Why Lean Localization is the alternative to a translation agency

by | Feb 13, 2023

There is no way around it: if you want to bring your product to new markets, where they speak different languages, you’re gonna have to deal with that thing called localization. People buy if they believe the product is for them, and talking to them in their language is an essential part of penetrating foreign markets.

For now, let’s assume you believe this, and you want to make your international expansion a success. What do you do?

The first thing most people do is call a translation agency and send files over to translate. This seems the logical thing to do, as this has been standard practice for a long time.

Translation agencies are particularly good at:

  • Finding you translators fast, so they can deal with the peaks and lows in your translation demand
  • Fixing technical problems with the files you deliver
  • Operating as your single point of contact in dealing with multiple translators and reviewers

But there are good reasons to think twice. In many cases agencies are not able to deliver what you need in order to satisfy your customer.

This is especially the case if your users value:

  • Immediate access in their language to the features and content you are deploying
  • Reliable information and a great user experience in all languages
  • A product that is not overpriced

Are any of these important to your customers? Then, to achieve this, this is what you need:

  • Quick turn around times for smaller pieces of content. This is especially relevant when you are in continuous deployment, but can also be vital when you’re publishing highly actual content for marketing purposes
  • Translators that you can educate about your product and vision, and that are always the ones translating for you
  • Little overhead so that costs stay reasonable and don’t impact your product pricing negatively

These features usually do not come from translation agencies. Often, agencies prefer large volumes of content to minimize overhead costs, do not allow direct contact between translators and clients in order to stay in control of what is happening, and run a sustainable business by adding large margins on the word prices of the translators.

Lean Localization solves exactly these challenges and is therefore a great alternative to the traditional translation agencies. It looks at your processes and how to improve them. So that you will experience:

  • Faster turnaround times
  • Consistent user experience in all languages
  • Low internal and external costs

And therefore: to customers that are happy with your product and content, irrespective of what language they speak.

How? A short story about Lean

Lean is all about creating value by eliminating waste and creating flow.

For this it is important to define what value means to your users in all markets. Is it that your product is released instantaneously in all languages? Is it that terminology is always consistent? Or is it that it’s fully aligned with the questions your audience currently has about your product and everything that’s associated with it?

Being aware of this will make it possible to make your processes continuously improve towards these 4 utopian goals:

100% Value added

Every step in your process must add value to the end goal. Everything that is not adding value is considered waste. Lean Localization helps you to find and eliminate the wasteful and time-consuming activities in your translation process.

When your process is free of waste, it is easily scalable. If it is not, you also scale up the waste.


In Lean, the main aim is to create flow. When your process is in flow, you are no longer experiencing peaks and lows, but there is a steady workload always. This is what makes your process scalable: meaning that there is no need to scale up the number of people right to make a deadline, both internally and externally, nor scaling it down at other times.

Zero defects

Finding the root cause of every defect, and making continuous improvements so that it never happens again – without adding wasteful steps: going for zero defects is absolutely necessary to make your process flow and the output flawless.

Safety for people: direct collaboration

In order to do all this you need transparency in every step of the process. If you don’t know what defects and deviations are occurring, you cannot solve them and you will leave the people in your process with stressful activities that might burn them out eventually.

The easiest way to get transparency is to work with all contributors to the process directly, such as the translators. Their expertise, capabilities and talent will be a great asset in building the perfect translation workflow. Improving the bottlenecks that they are experiencing will make them happier, more productive and stay with you longer.

You can find freelance translators easily on the internet, and if you don’t want the hassle and uncertainty of searching and onboarding them yourself, you can use a service like Translators as a Service (TaaS), powered by Lean Localization.


With these four pillars, we have proven to build processes that:

  • lets you create content 4x faster
  • lets you deliver translation instantly after your product is ready to deploy in the original language
  • lets you create exactly the right output without heavily relying on multiple QA steps
  • saves you up to 50% on internal and external costs

Without the use of an agency and without any scaling up of internal resources.

When is Lean Localization not for you?

There are cases where a translation agency will serve your purposes better:

  • If you have one-off translations that do not require any knowledge of your product
  • If you don’t want – or can’t – improve any processes right now
  • If time to market or user experience is not an issue and you don’t mind spending extra money on overhead

In these cases, translation agencies will take care of the problems that arise and do their utmost to deliver the best translation they can in your designated time frame.

However, if translation is something that can make you stand out from your competitors, we strongly recommend to see it as your core business and treat it as such.

How do I become a Lean Localization company?

There are two ways that I can help you become a company where localization is your competitive advantage.

Localization Management: Build – Operate – Transfer

I set up the localization program. When the process is free of waste -and overhead – it is transferred to the responsible process owners.

Localization training and coaching

If you already have someone in charge of translation, I offer trainings and coaching to help them become a strategic localization manager, who can create lean processes that align with your business goals.

If you want to become Lean in Localizing, please feel free to reach out and book a call