Localization Academy

Advantages Of Spreadsheets For Localization Project Managers

Organizing data is key for a localization project manager 📁​ In this video we explain the advantages of spreadsheets for this task compared to other tools. 

Be it pen & paper notepads, or any sort of digital platform, nothing can beat spreadsheets when it comes to structuring high amounts of data, making work easy for localization project managers.

Hi guys, this is Andrej from localization Academy. In this video, I’m going to explain to you why I think that every project manager, like especially the ones who want to grow, should learn and know how to use spreadsheets, whether it’s Google Sheets, or Microsoft Excel coming up right now.

First of all, I will start by trying to give you the big picture about data, why data is important in our life, pretty much everything that we use computers like IT technology, everything is running on data, right? You’re watching this video right now on YouTube, which means that other than the video itself, there’s the title, there’s a description, there’s tags, and YouTube is tracking a lot of data about you. That you are watching this video, what is your preference for how long you’re going to be watching this, and so on. Whenever you use a credit card, that’s all information that’s stored when we transfer money. So it’s just data moving from one place to another one, or just data being updated in two different places.

The same goes for localization projects, right? When you get a request from the client, the client is pretty much just giving you some sort of data. It gives you the files, they’ll tell you what the project is about a give you I don’t know the deadline, they will tell you how many languages you have to work on. Maybe you do the analyzes, so you get the word count. And then based on the word count, you create a schedule, which is again, more data that you want to store somewhere. So if we’re talking about the project data for you to complete the project successfully and get it done from start to finish, you need to be using some sort of a system right to deal with this data.

If you’re not using any system, there’s always the option to use Notepad, pen and paper and you can put some information there. And note that works very well for taking some notes or just jotting down some ideas. But whenever you need to organize and structure your data about your project, especially if the project is big, let’s imagine you have project into 20 languages. And there are I don’t know 1000 files, and maybe you have a very short amount of time to get this project done. So you need to split these 1000 files into multiple different people. Okay, that will be quite difficult. The problem with pen and paper would be of course, the scale of the data that we need to work with. And also it will be very difficult to share this data with some other people they may not even be able to recognize, read your handwriting. Okay, so that’s a very bottom, let’s say no tech way, how we can deal with pages using pen and paper.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have platforms like Asana, monday.com, that are specifically designed, let’s say for project management or for team collaboration, you can put information about your project into them, we also have TMS platforms. And you also probably are using some internal ERP system where you can load up all the tasks and you calculate the price. And you can create POS and invoices, which again, are more data. The good thing about these platforms is of course, that they are designed for specific purpose. If you have a project with I don’t know 1000 files, and you do the analyzes, maybe you can just simply import the analyzes into this platform, and you would get some nice table or something like that. And then you can play with it in the platform problems with these designated platforms is that if you have a new type of scenario, a new type of data, or you want to approach your project or problem in a different way, then maybe the tool might not be able to do it.

Because these platforms are created for masses, if you send some requests of what needs to be changed with what you would like to add to the platform, you will never actually get it implemented. Because there are other things that the company gets requests for, and they need to balance what actually, I don’t know satisfies the most of their customers, their most of their user base or what actually works for the people who are actually paying for the platform.

We have to also mention that forms like maybe Notion or Jira, that gives you a lot more flexibility and customization. But usually you need to be more technical in order to be able to adjust the tool so that it serves your new scenario. And the reason why we talk about new scenario and this is important, this is why I’m talking about this video and why I think it’s important that you know spreadsheets, especially if you’re a project manager who wants to grow is that you need to understand that your localization customer, they are always innovating. They’re always constantly changing things. That’s how they stay in business. That’s how we evolve as people how they improve their products and so on. As a result of that the requests that might be coming to you as a localization project manager or your localization team can be changing how you deal with your projects today. And the data that you’re getting from your client today. Could at some point change.

When the requests change the requirements for the data, how we process how we store them, how we visualize them, what we do with the data and change anytime in the future. And like I mentioned before, the problem with these dedicated platforms is that they are specifically designed for certain use case. And if you want to really do with the data, let’s say whatever you need, in order to solve the new problem, then you need more flexibility.

Another option is that you could internally develop something like a dedicated tool, which would do something. But of course, this costs a lot of money, and probably you as a PM, you wouldn’t be able to do it yourself unless you know how to code and then probably the company doesn’t want to pay you to code if they hired you as a project manager. So that’s pretty much a no go.

That’s why I think this is where the spreadsheets come into play. Because to me, the spreadsheets pretty much sit somewhere in the middle, maybe even closer to the pen and paper. Because spreadsheets give us so much flexibility. And they’re very good at handling data, the basic data types like text, numbers, and maybe dates, you can visualize things and you can insert very simple formulas they can do that can do a lot of the calculations for you automatically, okay, so that’s the advantage, compared to pen and paper, because we can structure the data, we can copy them, we can filter them, and do the calculations and compare it to the dedicated platforms or existing commercial solutions. Spreadsheets give you let’s say, unlimited flexibility.

Again, the reason why we need this flexibility at some point is that the clients will have some new thinks that they will partner you with that there will drop on UK and it will be your sort of responsibility to find a solution for this new problems. And the solution will most likely involve some sort of data, or I don’t know, sometimes you can also think about, like changing the process, in which case you will be fine with maybe I don’t know, 12345 bullet list word. But if we need to work with more data, like for example, who does what, when, and some texts and labels and numbers. And so formulas, then spreadsheets is I think, the easiest way for you to handle this data on your own without you having to bother anyone else. There’s the rising movement about no code, which is how you can let’s say visually create internal tools without knowing how to program how to how to code. But unless that becomes mainstream thing, I don’t know, maybe next generation or two generations later, everybody will be creating their own apps, I don’t know through voice and through AI, it will be very simple. Until we get to the point. And assuming that you probably don’t know how to code, then using spreadsheets is way faster.

Even if you know how to code actually, you will have to do a lot of things with the code to actually let’s say create an app, you don’t need to create an app, you just need to be able to use data as they were structured them in some way into tables, different tables, and maybe do some simple operations like mathematical operations or filtering or coloring the data in a certain way so that so that people can actually interpret the data the way that you want it to. So if you’re a new localization project manager who’s just starting out your junior pm or project coordinator, then in my experience, what you mostly do is that you will just be sit in front of an existing client, where the process is pretty much established and your fellow more experienced colleagues, they already know what needs to be done. And they will tell you and you will just do a bla bla bla bla bla.

As a PM if you want to grow into more senior senior pm Program Manager account manager, knowing how to use spreadsheets in let’s say, intermediate level is I think important. The reason for that is clients will eventually come to you with new requests that may not be able to be handled by your existing platforms because of the way that they’re set up and so on. So you need to have flexibility so that you can use your beautiful brain to handle a new type of data and turn them into something new. So that is why I think that you as a PM need to know how to use spreadsheets in basic and maybe intermediate level

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