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Continuous Localization – the Key to Efficient Product Globalization

Continuous localization

If global growth is a key objective for your business, then localizing your products and services is a strategic concern. It’s important not just to get it right, but to do it at the right time. Particularly if you’re in the software or SaaS arena where updates usually need to be fast and frequent. But how do you achieve that on a global scale?

In the past, localization work was manual, time-consuming, and complex, often involving many parties and drawn-out processes. Today, technology lets you streamline localization and follow new approaches that enable you to work more efficiently and effectively. So, you can accelerate your time to market, implement immediate improvements, and keep customers with increasingly high expectations satisfied – whatever your international reach. One such approach is continuous localization.

Continuous localization keeps pace with development

Continuous localization is when localization works in parallel with agile software development cycles – or indeed other product development cycles – rather than happening afterwards as a separate workflow.

Without continuous localization, you’re at risk of the downsides of the waterfall product development model where each phase follows in sequence. A typical waterfall scenario is this: developers complete a development sprint and project managers package up string resources into localization kits and send them to translators. By the time translations start to come in, developers are already immersed in a different development sprint. They then need to return to the previous sprint and address questions, changes to coding, retesting of features, and so on, that have been thrown up by the localization work.

This yoyoing between sprints, due to the lag in the localization workflow, can continue across multiple sprints and cause serious complexity and headaches. Continuous localization overcomes this by keeping pace with development, rather than holding it back or causing unnecessary disruption. It’s seen as best practice for creating global software and can be applied in other industries too.

How to implement continuous localization

To implement continuous localization, and keep it flowing as you grow, you need to establish two important structures:

  • The right people working together in the right way.
  • The right technologies working together in the right way.

Once these are established, technology becomes a powerful enabler to localizing at the right time, at speed, and with quality, whatever your global scale.

Let’s look at the people and technology elements in practice.

Integrate development and localization teams

To enable localization to be continuous, any disconnect between your localization and software development teams needs to be removed. There must be close collaboration.

Ideally, your in-house localization team should have at least the following roles:

  • Localization manager — to manage the whole process.
  • Localization engineer — to implement your continuous localization workflow.
  • Localization quality assurance manager — to oversee the quality of localization.

The integration of your localization and software development teams becomes even more vital when you’re working at scale – for example, to localize thousands of strings across multiple languages and updates each day.

Translators are part of the development process

When you have translators working hand in hand with developers, they’re no longer passive suppliers with a separate workflow that causes disruption and delays. They’re immersed in the ongoing process. You can ensure translators gain product knowledge more quickly, understand what developers are working on, and learn which words to use in context.

This symbiotic approach also enables developers to become more aware of localization issues and allows translators to provide valuable, timely feedback. For example, by highlighting inconsistencies or identifying bugs.

Work with multilingual, cross-functional teams

Even if it’s impractical to have translators working directly with developers, having a localization manager to keep information flowing between them is crucial. One of the benefits of continuous localization is you can allow developers to create interfaces in their first language. So you may have multiple development teams working in different languages. If that’s the case, or if you have several cross-functional teams, it would be worth having a localization champion on each team too.

Choose the right localization tools

If the goal for continuous localization is to ensure your teams are collaborating closely, with development and localization happening almost simultaneously, how do you achieve that at scale? How do you avoid wasting time by emailing files by hand, for example, or by batching and sending strings to translators?

The answer is to automate and streamline as many steps as possible. And for that, you need the right tools – and they need to talk nicely to one another.

A cloud-based TMS is key

Your developers can, of course, develop their own localization software. But that takes them away from developing revenue-generating products. And, unless they’ve worked in the localization industry, it won’t have the benefit of years of localization experience and fine-tuning.

It’s best, therefore, to invest in specialist localization tools, with the top priority being a powerful translation management system (TMS) that’s fully equipped for continuous localization. Ideally, it’ll be cloud-based to ensure it’s centralized, secure, and can easily scale up and down, depending on your needs. This allows your team(s) to stay in sync, however dispersed they are geographically. And you can keep tight control on costs, only paying for what you use.

Look for strong integration capabilities

You don’t want to be left doing a lot of the work manually, especially when you have a large and growing localization program. So ensure your TMS offers full API integration or connects easily with your other platforms such as your content management system and software development platform.

Memsource’s Continuous Job feature, for example, has a great impact on efficiency and is powered by out-of-the-box connectors. When a file in a repository is updated, the corresponding job in Memsource is automatically updated within the existing project. This is particularly useful for software and app localization where updates are being made continually. Your translators can monitor when the development team adds strings and get to work localizing them straight away.

Other important characteristics for your TMS

To enable the best return on investment, also look for a TMS that offers features to improve the quality of localization. For example, artificial intelligence, translation memory, terminology management, and the ability to provide context to translators. And seek out features that improve efficiency such as end-to-end automation, machine translation, and an intuitive workflow for translators.

Overcome potential challenges

While continuous localization comes with a host of benefits, there can be challenges to overcome. For example:

  • Maintaining consistency and accuracy – particularly if small translations are requested out of context.
  • Pricing and managing translations – which can be tricky if you have a high volume of translators, with many working on just a few words a week.
  • Efficient collaboration across functions – you’re likely to have product managers, designers, UX specialists, marketers, and more, involved in your processes, as well as translators and developers.
  • Tailoring workflows – each product development workflow may be different, so you’ll need to build flexibility into your localization processes.

Reap the rewards

Fortunately, by investing in the right technology and getting your people and processes working in the right way, you can overcome these challenges. You can implement continuous localization successfully at scale and gain the benefits of increased focus, better quality products, faster launches, significant cost savings, and total flexibility to work around your needs.

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