Localization, Localisation

Practical and concise answers to common questions in G11N, I18N and L10N

Archive for the ‘Internationalization’ Category

eCommerce in Europe: Size Matters

Posted by Nick Peris on September 1, 2014

eCommerce in Europe: size matters

eCommerce in Europe: size matters

 

Commerce, with only 2 e’s please!

We’ve all heard the stats and we don’t need them to tell us: we all prefer to buy in our own language. In fact according to the E.U., 2 thirds of E.U. web shoppers will simply not buy in a foreign language. Yet, we also like to shop online because there is more choice, better value and the facility to easily compare alternatives. The key is that we value a personal touch at the time of the transaction. By transaction I mean not only the financial aspect but also the decision process and the post-sale relationship.

This is why the “e” in eCommerce is about to drop, and Commerce is being rethought as an integrated or omni-channel experience. Models like Personal pick-up where you purchase online and pick-up in-store, Cash On Delivery where you only order online and pay on delivery and Try it on before you buy where you simultaneously shop in-store and purchase online, must all be seen as equal-opportunity conversion channels.

Simply said if someone, somewhere is interested in a product you have on offer, you need the tools to make sure they end-up buying yours, whichever way they prefer.

What’s up, Europe?

The fact that people are naturally inclined to complete purchases in their native language can be an even bigger challenge in Europe. Contrary to what institutions are aiming for, Europe is not a single market. Europe is a conglomerate of countries which do not speak the same language, do not have a single culture or a strong common identity and where in truth people do not think of themselves first as European. This has a very real impact on any pan-European Commercial strategy. The economies of scales you could expect from a 505 million strong E.U. population (and over 740 million in the whole of Europe) simply do not simply materialise as soon as you decide to sell across Europe. The European Union has 24 official and working languages;  it needs to employ 1,750 linguists and 600 support staff, and has one of the largest translation services in the world.

No one can communicate in Europe with one voice, much less one language.

International Expansion

eCommerce blockersThis cultural, political and social diversity explains a lot of the differences in international expansion between U.S. and European companies. A European company is more likely to look at expansion into other territories as an incremental process rather than a full-on Globalisation plan. This is compounded by complex practical considerations such as preferred payment methods, shipping options, local regulations including language laws, customer service requirements and return policies. These are equally a challenge to European and non-European businesses wanting to sell in Europe. But European companies are more aware of them, and they can be more to prone to tackling them methodically one country at a time, rather than creating Global Departments in charge of each aspect or even outsourcing to local partners. Plus there are the Locals: what makes your offer more compelling than the existing national businesses in the first place? This is a paradox where more people, more languages and arguably more cultural diversity can result in companies appearing less prepared to invest in Enterprise Language Solutions.

Lower economies of scale and a lack of clear path to expansion are the blockers.

Powering Multinational SMEs

Europe also has an overwhelming proportion of businesses which are Small and Medium Enterprises and employ a very small number of people each: 90% employ less than 10 people according to the Harvard Business Review blog. This means European companies who want to expand outside their national territory and have the most localisation needs are SMEs. Sometimes referred to as the Nano-Multinationals, these would-be giant slayers do not behave like Multinationals or their local subsidiaries. They have to expand from the ground up, more progressively and often excel at figuring out smart ways to do things themselves. Their expansion is not likely to be backed by a multi-year globalisation budget. It’s a bit like the stereotype of the American tourist versus the European one: the first allegedly does Europe in a week, while the latter often prefers to settle somewhere and get to know the place. It doesn’t matter which is right (if any); if you work in tourism you have to account for that fact and adapt your offering to each one of them.

Providing Translation Technology to multinational SMEs requires a specific business model.

Translation Technology is not Machine Translation

The Translation Technology business model needs to adapt in order to respond to the needs of European businesses. Access to automation must have an easier entry-level, and I don’t mean a low-cost solution involving Machine Translation or Crowdsourcing. True, MT has evolved a lot and has proven capable of being a very effective technology, like Translation Memory has been. Crowdsourcing itself has had great results for organisations such as Twitter and multiple others.

But in the case of International Commerce the answer is not cheap tricks, it is scalable automation.

The Cloud

Clouds are not too popular here in Dublin, where I live. We see enough of them as it is, so you won’t get a diagram featuring a computerised fluffy cloud from me (no more than you’ll get a 140-character post). I do however want to talk about Cloud-based Translation Technology, or more precisely Software-as-a-Service as an essential enabler for eCommerce in Europe.

There is no longer a need for translation buyers who want to automate to own translation technology. With web applications like the GlobalLink platform (TransPerfect‘s GMS) for example, businesses of any size can access tailor-made solutions which are able to adapt and grow as their International Expansion gathers momentum. These applications can be accessed via any web browser and from various devices without having to install anything. They feature optional Modules so each user only gets access to what they need. Plug-ins are even available so content can be sent to translation and deliveries received directly to and from eCommerce platforms such as hybris, DemandWare, Magento or EPiServer Commerce etc. without the need for complicated middleware deployment.Translation Automation via Web Services

Any security and practical concern around renting online technology in general has been allayed through stringent auditing processes and extensive deployments of SaaS solutions across the entire I.T. sector. In fact in the case of Translation technology, it is clearly an improvement over FTP and emails based processes as well as traditional on-premise TMS applications. It provides seemless Software upgrades, dedicated IT infrastructures for hosting, audited disaster recovery procedures and automated back-ups, without any effort on the part of the user.

It is now the sensible choice to rent Translation Technology as a Service and very much the exception to buy and install a TMS on-premise.

Integration versus Proxy

All this makes a big difference for Multinational SMEs particularly, because it means:

  • lesser upfront cost
  • lower initial and ongoing impact on internal resources, especially IT
  • shorter learning curves
  • quicker Go-LiveTranslation Automation via Proxy

In the case of GlobalLink it also allows for the flexibility to continue using preferred local translators or in-house resources and local distribution partners as language providers. Alternatively existing Subject Matter Experts can be promoted to a role of Language Quality partner (collaborating to the maintenance of brand & style guides, and glossaries) so the increase in translation volumes does not end-up affecting their primary functions which are usually Sales or Marketing.

One more level of flexibility exists where Translation Technology customers can choose between connecting the SaaS solution directly to their back office or using it as a Proxy between the internet users and their original website. This choice is more strategic than technical. In the first case the business continues to manage their translated assets in the back office like their CMS, eCommerce platform, PIM etc. With the proxy approach, the business can outsource the entire localisation effort using a solution like GlobalLink OneLink which provides not only all the linguistic services and automation but also the engineering, QA, international SEO and maintenance.

The overall result is that companies of all sizes can support their international expansion efforts with translation automation which can evolve with the company’s eCommerce strategy.

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Posted in eCommerce, Globalization, GlobalLink, Internationalization, Translation Management Systems | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Demystifying SEO in Localisation

Posted by Nick Peris on August 5, 2013

Ground-level SEO

The topic of Search Engine Optimisation is often subject to over-complication.

This may be the result of people trying to show off their expertise, or the requirement of business models based on selling SEO services or courses. Whatever the case is, this gets in the way of general understanding and prevents many website owners from making the right choices.

The truth is that it doesn’t have to be complicated: SEO is just a way to ensure that a website reaches its audience.

Of course this includes several methodologies, theories, and subdisciplines that a lot of very smart people have built careers upon. And let’s not forget the moving goal posts that are the periodic updates to the Google search algorithms, deployed an effort to improve search result accuracy as well as derived revenues. But do we need to understand all of this thoroughly before we can set up an SEO Localisation strategy? No. And do we need SEO gurus to make localised websites visible? Absolutely not!

A Few Definitions

First let’s get some clarity and context around the acronyms.

SEO: Search Engine Optimisation. Activities aiming to improve the way your website ranks among the organic results (meaning paid for, or “sponsored”) in a search engine.
SEM: Search Engine Marketing. Sometimes used as a synonym to SEO, it usually includes SEO plus other approaches such as pay-per-click campaigns, with consist in getting websites listed in the sponsored links area of the Search Engine Results Page in exchange for a fee paid to the Search Engine provider every time that link is clicked.
Dark SEO or Black Hat SEO: a semi-humoristic way to describe methods to achieve SEO by trying to outsmart the system. This may include link farming, comment spamming, keywords stuffing and other activities ranging from tedious to sinister.
MSEO: Multilingual SEO, but also Mobile SEO. SEO for translated websites in the first case and for Search results on Mobile devices specifically in the second.
ISEO: International SEO, like Multilingual SEO.
LSEO: Not Localization SEO, or Localized SEO. This is Local SEO and it has less to do with translation, more with location. LSEO tries to ensure that if you search for the word “butcher”, you find the craft butcher closest to your home, rather than the butcher whose website gets the most traffic, or which mentions the keyword “butcher” the most. This is as much a matter for Search algorithm programmers as it is for website owners.
SMO: Social Media Optimization aims to promote visibility on Social Media Networks such as Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.
VSEO: Video SEO is interested in the visibility of your video content, for example when users put related searches in YouTube, Vimeo etc.

Some Words of Warning

I already mentioned Black Hat SEO above. In my opinion it is best to stay well away from this. Results are uncertain and the risks simply too high. For every would-be SEO Dark Knight, Google has an army of engineers and bots ready to slam the gavel.
They actively seek and demote methodologies and sometimes individual websites which attempt to artificially improve their page ranking. Once demoted, there is no appeal process!

In this realm, SEO is very similar to doping in cycling: in the short-term there is potentially a lot to gain, at least in terms of ranking. But your business may never recover once a search engine operator such as Google black lists it.

Localising SEO

SEO Localisation strategy

SEO Localisation strategy

One aspect of SEO that is totally legitimate yet often ignored or at least not given enough attention, is Localisation. Much like in the area of software developement, localisation often remains an after-thought in the website developement cycle.

There is a lot to gain in following the two simple guidelines:

  1. Develop your website with Internationalisation in mind
  2. Translate your website with SEO in mind

SEO agencies sometimes offer SEO Localisation services as part of a package. In my opinion they’re not the right supplier for it. Language Service Providers (LSPs) offer MSEO or ISEO and here is why they’re the ones you should rely on:

  • In-country staff: your LSP has professional linguists based in each of your “target” country. If you have an established relationship with your LSP, these linguists are familiar both with your content and your target audience. In fact, they quite possibly are a part of your target audience and therefor best placed to improve your local message.
  • SEO qualification: among this same staff, your LSP most likely has linguists who specialise in SEO Localisation as part of a range of targeted skills.
  • Localising keywords: there is more to this than just translation. In some ways it is more a keen to Transcreation, which is another skills on offer by LSPs and not SEO agencies. You want localised keywords which are the terms most likely to be put in a search related to your website by someone in the corresponding location. This doesn’t mean re-doing the SEO research but it certainly isn’t a simple translation of your source keywords either.
  • Testing keywords: your LSP should be able to estimate the performance of translated keywords, perhaps give you several options and check the Search engines most commonly use in-country. Famously, the Google search results are less relevant for a Chinese audience because it isn’t used as much as Baidu in China. You will also have to monitor keywords performance, and perhaps refresh their localisation periodically. For example new technologies tend to appear in countries where the business language is English. Early adopters are also more commonly familiar with English. Consequently when a technology is very new, people around the world are more likely to search using its English name. As it becomes more prevalent, the translated name will become more common and will be used in more and more searches.
  • Using localised keywords: keywords are great but if you paste them into a metadata field and forget about them, they are not going to serve you well. These keywords have to be used in the translated content on your website. Professional translators have Terminology management technology which is perfect for this. Every time a keyword in detected in the source text, the CAT tool can suggest one or more SEO tested translations and help the translator use the keywords consistently.
  • Other SEO activities: yes there is more to SEO than just keywords. LSPs big or small, have had time to develop sophisticated SEM offerings. Check with your existing translation partner or find one which offers a complete Localised SEM range of services you need.
  • Value: last but not least, LSPs are likely to offer these services for better prices than specialised SEO agencies, who while they have the SEO expertise, do not have the technology or localisation know-how to provide Localised SEO effectively.

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Posted in Beginner's Guide, Internationalization, SEO Localization | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Establishing a Web Presence in China

Posted by Patrick Wheeler on January 21, 2013

So, it’s been a while since my last post here, and now I find myself in a city with the tastiest Döner in the world and most hipsters per square mile, Berlin. For the last 9 months I’ve been heading a team building a cross-media mobile content platform in China focused on bringing western music, apps and ebooks to the Chinese market. It’s certainly kept me busy, and a times tending towards the edge of insanity but in particular setting up the infrastructure in China has been “challenging” to say the least, and we have learnt much on our journey.

To a large extent these challenges related more to navigating the seemingly complex legislation/regulation connected to setting up our on servers and site in China as opposed to any technical nuances. Thankfully we had the benefit of working with an exceptional Chinese development partner (Smartions in Suzhou) to help guide us through the many administrate requirements related to establishing an eCommerce presence in China. So without going into the specifics of our platform setup or the more tedious details, I thought it may be of benefit to provide an overview of the basic regulatory requirements and application process to others also considering a web presence in China.

2012-07-11 19.08.48The ICP Bei certificate

In order to publish a web site in China, it is essential that you your identity be verified through the ‘Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’. The result of such verification, if passed, is called the ICP (Internet Content Provider) Bei certificate (ICP备in Chinese).

The ICP Bei certificate is the very basic cert which must be acquired before ANY site is published, and it is only for basic web sites such as simple company site. If you are building a site which falls under the description of a ‘Non Basic’ site, which the Chinese authorities broadly define as news, e-commerce etc, further certificates will be required. I hope to post more on these certificates later.

The Exception: It should be noted that you don’t have to apply for any of the ICP certificates if your site is hosted on servers which are located outside of the China. However, there are chances that access to your site from within the country might get blocked every so often by the country’s firewall.

An ICP Bei certificate number looks like this:

bei

It normally starts from an abbreviation of the province where the ICP is given (‘鲁’ in this example is the Shandong province in China), followed by the ‘ICP备’ text and then your ICP number.


The Application Process

In order to get an ICP certificate, the following documents are required:

  1. Domain name and the Certificate of Generic Top Level Domain Name (provided by the domain name provider).
  2. Site Manager’s personal information, which must include:
    • ID (Chinese citizen ID card) or passport.
    • Contact number. (Very important because the password for the ICP cert will be sent to this number).
    • Email Address.
    • Manager’s photograph.
  3. Company’s owner’s ID.
  4. Company certificate issued by the ‘Administration for Industry & Commerce’.
  5. Agreement between the owner company of the site and the site manager.
  6. Completion of basic information forms and agreements provided by the ‘Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’.

All the above documents need to be stamped with the official company stamp and original copy of these documents might be required.

Where to Apply

The application could be done either online or in person. To apply online, visit ICP/IP registration system (only available in Chinese language), follow the steps and fill in appropriate information.

Once the application is accepted, the approval process normally takes less than 20 days depending the province the application is handed in and the content your site is providing.

Posted in China, Globalization, Internationalization, Laws, News | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Globalization – The importance of thinking globally

Posted by Patrick Wheeler on May 21, 2009

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon…

In essence, Globalization (Internationalization in MS speak) is your Kung Fu. Bear with me, I have a point here, either that or this is a thinly veiled attempt on my part to get you to read further. 🙂

Globalization represents more than just an all-embracing term used simply to describe the sub-processes of Internationalization and Localization, it is in fact both an ethos and strategy that describes how your organization needs to position and prepare every facet part of its being.

Those familiar with Chinese martial arts or who have spent too much time watching Kung Fu movies will understand the fundamental difference between the Tiger fighting style and the Dragon fighting style. The Tiger style relies on sheer strength and the memorization of moves, whereas the dragon style is based on the principal of a deeper understanding of movement. It’s about anticipating more than simply acting upon and reacting to events.

Staying on the fortune cookie philosophy theme, if you adopt the Tiger approach to Globalization you may make all the right moves, correctly identify your target global markets, prepare and push forward with Internationalization of your product with vigour and determination, and skilfully and swiftly execute product localization, but even this is not sufficient if you want to ensure your business is ready to go global and prepared for the effects of going global.

You need to adopt the dragon Style. In addition to the above actions, you should seek a deeper understanding of the impact that these actions will have on your business and anticipate this reaction. After all, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Once you have decided to go global with your software offerings, you will have to consider how this decision will subsequently impact all areas of your business such as Programme/Project Management, Development & QA, Sales & Marketing, Legal, Accounting, Distribution, Support, etc.

Thinking out loud – So who does what?

Product Management: will need to coordinate with all groups to ensure that localized releases are part of any global product roadmap and are approved by and communicated to all stakeholders.

All global product release schedules need to recognize that the Development and QA teams will have to work in “harmony” with Localization Engineering and QA, and therefore core Development and QA time and resources will have to be allocated to addressing I18n, Customizability and Localizability issues.

Failure to factor these tasks into any global project scope will mean that a simship will be impossible, Developers and QA alike will be frustrated by having to potentially allocate additional time to deal with unplanned for I18N defects, Localization will be stalled until defects effecting Localizability and Customizability are addressed, and regional sales channels will suffer from late availability of localized product.

Development & QA: As mentioned above, these core groups, usually charged with domestic software releases, will now need to work in-synch with their Localization counterparts; the frequency and format of handoffs to the Localization team need to be agreed, I18N exit criteria will need to be established  for design and development phases, pseudo-localized software builds will need to be created for I18n testing, code freeze dates will need to be agreed to allow for the extra volume of i18n defects that will be logged during I18n/L10n testing, the workflow and management of i18N defects through the core defect tracking system will need to be established, and core Development and QA resources will need to be allocated to resolving and regressing i18N, Localizability, and Customizability defects.

The Localization team will mainly be focussed on addressing L10n issues, so the majority of I18n and Localizability issues will need to be resolved by the core Development team.

Even prior to Internationalization, it is essential that those at senior levels within an organisation understand the impact of going global on their core Development and QA teams.

As highlighted in my first post, assuming that the creation of localized software releases is the sole responsibility of a single Localization team is imprudent and unrealistic. Globalization means a significant investment in core Development and QA time and resources and cannot happen in isolation of these groups or without their involvement.

Sales and Marketing: Sales and Marketing teams responsible for the target regions need to be made aware of strategic plans regarding localized releases. Often these groups will be the ones who identified the business case/requirement for a localized software release.

Regional Sales and Marketing teams will have an insight into the features that are important to their markets and any customer issues with in-market localized product that need addressing as a matter of priority for subsequent releases. They will also be able to advise on any region specific customization of software features that will be required. These customizations will need to be considered during design and development under the heading of “Customizability”. Furthermore, it is important for Programme Management to work closely with these teams when formulating the localised product roadmap, ensuring they are involved in any beta program review of the software and they have sign-off as part of the localized product review process. This may all seem fairly obvious and simply requires clear lines of communication, but I have often witnessed a certain disconnect between regional offices and global Programme Management.

The following excerpt from Beyond Borders – Web Globalization Strategies by John Yunker (2003) is a good example of how poor communication and planning within an organization can ensure a rather embarrassing false start on the journey to global domination;

“The marketing director of a professional society wanted to expand the subscriber base in other countries. The society already had many international members, but because none of the publications had been translated, members needed as least a moderate grasp of English to reap the benefits of joining. So the marketing director decided to translate the society’s membership form into Chinese, in the hopes that it would make joining the society much easier for Chinese speakers and increase membership.

Within a few weeks, the society received its first completed Chinese form by fax, the membership directory, unaware of what the marketing director had been up to, looked at this form, filled out in Chinese, and said, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” The membership director didn’t understand Chinese. No one of her staff understood Chinese. Even if someone on her staff did understand Chinese, their membership database didn’t accept Chinese characters.

So this person in China completed the membership form and subscribed to a couple of publications and the organization could do nothing about it. The professional society didn’t even know what publications were selected because the publication names were translated to Chinese – and they had no English template to compare it against. It may seem obvious that you shouldn’t create marketing materials in a language your company can’t support, yet companies that jump into global markets too fast frequently repeat this scenario.” (Yunker, 2003, p.82).

Branding and cultural customization are also important considerations that also require input from regional Sales and Marketing groups. Some may favour regional branding and cultural customization over global branding with a universally consistent user-experience. This allows regional Sales and Marketing the flexibility to better connect with their target audience. It is all too easy to alienate your customers if they get the impression that your organization’s software products, website, support etc were not developed with their region in mind. However, others would argue that allowing such distinct and unique branding combined with a high level of customization on a region-by-region basis, simply serves to dilute global brand power, resulting in a confusing and inconsistent user-experience. Additionally, by allowing diverse and inconsistent localized content per region, the global management of this content can be troublesome and costly.

The whole area of cultural customization is vast and there is a lot of information as well as misinformation offered on this topic, and it can be hard to discern urban legend from truth. On the theme of colour and cultural significance of colour in the global marketplace, one publication I read recently would lead you to believe that red cars are illegal in Brazil and Ecuador because of the perception that they cause more accidents. This is in fact absolute bunkum. So approach cultural customization with caution and seek the guidance of local contacts.

Legal: There are a variety of laws governing software being sold in different regions of the world, many of these laws pertain to language and support for the official languages in these regions; such as the Toubon law in France, GB18030 certification for China, and the charter of the French Language in Quebec (Bill 101).

For translation of End-User License Agreements (EULAs) and software warranties, your organization will require the services of legal translators and a review of the EULAs by your in-country operations centres/partners to ensure compliance with local legislation.

Legal regulation on the sale of software worldwide is unlikely to become any more lenient. To the contrary, with proposals such as the EU’s two year guarantee for software (games), which would allow users who are unhappy with “buggy” software to return their purchase, the situation will only become more complex. This is another reason why a well thought-out Globalization strategy combined with a strong focus on I18n is of paramount importance.

With poor I18n, your localized software will inevitably contain more functional and cosmetic defects than the source release, and that could be a real headache when faced with a future where customers are within their rights to simply ask for their money back on the basis of these defects and are not compelled to wait for a hotfix as may currently be the case under the terms of existing EULAs.

Accounting: Your accounting team must be ready to provide pricing in the local currencies of the regions your software is to be sold into. Accordingly, they will also need to be ready to accept payment in these currencies. Ensure you have a clear understanding of how royalties and revenues from localized software sales are distributed throughout your organization.

Distribution: You will of course need to consider your distribution channels, competition, and how you will physically deploy your localized software to your customers. For hosted solutions, automatic updates etc; existing data centres serving your domestic customers may not offer sufficient connectivity/speed to customers in other regions.

Support: Before you have localized software in-market, your organization will need to be ready to support these target markets. It is an all too common mistake to simply expect that this will somehow take care of itself and that existing support channels for domestic product will be sufficient. This is yet another way to disaffect the customers in new markets you’ve worked so hard beguile with your digital wares.

You need to consider the mechanisms for localized support; knowledge base, email, phone etc. What level of support will your in-country operations centres/partners can offer, if any? How are support issues with localized software escalated? Do your call centre representatives have the necessary language skills and knowledge of the localized software to handle calls/emails from all the regions you sell your software in? Do you have a Content Management System (CMS) behind your existing website/knowledge-base? Does the functionality of this CMS lend itself to the management of global content in multiple languages?

Once the knowledge-base route has been exhausted, there is a common preconception that it is a good idea to heard customers to email support, like cows being shoved into a cattle crush, as opposed to presenting them with the option of phone support. This is based on the logic that email support is far more cost-effective than phone support. Whilst it makes sense to encourage customers to avail of email support over phone support, I do not believe it is a good idea to completely eliminate phone support as an option.

Many organizations prefer to remove any reference to phone support from their site. For me, this represents a false economy, whilst you may be saving on call centre costs, you will probably be losing customers, and any chance of repeat business. This is particularly flawed strategy in new markets where you are fighting for market-share.

I have yet to experience an email support system where I have received a (useful) answer “within 24 hours” as promised. Besides, 24 hours may be a long wait depending on the nature of the issue. Even if there is a customer cost associated with phone support, it is better to offer this as an option as opposed to lose customers who may prefer to simply return your software (see “Legal” above) and align themselves with your competitors rather than wait for a delayed response from support.

What happened to Localization??

You may have noticed that I have made no mention of the Localization team/departments specific responsibilities in terms of Globalization. This is a deliberate omission. I will address aspects of Localization in various future posts (after all, the URL for this blog puts me under some pressure to do so!). For now, however, it is more beneficial to recognize that in the grand scheme of Globalization, Localization is actually one of the simplest components. Granted, as “Localization” experts, we are in fact required to be “Globalization” experts and provide guidance in relation to Globalization strategies, but if all other areas of your business are ready to go global, then Localization should be the least of your worries.

Once again, failure to take a holistic approach to Globalization will result in Localization being a tedious, costly, and protracted affair. Localized product quality will suffer and inevitably your organization’s performance in the target region will be poor. Additionally you will have filled the lives of your Localization team with a degree of despair! So for the sake of good Karma, get the fundamentals right and Localization will be a walk in the park.

The above are just some of the areas for consideration when formulating your Globalization strategy. One could certainly write a book on the topic and a number have been written on the topic. Globalization is the broadest and most subjective area when it comes to looking at G11n, I18N, and L10n and is therefore open to the most debate.

What color/colour is the sky in your world?

The Sapir–Whorf hypothesis (roughly) states that through the medium of language, different cultures attempt to define their reality and enforce a structure on the world as they view it. This results in certain perspectives that are unique to particular cultures; this is why Localization and Globalization extend beyond simple translation.

This probably also goes some way to explaining why a Chinese friend and work colleague of mine finds a particular Rice Krispies Squares TV commercial so amusing, whilst I simple perceive it to be mind numbingly boring. Or maybe I just don’t get it! Whatever the case may be, to be truly successful in a particular regional market, your organization will not alone have to speak the language of that region, but also understand the predominant cultural perspectives distinct to that region.

The important thing is to have a carefully considered Globalization strategy that would make Lex Luthor seem nonchalant in his scheming, and to execute the plan in a decisive and coherent manner throughout the organization and without procrastination. Understanding that Globalization is the responsibility of your entire organization and must permeate through every level is a good first step.

This is particularly important in the current economic climate. Whilst many organizations are running home for shelter and scaling back on their global operations, this presents opportunities for other organizations to get traction in emerging markets if their Globalization strategy is sound. It may be a long term investment, but if your competition is busy running for cover, these recessionary times could represent an opportunity to gain market share in valuable new markets. As Warren Buffett said, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.” In other words, advance when your competition is retreating from global markets.

In conclusion, you could of course try the Tiger approach and see what happens, but as another icon of our times (Homer Simpson) once said, “Trying Is the First Step towards Failure”. 🙂 So instead I urge you to think like the Dragon and have a deeper appreciation of how Globalization will impact your own organization and how your organization as a whole will need to evolve to meet these challenges.

Posted in Globalization, Internationalization | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Which comes first, Globalization or Internationalization?

Posted by Patrick Wheeler on April 8, 2009

In my previous blog entry, I covered the limitations of “Localization” as a generic label to describe what we in the software “Localization” industry continually strive to achieve under the headings of G11n, I18n and L10n, as well as the dangers of this branding in terms of how “Localization” can often be perceived as the sole responsibility of a single “Localization” group or department within an organization.

To add to the confusion, there are two separate and somewhat contradictory models used to describe the relationships between G11n, I18n, and L10n. Microsoft’s model and the model predominately used by the rest of the industry! J Naturally you will also encounter subtle variations to both these models within various organizations.

So before examining G11n, I18n, and L10n in more detail, it’s probably useful to familiarize yourself with the key differences and similarities between these two models.

Microsoft’s Internationalization Model

The graphic below (Fig. 1) represents Microsoft’s “Internationalization” Model.   

Microsoft's Internationalization Model

Microsoft's Internationalization Model

The main thing to be aware of, and where this model is at odds with the model used elsewhere in the industry, is in the terminology. In Microsoft’s model, the terms “Internationalization” and “Globalization” are substituted. “Internationalization” is seen as the overall, high-level process, and “Globalization” is a sub-process that deals with the development of a culture-independent/world-ready application. 

N.B. There is some inconsistency in terminology within Microsoft’s own documentation and content; “Globalization” and “Internationalization” are sometimes interchanged depending on the target audience, author, time of day, weather, etc.

The “Industry Standard” Globalization Model

On the other hand, the rest of the industry typically refers to “Globalization” when talking about the overall process, and “Internationalization” when describing the development of a culture-independent/world-ready application. See the more commonly accepted, “Industry standard” Globalization Model below (Fig. 2). 

The “Industry Standard” Globalization Model

The “Industry Standard” Globalization Model

The irony of this inconsistent terminology won’t be lost on anyone working in Localization. J

At first glance you may assume that Microsoft’s model (Fig.1) provides a more comprehensive description of the whole workflow, as there is more detail provided in the high-level model. This is not strictly the case. Whilst the more commonplace model used by the rest of the industry (Fig. 2) is typically only represented by three neat little Globalization, Internationalization, and Localization boxes, there will of course be more detail under each of these headings, but the level of detail/terminology will once again vary from organization to organization. For example, if we expand the model in Fig. 2 further, we would see something similar to the following workflow (Fig. 3) emerging:

Expanded "Globalization" Model

Expanded "Globalization" Model

In Fig. 3, I have placed “Localizability” and “Customizability” under “Internationalization”. In my opinion, these are just a few of the more significant component parts of Internationalization. If we were to expand the I18n process still further, one would see the addition of other major I18n considerations such as Unicode. 

Resistance is (sometimes) Futile

There is no right or wrong model to adopt or champion within your organization. Essentially both models describe the same overall process. However, it is useful to be aware of both models, especially if you have the misfortune of having to delve into Microsoft Documentation relating to Internationalization or the Globalization Namespace. Similarly, when talking to people from the Microsoft/.Net universe, I’ve found it can be easier to simply give up trying to stick to the more widely accepted G11n model and speak in Microsoft terms. Otherwise it can be rather like trying to convince the Borg there is an alternative to assimilation (I ‘m already sorry for that reference!) and you may find yourself viewed with the same skepticism as zoologist who just suggested polar bears and penguins could peacefully coexist. J Apologies to my ex-Microsoft colleagues, but you know it’s true! J

In my next few posts (and as previously promised!), l will endeavor to work-around the (at times) conflicting terminology and take a look at the commonality in what these process models are seeking to describe under the headings of Globalization, Internationalization, and Localization.

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Who’s responsible for Localization in your organization?

Posted by Patrick Wheeler on March 27, 2009

Who’s responsible for Localization in your organization?

Seems like a simple question with a simple answer, right? However, whether they are aware of it or not, most people use the term ”Localization” when they may well be referring to areas under the broader headings of Globalization, Internationalization, Localization & Translation (GILT).

There are historical reasons for this anomaly of course; once upon a time Localization was only considered an afterthought to product development and had no real place in the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle). GILT is certainly a more accurate and all-encompassing acronym, but even as industry experts in “Localization” we do not typically embrace such broad terminology. Personally I find GILT a somewhat clumsy and uncomfortable acronym. After all, who in an organization would want to say they work in GILT, or are head of GILT! Even if we were to adopt this term within our organizations, I could foresee many blank stares when discussing GILT with those not familiar with what is traditionally known to them as “Localization”. So naturally we default to using “Localization” as an often all-encompassing term to avoid having to give every person we interact with a brief (and most probably unwelcome) history of what is better known as “Localization”.

The problem is, that by accepting our moniker as “Localization” we are also endorsing the view that Localization is still just an afterthought to development and is solely the responsibility of a single department within an organization. I still work as part of a Localization team, as Localization Engineering Manager. Some of you who work in the industry probably have a sign hanging over your little farm of desks that says, “Localization”.

In my experience, this tends to result in those in senior management, in charge of strategic decision making, and those in regional sales offices, believing that by having a Localization department; Localization is taken care of. It’s a black-box. It’s possibly even viewed as a glorified term for translation. Consequently, should any issues arise with Localized product, it’s clear to these groups where the responsibility lies.

So in response to the initial question I posed, who’s responsible for Localization in your organization? The truth is, in the broadest sense of the term, “Localization”, that everyone at every level of your organization is responsible for Localization (If we take it that by Localization we are in fact referring to GILT).

Just because a Quality or Quality Assurance department may exist within an organization, this does not mean that quality is the sole responsibility of this department and is no longer a concern for the rest of the organization. Similarly Localization, or more accurately Globalization, must be a discrete function of every individual within your organization. If not, there will be an inevitable adverse impact on Internationalization and subsequently the quality of the localized end-product will suffer, as will sales in the target region for that localized product.

Each step within the Globalization, Internationalization, Localization chain will have an exponential impact on the next. If you don’t take your Globalization strategy seriously enough, then, in the absence of a firm mandate from the highest levels of your organization, Internationalization will suffer because there will be no development impetus to properly Internationalize your software. If the Internationalization effort is poor, Localization will be painful, perhaps even impossible within certain software features, and you will be looking at a lengthy delta between your domestic software release and your localized releases.

Conversely, if you start with a solid and coherent Globalization strategy that is communicated, in a relevant and contextual manner, to all levels within the organization, then Internationalization will be an integral part of the SDLC, Localization should be a straightforward, finite task, and you will be in a better position to achieve a Sim-Ship of domestic and localized software releases.

Some people may prefer to use the acronym GILT, some may prefer “glocalization”. For me, the answer to this conundrum, and to addressing people’s sometimes limited awareness of what Localization entails, does not lie in changing terms or the invention of new terms and pseudo-techno-babble. It’s too late. The horse has bolted on that one. It would be comparable to Apple insisting that people stop using “iPod” as a brand name and adopt another title for their pre-existing portable media players. Instead, I believe the answer lies in educating all the relevant stakeholders within an organization on the importance of G11nI18n, and L10n and how these relate to them and various groups throughout the organization in terms of responsibilities.

So with this in mind, in upcoming posts I will take a look at the terms Globalization, Internationalization and Localization in more detail, their inter-dependent relationship, who owns what in terms of responsibilities, what they mean to your organization, and what you should know when endeavouring to sell software in a global marketplace.

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