Worldware Presentation – Product Internationalization: The Pursuit for Cultural Adaptation (and happiness!)

People across the world are wired differently. With this being the case, it is important to design products specific to the intended locale. A mis-internationalized product will become confusing for its market, resulting in a loss in investment for the project. Follow along with Talia Baruch (below) goes over how to hit home, literally and figuratively, with internationalized and localized products.

Presented by:

  • Talia Baruch – An independent globalization strategist with 12+ years of localization experience working with clients like Google, HP, Adobe, Cisco and Starbucks to achieve highly successful localized products. Recently founded Copyous, a provider of internationalization and localization setup management.

Worldware Presentation – Emerging Markets

Emerging markets can no longer be overlooked as global economic opportunities have become more desirable for companies to explore. Join three industry leaders as they share their experiences in entering emerging markets, the differences between an emerging market and a well established market, and what strategies have worked for their respective companies.

Presented by:

  • Ghassan Haddad, Facebook’s internationalization director
  • Bob Jung, Google’s director of software engineering for internationalization
  • Nico Ponser, LinkedIn’s principle international product manager

Shrinking the Triangle

This article was originally featured in the Oct./Nov. 2010 issue of MultiLingual Computing Magazine, in Adam Asnes’ Business Side column. Read article “Shrinking the Triangle” on MultiLingual’s Website.

Good, Quick, and Cheap?

Good, quick, cheap – pick any two. Project managers will tell you this project triangle is the way it has to be. Fair enough in the short run, but there is a dynamic perspective to this particular triangle that static view will ignore.

Fulfilling New Market Vistas and Adaptation

A truism of technology is that it serves as a great flattener, ultimately destroying pricing and economies in one area, only to give rise to new and hopefully broadening opportunities. The rise and effect of communication technologies that join markets, customers and workers are a remarkable example accelerating change in the speed of fulfilling new market vistas and adaptation. Our industry thrives in this, connecting products, messages, vendors, clients and communities in far flung cultures. Yet, the barrier to entering the localization industry is really not so tough. You need a bit of expertise, contacts, some sales savvy and you’re in business. No expensive machinery, or large capitalization needed. But at some point, you’re going to need something to help you shrink the distances separating good, quick and cheap.

Fast, Cheap, and Good

So how’s business? And if you’re on the client side, how’s budgets?  It seems our industry hasn’t seen the brunt of revenue devastation that many others have in the current economic slowdown. And as some measure of that, recent vendor and buyer surveys from Common Sense Advisory have provided more than anecdotal support for relative industry strength and confidence – even if vendors seem to be more optimistic than clients. On a personal level, this in turn feeds my confidence as a business owner to expand offerings, spend more on R&D, marketing, and (gasp), even hire a new employees.

On Internationalization

Internationalization, which is what my firm concentrates on, is actually a pretty good harbinger of the mood of the tech industry. That’s because internationalization requires a fresh and significant investment in future revenues, rather than maintaining localization on an existing product distribution release schedule. In fact, internationalization can stick out as a pretty large budget item at a time when tech companies have done well to minimize expenses and maximize profits on less to flat revenues. And while you never want to believe too deeply in generalized economic trajectories when getting specific about company forecasts, the investors’ expression “the trend is your friend” comes to mind. This means the onus has never been stronger on emphasizing the business case for internationalization and ultimately succeeding in new markets, while also finding new ways to bring together best of breed technology and people to make the work cost less with more predictability. It’s a great story, but the pressure remains on to tighten that triangle. Internationalization and Localization must compete with any number of other potential revenue opportunities, strategic initiatives and cost pressures.

I don’t want to imply that there isn’t a great deal of truth behind the good, quick or cheap triangle, but we are especially pressed to tighten the space between those choices. Whenever I hear someone use that saying, and it’s usually when someone is trying to sell me something, I’m always looking for a way out. How do we continuously find ways to produce better things, faster and for a lower cost? That’s what the promise of technology, combined with improved people processes and greater access to knowledge all have to offer. But particularly in the localization industry, at some point, it’s challenging to get around human processes that don’t scale so well, so we are back to good, quick, cheap – pick any two. Yet we all chip away at this, finding ways to move code or words along faster, better, cheaper. This is basic principle of technical advancement, but often in the throw of daily work, do we give ourselves the time to map out and affect these three competing attributes at once? When we talk with our managers and clients, are we given the latitude, time and budget to change processes and technologies even in the face of competing budget demands?

Tightening the Triangle

In many cases, the methods of tightening the triangle may not even reside within your firm, or your vendor’s firm. In fact, it may be healthier to look beyond any all-in-one offering. For instance, my firm has been partnering with many vendors right from its inception. We focus on providing internationalization tools and development services, a software development endeavor. Software development is a highly different skill set than managing words for localization, so a natural partnership opportunity arises. We also just began a partnership with a company with a product that supports internationalized documentation writing. That’s a natural fit that only benefits customers. So it makes sense to partner companies, and then go one step further, integrating processes and services together for an outcome that reduces the size of the triangle. Note that I’m not just referring about trading logo’s on websites, which is partnering in name only.

Exports to from Germany to China are up by almost 60% this year. No other segment of German foreign trade is growing as quickly. It follows that this kind of economic relationship ties nations, politics, workforces, just as much as goods and services. We are seeing the triangle getting smaller in action.

Though China rightfully gets lots of press, there are other places having very exciting growing trends. In fact, the fastest forecasted economic GDP growth rate for 2010 is actually from Qatar (16.4% – EconomyWatch.com).  2010 to 2020 has been predicted to be the African decade, with rapid growth forecast for many nations on that continent. How will this affect our triangle and our industry? Probably quite nicely!

There Will Be Winners and Losers

But there’s more to this equation. With these trends for global markets gaining purchasing power, there is also ample opportunity for the flow of technology to go the other way. All that market diversity, along with developing labor shakes things up. One would hope that the opportunities make up for the commercial pricing stress that could accompany expansion, but there will be winners and losers.  Additionally, we can expect new opportunities from untraditional channels. For example, we currently have a new client which is essentially a financial group that purchased Chinese technology and is remarketing it elsewhere. In this case, they are not considering entering the US market just yet, but starting in places like India where competition is not so dense. So they are buying good technology for less money, to sell to new markets with lower barriers to entry. I’d call that a creative way to tighten the triangle.

About the Author

Adam Asnes is President and CEO at Lingoport and enjoys investigating how globalization technology affects businesses expanding their worldwide reach. Adam is a sought after speaker at industry events and a columnist on globalization technology as it affects businesses expanding their worldwide reach. He often writes articles for localization, internationalization and globalization industry publications and enjoys cycling and Colorado’s Rocky Mountains; he can be reached by clicking here.

Lingoport’s Internationalization (I18n) and Localization (L10n) Tools and Consulting Solutions

Founded in 2001, Lingoport provides extensive software localization and internationalization consulting services. Lingoport’s Globalyzer software, a market leading software internationalization tool, helps entire enterprises and development teams to effectively internationalize existing and newly developed source code and to prepare their applications for localization.

For more information on how Lingoport can assist you with all of your internationalization and localization needs, please contact us at info@lingoport.com, call 303.444.8020, or complete the quote request form.

Building a Site for Worldwide Customers

Ecommerce sitesThe world is yours, or at least that’s the promise e-commerce offers. Get your products, services or information online and you can gain customers anywhere. It can be challenging, though, to build an active worldwide customer base that buys and comes back for more. It’s a competitive world, and studies have shown over and over that people prefer to buy in the ways they are accustomed, especially with information in their native language. The first obvious customization is to provide translation of your e-commerce site, but this doesn’t happen with an easy wave of a magic wand. There are steps needed, from business planning to technical adaptation to facilitating the localization process and streamlining updates. In this article, we offer you an overview of these considerations, and logical steps to help you move forward.

Business Case

While this article mostly covers issues regarding site creation and adaptation, any discussion must include the business drivers as they strongly impact cost and time considerations.

Whether you work at a large or small company, your business case leads your budget and resource allocation in creating sites for global audiences. In most cases, this globalization strategy involves high level management visibility and strategic commitment. There are revenue expectations, distribution issues to sort out, possibly local in-country representation to support and a host of other logistics. All that adds up to plenty of expectations for a return on the investment. Getting a good plan in place, including a strong understanding of the scope of implementation efforts, a technical and process roadmap, as well as some kind of measurement metrics helps you get the right funding and resources to be successful.

The costs of poorly globalizing your e-commerce site certainly include building expensive systems that don’t have the needed functionality for an international customer base. Even worse are the delays in deployment that have rather painful and visible effects on your company’s revenue stream, global aspiration objectives, and ultimately the bottom line.

Process Steps in Creating a Global Site

In creating a site adapted to worldwide customers, there are two major defined steps: Internationalization and Localization. For a site to be localized, giving it the “look and feel” of having been developed in the target market, it must first be internationalized.

Internationalization – One Site, Many Adaptations

To the outside observer, internationalization (i18n) remains a hidden and often unknown attribute, but it is critical to leveraging your success from market to market. When you internationalize your site, you adapt its technology to be capable of not only supporting any language, but also supporting local formats and ways of doing business. Translators and regional stakeholders can alter content and more, but the site itself – what presents and processes information – remains consistent and leveraged for each market.

We often counsel our clients to think in terms of locales, and not languages. That’s because you can’t assign local purchasing behaviors to a language. It’s more of the other way around; a locale includes the language of the region as well as numerous other issues, ranging from character set support, date/time formatting, forms of payment, data/product sorting, phone/address formatting and more.

If you are using another company’s e-commerce platform technology for your site, then you must find out exactly how they support internationalization. If you are building a new site, be aware that some technologies adapt to internationalization and localization demands better than others. The technologies you choose should tread the balance of your current organization requirements and your business objectives.

If you are adapting your current site to support internationalization, consider these areas in your migration:

Architecture –

The structure of your e-commerce system, including the software itself, the externally visible properties of the user interface, and the relationships between them.

  • Consider your new requirements for international markets, finding the balance of what is not in your e-commerce site that needs to be added
  • Likewise, examine what is in your site’s code that needs to be changed to support the markets.

Code Refactoring –

Unless you are developing a new e-commerce site where support for international markets is planned from the beginning, it is likely that the internal structure of your e-commerce site will require modification to improve or change the code to better support international functionality. Typical code refactoring on internationalization projects includes:

  • Extract embedded strings from the code so that they can be easily accessed for translation
  • Changing locale-limiting functions, methods and classes
  • Mark relevant business logic object-based so that can be affected by locale requirements
  • Enable character set support (Unicode) so that extended characters display properly
  • Ensure character encoding changes to pages, database and individual coding elements are implemented
  • Abstract transaction workflow on the site that may need to be dynamically customized to support locale requirements

It can be a challenge to identify and fix internationalization issues in an e-commerce Web site application. Fortunately, there is at least one tool that greatly facilitates the process. Globalyzer, a product available from Lingoport, is built to help teams of developers find and fix internationalization issues, and keep software internationalized over time. You can learn more on the Lingoport
web site
and even sign up for a trial Globalyzer account.

Content Management Systems

Another aspect to take into account during the internationalization phase is the type of tools you are using for developing your content. For Web sites, there are plenty of good content management systems (CMS) that are available; however, there are differences among them that affect the support for international markets. If you use one, you want make sure it is localization-friendly. It must have a way to export the translatable content in some kind of file format that translation tools can use. XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) or other variations of XML-based formats are good choices. The tool must also be able to merge back the translated exported data into the right places in the localized content.

The capability to generate “delta” files – which contain only the content “chunks” that need to go through the localization process for translation – is a very efficient way to reduce the costs for localizing updates as your site is modified. It is often helpful to the linguists, though, to provide reference materials or to include the already-translated content around the new translatable chunks, so the translation can be done within a meaningful context.

Some content management systems also allow you to control the granularity of the chunks you create, and to re-use them across the whole published Web site. This allows for even more cost saving in localization.

Content Creation

Whether you are using a content management system or not, how you write the content and design your icons and graphics affects the ultimate localizability of the site. Taking into consideration the way the content is developed saves money during the localization process and results in better international sites. Ultimately, it is much cheaper to create content correctly in the source language before translating the content into many languages for the target markets and having to address content issues for each market:

  • Write in simplified English. In creating the source content, write in the active voice, avoiding complex sentence structures. Avoid the use of slang, colloquial expressions, and cultural references. This is even more important if you anticipate having some users from markets that are not covered by your globalization plan. They may end up using machine translation engines to get a gist of the content of your Web site.
  • Reuse text. If you say the same thing at different places, say it the same way, so the translation of the first occurrence can be used for the second one. This leveraging of text can significantly reduce the linguistic fees through the reuse of previously translated content. By all means, avoid minor wording changes as that just means more costs. Content management systems can help you to parse your content into “chunks” that are easily translated while facilitating the reuse of content throughout the site.
  • Icons. Make sure all icons are understandable by your target markets. It is cheaper to have icons that “work everywhere” than to customize icons for each market. Identifying culturally acceptable icons can require a bit of up-front cost in assessing them for your target markets, but it avoids confusing (or worse, offending) your customers. Alternatively, you can design your Web site to easily substitute icons according to the market (e.g. by using style-sheets instead of hard-coding style changes in your pages).
  • Graphics. While it is tempting to have complex graphics with layered text, remember that all text has to be translated. Translating text that is embedded into graphics is more expensive. If you have to use call outs on your graphics, use numbers or letters that are then referenced in the text of the page rather than on the graphic itself. Whatever you do, make sure that you keep the graphic source files for your localization team (not just the collapsed JPG or GIF files).
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In creating the source e-commerce site, great care is taken to optimize search terms so that the site appears readily in search engine matches. Extend your efforts to include SEO for each of your target markets, using appropriate search terms in the metadata as well as the content itself.

Ensuring Internationalization Success

A good internationalization effort should be validated with a careful review of the source site:

  • Consider using pseudo-translation (where the content is passed through a small program to convert the text into extended characters so that display can be verified) of the content to verify that all modifiable elements of the site are indeed accessible and can be changed for the various translated versions. Verify that locale-sensitive data can be processed accordingly (date/time/numbers format, currency issues, measurement units, etc.) and that, when needed, locale-specific content can be provided as well (end-user license agreements, privacy and confidentiality statements, 800-type numbers, part numbers, etc..)

Success of your site on the international scene comes from a combination
of:

  • Good development practices
  • Well-adapted tools used during the development
    and the maintenance of the site, and
  • Content that is ready for localization,
    taking into account cultural differences as appropriate.

By following these high-level guidelines, you are better prepared for the localization and translation of your e-commerce site for each of your target markets.

Rising to Economic Challenges

Software internationalization projects got canceled after the financial crashWhen publicly traded companies lose a third to half of their market value within the space of a month, it’s a little naïve to think that it won’t have some kind of effect on our industry, yet in polling many owners of companies on the vendor side, there’s been only anecdotal evidence of lost business so far. As industry professionals, whether on the client or vendor perspectives, we have the opportunity to provide globalization leadership, adding value across our respective organizations.

MultiLingual Computings’ illustrious editor, Katie Botkin contacted me a few weeks ago, asking me to write my next column relating to the current worldwide economic mess. What can we say about a financial market that nosedived, and at this writing is fluctuating hundreds of points daily? My fear is that by the time this article gets published and distributed, it will be hopelessly out of date due to the latest maelstrom or recovery.

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies” – Groucho Marx

I won’t bother going into various contributing causes and tales of financial greedy miscreants and cronies, but suffer me to say that this situation didn’t come out of nowhere. My wife, who runs Lingoport’s operations, has been telling me for over a year that a crash was coming, as she reads some fairly sophisticated financial newsletters and publications, and thankfully she had us prepared for it. Being an optimist, I wanted to ignore her. So how come, Henry Paulson had to hastily cobble together a 3 page insult to democracy that he sold as the basis for a rescue plan? Hopefully that sort of institutional incompetence will be at least curtailed come inauguration day, January 20th. Enough of my ranting, this article is about the economic effect on our industry and what we can actually do about it.

“Who are you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes.” – Groucho Marx

Firstly, do we have a problem here? I posed a question to the L10N group on LinkedIn asking if members were experiencing any signs, anecdotal or otherwise, of the economy in their work, and if and how that was changing planning. I got a number of very interesting answers, most of which expressed concern, and a consensus reporting business has been quite strong. No one was reporting any actual lost business due to corporate cutbacks, but it was a small and unscientific sample.

Paraphrasing Serge Gladoff of Logrus, “fear often is capable of creating its own reality.” He has a point. He also added that we are in one industry that may actually even still grow under the current circumstances as companies look for opportunities in new markets.

One respondent from France had this to say: “In the long run, I’m still very confident and this crisis will probably help to clean up the actual economy and allow it to rebound on much more reliable basics.”

Michael Gavin, an industry consultant had this to say: “For service providers I believe the strategy for success will be based on their ability to innovate their offerings, their business model and engage with other market sectors outside of their traditional comfort zone of IT and Software.”

I had similar flavors of responses when I asked people about the economy and their business at Localization World. People reported that they hadn’t directly experienced any slowdown in their localization businesses, but admitted it may be early yet to judge things and they were bracing for possible storms to come.

“The milk of innovation doesn’t flow from cash cows” – David Isenberg

This market reaction seems very different towards globalization than the tech crash after September 11, 2001. While that crash was already in motion, the terrorist attack was cliff jump which froze many of my customers in their tracks. Back then, I had only started up Lingoport half a year earlier. I had my first larger i18n construction project under way, which was promptly killed on September 12th. I had the unlucky break that this client served the airline industry. Many other smaller prospects halted their plans as well. All this pain forced me to regroup and innovate, as I had several engineers and few customers. So we worked on the early version of what became our Globalyzer product, now a market leading software internationalization tool. Like Michael Gavin said, the situation encouraged and rewarded innovation.

I also suspect this time around, globalization has further matured in terms of the planning mindset of business minds. As companies earn more and more of their revenues from global clients, the emphasis on spending, even within a defensive posture, is likely to include supporting and growing those global revenues. I’m glad we are all ultimately selling revenue growth (if you think you are providing translation, guess again) rather than big cars, fancy cell phones or furniture.

At Lingoport, I always feel we are an especially good bellwether because we focus on internationalization, rather than localization. Internationalization always involves expansion and looking for new opportunities, while localization can often simply be generated by maintaining products over existing global sales networks. Many companies also initially perceive that they can tackle internationalization engineering internally if times are tough, whereas they may be a little less likely to have skilled translators on staff (excepting the erroneous idea that the sales associate is qualified to translate because he/she grew up speaking Spanish at home). When companies are being defensive, new expenses like a large scale engineering effort can stick out on financial projections. One easy way for companies to cut expenses is to just kill budgets on any new initiative. This is at least some logic that I’ve seen in other slowdowns. It can be hard for companies to think about expansion if they are in a defensive position. But what I’ve also seen, is that as financial planning stabilizes globalization needs are still right there, needing attention.

Two opposing real world examples at Lingoport have been one repeat customer who asked us to take on more work and accelerate efforts (more money) and another repeat customer who was planning on extending some work, but got budget frozen (presumably indiscriminately and for an indefinite period) the day he was ready to give us a new order. I asked the expanding company about their corporate mindset, and they were extremely bullish on expanding globally in the face of market adversity and recession. They felt now more than ever was the time to move and grab a growing share of worldwide revenues.

This brings me to what we can all do to help our respective situations. We’ll all be expected to do what we do better, faster, cheaper and more efficiently. I don’t have to act like much of a pundit in saying that. Specifically here are three concepts worth special emphasis:

1) Gross Margin rules: For those of you new to the term, Gross Margin is income divided by net sales expressed as a percentage. It reveals how profitable a company or endeavor is outside of taxes and many other factors which can include research and development and marketing. Gross Margin is so important because it determines the power of your sustainable cash arsenal to do those things that differentiate your company.

    a. Whether you are on the client or vendor side – be persistent in finding ways to maximize and measure how any effort you undergo contributes to your company’s gross margin.
    b. Remember that if you already have sales efforts going on outside of your native borders, quality internationalization and globalization can’t help but improve your gross margin as your product becomes more competitive.
    c. Look to enhance global relationships which positively impact global revenues.
    d. On the vendor side, mind your customers, projects and project volume like never before. Work to minimize past due receivables which in turn improves cash. Through very symbiotic methods with our customers, Lingoport has an average receivable cycle of only 21 days. It’s rare for us to have a receivable go unpaid for more than 45 days, and it’s not because we are being pesky.
    e. Remember this management truth: what gets measured has a way of getting done, as well as improving.

2) Innovating tasks and processes that are important but not urgent tend to differentiate companies. It’s that extra effort to make product or services that have some repeatable benefit outside of the ordinary that you need to spend some time on. This can be particularly challenging when you are asked to do more with less and flooded with the emergency du jour, but it is also the most important time to reserve attention for innovations. If you can meaningfully improve something that’s “always been done that way” do it. Then note item 1a, and how your innovation saves time/money or reduces the overhang of iterative work.

3) Don’t take the attitude that you know all this and its common sense. You are actually correct, but how often do we really live what we know. Action is its own reward when we follow common sense and make real improvements. So avoid going negative or being overwhelmed by the possibility of future disasters, and live and work like you mean to put “common sense” to good use.

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” – Charles M. Shultz

Getting Excited About the Big Picture

Written for MultiLingual Computing by Adam Asnes, President, Lingoport

Internationalization Tools and Software Localization Support by LingoportIn our industry there’s a great deal of well deserved tactical focus on technologies and processes. But remember, new concepts and ideas that evoke emotion move people, numerical evidence of efficiencies and incremental savings are usually, less persuasive. Chances are if you are reading this magazine, you are well informed about the importance of globalizing products. The people who we work with and make major decisions that affect globalization may not be, or they may suffer a narrow short-term view. This column is an invitation to be a globalization leader in your company. Get fired up! What’s happening in our world is way cooler than the introduction of the latest iPhone.

As recently as late last year, a person of considerable position in the Colorado software community said to me that she figured opportunities were over in China as it was all over the newspapers and magazines, and that always means you’re too late on a trend. I had to explain that this is not a fashionable trend we’re talking about. She understood right away, and she quickly saw the error of her comment. The point is that not everyone understands the sea change we’re having in international market power. On a Macro level, there has really been some shake up in the rankings of economies by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For 2007 the EU (counting all members) sits at number one, the US is number two, PRC is three, Japan is four, Union of South American Nations is five, India is six and Germany is 7 and the list goes on (sources: International Monetary Fund and CIA World Factbook – 2007). How do you think that would compare with ten or even five years ago? Now what does that exciting trend mean for your company?

There are unprecedented new global business opportunities arising, with easier global reach possible, and more market maturity pertaining to everything from legal agreements to distribution channels.
To gain a foothold and grow worldwide in increasingly competitive and worldly markets, you’d better not just be there, you’re going to have to be there and be good at it.

These growing economies represent real people buying goods and services. With that comes a competitiveness that has also been unprecedented. Emerging companies are not just going to be content with being cheap labor or assembly production sources. They are going to compete with products and services of their own, or copy successes and add their own refinements. And keep in mind the barriers to entry are falling, such that even smaller companies that historically wouldn’t venture out of their communities and certainly not their countries, are doing so.

I recently wrote, with some glee, in our Lingoport newsletter about a local ice cream shop, Glacier, which was embarking on a joint venture to create an upscale ice cream brand in China. The sheer audaciousness of this kind of global reach potential from a small company, in something as low tech and yummy as ice cream just delights me. Glacier is the sort of place that makes a great product, has a fun community atmosphere, and always has a line – even in the winter when it can get pretty cold here in Colorado. They have a total of 4 locations in Colorado and one in California. Mark Mallen, the owner is still scooping out ice cream and runs from store to store. So, purely in the name of research, my daughter and I went for a couple of scoops and to talk to him about it.

I asked Mark, “How did you get it in your mind to do business in China.” And he gave me a pretty forthright account of what happened.

An executive from Barony Hotels and Resorts visited one of his stores in Boulder and liked the ice cream and the presentation, and drove the whole transaction. Barony Hotels are in major business centers across China and they look to add character and create new brands through partnerships. They created an arrangement with Mark so that he will help set up the ice cream shops, train personnel and regularly visit locations in China to assist management.

Mark did not think at first that the project would go through, but he said that every step of the way, Barony executives were professional, got to the point and created a good deal of potential for him. Even the legal agreements were not difficult. Actually he reported that there were few contractual adjustments and zero “nibbling” on terms and last minute changes. Mark calls the business so far “a very honorable experience.” Mark also talked about how they clearly have a long term view of building brands combining the best of East and West.

Remember, this sort of opportunity has little to do with currency valuations, which get the majority of attention in the news as a dominant incentive for active support of US exports these days. But currencies can switch over time. The long term view points to worldliness as a tremendous business driver, just by the sheer rising of global prosperities.

So again, ask yourself what this means for your company? Here are a few bullet points to start with for your next meeting or elevator pitch.

• There are tremendous changes in purchasing power among the world’s populations

• New opportunities, also foster increased competitiveness, which will focus on high quality expectations for products and services

• If you’re going global, do it well with a long term view, rather than doing an under-educated minimum. You won’t sell well with a poorly adapted product.

• Take the time and focus to internationalize and localize. (Those exact terms are even emphasized on the Barony Hotels web site – have you ever seen reference to this on any other hotel chain’s site? And we’re talking hotels here, not software!). Internationalize first, so that your product can robustly support localized requirements.

Localization, Internationalization, Globalization? Choosing Wisely

by Adam Asnes for MultiLingual Computing

Many companies with complex software start out knowing they need help meeting product globalization objectives, but they are still new to what help they will need and where technology and language distinctions lay. That’s confounded by grey areas that sit in between internationalization and localization. What’s at stake is meeting delivery time tables, supporting financial objectives and making a quality product that works well everywhere. I thought it would be appropriate to write a bit about the experiences I see working with many companies looking for internationalization help. Full disclosure: I run an internationalization company which provides a wide range of services and product to make the job go faster.

Like most technology verticals, we have some hard to swallow terms in this industry. Many readers of this magazine are familiar with distinctions between localization (L10n) and internationalization (i18n), and the catch all for everything – Globalization (g11n), but I’ll tell you that most of the software development world at large tends to blend it all together in a mishmash of terms that are rarely consistent. Check Wikipedia if you’re reading this and need help understanding the distinctions, but for all intents and purposes they are very blurry to clientele when they first go trolling the internet for help. But very quickly, clients learn that they need to get more discriminating.

When clients go looking for engineering assistance, they often learn late that the basic skills behind localization and those behind internationalization are completely different. They have the same ultimate globalization aims, but localization expertise involves all the issues around working well with language and project management of linguistic resources with only linguistic-deliverable development oriented engineering skills needed. Engineering tasks for localization efforts typically involve managing translation memories, managing resource files, possibly interface geometry resizing, a little build management understanding plus linguistic QA.

Internationalization skills are entirely software development focused. Really the translation is incidental to the target character encoding and locale management in the guts of the software. Internationalization engineers need to be very talented developers who are capable of working with multiple programming languages (as opposed to written languages) and databases, rapidly going from design to development to deployment while dovetailing with your in-house development teams – who aren’t going to sit on their hands and stop creating new features while internationalization efforts are going on.

We actually did a survey (we published results as a whitepaper) of our clients and people that have signed up for our newsletters and communications from our website. The numbers clearly showed that most people, even within our globalization-educated sample, have trouble understanding their own needs, and have often underestimated efforts, scope and distinctions between localization and internationalization.

Different Development Stages – Different Internationalization Needs

Differentiating your immediate situation will help you optimize your choices with vendors and appropriate solutions. Here are some examples:

  • Your software hasn’t been created yet:

    • If your software is first being developed and you’ve established that your globalization requirements are important. You have a great opportunity to minimize expensive surprises from the outset. The types of services you might be interested include:
      • requirements development
      • architectural planning and documentation and
      • training

Consulting might include a product to monitor internationalization development progress, perhaps reporting issues during your regular build process.

  • Your software is developed

    • You want to get it internationalized using your own internal engineers. Usually internationalization efforts need to be performed on an as fast as possible basis. Given that your team may be inexperienced with internationalization issues, consulting can help you effectively leverage your team quickly. You need an educated assessment of what’s involved and what resources will be needed, solid cost estimates and architectural assistance. Internationalization efforts must dovetail with new feature development and ongoing maintenance needs as there often are sets of choices that will need optimizing. Consider:
      • requirements development
      • architectural planning and documentation
      • training
      • productivity software
      • ongoing Development Assistance
      • project management
  • Your Software is developed, but you need to outsource internationalization

    • Maybe your development team has to concentrate on building new features and achieving development goals for your current customer base, and you can’t divert them into focused internationalization efforts. Or perhaps you have a globalization promise that you know you just can’t meet with your development staff. It really makes sense to outsource as that helps fill the expertise gap and you can meet more of your development and marketing goals in less time and arguably less cost. Here’s what you need and what you should insist on:
    • All of the services listed previously plus…

      • You’ve got to be in LOVEwith this team
        • I mean really, this team is going to get deep into changing stuff in your code that you’re going to live with a long time.
        • You need to see really good communication going on
        • The developers need to understand, your team, your product, your objectives clearly
        • Planning processes should be used to help you build confidence in the team
  • A clear and detailed development plan that all parties understand and agree to
  • A strong code management strategy
    • Does it make sense to branch the source? Who’s merging where and when?
    • The right answer depends on working out the solution
  • A joint test plan
    • No outside vendor who’s just been thrown a million lines of your legacy code is going to be able to quickly adapt to knowing and testing your software with as much experience as you have. You’ve got to work together to bridge knowledge gaps.
  • Good documentation skills so you’ll know exactly what’s been done to the code
  • And of course the ability to provide you with ongoing help once the project is done

The next time someone asks you for code translation, localization development, Unicode translation, or globalization, consider that you need to ask a few questions before you leap into guessing what that means. Chances are good even they don’t really know till you work it out together.

 


*Don’t get me started with the idiotic acronym that is GILT (Globalization, Internationalization, Localization & Translation). I suppose someone wanted to make everyone happy with that one, and forgot that GILT sounds a little too much like something we get from our mothers when we don’t call home.

Your Project is Late! Any Idea What that Costs?

by Adam Asnes for Multilingual Computing

A local leadership conference a few years ago featured a live panel discussion including Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, and Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital, a Google’s investor and board member. The first question tossed out was: what makes a company great? Mr. Schmidt quickly answered, “Any great company will make over 50% of its revenue outside North America.” To which, Mr. Moritz fired back, “Yeah, but everybody’s always late on international products, particularly for Japan and China.”

Eureka! Here were two leaders of one of the most influential companies in recent business history singing my song. I wrote down that exchange and still use their quotes in many of my presentations.

So why are international products so often late? And what does that have to do with business greatness? We’ll tackle those questions in this article.

Software Globalization Delays

International products may be late, ranging from business agreements to product development. Your customer or distributor may have their own timetable and priorities that suddenly veer off from your needs.

But in the world of technology product development, there are very real ways to reduce delays – and risk – by accurately planning for and executing development efforts. Given what’s at stake, that’s a very serious question, which sometimes doesn’t get treated by product development teams with the gravity it warrants. When a company is late with a product, it has a very real impact on a company’s income, as well as its competitive position.

A simple exercise using round numbers bears this out. If the Acme company plans to adapt its software to accommodate new sales relationships in Germany and Japan, chances are, before a single developer begins to figure out the tactical aspects of internationalizing code, revenue projections are already set for that opportunity. Let’s say those agreements are worth $10 million in their targeted fiscal year, so a three-month delay reduces available revenue by one quarter, a substantial amount.

But it doesn’t stop there. There are a host of other costs involved. If Acme’s product is late, sales people, offices, marketing efforts and customers are waiting also. Entire teams, whose salaries and costs can’t be optimized until the release is ready, are idle. On top of that, the core development team internationalizing the software isn’t working on key new features for current customers, so there are significant hard costs as well as opportunity costs at stake.

Even with clear additional costs, let’s evaluate simple time to market effects on profit and loss (P&L). We’ll assume a general cost profile consistent with firms Lingoport has served in recent years. And we’ll assume that the product experiences only modest growth over a five-year timeframe.

The P&L below, showing the results both with and without i18n factored in, are below:

As shown, the firm stands to benefit substantially through reducing time to market alone – enjoying nearly 6% increases in both revenue and EBITDA, most of that impact occurring in year 1 of the analysis, with smaller advantage in each subsequent year. If higher sales growth expectations or the expected cost savings from the localization effort to produce these results were included, the impact would be even greater.

And most importantly, for this same product, the same financial improvementwould accrue to each subsequent localization project targeting other overseas markets. That could multiply the benefit by as much as 10 times, given the diverse international markets the average firm might address over time.

Considered from this perspective, development management should always consider enlisting some expert help when dealing with internationalization issues. After all, it may be the first or second time their team has actually planned for or executed an internationalization effort. Internationalization, almost without fail, ends up being more complex than any developer on the clients’ team anticipates. In fact, our 3 month lateness benchmark is likely conservative; the reality is often much worse.

The issue is critical enough that some large global technology companies have built internal internationalization departments that move from development team to team, helping make sure the effort goes as planned. Most companies don’t have broad enough product development needs to warrant growing internal resources, but a few – especially globally ambitious software leaders – do.

A very real world example from Lingoport’s experience involved a client with an online auction system for heavy road building and construction equipment. They simply had to have their product internationalized before the spring construction season started, or they would miss heavy seasonal demand. At the same time, their development group had other deliverables they had promised for their current customer base.

With Lingoport’s support services staff to help, it was a happy story of on-time delivery. But what if the client’s team had elected to struggle through internationalization themselves and been confronted by expensive and time-consuming surprises that inevitably occur when thye lacked the experience? Fortunately, the client’s engineering management, deeply experienced in commercial software development for global markets, saw that risk in advance. Not everyone is so lucky.

This is all familiar territory, in my firm’s experience. Internationalization is frequently underestimated and under-scheduled, for a variety of reasons. First, remember that software developers are a pretty smart bunch. After all, they built the software in question. Who knows it better than they do? Plus, they enjoy an interesting new technical challenge. So it’s natural for developers to conclude they can handle the effort themselves, without the inconvenience of dealing with outsourcing experts, developers or tools.

The reality is that internationalization involves much more than display-focused issues around language. Adapting software to support any locale – not simply the next locale – typically means big changes to how software operates, extensive changes to database schema, research and adaptation to third-party products, and refactoring locale-limiting methods within the code’s operations. There’s a whole new set of QA issues to plan for as well. Until you’ve been through internationalization over a number of technologies, from start to finish, it’s a notoriously hard process to estimate. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that many issues are buried in the large amounts of source code, hard to precisely identify. Lingoport’s Globalyzer software, for example, was built specifically for this issue; otherwise, developers are inclined to develop code analysis and search tools likely to be awkward at best in the identification process.

To help clients quickly get an idea of the internationalization health of their code base, Lingoport’s developed Globalyzer Diagnostics. We’re making it available free, and we’d love your take on it. It’s a simple-to-use utility that counts internationalization issues and reports on them for you, while giving you basic decision-supporting information about the extent of internationalization issues in your code. It provides a quick, easily understood code “health check”, specific to internationalization issues.

Understand how serious delays are to your company’s bottom line and market efforts. Know the revenue projections and business factors involved. Then make sure you go into internationalization with your eyes wide open to the potential for delays and the consequences and how to minimize the risk. Would you want the cost of being late to be on your head?

Getting Globalization Projects Approved and Started Fast


Getting you software internationalization project approved
Just last week I visited with a past customer with a possible new project. Actually I was there primarily discussing implementing Globalyzer, and they brought up the possibility of having our team provide services for them.

The situation was not unusual in that they had clear high-level directives (as in get it done yesterday) for the internationalization effort, but hadn’t figured out the how part of the equation. As is often the case, the first request was to do an extensive assessment and architectural document. I told them what I’m going to tell you here. We’ve found projects that start with detailed technical assessments and documentation, often end up stalled for a year or more.

While assessing and architecting are essential activities, they don’t give executives the Return on Investment (ROI) answers, nor the teams involved the picture they need to initiate development. After seeing many projects flounder, we’ve changed our approach with our customers to first perform a quick budget analysis and project plan. We do this through a combination of interviewing technical staff and management to quickly gain architectural knowledge, while leading discussions on requirements.

In parallel, we perform a detailed code analysis using Globalyzer to create an accurate inventory of code-level issues including embedded strings, locale-support-limiting methods and functions and analysis of the database schema. By combining our methodologies with Globalyzer’s broad power, we can get a quick picture of what must be done, even over very large and complex code bases.

This in turn gives our customers a set of numbers, requirements and time frames from which they can align budgeting, resources and global sales and marketing efforts. Once that’s taken care of, more detailed design and implementation is ready to begin.

Take the time to read our Globalization ROI whitepaper in our download library. It provides example ROI formulas to help you think and present software globalization in terms your CFO or other executive members will appreciate. For him or her, approval will be first about presenting returns and a clear path to success, rather than interest in the detailed technical issues covered in an architectural document.

Got a project that needs internationalization yesterday? to get it on the fast track.