Software Localization and Meeting Sim-Ship Expectations

Five Tips to Help Software Companies Get Multiple Product Versions Ready for International Launch

469582405In our global economy, the pressure is on for software companies to sim-ship.  This means to simultaneously ship a product and supporting materials in multiple languages.

Launching localized product versions at the same time as the original source product (or at least very shortly afterwards) can be quite a challenge. From a business perspective, to achieve sim-ship often involves a lot of investment and planning up front, with a higher risk of missing launch deadlines. If the Japanese version is not ready, this could mean the whole global product does not go ahead and quite simply, no money in the door or recognized ROI.

Sim-ship is something often driven by global market demand. Consumers have shorter attention spans these days and demand instant gratification. They want goods available when they want them. A common mistake is to alienate European or Asian markets by only launching the US-EN version and promising availability “soon”. Highly competitive markets mean if you don’t deliver, your users may go elsewhere. This means for many software companies, they have to consider sim-ship – and not just for first-time product launches but also for significant updates and releases.  It is not just the end-user who is waiting. Audiences include end-users, partners, distributors, employees, analysts and journalists.

Delivering multilingual software to local markets involves a number of teams, processes and workflows. It is not simply a case of localizing the product. It is also ensuring that online help, support documentation and marketing materials are localized and in place ready for product launch. Successful software localization is not simply a process where text is extracted from the source application, translated, rebuilt, tested and ready.  There are many other localization considerations.

Here are five tips to help software companies get multiple product versions ready at the same time for international launch:

#1 APPOINT A LEAD LANGUAGE SERVICE PROVIDER (LSP) AND GET THEM INVOLVED AT THE START. Make localization part of the development process. Getting developers working with localization teams from the start will ensure the product is written and developed as a product, intended for global distribution.

#2 CENTRALIZE LOCALIZATION ACTIVITIES. As a leading global LSP, Welocalize works with a large number of software clients. The more coordinated, centralized and mature a client is in their localization activities, the less likely they are to miss deadlines and launch dates. If the localization of the product, marketing materials and support documentation are centralized, it means clearer communication across company divisions. Shared processes, technology and goals across multi-functional teams are a good practice for localization. Fragmented localization teams within the client leads to confusion, inconsistencies, missed deadlines and higher costs. None of those are welcome when launching a product globally.

#3 APPLY GOOD INTERNATIONALIZATION PRACTICES. According to GALA, “Internationalization (I18n) refers to how software code is written to ensure versions beyond the original language can be created correctly and save significant expense, time and headaches for everyone involved in the language work down the line.” For example, if you’re planning to release your software product in Asian markets, the product must handle double-byte Asian characters, date and time formats and currencies. Prevention is better than cure. Applying good internationalization practices will save time and money. Same applies when developing graphic user interfaces (GUIs) – any design element will need to be compatible for all target markets.

#4 KEEP COMMUNICATIONS CONSISTENT. Good terminology management practice is important in any localization program, not just software. You need consistency between the software interface and user-facing materials including marketing materials. This not only ensures correct usage of the product but also helps establish a consistent, global brand. If localization is centralized, this will enable shared terminology and glossaries across authors, agencies, translators and reviewers.

#5 USE AGILE DEVELOPMENT. There has been a shift away from traditional product releases towards a more responsive agile way of development. Most software companies use agile development cycles, not just for patches and updates but for the product release itself. The demand driving companies to simultaneously ship software product and services is the same demand that drives agile development. Users around the globe are driven by instant gratification – they want that new feature now! The waterfall approach to software development no longer supports this demand. We have to move quicker to meet market and business expectations.

The localization of a software product itself, whether installed, app or cloud-based, involves a number of experts. This includes engineers, testers, DTP experts, translators, reviewers and project managers. This same team of people can make the difference from simply having a localized product to having a global product, ready for launch, in all target markets. Partnering with a global LSP to achieve sim-ship will generate better ROI and help you stay ahead of the competition.


Louise Law is Global Communications Manager at Welocalize.