It has been over 14 years since the Agile Software Development Manifesto was published. At its heart were a set of values that, while still guiding the software development space, have changed the ways that many industries do work. The manifesto called for an end to the heavy, document-laden, slow bureaucracy-driven processes in exchange for light, dynamic, and consumer-driven approaches to work. And who could argue with that?
There is no doubt that the Agile methodology has also transformed language services delivery. Indeed, as the world’s leading software developers have raced forward, their most successful localization vendors have learned to keep pace.
But this has not been just about running behind the giants to keep in the race. Instead, language service providers have themselves innovated to deliver on the dream of the fast, customer-first market, wherever that market may be and in whatever languages its consumers speak.
But while Agile localization has been an attractive change for many software developers and localization vendors alike, many implementations are still falling short. Why is that? Let’s look at some of the frequent reasons.
#1 – They’re Stuck in the Waterfall
Because Agile localization aligns translation and localization programs with Agile software development, it is first and foremost an iterative process. In today’s aggressive marketplace, where desktop and mobile device applications battle for consumer buy-in, there’s no room understandably for the kind of snail-paced progress of yesteryear.
That means that old waterfall localization processes — the ones that were characterized by large word volumes pushed to vendors at the end of the software development cycle — are no more. Instead, localization is iterative, such that there is a constant stream of small-volume localization drops.
As a result, Agile localization is driven by time-sensitive and high-pressure delivery schedules — the kinds of turnarounds in versions that changed from every two years or two months to every one week or one day instead. These are the kinds of pressures that have prompted Agile-driven clients and vendors to invest in robust translation management platforms that bring further optimization and automation to localization programs.
#2 – They Haven’t Invited Localization In
The success of Agile is in ensuring that the right people are in the room at the right time. Whereas in the past software localization was an end process in the development cycle, today’s successful implementation of Agile localization means that localizers and localization thinking are in the software development room from concept through to market delivery.
Note, however, my use of the term successful. The difference of Agile localization is in this tight integration. When a localizer is in the room, internationalization standards for coding, linguistic testing considerations, and any number of other calls to localization thinking are on the table.
Where software development companies have placed localization and internationalization first, there are fewer language-related errors — costly and deadline-destroying problems — to apologize to consumers for and clean up after.
#3 – They’re Focusing on the Small Stuff
Old software localization processes tend to also be trapped in old models of the client-vendor relationship. We’ve written about the ways in which localization procurement have changed, but it is worth additional mention here.
Fundamentally, language services providers have to reimagine themselves as more than project-to-project word delivery services. There is no time in an Agile localization context to haggle over focus on per-word and per-project rates when your company has to deliver content within 24 hours for diverse content distribution channels in 35+ languages and with high linguistic quality.
Where Agile-localization-driven companies excel is in providing proof of the value of the trusted, long-term business partnership. Together with the client, the language partner is turned towards achieving the mission as it is defined by the total volume, target markets, and quality and financial targets not just tomorrow’s delivery.
This gives the language services partner room to discover opportunities for process optimization and automation. Agile localization providers also understand the difference between reactive quality assurance and proactive quality control.
On the Other Side of the Victory Line
So where do we all win with Agile localization?
In quality returns, because of the proactive and tight integration of localization representatives throughout the software development cycle
In time-to-market turnarounds, because of smaller projects, smaller errors, and greater optimization
In consistent results, because of stronger partnerships between global brands and their multilingual language partners.
How have you managed the switch to Agile localization strategies? Share your story in the comments below.