E.g., 09/29/2020
E.g., 09/29/2020

Counting What Counts: KPIs for Translation and Localization

By: By: Kåre Lindahl (CEO) - Venga Global

04 May 2016

Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought. “You can’t change what you don’t measure,” the one school says. “Not everything that counts can be counted,” says the other. You’ll find the truth probably somewhere in the middle, especially when it comes to coaching your clients for your next translation and localization project.

As we all know, translating and localizing can be a highly subjective profession, just think of marketing material that needs to be transcreated or creatively adapted to hit the right tone and feel for the local target audience. Technical translation projects, on the other hand, are easier to evaluate by the numbers. Either way, your clients will want to have proof that they are getting their money’s worth.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are vital to determine the ROI of a translation project. Getting the right KPIs in place and knowing how efficiently the invested money for a current project is utilized, is also very helpful when the time comes to get approval for your next translation and localization project.

When you develop your KPIs, you want to make sure to choose your indicators wisely. KPIs have to be measurable, understandable, and actionable. And with a translation project, your client will face the unique challenge of measuring the process as well as the results of your translation efforts.

Part 1: Measuring the Process

Let’s have a look at the process first. You want to have indicators in place that track the speed of the work (which is directly linked to the going-to-market speed) as well as the accuracy of the translation and, of course, the costs. These are some typical examples of KPIs that measure the translation and localization process:

  • % Right first time quality
  • % Translation error rate
  • % Translation project milestones missed
  • $ Translation cost per word
  • $ Profit per translation project
  • % Overall customer satisfaction

Part 2: Reaching the Objectives

In a second step, encourage your clients to find out if their newly translated website or localized marketing content actually achieves its objectives. Offering a product or service translated for the local market should bring in more customers, higher customer satisfaction, better brand awareness — and, in the end, more revenue.

In fact, a survey conducted by Common Sense Advisory among Fortune 500 companies concluded that those who invested in translation were 1.5 times more likely to see their total revenue going up. While the number of newly acquired customers and the market share won are easy to measure, aspects like brand awareness and customer satisfaction are harder to determine and quantify.  

Here are a few suggestions for KPIs that are useful when measuring the impact of project:

  • # New customers acquired in global markets
  • % Visitor conversion
  • # Traffic (by country and language)
  • % Market share
  • % Translation ROI

When you help your client develop their KPI set, you should tie it closely to their strategic directives to maximize the chance to get support and funding for your next translation and localization project. You might want to be careful though not to go overboard. Too many KPIs increase the danger of getting lost in data. Or as Albert Einstein once said: “Not everything that can be counted counts.” So boil the number of KPIs you are proposing down as far as possible.

Helping your clients to measure the worth of your work will not only prove the value of continued translation and localization efforts, it will demonstrate integrity and show that you put the client’s needs first. 

Raised in Sweden, Kåre lived in the UK for 10 years before relocating to the US to join the IT boom in Silicon Valley. With over 20 years experience in high-tech gained by serving in executive roles within companies such as Oracle, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Hogia, Kåre is now CEO of Venga Global, a specialized full-service translation and localization company working with some of the biggest names in technology brands. Follow Kåre @karelindahl.