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 G11n, I18n, 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.