Localization Maturity Model
by Donald A. DePalma
September 13, 2006
September 13, 2006

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For many companies localization is a black art, while others have honed international product and website adaptation into a science. To help companies benefit from the work of others, Common Sense Advisory created the localization maturity model (LMM), an adaptation of the software industry's capability maturity model (CMM). A CMM is a reference model of accepted practices in a given discipline, used to improve and appraise a firm's ability to perform the functions required in that arena. It describes behaviors or best practices demonstrated by successful projects. The LMM does the same for localization.

From our many discussions and interviews with companies that have localized products, documents, and websites, we found that most pass through four stages of maturity before reaching the ideal localization process. Companies proceed through these LMM levels at different speeds, often finding themselves more advanced in one aspect than in others. Where does your company fall on the continuum?

  • Reactive. An ad hoc response to business demands for international or domestic multicultural support characterizes this first phase of localization. There are few defined processes and lots of individual heroics.

  • Repeatable. In this discovery phase, companies establish basic project management processes to track cost, schedule, and functionality. External translation resources and engineering resources support the effort.

  • Managed. Recognition of common problems drives efforts to document, standardize, integrate, and sometimes centralize localization projects across the firm. Ideally, all projects use an approved version of a corporate-standard process for localization.

  • Optimized. At this stage companies take a more scientific approach, collecting detailed process, quality, and efficiency metrics. They begin requiring localization- and language-centric tools, both by their internal development groups and by their sourcing partners.

  • Transparent. Companies in the final phase of the LMM have internalized the concept of localization so that it is a natural part of their code and content life cycles, business planning, quality management programs, and general outlook. They undertake a program of continuous process improvement in which they insert the globalization "gene" into every product, customer interaction, and employee.

In implementing a globalization strategy managers must alter IT infrastructure, operations, marketing messaging, and corporate culture. The Localization Maturity Model will help planners understand what others have experienced and learned before them.


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