Agile Development and Localization: Has the Industry Lost the Ball in the Scrum?

I participated in an excellent session called “Authoring in an Agile Environment”, presented by Julio Vasquez at the Content Management Strategies DITA North America Conference 2010.  Julio has an excellent white paper on the subject too, available from the SDI website.

This got me thinking about how the localization process might fit into the world of agile product development, with its sprints and scrums, shortened innovation cycles, user reviews, and so on.

Much of what I have read about this is a no-brainer, relying on internationalization 101 and the obvious localization principle about starting localization as soon as a string is created, rather than when it is finished or released, so the text can be continually leveraged as the code changes. Nothing any different there for localization with an agile process compared to any other development process, if you know what you’re about.

However, I am not clear on how terminology can be created and approved within short, iterative cycles and how this fits into the notion of the user story, central to agile development. Can anyone advise me on processes and best practices in this regard? If we’re in the business of shipping competitive products and developing according to agile principles then terminology cannot be frozen up front. Nor can we sit on products for months before they’re released so someone can test localized terminology or whatever.

I raised this terminology issue at the Localization Unconference in Dublin, Ireland recently (see the Multilingual issue for July/August 2010), and, frankly, got nowhere with it. Seems like the localization industry is yet behind the curve on keeping up with development practises and, again, localization industry change needs to be driven from without. Perhaps you can provide some answers?

I should say I am attending a Scrummaster Certification course in Dublin, Ireland, later this month. Maybe I will be able to throw more light on the subject after that. In the meantime, feel free to comment!

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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