Localization Manager Day-to-Day Struggles & Responsibilities

Mike Giannakopoulos
April 8, 2022
11 min read

When exploring the topic of localization, you will eventually encounter localization management. Following up on localization management, you will then need to define the roles and responsibilities of the person doing this work, the Localization Manager. Based on my experience, this will be the natural evolution of your company’s localization journey.

Keep reading to understand better what a Localization Manager does, how the role is usually introduced in a company, and what the struggles are that come with the role.

What is a Localization Manager?

A localization manager is responsible for handling how content is managed and how it transitions across languages. This work is done in order to facilitate the needs of users in accessing localized versions of apps, websites, booklets, flyers, subtitles, etc.

To achieve this goal, localization managers need to manage a team of linguists, responsible for localizing the content, as well as the localized content itself, so that they can correctly distribute localized versions of that content back to the people that requested it in a timely manner.

Day-to-day Work of a Localization Manager

Here is a real-life example of how that would work. The development and product teams want the core app localized in two languages by the end of the current month. At the same time, the marketing team is launching a campaign in three countries next week and wants specific pages of their website translated to the respective languages. The localization manager is responsible for handling both scenarios by:

  • Recruiting collaborators for the specific languages
  • Getting all the content from the respective teams
  • Setting delivery dates for each content set
  • Monitoring the progress of the collaborators
  • Addressing any issues that are blocking the collaborators
  • Packaging all localized content and sending it back to the respective teams
  • Cross-checking that localized content works on the app, and if not, addressing any issues. For example, handling a broken UI element due to long translations, or adding a variable that was omitted during translation.

On a daily basis, the work of a localization manager is mainly spread across communication with the localization team – the linguists – fixing problematic translations, providing them with more context, and facilitating translated content back to the departments that need it.

Extended Responsibilities of the Localization Manager

A localization manager is responsible for all work related to localization. Beyond day-to-day tasks, there is also some work that must be done periodically.

This includes managing the expenses and payments among all collaborators working on localization. This is generally translators, language coordinators, and language experts. An alternative to collaboration management is hiring a Language Service Provider (LSP) to do all the localization work and paying for the whole service in bulk. Managing expenses and payments is done weekly or monthly depending on the expected localization deliverables.

Another responsibility is managing a company’s expanding global content knowledge base. The global knowledge base consists of past translations, specific terminology handling, and brand/company guidelines that the localization team should follow. These actions are done periodically for housekeeping, e.g., monthly, or as triggered by a report from an end-user.

Communicating the return of investment (ROI) on localization to the rest of the company should also be done regularly. This is a complex task involving many parts. These actions are carried out either monthly, quarterly, or yearly. Some metrics that contribute to ROI measurements are:

  • Views per language for each page
  • Geographic classification of customers/users that bring in revenue
  • Expenses of localization
  • The time needed to enter a specific local market

Who Becomes a Localization Manager?

More often than not, companies that want to enter into the localization process don’t yet have a dedicated person responsible for handling the localization workload. At the beginning of the localization journey, a person in the company is selected to act as a localization manager. That person comes either from the Marketing department, from Engineering, or from the Product team.

On a survey we ran on Linkedin, people from Marketing (25%) and Engineering (17%) were the most common roles transitioning to Localization Management from non-localization-related fields.

Specifically, it seems that a marketer is the most common occupation to transition into the localization manager role, followed by an engineer, and then a person from the product team. This order shows that the marketing department is the first one to explore the needs of a local market, followed by app localization starting from the engineering department.

Initially, localization management needs are limited and people holding this role can do so in parallel with their core department’s work. The work is done on the side, either a few hours a week or in a dedicated localization sprint.

As more departments and content require localization, the localization manager role becomes more demanding. At that point, the localization manager will be a full-time position. 

So, either the person covering the role will pivot to the full-time position, or a new person is hired that is more fluent with the localization processes needed. Lately, the demand for localization managers has increased as more companies encounter mature localization needs. The people most fitted to take this role are translators transitioning into a manager role.

Localization Manager Struggles

Localization management can be very demanding work. Usually, all departments wait for their localized content on their own timeframe, putting pressure on the localization team for delivery on a timeline. 

As localization requests can come from various directions (web-app, marketing, help center), the localization manager needs to find mechanisms to address that workload in parallel and in time. Check out some of the localization manager struggles and common workarounds in the following sections.

Troubleshooting and Answering Questions With Linguists

The localization team performing the actual translations will want as much context as possible to do their work. The most common struggle comes when the phrase in need of translation is missing context. For example, does the word “Home” refer to a house or the landing page of a website?

When there is such a need, the localization manager steps in to provide clarifications. Clarifications might come in the form of a comment, a screenshot, or other metadata-like tags. Considering that the speed of localization is important, the localization manager will need management tools that allow for the fast delivery of an answer.

Quality Assurance on Localized Content

Getting content fully localized to other languages is half of the work. After that, you need to check that the provided translations work on the final interface or document on which they will be displayed. Some of the most common mistakes are: 

  • Broken layouts because of a translation’s length.
  • Missing variables that cause an application to not run properly.
  • Some text is not marked for translation, but it should be translated.

To make sure that everything is working as expected, the localization manager needs to check all versions of the localized content. This is done by the localization manager or another member of the team who reports issues back to the localization manager. Fixing these issues means going back to the localization team with more context and an overview of the required solution.

Translation Consistency, Refining Translations

As more content is localized, new phrases are introduced. New terminologies are added and translated. With content accumulating, the localization manager needs to check for inconsistencies between older and newer localized content. For example, is the word “Submit” consistently localized as “Envoyer” or as “Soumettre”? Is that consistent across all instances of the word, both for the web and mobile apps? Another example is the tone of voice: are you using an informal direct tone of voice or a more formal one?

To achieve consistency across content, the localization manager must use a multitude of tools provided by the Translation Management System. Tools like a glossary of terms, a global search across all content to identify similar words, and a style guide that provides guidelines to the localization team performing the translation work can all be used.

Engaging Development Teams on Localization Tasks

In some cases, localized versions of a web or mobile application need work from the development team. Some cases we already shared include a broken layout due to a long translation or a term that is not localized. Some other cases are:

  • Addition of metadata or context on strings that will be sent for localization
  • Automations that talk directly to the code, e.g., a webhook, or programmatically getting data to perform a task (API)

Fixing any of the above involves a developer. A localization manager needs to identify the proper channels for speaking with a developer. Usually, the company messaging app suffices, e.g., Slack. Other methods include the company management/tracking tool, such as Jira, or messages directly in GitHub or Bitbucket, where developers usually work. Typically, the development team focuses on feature development and has little capacity for addressing localization-related issues.

Setting up a Localization Workflow

The localization workflow includes all the steps to get from a source content – in one language – to a set of localized versions of that content. Defining these steps involves all the teams that want to localize content, e.g., the development team for an application, marketing teams for a marketing website, and support teams for a Help Center. These teams coordinate with the localization manager to set the expectations of the localization process and define the steps to get to the end result, i.e., localized versions of the content.

Setting the localization workflow is the first step when a company enters into the localization process. When the localization workflow is set, it means that all teams know the localization tasks needed in their day-to-day jobs. In that sense, work that falls within the localization workflow is more of a “set it and forget it” job. The localization workflow will need rethinking and additional implementation when something changes or is added to the workflow. For example, adding the Help Center to the requirements means that additional steps will be needed in the localization workflow.

Managing Localization Expenses

A part of the management work for the localization manager includes expenses for their team of linguists to offer fair payment. Localization work is measured in words. Linguists have a specific rate per word according to the language they are translating. For example, translating the phrase “Hello World” to French includes two words and a rate of $0.18 per word, resulting in a price of $0.36.

Estimating the work of a linguist must take into account various parameters such as translated word count, leverage of any pre-existing translations, whether translations were delivered on time (ETA), and the rate for improving existing translations (edited word count).

Reporting the Benefits of Localization

Finally, localization managers are responsible for communicating the benefits of localization to the rest of the company. Measuring the benefits of localization can incorporate simple and sophisticated metrics like those shared in the section about ROI above.

Getting into the actual numbers for these metrics can be a difficult task. It involves collaboration with other departments to either access the metrics or set the proper events to measure what’s needed.

The Localization Manager Today and Tomorrow

The work of a localization manager is very demanding. The workload scales with company localization needs and expansion to more departments (marketing material, help center, web, and mobile applications). Moreover, part of the responsibilities include heavy communication and alignment with many departments, along with the team the localization manager is working with, i.e., the linguists.

Making localization management viable includes sophisticated tools, automation, and specific procedures that a manager should have in her arsenal. Tools like a Translation Management System (TMS), integrations, and delivery processes for the linguists will be critical.

Looking into the future, the demand for localization will grow as local markets see the same growth that all companies seek. You can read why here. Localization managers will have more content to manage, and we will see bigger localization teams handling the workload. Not to mention more sophisticated services for the localization manager to use.

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Mike Giannakopoulos
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