Captains of the Translation Industry Talk About the Single Biggest Thing They've Learnt
TAUS spoke with Aiman Copty, Vice President of International Product Solutions for Oracle Corporation about what his key takeaway is from his extensive experience in localization. The theme of the conversation was:
"What is the single biggest lesson that you have learnt about the translation industry?"
Aiman Copty: I’m obviously influenced in my opinion based on my role and experience that I have had working in the translation, localization or internationalization inside the context of a large software multinational – so I come to it from that context or perspective.
The largest learning for me, and indeed the reason the role has been so interesting – is because translation/localization is a pivotal point of convergence in the product development lifecycle, and this point of convergence is often exposed to so many opportunities. Indeed, whether it is large or small products, traditional or cloud services, web content or instructional courses – so many of the disciplines or functions involved in pulling these products together truly converge once translation is considered.
So, translation becomes a meeting point for these disciplines, and a place from which all kinds of opportunities can be pursued. Of course, to do that, it’s imperative to not consider your role inside the traditional contours of translation. In other words, outside the very important job of delivering translation solutions that are optimized for time to market, quality, and cost – there are other things you can, and I would argue should do. At this point of convergence, we are presented with experience, data and insights that can really be leveraged to create and deliver new value.
At the same time, as a corporation we need to make product localization invisible, by which I mean a process that does not interrupt the core development process. A language version, whether it is English or Korean should have the same treatment. And the process of achieving a new language version should be seamless and integrated into the standard workflow.
TAUS: What kind of examples can you give of this convergence?
Aiman Copty: Some of these solutions have to deal with infrastructure and the pipeline with its associated plumbing designed to get product out. Others have to deal with product strategy and international go to market. Then others in providing automated testing solutions that extend beyond translation and international, and use AI to increase test coverage and machine learning to predict issues.
On the pipeline side, cloud has been a great opportunity for us. As you know, we’ve had a platform for nearly 15 years now that has enabled us – and the company to “not worry about translation”…Everything is well defined, well-orchestrated, and the game has been to manage, to add, and to optimize, while handling and learning from exceptions. But as the company was retooling itself around Cloud, that enabled us to do many more interesting things – still with the edict of making translation invisible. It has given us new opportunities for linking to the source & arming our internal customer constituency with tools to address.
Having an open microservices architecture has made us more nimble and pluggable, making it super easy to integrate with the diverse product lines. And it has truly enabled us to look at the global content lifecycle – English is just another language where English content has to be roundtripped before anything else – i.e., no separate translation infrastructure. So, it’s not an afterthought but translation is just implicit or invisible. And of course, cloud has enabled us to take our translation workbench online, making engagement faster and easier – without breaking the most holy of grails which is security.
On the strategy side, we noted an opportunity – especially as our company has had a remarkable decade of both organic as well as aquistional growth – to really bring some of the international go-to-market strategy to the surface and note divergences in language coverage in suites that are likely to go together. So, we have built analytics that expose that and provide a dynamic view to the state of play.
And on the internationalization side, we’ve built a testing platform that empowers internal dev organizations to certify their globalization compliance and automate internalization assessments, without any of the specialist knowledge or added resources. We use the power of AI and machine learning to get deeper in testing coverage and more targeted with areas to triage. The interesting thing is that not only is this a solution that can be used for internationalization and translation testing, but it has applications for other areas, like general user interface testing or accessibility compliance.
TAUS: How does the translation department relate to this role of invisibility, from a convergence viewpoint?
Aiman Copty: As an industry, we've seen translation evolve from a luxury to a commodity, and now it’s increasingly at utility stage. This means that internally, people should not need to think about it. So being at that point of convergence simply means working on a complex pipeline that among other things gets translation out.
It’s also true today that the C-suite does not need full oversight of localization. Products naturally need to be global-ready, but that should be part of their DNA. Which is part of the invisibility dimension. We can obviously help with some types of bespoke international solutions or provide consulting services on dev practice. But we are now reaching the stage where virtually all translations that are produced depend on an automated infrastructure. Since I've been in the business, the actual translation itself is the simplest part of the problem. That is because the industry is rich with translation and subject matter expertise. But the area that provides the most challenge is the workflow.
To execute on workflow, you need to have deliberate and strategic positions integrated into the product lifecycle. Historically, translation used to come near the end of this cycle but on the other hand the product development is iterative and cyclical where the end of V1 is the beginning of V2. A good localization department therefore needs to focus everywhere in the cycle, particularly before the translation stage, and embed its resources outside translation production. So, you see yourself as someone involved in developing the product, not just handling the translation phase.
One reason I love this role is that in I work for a very diverse company, as the breadth and depth of its product offerings and users is immense. So, it’s like being in the middle of a whole company of companies. One of my measurements for success is to find out if people think of my organization as an extension of theirs. If so, then that’s a good thing.
TAUS: LSPs tend to be remote from the kind of corporate convergence you experience. What steps should they take to become more relevant to your concerns?
Aiman Copty: It’s true, too, that very few LSPs or MLVs are working purely on the translation of text. And while the art of translation and subject matter expertise are disciplines that will always have significant demand, the translation business model has been aided by automation where lots of the heavy lifting is done by the machine. In our org, the leverage rate is around 95% to the efficiency opportunity space is smaller. So, understanding where to invest is key, and I suspect this is equally true whether you are a translation department inside a multinational or an LSP.
In the past, the keyword was first cost, then quality, then efficiency. Today it’s "agility." That means, for example, that LSP translators must attain general fluency in new areas outside traditional translation. It’s not just about driving the car but also understanding road behavior, the mechanics and so on. They must become storytellers, focused on messages not just words, and on what readers are interested in.
TAUS: Finally, how do you measure success or what type of KPIs do you use in your department to provide ROI proof for localized products?
Aiman Copty: Like any organization, we have KPIs or metrics that measure almost every aspect of the business, our effectiveness, what it means for us to have partner x vs partner y, and efficacy measurements on tools or processes, etc. But we do that for internal consumption within my department to understand patterns and opportunities.
In terms of translation ROI, one thing to watch out for is that KPIs don’t morph into “self-justification metrics”, as the cost of producing the product is not commensurable with the incremental cost of translation. This tends to reinforce the idea that “international” is separate from “national”, that translation is a separate cost that needs to be justified. There’s simply no good metric for measuring translation ROI. The best metric is probably: “do we have an invisible translation process?