Defining a Successful Software Localization Program

185519875Mark O’Malley, Bernice McDonagh and Jörg Bauer focus on software localization programs at Welocalize. Together, they have over 25 years of experience working in the localization industry. In this blog, they highlight some of the key steps and components of a successful localization program that helps software companies sell into international markets.

Software localization projects can be complex and may involve cross-functional teams, specialized technology and numerous interrelated parts tied to our clients’ development and release schedules.

Key components of software localization projects include:  User Interface (UI), Help Systems and Documentation.

As we work through the different stages of a localization project, we often tackle components in parallel to maximize efficiency and meet deadlines. This is essential, as clients move to a sim-ship requirement needing localized software products available at the same time as English. For more information on sim-ship, see Welocalize blog Software Localization and Meeting Sim-Ship Expectations.

What do we need to ensure a successful software localization program?

First, we must know our clients and understand their products, their business strategy and their expectations regarding localized releases. This will impact the solutions that we offer and will influence how we build our project teams and organize project work. For example, products which follow an agile and/or sim-ship development methodology are likely to have different resourcing requirements compared to products which follow a more traditional development and release strategy.

Core program teams are made up of experienced project managers, language and functional leads. The project manager oversees the preparation, planning and execution phases of projects and will work closely with the project team to ensure that the scope and requirements are clear, to identify key milestones and to develop suitable localization plans and schedules. The project manager will also manage the budget throughout the lifetime of the project and will work with the project team to monitor variances and report to the client on a regular basis.

A key area for the project manager is the consideration of potential risks, dependencies and constraints when planning software localization work. For example, a product which will release to media may have in-product help or video content and, if so, the localization milestones for the documentation will have to be properly aligned with software localization milestones.

Communication is key to ensuring successful completion of projects and the project manager should define and agree communication channels and escalation paths with their project team and with their client contacts at the earliest stage. It is helpful to have an agreed communication channels with specialists on the client side to resolve any blocking issues that may arise during the translation and production cycles. Clear and open channels of communication assist in having all parties up to date with status. This allows the project teams at the client and lead LSP operate as an integrated unit. Everyone knows who to contact and it helps minimize the occurrence of unexpected surprises later in the project.

At Welocalize, we assign translation work to qualified linguistic resources that have expertise in the subject matter. Whatever the tool used to create source components at the client, we have internal processes ready to extract only translatable content out of the source files so that translators can easily work on the content and don’t have to struggle with unfamiliar tools or applications. A key part of the planning and set up phases is ensuring translators are comfortable with the defined translation tools and workflow required to complete the project. We have machine translation programs in place now for many clients. With machine translated content being widely used, expertise in post-editing is now also a requirement.

The project managers and language coordinators work with clients to make sure that translators have access to approved references and relevant product information. Based on the evolving needs of the program, we organize training and kick-off sessions with translation teams to make sure that they are clear about the latest requirements.

After translation, the source text is overwritten with the translation and checked for issues that might have been introduced by the localization process. For example, UI dialogs will be resized and hotkeys adjusted. In online help and documentation, the layout and, in the case of Asian languages, the font is also adjusted. Screenshots, audio files, videos and other localized graphics are created for software localization.

Before product release, we will also do a comprehensive testing cycle on the full software build. This can include layout, functional and language dependent checks by native speakers.

A robust defect management system and a well-defined workflow will ensure that defects identified during QA cycles are processed in a timely and consistent manner. It will mean that project managers and functional leads have visibility on status for defect fixes at all times. Such a system can be crucial to aid decision-making ahead of critical milestones and ultimately allow us to successfully deliver the signed-off final product to the client so they can launch internationally.

Mark, Bernice, Jörg

If you are interested in software localization, you might also want to read: Software Localization and Meeting Sim-Ship Expectations, Role of Quality in Four Stages of Software Localization, The Internet of Things and How it Affects Localization

Download Welocalize White Paper on Software Localization: A Bug is a Bug in Any Language