Mainstreaming L10n Purchasing
Why is localization sourcing and procurement not recognized more as a strategic and critical business activity within client-side organizations? Which aspect of the universal business construct — people, processes, or technology — can we point to for this failure? Do localization buyers lack the esteemed higher education pedigree that managers of other cost centers seem to have? Or does the convoluted terminology used to describe the localization process confuse non-localization colleagues? Do translation buyers lack adequate technology — something like a hosted, self-service bidding tool from Emptoris, Ariba, or SAP, perhaps?
Having spent considerable time on both the client and vendor side of the GILT industry, I have not observed technology as limiting the awareness of localization purchasing within the corporate arena. Rather, I have observed that localization buyers usually find themselves in the proverbial closet of mainstreamed purchasing for reasons of people and processes.
Conversations with several high-tech buyers of localization services confirmed this observation: the single barrier to mainstreaming the purchasing of localization services originates from a lack of internal collaboration — often times the effects of corporate departmental politics.
PEOPLE CREATE BARRIERS TO OPEN COMMUNICATION
Let’s examine the people aspect of this dynamic. The very background and experience level of the localization buyer has much to do with the perception of his or her value to the company. Typically, the localization buyer exhibits one of two common profiles:
The approach here is usually localization as a business process, where the individual is regarded internally for having solved some other non-language related internal business problem.
Let’s focus on the language professional, one who will break out of the pigeon hole in which they’ve been placed — the language (only) expert.
In order to become more accepted as a mainstream buyer of a corporate service, and therefore gain more recognition as a valuable contributor to your company, you must speak the language of business: reports, ROI, and business value. Other business managers don’t want to hear about glossary reviews or regression testing. By framing the purchasing strategy message into a business problem and business solution context, you begin to shed the localization mold and move further mainstream.
Other opportunities for improvement are through technical training and traditional higher education certificates or degrees. Study to complete an MBA from an accredited university. Seek certifications, such as the Certified Purchasing Manager credential from the Institute of Supply Management.
Also consider conference workshops. It’s widely known which conferences and workshops you can attend to sharpen your localization skills, but what non-localization training can you seek to better align your skills with those possessed by the rest of your colleagues?
I also suggest looking to broaden your horizons by growing laterally into other areas of valued expertise. Perhaps spend some time in a position exchange or job-sharing rotation, so as to gain knowledge of finance, purchase orders, invoicing, and accounts payable. Or consider time within the legal team, to help you gain knowledge of tighter supply management through contracting. Other departments where you can learn lateral areas of expertise include product management, regulatory affairs, quality assurance, and consulting.
By expanding your skill sets into those which are more widely recognized in the traditional corporate setting, there is a greater probability that your colleagues will understand what you do as a Globalization Manager.
If your people and processes are more widely understood, you can use the common knowledge and platform to begin to breakdown misunderstandings and internal politics.
However, these solutions offer only a plus for eventually bringing your purchasing strategy forward. Consider this question: As GILT industry professionals, why do we bang so loudly on our “knowledge of language” drum, while the rest of the client-side organization marches to a beat of corporate purchasing? As we know of no Chief Globalization Officer, why not look to the Chief Procurement Officer? Aren’t the CPOs executing known and mainstreamed strategies in the procurement of goods, commodities, and services?
from the Aberdeen Group, who surveyed procurement
executives from 100 global enterprises about transforming
their practices, indicated that accelerating
Apply these guidelines as tenets for your localization strategy transformation.
Purchasing strategies for office supplies to facilities costs are no longer about simply containing costs. Instead, they are about buying the answer to a strategic business initiative or a complex business problem.
IF YOU HAVE A PROCESS, DOES ANYONE KNOW ABOUT IT?
An excellent way to evangelize the value of localization purchasing is through a standard and accepted process. Using the following one, globalization buyers can dynamically shift negotiations from buying what vendors sell to buying the solution for a well-defined business problem.
1. Identify spend and sourcing goals
2. Collect data
After the team has a copy of the draft timeline and has prioritized sourcing goals for the translation negotiation, you’ll enter into the most time-consuming phase of the entire sourcing project: data collection.
3. Recruit suppliers
Seek vendor alignment with your market differentiation. If you are a medical device manufacturer, for example, align with a vendor that has demonstrated strong experience in your field and that has references. (Be sure to check the references.)
4. Prepare total cost RFQ
Although globalization buyers certainly understand the tactical steps of how to produce, test, and release international products, they seldom have adequate records or documentation of the details, processes, procedures, and overarching tenets of the business relationship. That definition of business requirements will require several iterations, so plan for this in your timeline. Draft the business requirements as a business problem that requires a partner to solve. Include documentation such as general purchasing terms and conditions, legal terms, business service level requirements, and procedures, which together comprise the total bid package. Here are some “best practice” recommendations for items to include in your documentation package:
The key to creating a sound and well-understood bid package is to include any ingredient that will help the suppliers make a firm cost quotation. Equally important in the RFQ phase is gathering in writing all intangible expectations for the intended relationship. A tight contract protects and benefits both parties.
Obtain final approval from all internal stakeholders on the RFQ, including a lot structure for bidding out the business. For instance, you may wish to parse out lots of business according to geographic region (US headquarters, Japan, and EMEA) or according to output (document translation versus product localization).
Collaborate with your spend management provider to determine the platform for your online auction as well as any critical bidding parameters. Create and publish the auction in concert with the final RFQ package and agreed upon dates.
5. Prepare the suppliers to bid
Joao Mendes-Roter, Content & Localization Manager involved in gaming localization, shares that “Random-Logic/Cassava develops, markets, and localizes the 888 products: Casino and Poker, in 11 markets. My Team is composed of 11 Language Content Managers responsible for selecting and managing in-country localization vendors that can handle a very specific project scope: (1) Cultural Assessment/Iconography Review (Market & Product research); (2) Website Localization (both graphics redesign and text); (3) Software localization (both graphics redesign and text). Finding an in-country or in-region solution provider for this package of services is really a challenge.”
Therefore, this phase of the strategic sourcing process will force you to manage your suppliers against your defined business needs. As your localization business needs are unique, the questions arising from the suppliers will be particular to your business. Spend adequate time to address all needs, and take these guidelines into consideration:
6. Conduct price negotiations
If each of the seven steps of strategic sourcing are followed, and the requirements are essentially concrete, then you’ll have an easy time comparing apples to apples in the pricing portion of the negotiation.
7. Evaluation and Award
If necessary, request a detailed cost breakdown worksheet from the suppliers. After having down-selected the suppliers to a reasonable group of finalists, allow time to schedule face-to-face presentations to better understand the bidder capabilities and potential fit for the contract. If you suspect that the sales executive will not stick to the agenda on which you wish to focus, publish a scripted presentation agenda to maintain a fair and level playing field.
Consider these guidelines and best practices to craft a realistic award decision. Analyze bid results by revisiting sourcing goals, completed RFIs, and competitive pricing bids provided during the negotiation. Your decision should not be based on price alone, but rather on how the prioritized sourcing goals stack against the results.
Here are some additional items to consider in the post-negotiation evaluation and award:
Harnessing the correct combination of people, processes, and technologies to evidence a sound, risk-averse purchasing strategy will inspire localization buyers to move from the shadowed, terminology-heavy world of localization into the mainstream purchasing spotlight. Adopt the business protocols of the colleagues in other cost centers around you, rather than continuing with “but localization is so very different.” Direct your attentions towards improving the people and process components, and watch the internal barriers to localization awareness dissolve.
1 Tim A. Minahan, Vice President and Managing Director of Supply Research and Strategy for Aberdeen Group, Inc. “The CPO’s Agenda Report,” March 2005.
2 Joao Mendes-Roter, Content & Localization Manager for Random Logic/Cassava, personal interview following CSN Expo pre-conference workshop. April 2006
Please see some ads as well as other content from TranslationDirectory.com: