July 20, 2017
SAP Localization 101
By Chris Hearn
You’ve probably heard the terms SAP and ERP thrown around if you’ve spent much time navigating the language industry. But what does SAP refer to? And what does it take to complete an international ERP rollout?
SAP (Systems, Applications and Products) is a German-based company that started in 1972 (now the world’s leading provider of business software), but the acronym also colloquially describes ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) implementation, a process that refers to the integrated and streamlined management of data and processes for business.
Rollouts are critical undertakings that allow companies to consolidate processes and manage efficiencies from one centralized platform, ultimately increasing productivity and organizational performance.
United Language Group acquired Lucy Software in March, a company with vast expertise in SAP and Machine Translation (MT),and now has the expert resources to provide SAP localization along with improved MT capabilities.
Here we’ll take a look at what SAP is and the importance of localizing ERP systems.
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ERP implementation is a process that integrates data management software. It allows companies to track every aspect of their business, from new employee training to payroll, production and sales. Companies benefit from ERP implementation because it consolidates all of their operations, centralizing workflows and subsequently streamlining processes.
Data management software integration requires time and technical expertise. When companies look to implement an ERP system in a foreign country, they need to take into consideration regional legislation such as taxation, but they’ll also need to factor in what local languages are spoken.
Translating SAP software means localizing each aspect of a data management system to all the regions it will operate in. Without translating an SAP User Interface (UI), employees who don’t speak the language will struggle and processes will be hindered. Standard SAP software is available in some 40 languages, but any customizations performed by the customer such as new programs, menus, forms, all will require translation.
The SAP translation process can require the localization of all the aspects of a rollout such as the system UI, training materials, UAT scripts, process and system documentation, change management communications, and eLearning content. This requires the following steps for a successful rollout:
- Look at Translatability: Before an SAP translation, you need to figure out what you want translated and, in some cases, what can be translated. Data that is hard-coded, which means it is embedded as text strings into a code, cannot be altered or translated. Make sure all the materials you want translated are able to be adjusted as needed.
- Prepare Elements for Translation: Just like any other translation project, it’s important to factor in design and space considerations before going forward with localization. It’s necessary to develop SAP software with translation in mind, for example, allowing enough space to accommodate text expansion.
- Scope and Translate: SAP specialists with insight into what should be translated and how the work should be done will help to uncover your project’s scope.
- Test Translations: Once an SAP interface is translated, testing and validation must be completed. At this point in the process, linguists will ensure all localization is done in a way that is culturally acceptable and understandable for end users.
- Troubleshoot: If there are problems with translations, it’s important to set up a ticketing system to handle areas that need improvement. Once obstacles are identified, experts can troubleshoot the SAP systems and professional linguists will help in fixing faulty translations.
- Update: When the initial translation is finished, there’s still more work to do. As processes evolve and functionality is added to an ERP system, translations need to be updated. The initial version of a company’s data management system will likely change over time and need further localization with development.
Quality Over Cost
No matter what the specific needs of a certain company’s integration are, the standard rules of successful localization apply. The help of professional translators and IT experts, combined with multiple validation steps, will be necessary to ensure accuracy.
It might be tempting to use in-house translators or bilingual employees when localizing SAP rollouts, but in the end professional SAP linguists will provide better translations, a streamlined and accelerated translation process and ultimately a more positive end-user experience.
A graduate of Oxford University, Chris is a seasoned IT expert with 35 years’ industry experience. At SAP he held various positions including Head of SAP Translation (from 1989) and most recently Global Director of SAP NetWeaver Product Marketing. At ULG, Chris is responsible for the SAP Practice, assisting multi-national SAP customers with their international rollout challenges.