The State of the Internationalization & Localization Industry [Webinar Transcription]

Globalization is becoming an integral part of how business gets done. So naturally, there’s been lots of talk of continuous globalization in software development. However, there’s a clear gap between what people say about the current state of continuous globalization, and where people would ideally like their organizations to be.

Lingoport wanted to uncover the reality and so launched The State of Continuous Internationalization and Localization Survey to identify the actual state of the industry.

Watch Lingoport’s Adam Asnes and Nimdzi’s Renato Beninatto webinar recording, sharing insights from the survey results on where the future is taking us.

In this recording you’ll not only uncover the leading globalization opportunities in the market today, but also effective approaches to leading globalization at a growing enterprise, the ideal role of globalization vendor partners, and much more.

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Interested in reading the transcription instead of watching the webinar? No problem, we’ve got you covered. Check out excerpts from the webinar below.

Excerpt 1: Introduction [00:00:00 – 10:00:00]

Adam Asnes: 

This is Adam Asnes at Lingoport… with Renato Beninatto. We’re going to be discussing a survey that we gave, briefly, and then we will also be getting into ten questions with Renato. I’ll be making all introductions and going through this.

…Renato Beninatto has really had quite a career within the industry and it’s very exciting. He’s been on the executive teams; [like] many of you … of many large localization companies. He’s run his own localization company, he’s been a consultant in the industry, he’s been a marketing executive, he’s been a sales executive… [Renato] specializes in making companies successful in global markets, and in starting businesses that span across boards.

…So, we had this survey in December and January of this year to look and find out, what is the state of continuous globalization? There’s been lots of talk of continuous globalization, and honestly there’s a gap between what people say about the current vision of continuous globalization, and where people would like to be. And we wanted to really focus on that in our survey, to understand that.

[We found there]… is a very commonly reported disconnect with developers, management, and localization teams. There is a leadership recognition issue of getting management to understand, and perhaps a leadership gap within the localization industry itself… Very clearly there were budget woes reported in terms of getting enough money to do what people wanted to do…

So, there’s kind of good news and bad news. The bad news is there’s a long way to go, the good news is people are really interested in going there.

Alright now, on to our live guest. I don’t want to short change Renato with time. Renato!

Excerpt 2: Localization and Company Success Predictors [00:10:00-00:20:00]

Renato Beninatto:

Hi!

Adam Asnes:

Hi! Alright, very good. Tell us about your latest venture, Nimdzi. What is it, who are you serving, and how are you helping? That’s a big single question.

Renato Beninatto:

Yeah, well then I’ll keep it short. We are doing market research and analysis in this space. It’s my second venture in this area. I started a company called Common Sense Advisory, that some of you know, and… after going through ten years away from this space, I thought that there was room for a new look at how you share information and you gather information about the space.

The work that you did, the kind of survey that you did, is a fantastic job and actually I went through the analysis that was done, and I’m not surprised. I mean, one of the conclusions that you can take from the study that you have is that there’s a lot of room for growth, improvement, and development. The thing that has changed is that, with the proliferation of technologies and the changes in processes that have happened, you have created more confusion and decision making becomes harder. So, there is a role for independent consultants, independent analysts in this space to help organizations run and make decisions that are not only based on marketing materials from the suppliers…

So, I wrote this book, The General Theory of the Translation Company, which looks at how LSP’s provide their services and how they create value for the clients. The key, the central theme of the book is the value creation: what are the activities inside an organization that create value for the final client? It’s a book that is designed for everybody in the industry. If buyers, publishers, end users of translation optimization want to understand how the process works, they have that formally there. If translators who are at the other end of the process want to know how the sausage factory works, that’s what the book provides.

So, we work mostly with end clients, providing them guidance and helping their decision process.

Adam Asnes:

[Is there] a common theme in localization [that] involves justifying the business case to upper management?

Renato Beninatto:

The answer is no… the reality is that unless the organization, the upper management as you call [it], has decided to go global and have an international presence, making the case and building it from the bottom up is still very hard. And there is one reason for that: it’s that translation and localization are afterthoughts. They are really something that is seldom designed into the product or the service, and usually the person… and we have organizations here at different levels of experience and maturity. But in a traditional organization, somebody is picked.

I like to tell this story. When I was a tax consultant at Arthur Anderson in one of my first jobs in my career, very early on, my boss came to me one day and asked, Renato, how do you come to work? I said, I take the bus. Good, [he said], you’re a transportation expert. Maybe localization people in the industry aren’t just people that speak a foreign language; they are part of the organization and they take upon themselves this initiative to build a globalization practice in their organization, or somebody tells them, oh because you speak a foreign language, you are the expert in this space.

Adam Asnes:

What are some of the success predictors for companies entering new markets?

Renato Beninatto:

Okay, this is an interesting conversation point. Everybody wants to have a secret recipe of how do I become successful going into a new market. And this is case by case, product by product. It’s very different if you are a consumer product [or] if you are an enterprise product and there are many facets to that process. But, some things that all successful companies have in common is, first, they literally speak the language of the local market. Having a local partner or a local consultant or somebody that gives you local insights about the country that you’re trying to enter will always give you an advantage, [even] for the silliest things…

One of the studies that we have done recently is about global payments: getting paid in different markets is an issue for almost every company. How do people prefer to pay for goods and services. A credit card is not as widespread outside of the United States as it is in the United States. So even though eCommerce is present everywhere, if you’re in China, if you’re going to China and you don’t have an Alipay, you’re probably not going to be successful in selling your product online. So a partnership with a local expert or a local insider is always good. Another predictor is using research, understanding what is the landscape in the market, if there are products that are similar to yours and how do you stack against those products. This is also an important thing. We’re going to talk later about the risk of copycats and things like that.

Excerpt 3: Localization Opportunities and Globalization Initiatives [00:20:00-00:32:00]

Adam Asnes:

What are some of the leading localization opportunities that you are hearing about?

Renato Beninatto:

[The] market of language services is pervasive. Every human activity, every business activity in the world requires some sort of translation or localization. People prefer to consume their products in their local language. That’s an axiom, it goes without saying. So the opportunities that are growing have to do with areas of the economy that have growth because translation and localization is not an end activity in itself, it follows other business activities and it’s a consequential activity, not an end activity. So I would say the areas that you would see this in the performance of the LSPs in certain verticals, there are certain areas that have much higher growth than others. So if you look at things like entertainment, gaming, multi-media, and regulated industries like life sciences, the financial sector, now there is a big boom… These regulated areas are huge opportunities for growth. This is where growth is happening.

The localization industry doesn’t grow in a uniform way. It grows at different speeds in different markets at different times. So if you look at, for example, eCommerce, that’s a segment that is pretty much stagnant and it’s very prone to automation. So there is an increasing volume of it but not necessarily an increasing revenue in that area. So I would say all the big areas where you see manufacturing in other areas that is not taking off, it’s essentially a stagnant market. If you look at the cost of goods in the economy, they tend to be flat or actually going down. And that reflects in the expenditure that companies have for their translations and localizations. So I think that the leading areas are the ones related to entertainment. I like to call one of the big shocks that we have in the last two years in the language business is the Netflix affect. The fact that Netflix decided overnight to go into 100 countries and you started to have a shortage of translators for video subtitling and dubbing in 26 languages that they started using. Look where the economy is going and the growing companies in the space, and this is where opportunity lies.

Adam Asnes:

I’m gonna add that we’ve seen an uptick in companies engaging with us and our software not in the U.S., writing software in their own, for instance, Chinese – all their strings are in Chinese, but now they’re looking to reach other markets which aren’t just the U.S. So we’re seeing it go the other way.

Renato Beninatto:

Absolutely… I actually go frequently to China, I love that country, and I love the market. I was there recently in October of last year with a friend, and she was saying that she thought that the West was more advanced than Asia and when she arrived in Shanghai said, “Oh my god, I’m living in the future. This is the future.” China in many aspects is much, much ahead of the United States and even Europe in many, many areas. But the thing about China is that the Chinese large organizations, Ali Baba, Baidu, and companies like that, they still have so much room for growth in their local market that they are not necessarily focusing on growing into the international markets. Their international expansion is very small compared to the giants here in the United States and Europe. When they decide to go internationally, then we’re going to see a really, really big uptake in this business. Tell your kids to learn Chinese!

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Adam Asnes:

All right. Are companies taking global user experience for granted or are they understanding it’s not only about translating?

Renato Beninatto:

It’s very hard to answer a question that starts with “are companies” because companies are very different. What I can say is that user experience has been a topic that has gained traction in the last, I don’t know, eight, nine, 10 years. Mostly because of the development of mobile technologies. So user experience, it used to be an after thought and it’s become really an important part of software design and development. Companies… [generally] have a chief user experience officer and are really looking at how customers interact with their technology. But the key element driving this is the mobile revolution. As they say, the future is mobile, the future is Android, IOS has a very small percentage of the market besides the North Atlantic area. In the case of mobile, text comes less important and it’s all about motions and minimal viable content. You can say a lot more with a button then you would say with words.

I think that it’s become very important but that depends a lot of the maturity of the company that depends a lot on how the relationship goes. One of the things that I would say is that user experience is very, very different in [inaudible 00:27:19] markets. If you look at Japan, China, and Holland for example, you can launch a product in Holland or in Scandinavia in English and you wouldn’t notice much loss in opportunity there. But if you go to China where more than 90 percent … It’s a mono legal country, more than 90 percent of the country doesn’t speak English. You need to have a unique experience there. You need to understand that everything goes through WeChat, everything goes through search environment, Baidu and Ali Baba and all those big environments there. If you go to Japan, most of the world uses WhatsApp, China uses WeChat, Japan uses Line and Korea also uses Line. These are … Business environments that are not even taken into consideration in many cases… It’s not only about translating, it’s definitely understanding how people consume information in the local markets and what are the platforms that they prefer and your user experience needs to match that experience.

Adam Asnes:

…If you were leading globalization at an enterprise that is expanding it’s globalization emphasis, what sort of initiatives would you consider?

Renato Beninatto:

First of all, I would be aware of the copycat effect. If you launch a business or a product in the United States, you don’t have the privilege of having a captive market and waiting until your product is mature to go to other markets. There are businesses in Europe, a company Rocket Internet and plenty of businesses in Asia whose business model is essentially “Look what is going on in the United States, what new products are taking off, let’s copy that model and launch it here locally and create our brand before this American brand comes over”. And this is a real threat. This is something that you need to be aware of. If you don’t globalize from the beginning, if you don’t launch your product locally, you will suffer from the copycat effect.

The other initiative that companies should consider involves diversity – having diverse leadership and input from executive level staff from different areas of the world. They say one of the sins of diversity is that a diverse group is smarter than a smart group because diversity brings different insights and brings different outlooks on things. And I think that GE and Cisco have led with initiatives like this where they have appointed chief globalization officers from different countries, living in different countries to participate at board level and top management levels in their companies. So these are the things that if you really want to, there is a big different between being a multi-national company, being an international company, and being a global company. If you really want to be global, you have to act as a global company.

Excerpt 4: Globalization Vendors and Vendor Services [00:32:00-00:42:30]

Adam Asnes:

What is the ideal role of globalization vendor partners?

Renato Beninatto:

I think that what a globalization partner, and partner is the key word here, the biggest value that a partner gives to a client is allowing their buyer to have a good night’s sleep. The role of the globalization vendor is to deal with everything that is transactional, that is operational, that is procedural, and let the client representative, their direct contact on the client’s side deal with strategic and internal elements of the globalization process. Today, there are very mature suppliers that can handle all the needs of a big organization. One of the trends that I’ve seen in the last four, five years is for the very mature companies, the top companies in the world, they have realized that the traditional approach of working with two, three, four vendors at the same time and splitting work among them by language or by volume was actually creating a backlash. And companies are moving more to a single-sourcing model because the vendors are financially stable, and organizationally mature enough to be ready to deliver all the activities related to globalization as an outsource service.

So at a very high end, the size of internal departments is shrinking, and more is being outsourced just as in other areas that are not core competencies in organizations… like customer support and first level support. Things that can be outsourced are outsourced so that companies can focus on the things that really generate revenue for them. So the ideal role of a good globalization partner is not to surprise their clients, is to give them, like I said, a good night’s sleep and take all the monkeys off their shoulders so that they can focus on things and grow internally as executives in the organization.

Adam Asnes:

You’ve acknowledged that Translation Memory is old technology at this point. What do you see as up and coming?

Renato Beninatto:

Okay, it’s so funny that about 10 years ago I said that Translation Memory in five years, Translation Memory was going to become free or irrelevant. And I think that we’re there. You have tools online, you have Omega T, which is open source, you have MateCat, another open source tool. You can even use Google Translator Tool Kit as a free translation memory tool that anybody can use in the market. The big topic in our industry is neuro machine translation but I don’t think that that is the most relevant thing from a localization process point of view. What is up and coming are solutions similar to what Lingoport provides, and there are other providers in the marketplace that do that. What is up and coming and what differentiates companies is the ability to integrate with any other tool that affects the localization process.

The technology today, as always, the role of technology is to automate repetitive manual tasks. You will hear people saying, “Well, but when will this stop?”. It will never stop because every automation creates a new process and that new process after a few months or years is ready for being automated also. And I’ve been seeing this happen over and over and over again. So Translation Memory today is a feature. It’s something that is there. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few more years Translation Memory is not even mentioned, [or] taken for granted. I think it’s old and what is up and coming is processed more than language processing.

Adam Asnes:

There’s been an emphasis on TMS and CAT tools being synonymous with technology in our industry. I always look at that and say this requires expertise on the part of the customer. When should customers actually consider such technologies versus vendor services?

Renato Beninatto:

I think that this is a great question, Adam, because this talks to the total cost of ownership aspect… how many companies and many of the participants in this webinar are certainly still working on Idiom platforms. Idiom was a decision that was made 15, 20 years ago. This was implemented, it was integrated, it’s part of the development process, and it’s very hard to break away from that. I see in the engagements that I have with clients that many of them are trying to get out of that technology that was developed in, I don’t know, Windows XP environment or Vista. I don’t know what it was, to something that is more agile and flexible. Because all the other technologies are changing.

Like I said before, I think that the winning companies and the winning technologies moving forward will be the ones that can easily integrate into processes. It’s this API economy concept that allows organizations on the go to switch technologies easily based on their ease of integration with other tools.

We need to be realistic and understand that globalization technology is not a top priority for any CIO. They are not going to stop selecting an ERP system or a content management system for the whole enterprise because it doesn’t have localization features. It’s always going to be an afterthought. And the few times when that happens it’s a long process and takes a long time.

I personally believe that because I am a service kind of person and I believe more in service than technology because technology will change. I mean, the technology that we will be using and talking about 10 years from now has nothing to do with the technologies that we’re dealing with today. I mean, Google didn’t exist 15 years ago when we were working in translation and localization, and today it’s an integral part of anything that we do… it’s better to select in an enterprise environment, to select a vendor that can solve the localization problem to the client as a black box. What is the technology that they use in the background doesn’t really matter as long as the process is transparent? I know that you have a solution at Lingoport and there are many suppliers in the industry that have this solution that detects changes in the source content and triggers a localization process when the change happens. And that automation based on machine learning and monitoring will win over time.

So if I had to choose what technology or TMS … and the point is and it’s part of your question, very seldom people consider that to make a decision based on the technology will require somebody to manage and to be trained and to be involved in that technology on a regular basis. So this is more staff, this is more people to manage when you really want to have this process as automated and as carefree as possible.

I like to say as long as we have control of your content and you manage the transition. It’s like they say, you have to talk about divorce before you get married. If you secure that you can move and change vendors seamlessly from the beginning of your relationship, you will be safe engaging in a relationship with a stable supplier.

…If I were going to buy a localization today, I would buy it as a service, not as a product.

Excerpt 5: Business Models and The Voice Experience [00:43:00-56:17]

Adam Asnes:

How do you see using technology to connect all developers, marketing teams, localization teams, in country offices and even vendors in globalization teamwork?

Renato Beninatto:

I think that that’s the role of technology in our space. That’s really the value that technology brings. It’s essentially automating processes in making it seamless inside the organization. A global organization will be working in 10 different time zones and you cannot have a single point of failure in an individual in one location. [If] that person is not there to send the email… everything will be delayed.

Like you mentioned in your survey, the majority of companies are… not working in an automated way. So I think that using good technology, using cloud-based solutions that integrate all the different functions that are involved in localization is the way to go. Talk to the people that are doing that kind of stuff because ultimately, what you want … and this would be my last comment. I think that the trend that we want to see is for companies to move from managing activities to managing exceptions.

Once everything that is repetitive is automated, you start being responsible only for looking at the thing that didn’t work. You only look at the things that are outside of the traditional process. Tasks that are repetitive and predictable, they can totally be automated. Your span of control and your capacity of managing automated processes increases significantly because you only work at that flashing red light or yellow light, “Hey, we have a problem here. We have somebody that hasn’t picked up this project in half an hour. Maybe we need a human to interfere here.” And you take away the traditional. There are some areas that are very prone to this type of automation like vendor management, like content detection, and things like that.

Adam Asnes:

Right. Right. Right… All right. So I’m going to open this up for questions from the audiences… I’m going to start with our friend, Alexander. Both of us know him very well.

All right. In software development and continuous delivery, it just doesn’t make sense both for the buyer and for the provider to pay the fixed per-word rate for translating only a handful of words at every spread. How will translations earn money and add value in the future? What do you think about the per-word rates versus per-hourly rates of flat fees and minimum fees?

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Renato Beninatto:

This is a business negotiation discussion. The per-word rate is a very simple traditional way that we have been using in this space. And at the end of the day, everybody’s going to convert that to a certain metric and to define, oh, is this good enough or not enough for me.

The reality is that per word, per hour, per minute, per comma, per paragraph, per line as in German, these are ways to measure effort. I’ve seen multiple attempts and models to solve this discussion. I think there is a right way. There is the way that to negotiate and whatever you negotiate that is accepted by the parties is a good deal. The moment it starts being a good deal, you will start seeing a decrease in the performance and it’s time to negotiate again. I think that in the sprint and agile model a per-hour rate or a weekly metric you decide to use to pay for the availability of the resources is fair.

Adam Asnes:

All right, other questions here. You mentioned single sourcing. That seems like both a sales challenge for vendors to break in in large companies as well as a vulnerability on the vendor side because if the vendor is wrapped around say two or three customers that end up making up most of their company business, that actually destabilizes those vendors a little bit. What do you have to say about that situation?

Renato Beninatto:

So I’ve been involved in three situations where clients have moved from multiple vendors to single vendors. And the points that are raised are fair but they’re no different and maybe even easier than to… three or four different vendors. Now, some organization will have eight vendors but they will single source certain areas of the business. So one company will give all the consumer products to one vendor and all the enterprise products to other vendors. Another company will have three or four divisions and they will work with two vendors and split the process because these are divisions that have different processes and different ways to address the problem.

Definitely and what we have seen is that the risk, there is a risk, but it’s lower than having to handle [multiple vendors]. So, in one of the organizations that I was involved, the internal organization had over 100 employees in the localization department. And after the single sourcing decision, this group went down to five people because all those other 95 functions were handled by the single vendor that was doing that. So that single sourcing approach makes the vendor become like a department of the client.

There’s always risks, and you have to evaluate what they are, but you need to have a certain level of maturity from the vendor and the buyer, also.

Adam Asnes:

All right. I have a question here. [As a] leading opportunity, you mentioned the voice experience. What are the challenges that you see or how you think it can affect the industry?

Renato Beninatto:

The voice space is very interesting because that’s the hardest one to automate. There are attempts and there is a lot of pretty good artificial voice that’s available in the market but for the entertainment market, it’s still the artistic element is the one that is hardest to automate. So some companies in this space, the ones that are working with the film distributors, with Netflix, with Disney, Pixar and so on, they are actually investing in this high margin niche of voiceovers. Because of this, they believe are the ones that are going to be the last frontier in automation, that the content can be machine translated but the interpretation needs to be human. That’s another dimension that you can look at as part of the opportunity. It’s a kind of a protection from automation.

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