Should You Switch to Continuous Localization?
Continuous localization bridges the gap between localization and development. It integrates the localization process into agile development, allowing for localized products to be delivered simultaneously with each new feature release.
But talk to companies that are localizing and you’ll quickly realize that most have not kept up their localization processes and technologies to match the pace of agile development. The main issue? A lack of consistent systems and approaches means localization is often still treated as an afterthought.
The gap between localization and development is a decades-long problem. Continuous localization emerges as a potential solution, but it comes with challenges and requires company change. Luckily, with the right tools and processes, the results can be game-changing.
What is continuous localization?
Continuous localization is a new approach to global content, integrating with the CI/CD method that companies use to frequently deliver software to customers. The main concepts are: continuous integration and continuous delivery.
The easiest way to grasp continuous localization is by imagining your localization workflow as a cycle with five key steps:
1. Developers create translation keys and store the code in a repository like GitHub (that connects with a TMS).
2. The translation keys are supplied to project managers.
3. Managers define the project scope, pre-translate, and assign tasks for linguists to perform translations.
4. The translations are reviewed and verified by a QA team.
5. The translated keys are pulled back into the repository by developers, and a semi-automated flow for continuous deployment of localized assets is achieved.
The full scale of continuous localization should streamline code creation (i18n), localization file handling, and linguistic QA. Solutions should work fluidly with development, with clearly actionable error management and collaboration.
The business value of continuous localization
When implemented correctly, continuous localization almost always results in higher team productivity, more collaboration, faster time to market, and lower risk than traditional approaches can achieve.
Faster time to market: multilingual development and simultaneous release
Instead of launching a product in a single market to then be translated in new markets one at a time, continuous localization allows localization to move in tandem with development, meaning products are localized in parallel with each sprint.
By incorporating localization into development, localized products can be built in multiple languages and launched in multiple markets simultaneously. In other words, your localized content is always ready for release. The benefit is clear: with faster turnaround times, you get localized products to market faster with more consistency and overall coherence – thus, you get a greater return on your investment.
Less work for developers and product managers
By fully integrating localization into the continuous delivery of your software, engineers can set it and forget it, allowing your localization stakeholders to dovetail their efforts into a localization cycle that follows the continuous deployment of digital assets.
Remember, pushing out a bug report with a screenshot of an issue means that a developer must stop what they’re doing and figure out where that issue exists, fix it, and then test it again. If someone has to touch a file from the latest sprint that might only have a handful of words needing a localization update, you are automatically losing money. Just because this may not be a direct localization expense, doesn’t mean it is without cost.
Plus, it increases the chance for human error and increases the likelihood of simple tasks getting bogged down in a queue of to-dos.
Reduce localization defects at the deployment level
Integrating localization into the development workflow earlier allows teams to quickly and easily check whether the design functions correctly across all target languages. By reducing localization defects at the deployment level, you lower the risk of confusing, misinforming, or outright offending customers with your multilingual interface.
Aside from the risk of providing your customers with a bad user experience, localization-related bug fixes can cost your business over $50,000/year. Fixing issues during development is by far the cheapest time to do so, rather than doing it during testing or after localization. In fact, resolving bugs in the development stage is 10x more cost-effective than making adjustments after release.
Example use case: why fintech companies need to continuously update their localized content
With localization playing a key role in increasing market share, it’s no wonder that 9 of the top 10 fintech apps are available in multiple languages. But why do these companies need to update localization so often? Can’t they just create content once, translate it, and deliver it?
The short answer is no, not if they want to stay competitive and compliant.
Driving competitive advantage
Carefully considered localization is arguably more important in fintech than it is in other technology-based vertical markets. Providing accurate and accessible content is key to building trust with potential customers. But in an industry that develops at warp speed, things change, and content requires frequent updates.
Innovative fintech companies seeking to scale fast also need the ability to launch in new markets quickly by adapting product UI, support, and marketing translation materials. Take fintech startup Revolut for example: by using a continuous localization workflow, the company can roll out a new language faster than it takes Apple to review the app.
Evolving in response to regulation and dynamic content
While translation is only one part of the localization mix, it’s an important element for fintech companies operating in highly regulated environments. This is especially true when they are operating in multiple jurisdictions that change constantly. Since there are different fintech licensing systems across the world, fintech companies have to continuously update, deploy, and maintain localized content that is both scalable and flexible.
There is also the issue of varying foreign exchange rates, which requires fintechs to constantly update them. Managing dynamic content is a huge effort to maintain without a system in place to make sure content can be refreshed regularly.
By the way, if you want to learn more about solving localization challenges in fintech, check out this ebook that includes insights from experts at Google, Western Union, Crypto.com, TransferGo, Remitly, Revolut, and more.
Building the foundation for continuous localization
Most companies skip the steps necessary to make the switch to continuous localization easy further down the road. Let’s look at the fundamentals that will make the transition a whole lot smoother once you decide to make the switch.
Enhance your efforts with quality l10n engineering
Continuous systems for localization should first make writing internationalized source code straightforward. In fact, the best technologies are nothing more than shelfware if you’re not fulfilling the foundational technical requirements.
Eliminate friction points between development and localization
Modifying localization processes is largely a matter of change management. It is surprising that companies still have to wait for an engineer to manually handle resource files; sending them out and then getting them back, aggregating them, and placing them in a build.
Simply standardizing (and centralizing) the method for receiving, reviewing, and implementing files is the first step toward automating routine tasks that otherwise create unnecessary friction and compromise the project scope.
Adopt technology that unites departments and fits localization into their workflows
Localization project managers face a number of challenges, but technology can help them solve the biggest ones. So shares Silvia Mapelli, Sr. Localization Project Manager at Blizzard Entertainment:
More often than not, I see companies use scattered tools for localization – proprietary CAT tools, financial tools, communication tools, repository tools, quality management tools, etc. Having a holistic TMS that meets all these needs increases productivity by reducing back and forth between stakeholders. As a result, costs decrease, and resources can focus on their areas of expertise rather than on manual tasks.
To succeed in continuous localization, you need localization software that will act as a database of translation keys and have all the necessary features for efficient cross-team collaboration. That’s how you’ll ensure that different departments in your company and vendors stay on the same page while collaborating and working on a project simultaneously.
Making the case for continuous localization
Continuous localization is the most efficient process for companies that frequently release localized updates for apps, websites, and content. But switching to continuous localization is overwhelming if you’re still convincing teams that localization should matter.
If you need to raise awareness, remember that localization goals are exciting. It’s not really about the process – there’s a story to tell of new users, empowered solutions, and company growth.
Get some backup and input from customer-facing teams and customers themselves. Teach people about why it matters and who will be impacted. And make the case to future-proof your program as your organization expands its global focus.