Mike Giannakopoulos

Modern Localization Workflows: A Deep Dive into 11 Real-World Cases

At Transifex, we are actively engaged with the people using our services to learn about their experiences and needs. Recently, we interviewed some of our customers to learn more about how they are localizing. 

We wanted to speak with them to make sure that our current plans and strategic direction are aligned with their needs and goals. After understanding the exact ways in which they are localizing, we rounded up the patterns we saw across their localization workflows over the last year. This post breaks down all the notes, feedback, and patterns observed from this year of research.

This blog is one in a two-part series, in which we break down how 11 companies are leading the way with modern localization workflows. Stay tuned for our next post, in which we will highlight some more interesting workflows from customers.

Profile of participating companies

Before diving into the research findings, let’s first get to know the companies from this study. The 11 companies are all fast-moving, modern companies that value localization as a growth driver. And they fall into a range of industries:   

  • E-learning Platforms
  • Human Resources Management
  • Mobile-automotive Services
  • Online Entertainment
  • Financial Services
  • Marketing Services
  • IT B2B Services

On a company DNA level, all participating companies shared the following attributes: 

  • They are active in global markets. Most are active around the world and some are mostly targeting Europe.
  • They have active/growing product portfolios, with new features as well as new verticals added to their products.
  • They have a specific person or a small team dedicated to localization, which needs to handle the load of localization management and throughput for the whole portfolio. Usually this team or person has grown organically into this role from another department.
  • They follow a Continuous Integration/ Continuous Delivery/ Continuous deployment (CI/ CD) workflow. They care about improving fast the value delivered to their end-users. Almost all these companies use a model called the “CI/ CD workflow,” which is the de-facto framework that has been used by technology companies over the last 10 to 15 years.
  • Localization is an active part of their development cycle, and is considered a step in their new work release processes.
  • Most have fast-paced development and are open to adopting new technologies that improve their release cycles. In certain cases, especially when speaking closely with the developers, it was quite obvious that the overall company culture actively encourages the testing of new processes with the goal to improve performance and release cycles.
  • Localization demand is first and primarily driven by the need to localize the core product. Localization eventually becomes a priority for other departments like support (documentation, knowledge bases) and marketing (public website and blog). Beyond the core product, the rollout of localization  to other departments is usually done gradually as the company expands to foreign markets. 

In the following section, we will move on to share specific details on the localization workflows that these companies are following. 

Shared localization tasks among different workflows

After an aggregation and analysis of our notes and materials from the discussions with customers, we identified some common localization steps. Here is a list of these common steps and a brief analysis on each one.

Localization starts once the development of a feature is complete

In most cases, localization is initiated after development of a feature is complete. Since we are talking mainly about applications, this means that localization starts once code is added in the central branch of the repository, just before it is released or right after the release of a feature. All in all, what is triggering the localization process is development completion.

Despite this being the current localization workflow, our discussions revealed that most customers were interested in starting localization earlier in the process. Some have even already started working in a leaner and faster way. (We will expand more on this matter in the section on “Localization Workflow Highlights, Embedding Localization deeper on CI/CD flow”.)

Automation of sending new content for translation

In almost all cases (9 out of 11), companies are choosing to automate the way that new content is entering the Translation Management System (TMS) for localization to start.

The definite winner method for this automation is API. Using the API, some of our customers have developed specific tools to assist addition of content and supplementary context (screenshots, instructions, tags) in Transifex TMS. Essentially, using Transifex as a Global Content Repository where all global content data is stored.

Using the API means that, in most cases, developers are actively engaged in setting up the initial connection with the TMS. Having automation in place means that you mainly have a “set it and forget it” mentality, enabling  developers to engage in localization only for maintenance and automation improvements.

Among the other methods of bringing content in the TMS, GitHub and manual file uploading also stand out.

Care about localization quality

In many of the cases checked, a localization team ( internal or external) is in place to check the quality of the delivered content. The most common setup of a localization team comprises two main parts: a translation agency responsible for localization and a separate team managing quality control. Another interesting emerging setup involves sourcing a first pass of translations from machine translation (MT) followed by a review from a translation agency to quality check and fix any machine translation errors.

Another way that the importance of translations is highlighted is that in most of the workflows additional context is provided for the localization team, in order to deliver higher quality and more relevant translations. Additional context typically comes in the forms of:

  • In-context preview via screenshots or direct access to the application, among  other contextual tools within the Transifex platform.
  • Instructions and notes, which are mainly provided by the development team or the localization manager to further explain the usage of the content (e.g., “this phrase is a confirmation in a submission form about personal data”)
  • Tags, offering a better way to group content together or mark importance for each phrase

Context is usually provided by two different roles on a localization team: developers during the automation process, or localization managers after the source content is added into the TMS. Taking a closer look at the different ways each company provides context, it breaks down as follows: 

  • 6 out of the 11 companies prefer to provide additional context to translators
  • 4 companies provide context using the TMS, and 
  • 2 companies choose to add context before source content is added to the TMS.

Publish localization strategies: “Once fully ready” vs. “Once available”

72% of the participating companies follow the “once fully ready”workflow, where the content is made available to the end user once it is fully translated and reviewed by the localization team. The other 28%  follow the “once available” workflow, where they publish localized content once it is available, after which they will either re-visit for corrections or leave as is.

Two use cases highlight the deliberate strategy behind and results from  implementing the “as available” localization workflow:

  • From a customer leveraging machine translation for untranslated content, coupled with translation agency support to fix errors reported by the end users in the live application: “We’ve found that in 80% of the cases machine translation works fine for our case!”
  • From a customer that is publishing localized content as it becomes available in the Global Content Repository without waiting for the full phrases of a screen/page of the application to be completely translated: “…Once our system is fully functional, we want to translate stuff really quickly to enter new markets with our product”.

All in all, the “once available” workflow is a faster and leaner approach in localization that we predict will become increasingly popular in the near future. Interviews revealed that companies that follow this workflow follow a well-thought-out strategy; they recognize that the strategy of going local faster may sometimes come at the expense of content accuracy.

With our latest Transifex Native solution, you can now manage all your global content in one central place and save time on deployment. To learn how you Transifex Native can help you make localization a seamless part of the development lifecycle, visit www.transifex.com/native

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