In order to keep pace with the latest translation technology, the localization industry has to evolve. Machine translation, automation tools, and API integration have made localization ever faster. AI can never truly replace the human element of localization. But this technology is quickly encouraging localization professionals to rethink how they’re spending their time and allocating their most precious resource: human innovation.
Localization project management is undergoing a revolution in light of recent advancements in localization technology. Today’s managers are used to being eternally indispensable middlemen—but localization platforms and continuous localization tools are freeing these professionals to develop new skills and responsibilities. The future of the localization project manager looks quite different than what we see today.
What Is Localization Project Management?
Localization project management is the process of orchestrating localization campaigns—translating large batches of content into other languages for use in locales across the world. The localization project manager maintains relationships and ensures efficient workflows among translators, reviewers, developers, and other stakeholders. They’re tasked with managing localization spend and overseeing the application of localization technology in order to decrease time-to-market and increase content quality.
Localization project management is a profession where highly organized individuals can truly shine. It’s a highly challenging and deeply rewarding career path that’s only going to grow in demand as businesses continue to globalize.
Localization Project Management At Its Worst
As with any project management job, the position of “localization project manager” has the potential to fall into frustrating patterns. In the worst case scenario, the localization project manager is little more than a human spreadsheet. They’re constantly forwarding files between stakeholders and manually tracking the progress of every project to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. This is one example of a localization strategy that’s quickly falling out of date—but many companies haven’t yet caught up with the change.
One of our newest clients recently shared what her day-to-day looked like as a localization project manager before her company partnered with Bureau Works. She received files from the marketing department in the morning and documented them in a complex set of spreadsheets. She often needed to request files a second time because the originals weren’t in editable formats. She then emailed various translation vendors asking how long it would take to translate the files and how much they would charge. After getting multiple quotes, she’d authorize spend and manually email the files between translators, editors, and in-market reviewers, marking their progress in her spreadsheet. She repeated this process for countless projects and thousands of files over the course of several years.
This project manager spent most of her time nagging—nagging translators to finish their work on schedule, nagging reviewers for edits, and nagging developers to implement the new changes. She hardly had time to build knowledge or develop tools for higher localization efficiency. Instead, she was stuck processing menial, frustrating transactions for 50+ hours per week.
This situation may seem exaggerated at first glance, but it’s the reality for many localization managers. At its worst, localization project management is exhausting and frustrating work that completely negates the potential of highly talented individuals.
The True Potential Of Localization Project Management
In startling contrast, the simplified localization management scenario takes a bird’s-eye view of the localization ecosystem. The project manager orchestrates large-scale movements of technology and stakeholders to create efficient and high-quality content. No spreadsheets. No micromanaging. With the right tools in place, the localization manager can actually spend time innovating, developing resources, and harnessing the potential of all stakeholders involved in the localization process.
At its best, localization project management involves the following activities:
The empowered localization manager maintains a deep knowledge of cutting-edge localization technologies. API integration systems, content architecture, and automation tools are all elements that the manager employs for more efficient content. Rather than emailing files back and forth, you’re using technology to free up countless hours in your day.
Forward-thinking localization project management has a strong educational component. You’re engaging with diverse teams regularly to talk about cadence, timeline, and internationalization. You’re ensuring that all stakeholders understand what it takes to complete localization. And you’re allocating the technology and resources to maintain high-quality results. Great localization managers create a positive culture around localization. They’re influencers at the executive level of their organizations, advocating for visibility and priority for the localization process as a whole.
Most localization project managers have some level of understanding of translation memories and terminology databases—but they don’t have the time or the bandwidth to maintain them alongside the thousand emails and spreadsheets they have to manage. It’s quite challenging to build and centralize a repository of critical terminology. The ideal project management scenario would liberate managers to use terminology tools properly in pursuit of more efficient localization.
The project manager’s true skill lies in managing people—not tasks. Innovative project managers are empowered to bring reviewers and translators together in a reliable, trackable way. You’re able to upgrade your spreadsheets to a comprehensive localization platform that increases transparency and accountability. Instead of serving as a glorified secretary, you’re focused on setting expectations, building rapport, making connections, and growing understanding between all stakeholders.
When project managers are free from the confines of outdated localization paradigms, they’re actually able to perform the research that makes localization more successful. Without the emails and spreadsheets and constant nagging, you have time to think critically about whether your company should create a Swiss-German version of your mobile app or opt for another creative solution. You’ll be able to perform market research, investigate compliance issues, and identify critical markets where your company is most likely to succeed.
Ultimately, localization project managers have so much more to give to their organizations. When you actually have the time to build a powerful localization ecosystem with best practices and cutting-edge technology, you’ll be able to add real value to your company. You can single-handedly build out an ROI engine that pairs conversion-related results with localization efforts. This not only makes your company’s localization process more effective—it also helps you move forward with your career. Once you get past the transactional task management work, you make yourself truly indispensable.
Setting New Exceptions to Old Rules
Changing the rules of the localization game might make a few people uncomfortable—those who are afraid of changing anything about their jobs or those who distrust the progress of technology. Many fear that they’ll lose their jobs to automation. But the truth is, losing outdated elements of the job to AI and automation is a good thing.
We’re big fans of this paradigm shift that’s happening with localization project management as a profession. Let the machines do most of the work, and let the humans do much more thinking than they were previously able to. You might still have to chase down the odd translator or make a last-minute request to a reviewer, but in this new paradigm, those moments will be few and far between. What was once the rule can become the exception.
At Bureau Works, we’re passionate about redefining what it means to be a localization project manager. Our clients rely on the cutting-edge BWX localization platform to automate task management so their managers can get back to the human work of innovation. Contact our team to get on the right side of localization history and tap into your full potential.
Written by Luciana Passos
Luciana is Bureau Works COO. She is known as a gap bridger and a heart follower.