How life sciences companies can benefit from the LMM

Many firms face scalability challenges related to the amount of content they’re processing, the number of languages and markets they’re supporting, and the timeframes in which they must deliver all of this. Those in the sectors that make up life sciences — such as pharmaceutical, medical devices and biomedical technologies — have additional pressure from governmental regulatory bodies around the world. These firms require a framework to help them avoid making typical mistakes and to enable them to mature as quickly as possible when it comes to localization.

The localization maturity model allows life sciences firms to reduce risk — it’s all about mitigating risk for translation and localization managers at life sciences firms. This focus leads them to concentrate on predictability, reliable processes and knowing what to expect at every turn. The goal of these managers is to translate this effort into achieving compliance in local markets as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

The localization maturity model (LMM) from Common Sense Advisory provides the framework for these managers to underpin their risk reduction efforts. It enables companies to treat translation and localization as a normal corporate business process to be funded, measured, tracked and streamlined over time. It is rooted in the capability maturity model pioneered by Carnegie Mellon University and more than a decade of research and consulting engagements by Common Sense Advisory. The model outlines nine levels of localization maturity, beginning with unsuccessful practices and progressing through continually more sophisticated and effective levels of strategy, process, organizational structure and automation (see Figure 1).

Localization maturity occurs in phases. Let’s take a look at how businesses can apply the LMM to shorten their learning curve and achieve compliance more quickly in local markets. We outline below the characteristics of life sciences firms that fit into levels 1 to 4 (see Figure 2). We also include an example of one critical area on which they should focus in order to move more quickly to the next level of maturity.


Secure an executive sponsor

Companies at the reactive level 1 stage respond to business demands for international or domestic multicultural opportunities with ad hoc measures. There are few if any processes; roles and responsibilities are unclear; and technology support for localization tasks is minimal at best. Firms at this level often experience pain caused by subpar linguistic quality, delayed schedules and cost overruns. At some point during this phase, the organization assigns (or sometimes hires from the outside) someone to be the “go to” person for translation.

However, that person will not be successful as a one-person band. Going global smoothly requires an upper-level manager who watches out for translation by ensuring stable funding and ongoing support from the C-suite. Without this sponsor, our research demonstrates that the translation team is reduced to constantly battling to maintain the appropriate level of resources over time. Colleagues in other areas will tend to treat their international commitments as negotiable when they have to scale back. Therefore, one of the most important to-dos for the person newly in charge of translation is to identify and recruit an executive sponsor. That person can smooth the way for everything else that needs to get done for the translation and localization group to be successful.

Fill in and lock down processes

A sure sign that a life sciences firm is entering the repeatable phase of localization maturity is when it begins to formalize its processes for core localization tasks and events and to identify roles and responsibilities. It also recognizes the importance of external providers and often repurposes mainstream productivity and project management solutions — for example, Microsoft Excel and Project — for localization and translation tasks. Products are now translated, but pressure increases for local adaptations.

The challenge during this stage is to fill in missing or incomplete processes to scale for the amount and variety of multilingual content that must be delivered. Translation teams need to be careful not to allow other groups to inundate them with work beyond their capacity. It’s important to establish clear limits when extending translation and localization coverage to new groups within their organizations.


Create an automation roadmap

Once it progresses to the managed phase, an organization has documented a set of basic processes and started pushing their consistent use. In life sciences companies, there are likely to be multiple points of contact for localization around the company, sometimes in the same division. Increased demand for translation and localization can also lead to a growing number of external suppliers.

Most organizations at level 2 depend heavily on e-mail, Skype, phone, FTP and a combination of Word documents and Excel spreadsheets to track projects, budgets and terminology. Suppliers may use proprietary software to manage their workflow, and some will recommend that life sciences firms adopt their technology and processes. The challenge in level 3 is to move beyond short-term fixes and establish an automation roadmap for the medium to long term.

Life sciences companies should resist the temptation to race to apply technology to automate inefficient processes — a scenario referred to in the IT sector as “paving cow paths.” Rather, they need to take a step back before proceeding and determine which core processes are ready for automation and how candidate solutions will serve them over time. The companies that Common Sense Advisory works with typically apply translation technology in the following order: translation memory, translation management systems, terminology management, integration with content management systems, integration with authoring systems and machine translation (MT).


Centralize to achieve global excellence

Core processes are in place and regularly followed for standard tasks during the optimized phase of localization maturity. Efforts to extend the application of these procedures across the enterprise get underway. Operational roles trend toward centralization in recognition of the importance of localization to the entire enterprise. As part of this transition, shared technology services appear and specialized applications such as translation management systems become a major part of the automation strategy.

Optimized localization maturity is about transforming the translation and localization group into a center for shared excellence for globalization, as well as shared services. In this expanded role, the team supplies leadership, education, best practices and support to other groups for how to globalize their programs and processes. The anchor for the center is the application of the group’s expertise throughout the organization.

How do life sciences companies accomplish this transformation? Our research confirms that organizations that have undergone this makeover ensure that all translation and localization offerings are stable and optimized before moving ahead to the final fifth level. They take an inventory of what they need to do to ensure that shared services function smoothly. They survey their internal customers to find out where they need to improve. Then they match that list against the current roles and responsibilities of the translation and localization team. Doing this allows them to fill any holes through training or engaging the necessary talent — with full-time employees or contracted staff.

Without a roadmap to clearly define what is required in terms of strategy, process, organizational structure and automation at each level of localization maturity, translation and localization teams at life sciences find it extremely hard to stay on track. As their companies are required to conform to more and more local regulations, these teams need a framework such as the localization maturity model to enable them to scale appropriately to comply as quickly as possible.