Over the last two decades our industry has spent a lot of time and energy making the localization process increasingly more efficient. Dollars spent in the process are highly leveraged thanks to the application of translation memories and machine translation, together with sophisticated expert systems and static analysis tools that help ensure that quality can still be achieved at scale. Companies that release products internationally know how to write global-ready code and content, standards exist and are generally adhered to. Companies wishing to extend into international markets for the first time have a deep bench of partners and suppliers that they can rely on to get the job done. Localizing products is not always a trivial task but it is one that is well understood by a mature industry.
However, today our international customers expect an experience that extends beyond the translation of software strings and content. Our world has moved away from isolated shrink-wrapped client software. Our world is now all about experiences that rely on the power of cloud computing, connected mobile devices, online stores and subscription-based business models.
In this world, we are in persistent connection with our customers. In this world our success metric can no longer be defined exclusively in the terms of efficiency.
We are in the midst of the transformation that we need to make in order to serve this new world reality. The move to a continuous localization model is well under way for most industry players but it is just the start.
We need to better understand the unique adaptations required for a given locale or demographic so that we might deliver tailored experiences that drive increased usage through increased local relevancy. With this as our mission, it is clear that we are only at the beginning of a journey. Experimentation, A/B testing, machine learning techniques and the ability to consume and process rich customer data will enable the insights necessary to make this journey. The destination is a system of “closed loop localization” focused not just on language quality and accuracy, but also with success metrics targeting customer engagement and consumption.
As an industry we are well placed to make the transformation. That said, the changes will be disruptive. Existing services are being commoditized. We need skills such as data science/analysis, machine learning, increased focus on language automation/models, search engine optimization, ability to crowdsource local intelligence and judgement. We need our engineering systems to evolve and allow for a “fast fix” approach to international experience issues found in market. The value chain in the industry will shift as these new skills and capabilities get built and our business models evolve.
Increased commitment to open industry standards also has an important role to play here but that is a point worthy of its own discussion.
This level of change is testing enough. However, there is a less obvious and more challenging change needed. Our mindset needs to change. We need to evolve from a culture focused on “efficiency in translation” to one of “innovation in international experience”.
Our industry has come a long way from a “cottage industry” that might fairly represent what we were in the early 90’s. It has matured and professionalized. However, new questions are being asked of us. These questions are all to do with local relevancy and what it means for international customer satisfaction and usage. These questions are our opportunity. An opportunity to contribute to the evolution of the broader industry and the product experiences we now give our global customers.
How do we deal with this change from efficiency in translation to innovation in international experience, not just in our minds, but also in our businesses? Where do we start? Share your thoughts below.