Building a Business Case for Translation

In our approach to translation strategy, we talk about “building a business case for translation for a particular market“. When faced with a limited budget, organizations should think strategically about their globalization efforts.

For what markets and in what languages should we translate?

There are many dimensions to take into account:

  • Globalization effort: What approaches do we find acceptable; do we localize (write for one market), regionalize (write for multiple markets) or internationalize (write for all markets)? Knowing these options ahead of time can enable a smoother decision-making process.
  • Relevant company data: Doing a risk assessment of your (client’s) global offices can help to make a decision. Employee data, Retention Rates, Employee Engagement, Reports of Non-compliance… what data is relevant to the organization in relation to the campaign goals?
  • Relevant language and cultural data: Consider cultural dimensions and language demographics to determine a short-list (see case study below). Together with relevant company data, this data can help define where there is a higher risk of misunderstanding of concepts. Together with industry specific research, you can drive the message specifically for one region or market.
  • Demographics: Is your market homogeneous? Can we consider Latin America as one market, or should we differentiate?
  • Market forces: Does the organization need to capture market share in a particular region? Should we focus on that region first?

What outcomes should we measure?

Client-based outcomes

An example of existing company outcomes based metrics can help to build a case for translation:

  • Employee engagement data – What relevant information is tracked to ensure employee engagement and where are the trends per country/region/division?
    • One of our clients showed click-through rates as a way to measure effectiveness of their global campaign, without considering the metrics that they focused on for their English campaign that may be more relevant. We considered click-through rates as a starting point, but if issues arise, we need more specific metrics as to why a campaign may not be working well, such as brand performance.
    • Another client looked at incentive participation rate at a global level to see what impact translation and localization efforts have on the overall outcomes. We monitored this participation rate of Spanish speaking participants and what progress was made by first translating the incentive program. Consider financial metrics tied to the participation rate in order to create a break-even analysis (for instance: in order to justify the translation costs, participation rates should be x% higher).
  • Employee safety data – How are concepts understood? What type of safety metrics are clearly out of the norm?


For larger clients and longer campaigns, it may be best to consider a Balanced Scorecard approach with a selection metrics and desired outcomes in order to track the effectiveness of the campaign. Making the process transparent helps in justifying the budget for translation early on.

Translation Metrics

We can report on translation process efficiencies and metrics that are specific in our industry.
Examples are:

  • Trend analysis of translation leverage – provides insight into consistency of writing and reuse;
  • Cost analysis per process – provides insight into process inefficiencies and progress
  • Translation accuracy – When client SMEs review the translation, we have metrics in place that can be used to grade and measure the revisions and progress made.

Case Study: Employee Motivation and Cultural Dimensions

For an incentive reward program, we looked at employee behavior and motivation as a model of variables that are considered in the English program and used research and hypothesis to come up with a cultural framework by Hofstede:

  • Payout Structure (associated with Masculinity)
  • Rule Structure (associated with Individualism and Power Distance)
  • Internal Communications (associated with Uncertainty Avoidance)
  • Business Objective (associated with Long Term Orientation)

Here is an example of how we plot this against the different cultural dimensions as defined by Hostede:


Cultural distance is a good starting point to get a baseline hierarchy of cultural disparities. Combined with an analysis of performance, this data can be further broken down to specific cultural areas:

While this provides starting point, careful consideration needs to be made towards specific issues in every market. One example was a US company that had a vision to become 10 billion dollar company by 2020. One of their values they wanted to communicate to their employees was innovation. While this value may resonate in the US as a means to reach a certain revenue level, from a German’s perspective, innovation is “doing more with less”, where the goal is focused on the bottom line. The idea of growing a company’s size by means of innovation did not make sense.

The overall hypothesis should be that it can be expected that cultural adaptation may be achieved more easily in markets that are on the left side of this graphic than the markets that appear on the right hand side. A lot of the idiosyncrasies can be dealt with at the translation stage, but early assessment may be desired in “high-risk” cultures.

Based on the language and cultural dimensions analysis (Hofstede and Trompenaar), we mapped out our data across a decision matrix (size of the bubble indicate employee population):