Localization Metrics and Return on Investment

While humankind was still grappling with the new reality of the pandemic, LocWorldWide42 (LWW42) was presented to localization professionals and other participants attending virtually from their home offices around the world. In July 2020, I had the opportunity to attend the Bigger, Better, Faster (BBF) workshop to gain insight from my peers and engage in live discussions about global crisis management related to localization benchmarks and processes. After the LWW42-BBF session, a group of participants — myself included — expressed interest in continuing the conversation and have been conducting one-hour meetings every month since October 2020 to talk about growth management.

I am highly motivated by one particular question, raised during one of our gatherings, that sparked a discussion around the topic of why localization leads should — or how they can — develop their roles and lead the practice of localization from being a logistical support function to partnership in strategic support for growth management. The question is this: how can localization leads expand their part in the decision-making process for strategic growth and not merely lead a supportive department for translation and project management workflow?

Many established businesses are investing in internal localization departments and are hiring in-house localization leads. The localization leads are expected to be Renaissance people, with a practical understanding of agile solutions for translation and global user experience challenges, product development skills, geopolitical and cultural aptitude, and a grasp of international project management principles. To name but a few of the elements of this interdisciplinary skillset, the best localization leads have in-depth knowledge of: 

  • Machine translation and post editing. 
  • Terminology management.  
  • Software production cycles.  
  • Data analytics and programming.  
  • Methods for localization engineering and automation.  
  • Desktop publishing. 
  • Development and usage of Computer-Aided Tools (CAT).  
  • Functional and language testing. 
  • L10n/G11n bug management.  

However, when decision-makers and CEOs are concerned about international growth, especially in new markets, localization teams are not perceived as strategic partners that understand the complexities of global expansion in supplementary markets. Instead, they are expected to perform as support centers by managing the translation and internationalization demands of product development and marketing initiatives. I believe, however, that change is not an external factor, and new ideas and practices can spring forth from within. Therefore, as we prepare ourselves to evangelize for the localization department’s critical function in growth management, localization leads need to adopt a few additional knowledge areas to manifest their strategic potential with respect to global growth. 

I hope to further to study methods and techniques that can be utilized by localization leads. The main intention is to develop visual dashboards to present CEOs and directors with the quantifiable data needed to globally develop products with local end-users (consumers) at the center of the business flywheel strategy. 

During the LWW42-BBF monthly sessions, we concluded that localization leads must embrace a data-driven mindset with the ability to acquire, track, and visually present data related to localization systems. This data can be used to increase return on investment (ROI) in not only the growth phase of the global business life cycle but in the full business cycle of launch, growth, shake-out, maturity, and decline with respect to the three financial metrics used to describe each business life cycle phase — sales, profit, and cash flow (Figure 1).  

Figure 1: Business Life Cycle  


Based on this approach, we also examined the effectiveness of a well-developed business dashboard produced by localization managers as a way to make it possible for decision-makers to foresee and adopt the most efficient global growth strategy.  In the future, I’d like to explore the best answers to the following questions:  

  1. What are the best localization metrics to include in a visual dashboard? 
    • Reviewing strategic objectives. 
    • Identifying a list of potential indicators. 
    • Eliminating indicators that are not practical. 
    • Including goals and KPIs.  
    • Determining the target. 

2. How to grab, track, and maintain valuable data: 

    • Planning data collection.  
    • Determining what tools are useful for collecting primary data. 
    • Leveraging your business’s website to track languages in demand. 
    • Analyzing data. 

3. How to calculate and increase ROI:  

    • Calculating ROI. 
    • Understanding how market development affects ROI. 
    • Quantifying hard-to-calculate ROI factors. 

4. What are the best practices to evaluate risk and maintain a budget? 

    • Understanding budget risk.  
    • Understanding how risks impact cost. 
    • Best practices for developing S-curve graphs and tracking budget.  

5. What are the best methods and tools to visually present localization metrics and ROI in an interactive dashboard? 

    • Best tools for creating an interactive dashboard. 
    • Deciding what data to include. 
    • Implementing your findings in a visual and straightforward story. 

 6. How to influence decision-makers to use and benefit from the dashboard:  

    • Selling your ideas in the boardroom.  
    • Developing your cultural intelligence to engage international stakeholders. 

By conducting this research, I hope to discover best practices for leading a localization team that will be the go-to internal partner for global growth and cultural intelligence. While conducting this research, I would love to hear your comments and provide us with your practical experience with the topic. I’m looking forward to your engagement and interest!

This post is inspired by the LocWorldWide42 (LWW42) workshop Bigger, Better, Faster: Navigating the Globalization Road from Startup to Enterprise. A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste. 

Nazanin Azari
Nazanin (Naz) Azari is a software localization, creative & data-driven digital marketing expert. She comes from a multidisciplinary background in visual arts and design, data analytics, data visualization, and global digital marketing. Rapid and sustainable user growth through strategic localization leadership is her true passion.


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