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Agile Localization and Continuous Localization - The evolution

Our people here at Pangeanic have been around the block when it comes to translating and localizing products for international markets, from website translations to software. These are the guys you would call “an expert in the field.”  However, in order to keep their guru status, they have to keep up with the new ways content is produced and, obviously, the new ways it has to be delivered. Translations are not “given” to users any longer. They are expected in various shapes and many formats and, many a time, they are expected immediately. Sometimes, they need to be produced for intermediate versions and releases. We have heard the terms Agile Localization and Continuous Localization, but do we know what they truly mean? Let us talk to Garth Hedenskog, Director of Sales at Pangeanic and Manuel Herranz, Pangeanic’s CEO. Garth faces many clients every day and he is aware of the increasing needs of many clients to obtain faster, better translations.

A little background: Why would we call you an expert?

Garth: I have amassed 10 years of experience in the translation industry, beginning when I move to Spain in 2009 and began working at Seprotec, the largest Spanish LSP. From there I moved on to Mondragon Lingua, part of the large co-operative corporation.  I was the leading sales person for international markets at both companies, so I can say I have known first-hand the needs of many clients that need traditional translation services (what we may call “cascade translation” or “cascade localization”). The needs of clients are changing because the markets are changing. We live in a world where things are happening every second. And they are shared, published online. We have more and more apps, a lot more software being released. Market opportunities are anywhere. The work of the translators and translation as a profession is evolving.   The market has changed considerably over the last 5 years, with the advent of machine translation, web crawling, and massive databases that can retrieve data in no time, to name just two or three technologies. This has enabled translation companies to offer much faster services that do not require human quality translation, or they do while their product is still under development and are looking at a “single source of truth” while different departments develop and write the documentation. Even the interface may change.   The terms I’m about to deal with are used mainly when developing software for international markets and they define different translation project management models or methodologies.

Waterfall Localization

The waterfall model refers to the traditional linear approach based on complete versions of a product being released once the master version is ready. This is the translation method we are all familiar with from the 80’s, and 90’s. Once all functionality of a product was tested and ready, release would follow. This is still essentially the method in many regulated industries, for example when we are dealing with medical translations or the translation of technical manuals. In software, it meant that a project would begin and follow the linear steps for translation. It would be “released” once all steps and all pieces were complete.

Agile Localization

Agile Localization follows the idea of software iterations rather than the traditional “final copy, ready” publishing. Translation is embedded in the process. Therefore, the aim is to get the software ready during the development cycle. There is a very informative website about what the Agile movement is and how scrum fits. For example, in traditional companies, there is a technical department and a sales or business development department. An agile corporation would not have a clear-cut division between a “business side” and a “technical side” working like separate bodies. Teams would work directly on delivering business value, because we get the best results when we involve the whole business. Agile localization is usually done in group stages containing intervals referred to as “scrums” (we could break down each interval / iteration of the scrum into a “sprint”).

Continuous Localization

We could say continuous delivery is a subset of the Agile approach, but in this case the product is ready for release at any time during the development cycle. This has been happening a lot lately, as it is a particular feature of mobile apps and mobile videogames. We are all familiar with apps and games being updated almost daily on our smartphones. These tend to be small updates or enhancements rather than full version releases. With a continuous localization approach, you don’t stop development and then make a release. That will only happen with major releases. For us, in the translation industry, this means a constant flow of data (sometimes small data) that has to be taken care of in a very automated way. Otherwise, it makes no sense financially, as minimum charges eat up all the translation budget. Our ActivaTM database is great for this because it can provide a “single source of truth”: even if one translation job is not finishes, updates can arrive and the same body of content change to an ongoing translation.