Continuous localization: Why you shouldn’t wait with localization until the end of the production cycle

In this global digital society, almost every enterprise of a certain size is feeling the push to go global. But creating a product that can be sold in multiple markets is a complex undertaking. Traditional localization strategies can be a mismatch, holding back scalability and driving up costs. Without the proper adjustment, the process of adapting content to suit a different regional audience can easily become a bottleneck. 

The language industry is looking to Silicon Valley and its agile software project management methodologies for inspiration. At its core is the ability to be flexible and react to change without breaking or restarting from scratch.

In the localization universe, we now use the term continuous localization (CL) for the implementation of tools and processes built to facilitate a constant flow of communication between all the stakeholders adapting a product for success abroad. So what are the elements that a company must have in place to conquer global growth in an agile way?

Incorporate localization from the get-go: Build with expansion beyond your borders in mind. Don’t wait until an international audience discovers your product. CL is not only a process, but also a strategy that connects localization professionals, translators, engineers, and product developers from the start and assures a seat at the metaphorical business table. Localization may look different within every organization. Baking it into the product development cake from the start is paramount to save time and money.

Implement the proper technology: There are many tools to help manage the content globalization. An efficient CL system automates the extraction of new content and the publishing of translations back into the system. The best also include the assignment of linguistic tasks and supply of context information and screenshots, meaning translators can continue work without delay. Your solution should be one that can become part of your company’s existing DNA while providing automation where possible. 

Change the quality approach: This is perhaps the most controversial aspect of CL. It’s difficult to argue, however, against the reasoning that the end user ultimately is the best judge of whether a product is successfully localized or not. User feedback is therefore the most logical judge of this task. Building a customer satisfaction detection system is a key component of preventing roadblocks. Rather than aiming for perfection, the agile approach shoots for incremental improvements to the product to prevent launch delays. Agile software development assumes there will be imperfections and bugs to be fixed. Applying the same approach to localization by detaching translated text strings from the source code as if it were part of a content management system (CMS) is another way to provide better scalability and a nimbler error correction methodology that allows for the continuous flow of localization improvements.

Don’t try to boil the ocean, prioritize: While consumers demand personalization, it is not possible to customize a product for every customer around the world. It is therefore a good idea to prioritize by region and limit personalization based on what will resonate most with local clientele. For the best ROI, this requires a constant evaluation of the global marketplace: measure and adapt. Make sure you can pivot based on touchpoints, usage, reviews. 

Get supply chain help: Managing linguists internally might work with five freelance translators, but what about 100? Luckily, that is where translation providers can make a difference. Make them your talent management partners.


Stefan Huyghe
Stefan Huyghe is Vice President of Localization at Communicaid Inc. where he focuses on running high-level operations, workflow optimization, database development, social selling and community building. He has over 20 years of experience working in the language industry is fluent in Dutch, French, German, and English.

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