In a global marketplace, communicating with users in their native tongue presents a monumental challenge. With thousands of languages written using dozens of alphabets, most organizations don’t have the bandwidth or expertise to customize their applications and documentation for every locale’s cultural and business norms.
For more than two decades, Lionbridge has been the go-to provider of localization services. Translating content into more than 350 languages, they’ve built up both the linguistic and technical expertise to support complicated and high visibility use cases across a wide range of industries, including those churning out frequent, incremental updates to their products.
- Consistent and standardized roadmap format
- Organizational understanding of reasons for prioritization decisions
- Significant time savings and increased stakeholder alignment
They didn’t achieve this by merely employing an army of linguistic experts. Lionbridge leverages machine learning and connectors to client solutions to quickly transform text, imagery, and video into the appropriate languages and cultural norms those audiences demand.
Maintaining that technical infrastructure, onboarding new clients, and customizing & optimizing workflows for existing ones requires many initiatives running in parallel, not to mention juggling competing demands for their implementation teams. Balancing ongoing operations, supporting the business’s growth, and continually innovating requires prioritization and stakeholder alignment to run smoothly.
Chris Dudak, Senior Manager, Product Management, at Lionbridge, is a “lifer” in the world of linguistics, having studied it in college before putting it to work at Lionbridge in various roles. But while translating languages may be easy for him, translating the competing priorities and numerous work streams and projects into something easily digestible proved more difficult.
A few years ago, this came to a head when he was assigned to a project managing a portfolio of customer-specific solutions. He was immediately overwhelmed trying to balance critical product changes versus maintenance versus incoming RFPs.
“How do you make sense of it and give structure and process to development teams and resolve conflicts when there’s only so much capacity?” Dudak asked himself. “How do you make those tough decisions without a way to visualize that work?”
“I would spend 90% of my time formatting and making changes so I could present it for five minutes on a call. We were spending time roadmapping and not solving customer problems.”
At the time, Lionbridge was relying on tables in PowerPoint to create and manage its many product roadmaps. But for this project, Dudak realized this solution was simply too difficult to use. Being nimble, tactical, and responsive to customer requests made the heavily manual process of updating PowerPoint-based product roadmaps with no standard format untenable.
The roadmaps were hard to find and didn’t offer a centralized location for everyone to see them. He found himself updating or recreating them monthly, and the entire Product team ended up on calls and in meetings to discuss and review them, even when their presence wasn’t necessary. And with no version control or history, there was no easy way to see what had changed when or how things had evolved.
“I would spend 90% of my time formatting and making changes so I could present it for five minutes on a call,” Dudak recalled, lamenting their inability to make changes as situations changed quickly. “We were spending time roadmapping and not solving customer problems.”
Not only that, but Dudak said the lack of quality product roadmaps impacted stakeholder communication. “We spent too much time answering questions that a good roadmap could have answered.”
Benefits: Scalability and simplicity
Dudak sought a better roadmapping solution for the organization with so many ongoing initiatives and began exploring available options. He decided to trial two solutions, selecting ProductPlan as one candidate because it seemed to have the right combination of functionality and user-friendliness at an attractive price point, ruling out more complex tools that came with a higher price tag.
“I was looking for something simple and intuitive,” Dudak said, noting that his evaluation criteria included the look and feel of the roadmaps each solution produced, the ease of use to create and maintain roadmaps, and the cost of each versus the features they offered.
After trying both, Dudak moved forward with ProductPlan, citing a key deciding factor was how easy it was to make updates, including the ability to use the tool in meetings collaboratively and producing final versions for presentations to executives. ProductPlan’s value was indisputable, he said, getting everything they needed for the right price.
“We’re not making roadmaps because it’s fun, we’re making roadmaps because we’re trying to tell something to somebody. With ProductPlan, our product management team is spending less time talking about what we’re doing and more time actually doing it.”
From the start, Dudak and his colleagues immediately found themselves spending less time tweaking the roadmaps themselves and more time on other important work. These time savings rippled out across the organization.
The team quickly adapted to using tags and views within ProductPlan, helping them avoid creating so many redundant roadmaps for portfolios with many customer connectors. Standardization across all product roadmaps in the organization was also key as “Anyone we present to gets a consistent message.”
Dudak was also pleased with how professional the product roadmaps looked, which wasn’t the case with their previous PowerPoint-built output.
Results: Efficiency and transparency
An ongoing challenge for the Lionbridge Product team was dealing with large volumes of competing priorities from various stakeholders. Arbitrating and prioritizing these demands used to require lots of debate and discussion, not to mention the undesirable task of explaining the rationale for those outcomes and decisions after the fact. ProductPlan now provides context about why they’re working on any particular thing since there’s always more demand than development bandwidth.
“Framing it that way lets us focus on why we’re doing this,” Dudak said, adding that the goals and expected outcomes of each potential item are now clearer to everyone. “Are we going to win new customers? Sustain existing business? Keep relationships? If we’re looking at a feature and we can’t decide why we’re doing it, then we shouldn’t be doing it at all.”
Another struggle before ProductPlan’s introduction and adoption was the sheer volume of roadmaps under management. Keeping 15-20 roadmaps all accurate and updated proved incredibly burdensome for the Product team.
But ProductPlan turned hours of working in tables in PowerPoint into a few minutes, changing things in the tool once or twice per week. Product Managers no longer need to set aside hours for “roadmapping time,” and Dudak says he spends 50% less time working on roadmapping than before.
Once they’re built, Lionbridge has found the self-service nature of cloud-based product roadmaps to be extremely beneficial. Stakeholders in the Operations organization like being able to go directly to a central location and see relevant product roadmaps, viewing their progress and plans.
Now those colleagues only need to follow up with the Product team directly if they have any questions. And when it’s time for an executive presentation, the roadmaps can be quickly exported from ProductPlan and inserted into the slide decks.
Leveraging ProductPlan’s AzureDevOps integration has also been a gamechanger for some of their more advanced users. DevOps’ importing items to ProductPlan proved a big time saver and expedited how quickly roadmaps were ready for circulation.
An additional perk of the DevOps integration is that progress and status are always updated and accurate. “I spend even less time in the tool but have it even more up to date,” Dudak said. “I’m not updating it for me; I’m updating it for others.”
Getting team buy-in
Dudak found ProductPlan easy to deploy when starting from scratch and quickly created several consistent roadmaps. Although they spent a bit of time finalizing the format with the ProductPlan team, things went quickly once those initial decisions were made.
Lionbridge began with a small rollout, discussing how to manage lanes, legends, tags, etc., before moving into a broader team training for the dozen or so Product team members. These included formal training with ProductPlan as well as internal sessions.
Dudak recommends having a consistent usage plan before rolling it out to ensure a better experience for stakeholders. He suggests aligning the rollout to team goals and not just creating roadmaps for their own sake, considering the audience and the roadmap’s role as a communication tool.
After the initial onboarding, Lionbridge has approved two additional sets of ProductPlan licenses, which Dudak says is the most obvious signal that ProductPlan adds value and is well worth the investment. Usage has now spread beyond the Product team, as the IT team is finding their applications for ProductPlan.