There’s a very old (and, unfortunately, very true) saying in high tech that sometimes you have to shoot the developer before a product can be released to manufacturing. When developers change or add product functionality at the last minute, Tech Pub writers must scramble to update the documentation so that it doesn’t gate the release. When you consider that localization is taking place at the same time, the ripple effect of updating the documents can have international ramifications. Obviously, once documentation has been released for localization, early and minimal changes to that documentation can reduce your localization costs. But what if this is not possible?
The localization process often involves file prep, translation, linguistic edit (or review), layout or desktop publishing (DTP), and quality assurance (QA), before docs can be released to printing or manufacturing. Pre-release changes can occur at any time throughout this process. The sophistication of the localization methodology, as well as the Tech Pubs’ relationship with the localization group, become essential in maintaining firm control over quality and cost and schedules, regardless of when and how often necessary (and inevitable) updates take place.
To reduce localization costs associated with documentation updates, consider these suggestions:
- Once translation has started, deliver changes to your localization group before the linguistic edit/review cycle begins. The localization group’s top-down localization process and translation memory software can be used at the end of the translation process to leverage already-translated strings in the newly delivered files. Doing this will reduce the cost of translating the new or changed material. Review can then proceed as usual, followed by DTP and QA. Cost and scheduling impact are minimal, since the process of leveraging from translation is automatic, and the checking of the leveraging process can still take place during linguistic edit.
- If minor changes to the source files are delivered after the linguistic edit has started, the best place to implement them is directly in the target files during QA. To facilitate bottom-up localization, provide new source files with revision marks (change bars) enabled, so that changes are easily identified. This process bypasses translation memory. The impact on cost and scheduling is minimal, since the main process remains intact and changes are minor. If desired, translation memories can also be updated at a later stage to include important changes.
- If major changes to the source files are delivered after the editing cycle has started, but before DTP is done, leveraging the translation from the translation memory is essential, requiring a top-down approach. At this point, incremental costs should rise in proportion to the percentage of change, plus include checking of the leveraged text. DTP and QA charges, however, should not change.
- If major changes to the source files are delivered after layout/DTP, they can be treated as a new project, requiring the generation of new project specs, plans, schedules and costs. This is the costliest scenario possible, prior to committing printing costs, and should be avoided whenever possible.
Given the situations outlined above, the challenge for localization groups is to facilitate the implementation of change orders, while minimizing costs and duration of updates. To do so, the following is necessary:
- A thorough understanding of all available methodologies for top-down, and bottom-up localization. These methodologies make it possible to leverage current translations and/or update target files, as needed.
- Use of the best localization tools and techniques available in the industry. Tools are readily available to enable leveraging of one paragraph and/or segment at a time, thus minimizing linguistic edits, layout and QA time and costs.
- Accurate analytical methods to generate localization project specifications. This makes cost calculation an objective process, independent of human error.
- Applying proportionate costs to efforts. An honest approach, while associating efforts to costs, can be accomplished when strong relationships are built among the involved groups.
In reality, you do not need to shoot your developers to release products and contain the localization costs associated with last-minute changes. Establishing a comprehensive process and a strong relationship between Tech Pubs and localization groups will reduce costs and time to market. Although a robust localization process may not be a core competency for a Tech Pubs group, it is a core competency that any professional language translation services group or vendor should have.