Once you have decided upon localization either a strategic decision based upon the previously mentioned Strategy Matrix or a tactical decision based upon a specific request, you will now need to decide on your localization model, specifically how you go about the actual localization of your product. It is important to understand the various models, and the importance of following the proper process irrespective of the model you choose. Obviously the first step is not doing a Google search for software localization, but rather to understand the options available as well as the proper process.
There are three basic models, the Distributor Model, The In-House Model, and the Outsourced Model, naturally Hybrids of these models are also quite ubiquitous. In each of the models you would need to consider how you manage the translation assets, (which is a topic of a separate article), as well as decide what content you will be localizing, is it only the UI, the documentation, your website, marketing collateral, SDS’s.
The Distributor Model as its name suggests is where an organization allows its distributors to handle some, or even all of the localization of its product. This certainly is the easiest method in the short term as your distributor understands the local market and you can be reasonably confident of the results.
The in-house model requires companies to maintain in-house competency in localization and can be extremely successful as your own resources will be dedicated to the task of localizing and evangelization of all that entails. This model can be costly but effective if done well.
The Outsourced Model is what many, if not most startups, as well as other companies undertaking localization for the first time, choose, it has a huge advantage of being able to deliver the required expertise at a much lower cost than if you had to do it in-house. You should try to choose the right LSP (Language Service Provider) that will be transparent and explain what your options are, as well as ensure that a good infrastructure is maintained.
Finally, many very large enterprises use a hybrid approach, they recognize the importance of maintaining in-house control of the overall localization process, but may outsource more mundane tasks such as translation, DTP and even testing.
More about the outsourced model
The outsourcing model is by far the most popular while companies with a small number of requirements may be able to handle their translations in-house in the short run, as they mature into more sophisticated entities, they will rely on LSPs for their expertise. Even large enterprises which may handle much of their localization work in-house (e.g., engineering, project management), will almost certainly outsource the linguistic elements of the work, because they realize that they will not be able to scale.
The specs of an outsourcing model are clear, the first thing is that once you have a partner, it is important to emphasize that these relationships go beyond customer and supplier, and should develop into a partnership where each party understands the other’s needs. Localization is a process with a lot of moving parts, for example even if you were localizing a simple document, it would not be enough just to have the text translated, but one would need to make sure that the numbers are localized, the graphics are handled, the paper size is taken into consideration, the dates and numbering formats are correct and ensure that the layout is correctly formatted, contextually and visually correct. Your LSP should be able to present this to you as the full scope of a given translation, or as referred to by LSPs, the project. Your vendor is interested in doing this correctly, and understanding this is an important step in that relationship.
There should be a symbiosis with your vendor, translation is turning more into a commodity these days with the availability and improvements in AI machine translation; localization however is not a commodity and your vendor should be able to provide you with more than just translated words. It is quite simple to make sure that you will continually get value out of your vendor by making certain your vendor understands your expectations. Often a vendor is running on autopilot since many customers just want to throw the translation over the fence and get it back with little or no engagement, but this would be a mistake. The outsourcing model gives you access to qualified resources almost at any time, and often they will train specific linguists to work on your translations. An LSP manages hundreds if not thousands of resources, across 45-55 languages on a regular basis. These resources are not just linguists but include engineers, QA and QC personnel, terminologists, project managers, DTP functions and so on. The LSP will also maintain specialized localization tools and assets. Your LSP should be able to build a solution for you based on your needs and requirements.
What’s in the next Installment?
In the next part we will examine the localization process.