Building the New Localization Work Distribution System

By Samantha Reiss, Director of Services

COVID-19 has caused a shift in the supply chain - volume of content continues to increase, and companies are trying to maintain focus while dealing with changes in urgency and budget. This has shown a need for LSPs to look into automation - what’s the balance between automation and skilled labor? What does a post-COVID-19 services world look like, and how will companies continue to get high quality, fast translations?

This year quickly developed to become one of the most business and lifestyle changing years in recent history. With the onset and subsequent global spread of COVID-19, companies and industries alike have been forced to reevaluate processes and workflows at every turn, as budgets have shrunk, and capabilities have been severely limited.

Localization is one of those industries, and the effects of the pandemic have started to surface for most international markets. On the revenue side, it’s become especially difficult for both businesses and services providers to plan internal budgets, as it’s unclear what their futures hold. For localization departments, however, the resulting challenges have taken more time to manifest - internal content production processes are often downstream from many of the initial project planning and budget conversations. 

Localization managers can sometimes find themselves blindsided by large projects at the last minute, and as a result, any planning and expected budgets for localization effectively go out the window as timelines are compressed and projects become more urgent. With the shift towards the new virtual “normal”, many companies have also started to introduce a more diverse range of content types to allow for more effective customer engagement. With so many companies focusing their efforts on content like online conferences, webinars, and other forms of video, internationalization and localization have become even more important for global growth, and the need for translation, transcription, subtitling, e-learning, and more are on the rise. 

For Language Service Providers (LSP), the increased demand for localization has presented a different set of challenges, mainly focused on the translator supply chain. These days, many translators want more work. And while that isn’t unexpected, there’s more urgency than ever for LSPs to provide work, as translator job security is more uncertain than ever. 

At Lilt, we have spent years building out a network and supply chain of professional, expert translators. As the business challenges caused by COVID-19 have continued to pile up, we face a new question that has potential to impact the industry for a long time to come: how do LSPs efficiently distribute work to translators, especially when looking ahead to a more normal work environment?

Currently, when an urgent project comes in, it’s harder to take risks in distribution as there is limited time to onboard translators, ensure their quality, and make sure they understand the tools and systems. This can easily result in an overreliance on the same set of translators, leaving others with a limited workload.

The current pandemic-driven system of distribution doesn’t scale, but it does lay a foundation for improvement - this is where automation comes into play. While some think that automation eliminates jobs, in this case, we actually implement it to give more people work while automating the distribution of that work.

We incorporate data on performance-driven metrics like on-time delivery, quality, productivity, workload, and more to automate the distribution of work. This takes the project manager out of the decision-making process, enabling them to spend their time on higher value work and enabling us to rapidly scale to meet the demands of large volumes of work. In addition, the result gives time back to the linguists to do their best work - less time spent on file handling and project initiation and more time on translation, review, and quality control. This solution is a reliable, consistent distribution model where more translators get steadier workloads. Inevitably, it also leads to better translation quality, higher on-time-delivery, and happier customers and translators.

Another important outcome is scale, well beyond the pandemic era of work. While many traditional LSPs work with agencies, they often don’t work directly with translators and instead rely on a network of subcontracted vendors, leaving them ultimately not in full control of the eventual translation quality or timelines. Though it can be harder to manage, relying on our own, directly-managed translator network ultimately inspires more confidence in how we can directly uplevel the community and produce the highest quality, fastest results. After all, each additional step in the supply chain introduces new possible inefficiencies and communication barriers. Working within an integrated model avoids those inefficiencies.

While COVID-19 continues to impact our businesses and communities, it’s important for all companies and services providers to constantly think about ways to empower and support the local working supply chain. The localization industry is no different - and while the pandemic’s impacts continue to be felt throughout localization departments globally, working within a scalable system now will certainly enable success beyond the COVID-19 era.