire focus was moving files to be localized
from the client through translation, editing and
desktop publishing and back to the client. Projects
were small; they required few, serial localization
activities and used well-understood, simple technology.
A good example would be the translation of a small
manual. The activities are mainly to translate,
edit, correct layout and review. These are all serial
activities with no overlap.
more complex (many parallel threads) projects using
advanced technology, such as found in many software
localization projects, forced the LPM to become more
of a scheduler and tracker of progress. Upfront planning
and day-to-day control of the projects became essential,
and many an LPM developed a hate/love relationship with
Microsoft Project. A typical software localization project
has graphical user interface and message localization
and testing, help localization, documentation localization
and often marketing collateral localization. Many of
the localization activities for these four components
take place in parallel with many dependencies among
them. For example, screenshots for the manual can only
be taken once the sample data has been localized and
once the software has been localized and tested.
capabilities of planning and tracking are no longer
enough to be an outstanding LPM in today’s economic
environment. The complexity of many localization projects
(large corporate Web sites with interactive components,
multitier enterprise applications, e-learning content
and so on) and additional job pressures — such
as poorly understood or shifting localization requirements,
the need for simultaneous shipment (simship) of the
localized product, the focus on return on localization
investment and finally a very competitive environment
— force the LPM to be foremost a communicator.
through dialog the true localization requirements from
the client, managing client expectations over the course
of the project, moderating the client review process
and assisting the client in determining the return on
localization investments are now common activities for
large, complex projects the LPM needs mainly a set of
analytical project management techniques and strong
communication skills. In particular, to be an outstanding
professional, the LPM needs to be able to create
and maintain energy in the project team and to
foster creativity among the team members. In other words,
a good LPM needs to be a coach to a team. Often these
qualities are overlooked, and the focus tends to be
on the analytical techniques. The latter are essential
but not sufficient. Without the communication and coaching
skills, a project will never be an outstanding one.
return to the LPM as the hub of the localization wheel
and see when and where each of the five major activities
comes into play. We will do that in the context of a
localization project management model.
Localization project management activities and phases
include the following:
Statement of Work (SOW) Formulation phase provides
project stakeholders with a clear understanding of what
needs to be done in terms of requirements, constraints
and assumptions and the project objectives. In the typical
client-vendor relationship, the SOW is the proposal
from the vendor written in response to a Request for
Proposal by the client. The main focus here is on what
needs to be done — the scope of work.
Project Approval phase is the official starting
point of the localization project with a committed contract.
This phase also provides the LPM with the authorization
to start the project. In the client-vendor relationship,
this is the point in time when the proposal becomes
a contractual agreement to perform certain localization
Project Initiation phase provides information
on how to do the project, when the project can be completed
and how much the project will require in terms of resources
and costs. During this phase, final resource assignments
are made for the project team. This is the planning
phase of the life cycle where a detailed roadmap is
developed for the project. For too many localization
projects, this phase is minimized in order to start
the localization activities sooner. Invariably the latter
approach reduces substantially the probability that
the project will produce the agreed upon deliverables
on time, within budget and with the expected quality.
Project Execution phase is where the bulk of the
localization activities take place. Often, we tend to
focus on this phase to the detriment of the first two
phases that are more important to the success of the
Project Control phase provides quality control
for project deliverables, as well as control over project
scope, progress and budget. As indicated, this phase
is executed in parallel with the Project Execution phase.
Additionally this is also the phase where the LPM moderates
the client review of intermediate and final deliverables.
The latter is specific to localization projects since
it deals with the subjective notion of translation quality
(in particular, the issue of linguistic style).
final phase, Project Closure, formalizes the
acceptance of the project results by the customer. A
second very important objective of this phase is to
discuss and document the lessons learned so that future
projects go more smoothly. This is typically done in
the context of a post-project meeting with all stakeholders
in attendance. These lessons learned are the LPM’s
weapon to insure continuous improvement on his or her
Within this entire Localization Project Management model,
we can identify a number of critical success factors
that are also reflected in the “hub” diagram.
The next section will discuss these critical success
factors in more detail.
various phases included in the localization project
What are these localization project management critical
success factors? The first critical success factor is
agreement among stakeholders regarding project requirements.
Stakeholders include the project team, the boss, the
client and the project sponsor (the person who provides
the funds, authorizes the project and empowers a person
as the project manager). Here are some examples of project
are the intermediate and final deliverables? A clear
description of all intermediate and final project deliverables
is crucial. Project deliverables include all product
deliverables, plus project-specific items such as progress
reports, defect reports, completed checklists and so
What is the timetable for all deliverables? How are
the deadlines classified (desired, critical and so on)?
What is the budget for the project? How are variances
handled? Is this a “time and materials project”
or a firm, fixed-cost one? What are the customer expectations
for quality of the final deliverables? Establishing
quality criteria at the beginning of a project helps
greatly in setting the right expectations. Quality criteria
should be defined by type of defect for each final product
deliverable. What are customer expectations in terms
of his or her responsibilities on the project?
the negotiation over project requirements is seen as
too time consuming, and the “let’s start
translating” attitude prevails. However, neglecting
to invest the necessary time upfront to clearly outline
project objectives will prevent you from meeting customer
expectations, and thus set you up for failure.
second critical success factor is to develop a detailed
project plan that can serve as a roadmap for everyone
involved, that is, the stakeholders, in the project.
It will outline project phases; indicate how activities
and milestones within the phases are dependent on each
other; and document the deadlines for project deliverables.
clear description of each stakeholder’s responsibilities
is best achieved with a Linear Responsibility Chart
(a table with the left column identifying all project
deliverables and the rest of the columns identifying
each stakeholder). The cross-section of the two columns
specifies one or more of the following responsibilities
of each stakeholder for a project deliverable: create,
review, approve or not applicable.
metric against which to measure project performance
in terms of progress, money spent and quality is necessary.
A baseline schedule in the Gantt chart format supplies
a simple way to compare planned versus actual performance.
Cumulative budget versus actual cost comparisons
provide good indicators of financial performance.
third critical success factor is managing stakeholders’
expectations through ongoing communication. Never, ever
forget that a very large component of project management
is formal and informal communication.
fourth critical success factor is controlling the scope
of your project (that old fiend known as scope creep).
You need a formal procedure for approving any change
to the original scope of the project. Not doing so is
setting yourself up for failure yet again.
fifth critical success factor is obtaining management
support by aligning product localization with corporate
objectives and by communicating with management in terms
that the latter can understand, such as how localization
directly increases shareholder value. For many LPMs,
this is extremely difficult to achieve because more
often than not they do not share a common language with
management. All requests or arguments brought forward
by many LPMs need to be backed up by solid metrics in
order to be taken seriously by management.
The sixth and final critical success factor is very
specific to localization and translation projects: capturing
correctly the terminology and style requirements as
seen by the client’s reviewers and subsequently
managing those client reviewers’ expectations.
This is so critical because, unlike software development
projects, localization and translation projects have
very subjective quality requirements due to the nature
of natural language.
project management is a dynamic profession within a
changing industry. The rest of this article looks closely
at three often-asked questions regarding localization
project management: Should localization project management
be outsourced? Is localization project management a
critical factor in vendor selection? Is localization
project management a billable service?
we shall see in this section, the important question
is “What localization project management services
should be outsourced”? If the answer is yes, then
it should also be a critical factor in localization
vendor selection, and it should be a billable service
due to its importance to the success of the project.
To answer these three related questions, let’s
first look at the added value that a localization vendor
localization vendor provides, through localization project
management, planning, process, resource management/procurement
and progress tracking/control to the various services
needed in a localization project — translation/editing;
layout; localization engineering and translation memory
management; quality control and testing. Additionally,
the localization vendor often provides localization
and internationalization consulting and training. The
LPM provides at least in part these latter services.
let’s look at the true localization buyer needs.
These needs depend on four related factors: the localization
maturity of the buyer; the buyer’s infrastructure
to support localization; the complexity of products
to be localized; and the services outsourced.
maturity of the buyer. On the one end of the localization
maturity scale, we find the buyer who is still very
new to localization and who does not have repeatable
localization processes (procurement, creation of localization
kits, vendor support, review processes and localization
project management) to rely on. Additionally, this type
of buyer often has products that are not fully operable,
conforming to standards and regulations, and localizable
in the planned target markets (internationalization).
On the other end of the scale, there is the buyer who
has considerable localization experience and has mature,
repeatable processes in place. This buyer typically
has products that are well internationalized, and any
exceptions are known and well understood.
infrastructure to support localization. Buyers
at the low end of the localization maturity scale usually
do not have full-time localization staff, and the localization
function is often less than optimally placed within
the organization. Buyers at the high end of the maturity
scale typically have full-time localization staff reporting
into product development. The recent economic downturn
and resulting reorganizations and staff reductions have
introduced a wrinkle in this localization maturity and
supporting infrastructure relationship. Many buyers
with medium localization maturity now find themselves
with little infrastructure to support localization.
of products to be localized. The complexity
of the products to be localized determines how much
localization project management is needed. For example,
a Flash tutorial with audio and animation is more complex
to localize than a FrameMaker-based manual; a multitier
enterprise application is often more complex to localize
than a standalone desktop application; and a highly
interactive Web site is more difficult to localize than
one with limited interactivity. The product complexity
is directly related to the number of various services
and resources needed to localize the product.
outsourced. On the low end of the outsourcing
scale is the buyer who outsources only raw translation.
On the high end of the scale is the buyer looking for
a turnkey model with essentially all services outsourced.
It All Together
All buyers who meet one of the three profiles in the
accompanying table need to outsource a substantial portion
of localization project management activities. Therefore,
these buyers should make localization project management
one of the top criteria for vendor selection. Thus,
if localization project management is one of the most
important services you obtain from a localization vendor,
expect to pay for these services as a separate billable
from MultiLingual magazine (2004, #63 Volume
15 Issue 3) with permission from Multilingual Computing,
Stoeller is a certified project management professional
and a vice-president at Welocalize.