Language, lexicon, localisation — and why it matters…

Language, lexicon, localisation — and why it matters…

Multiple articles have been written about the differences between translation and localisation — and let’s be honest, very few people really give a damn what they are.

But if you’re leading a technology business and planning to launch products internationally, you really need to understand the difference as it applies to you. Getting it wrong can cost a lot of time and money — as well as slowing your growth at a critical time.

Rather than re-hash the localisation versus translation debate in general terms, let’s look at it from a different perspective, that is — why it matters.

Many people think of localisation as just another word for translation.

I see this as a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, translation is pretty well understood as a concept, even by those who’ve never needed to give it a lot of thought.

On the flip-side, when the word localisation is used interchangeably with translation it can cause huge misunderstandings. Really serious misunderstandings in some cases, that lead to failed projects, missed targets, and long-term damage to your business.

Why? Because localisation goes a lot deeper than translation, and has a fundamentally different objective sitting behind it.

Translation is the process of converting plain text that is written in one language into another. It’s in no way simple, and when carried out by a professional the aim will be for the translated text to reflect the meaning of the original.

That’s great, but it’s limited. It’s perfect for translating a leaflet for foreign visitors to read, it’s good for an annual report, and it’s just about OK for a basic page of web copy.

However, translation alone isn’t going to enable a technology entrepreneur, founder, or executive to launch a sophisticated software product internationally and achieve the traction needed to succeed.

And that’s why localisation exists. Localisation incorporates text translation, but also takes into account a raft of other crucial adaptations aligned to the target market. These relate broadly to culture, geography, design, and engineering.

Think about your proposition. It’s probably software-based, and will almost certainly come with its own complex terminology and infrastructure — all wrapped up in your own brand voice and culture.

Now break down your ‘average’ product launch and you have three main considerations:

1. Product.

You’ve probably burned through many thousands refining your software, user interface, reporting tools, graphics and every other aspect of the core product. Now consider how that beautiful and functional UI is going to handle languages that flow right to left, how your dialogue boxes will deal with the inevitable expansion of certain languages, and how your graphics and icons will resonate with users from different cultures.

That’s not translation. That’s localisation.

Translation just deals with text. And that text isn’t going to look pretty in the wrong environment. More importantly, users aren’t going to maintain their SaaS subscriptions, use your app, or implement your network monitoring software if the overall experience is terrible.

That’s why localisation is crucial.

2. Documentation and Support Materials.

You probably have a library of technical documents to support your product, alongside help files and knowledge articles. They need to reflect the localised user interface too, along with amended screenshots, graphics, and culturally-sensitive language. And what about video content and animated explainer videos?

Guess what. Simple translation isn’t going to cut it. That’s why localisation is crucial.

3. Sales and Marketing.

Whether your future launch is led by a specific client win, or a strategic rollout, there will undoubtedly be sales and marketing material to adapt for any new international market.

For fear of repetition — a simple text translation of marketing materials and web assets won’t be enough, and can be downright dangerous in the wrong hands. There’s a very good reason why Uber go as far as adapting their logo for different markets around the world, and other globally renowned companies pay careful attention to product names, graphics, descriptions, branding and tone to retain their house style.

Marketing messages carry a degree of subtlety and nuance that many basic translation providers struggle to manage. Specialist translators will use creative copywriting and marketing skills, alongside native language proficiency to replicate brand messaging in a culturally appropriate way. This is known as transcreation and is usually carried out alongside multilingual desktop publishing to recreate source materials that will be as effective in the targeted country as they are at home.

You know what I’m going to say, don’t you? That’s not translation. That’s localisation.

All this can sound a little overwhelming and complicated. It’s doesn’t need to be, and it’s not an all-or-nothing situation — an ethical localisation partner will work with you to decide which elements need to be localised in order of priority and the budget available.

If you’d like to explore the localisation options that are most likely to help you succeed, take a look at or contact me direct and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

Are your expectations high enough?

Are your expectations high enough?

Every buyer of localization services has their own expectations. I’m sure you do too — whether you represent a young software business just starting out, or an enterprise player with an established international presence.

What I find surprising is just how low some of these expectations are.

I see this as a failure of the localization industry.

Maybe it comes down to a homogenised approach. Maybe it’s lazy complacency. Maybe some localization providers are only really interested in their top five clients.

It may be that the industry gets away with it as buyers simply accept it as ‘the norm’.

They shouldn’t.

Which leads me to the main point of this article — what should you expect?

In my view, whatever size your business is, and whatever stage of international development you’re at, you should expect the following from a true localization partner:

1. If you’re using an existing translation tool, and you’d like to continue to manage your internal workflow in this way, it should be an option. You shouldn’t be forced into using a prescribed process or tool just because it’s easier for your localization company to work that way.

2. You should have easy direct access to your partners’ leadership team, project managers, and software engineers. If you want to talk to the people actually doing the work and not just a faceless account manager — you should be able to.

3. Whilst every business has some degree of staff turnover, you should expect stability amongst the team working on your project. Frequent staff changes lead to delays, misunderstandings, and lengthy periods of getting the team back up to speed. High levels of employee churn can also be an indication of more deep-seated problems.

4. You should expect your localization provider to take the time to genuinely understand what you’re trying to achieve at a strategic level.

5. You should expect them to provide expert guidance and advicebased on their own experience and that of their wider network. You shouldn’t expect to be charged tens of thousands in consultancy fees for bringing ideas and suggestions to the table.

6. You should expect your localization provider to be as keen to learnas you are. New technologies, new applications, and new possibilities are coming at an astonishing pace. If you’re introducing something new that might present a localization challenge, your provider should welcome and embrace this — and work with you to develop a solution.

7. If you’ve got very specific requirements when it comes to handling XML files, customised mapping, or any other quirk that’s unique to your product, that shouldn’t be a problem. You should expect your provider to be flexible and willing to adapt to your needs wherever possible.

8. You should expect fair and competitive pricing. The best localization providers don’t do cheap. The worst ones do, and it’s you who’ll pay for it in the long run.

9. Your localization partner should expect the unexpected. And deal with it. That’s the nature of today’s fast-moving technology industry. Priorities change, deadlines change, and requirements change — your provider should expect this, anticipate it where possible, and work with you to mitigate any effect it may have on your budget or timeline.

10. Finally, you should expect no bullshit. It’s a crude way of putting it, but a long term relationship based on honesty, transparency, and respect is the least you should expect.

I’d love to know if you think I’ve missed anything. Get in touch directly, leave a comment below, or tweet @iotals if you have different expectations or your own localization experiences to share…

What a global fintech summit can teach us about communication…

What a global fintech summit can teach us about communication…

Fintech stakeholders from every continent converged on the Guildhall in Central London this week for the Innovate Finance Global Summit.

The mood was upbeat, positive and collaborative. Even when London’s self-proclaimed status as the fintech capital of the world was challenged with the suggestion that New York or Berlin might lay claim the title, diplomacy won the day. That, and valuable insight from Singapore, India, and another 30 countries ensured that the global nature of the event was reflected in the debate.

If I had to pick out three of the most prevalent themes from the summit, I’d choose compliance, open APIs, and international operations.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that all three are intrinsically linked.

Delivering financial services in global markets requires a keen understanding of local regulations and rigorous governance procedures. Open APIs will help new fintech entrants access the crucial data they need to verify identity and deliver financial services to demographics and markets that currently have limited access to such products.

All these things can take place across borders, across continents, and across cultures.

In theory, at least.

The one thing missing is one of the most ancient elements of humanity — language.

OK, so a back-office system or blockchain transaction has a universal language all of its own. That’s all very well and needs little consideration beyond compatibility and data exchange (hey, back to APIs!), but what about the front-end?

Whether it’s a consumer using an app, an analyst crunching the numbers, or the IT guy in the office over the weekend trying-to-get-the-damned-API-configured— there’s usually a human in the mix somewhere down the line.

And that human relies on language. Their own language.

The IT guy needs documentation to understand what he’s configuring, the consumer needs to understand what the AI bot in the app is telling them to do next, and the analyst will rely on online help to generate the report they need for their next client meeting.

In an environment where fintech firms are looking to operate in multiple countries, effective communication comes down to local language and culture.

Which is where we come in.

With the fintech revolution comes a whole new set of technologies, a raft of new terminology, and an entirely different mindset from young, ambitious financial services providers.

It’s not just the traditional financial services industry that needs to adapt to this. Translators and software localization teams need to be able to adapt to this brave new world. They need to learn new technologies and embrace a new flexibility that many won’t have experienced before.

And just like legacy banking and insurance platforms that are deemed no longer fit for purpose, monolithic localization companies with their rigid processes and high employee churn will struggle to make the cultural investments necessary to meet the needs of this new reality.

So when you come to introduce your fintech offer to new markets, ask yourself one simple question:

Am I translating some text, or am I investing in the future international success of this business?

Thankfully, our clients are firmly of the latter view. If you’d like to talk to them about how we help them achieve it, give me a shout and I’ll put you in touch.

Fintech localisation — coming of age?

Fintech localisation — coming of age?

All eyes have been on fintech in recent years. The financial sector has been ripe for disruption for a long time — all it needed was a dynamic group of innovators to come along and shake it to the core.

But like any fast-growing technology sector, fintech faces some particular challenges when it comes to localisation.

The first problem is that for many, the need for localisation has snuck up without much warning.

Given the highly-regulated nature of financial services and the individual approach required by different jurisdictions, many young firms started out with a very clear focus only on their own domestic market. As fintech solutions have become better understood by regulators and confidence has grown, regulatory barriers have reduced — to the point where certain financial centres are making it as easy as possible for fintech firms to operate in new countries and jurisdictions.

This, coupled with early success and an increase in VC funding, is great news for the sector but has left some fintech companies impatient to move into new markets but without a clear view of the localisation support they need.

And localisation support is sorely needed. Which is the next key challenge.

Fintech is a fairly generic term, which takes in widely-accepted aspects of cryptocurrency, payments, lending, and money transfer. However, depending on who you speak to it also includes elements of insuretech, regtech, and much more.

Every one of these will require a subtly different localisation approach — whether the focus is on the translation and localisation of a consumer-facing web portal, or an analytics-driven payments or forex platform.

Traditional localisation companies struggle with this level of diversity, and will often assume that linguists familiar with traditional financial terminology ‘will do’, and that software engineers used to handling standard web assets can handle the complexity of all platforms.

If fintech innovators and global technologists were happy to accept this level of compromise, they probably wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing today.

So let’s get real.

Successful fintech localisation depends on flexibility, collaboration, and a willingness on the part of your localisation company to change the way they work in order to deliver the best results for you and your customers.

Whilst much terminology is shared between traditional financial applications and new fintech solutions, it’s not a direct match. Changes in the way financial products are sold, communicated, and presented in the current market mean that linguists who have spent 20 years translating mortgage terms might not be best equipped to deal with the style and nuance of the text in a money transfer app. And that’s before you consider the unique terminology associated with your brand.

Given that many localisation firms simply equate ‘fintech’ with ‘finance’ and plug the latter term into their database to carry out an automated search for linguists, that’s what you’re likely to end up with.

Far better to work with a localisation company who will take the time to understand your business, your customers, your solutions, and your top-level objectives, before hand-selecting the most appropriate linguists and engineers to complete the project.

Even after taking this approach; ongoing dialogue, review, and discussion will be needed to get the best result. These conversations need to take place with people who understand the technology and what you’re trying to achieve. Not a revolving-door account manager whose primary role is as a gatekeeper.

Want to pick up the phone and call the project manager or MD of your localisation company? You should be able to do that.

It will come as no surprise that in my view, Iota is best-placed to provide the flexibility and individual approach necessary for successful fintech localisation. With over a decade of experience working with market-leading businesses in the finance, cloud, analytics, and CRM space, you’ll be in good company.

Taking SaaS products global — the localisation mistakes to avoid…

Taking SaaS products global — the localisation mistakes to avoid…

You’ve reached the stage where it’s time to push out into international markets and localise your software product — what could possibly go wrong?

Well, I’m sorry to break it to you — but plenty.

You’ve invested millions into the product, marketing, and the wider business. To hit the numbers that you (and probably your investors) need to see, success outside your domestic market isn’t optional — it’s essential. And that’s why a successful programme of localisation is so important.

To put yourself in the strongest position to succeed, you need to avoid the most common pitfalls when setting out:

Lack of Internationalisation

Internationalisation is the process of designing and developing your product so that it can be localised and translated effectively further down the line. It’s step one, and should ideally be ‘baked in’ from the moment the first line of code is written.

In software terms, that usually means ensuring that your build can support different currencies, date and time formats, right to left text direction, and other international elements. Leaving lots of space in the UI for text expansion in different languages will also reduce costs and delays further down the line.

In short, if these core elements aren’t in place — real localisation can’t start. That’s going to slow you down and cost you more money to fix.

Unrealistic Timeframe

On the subject of speed — keep your expectations realistic and start thinking about localisation early. Throwing additional resources at a localisation project can speed it up, but if the strategy and execution is rushed the results are likely to be disappointing.

It’s better to delay launch than go to market with a poorly localised product. Bad localisation doesn’t provide positive returns in the long term — it results in high churn rates and excessive support costs, and in the worst cases can be the root cause of failure in new markets. A costly mistake that’s best avoided.

Confusing Translation with Localisation

Whilst the two terms tend to be used interchangeably, there’s a big difference between localisation and translation.

The latter deals with words alone — a simple translation from one language to another.

Localisation is a more holistic concept, digging deeper into cultural adaptation, context, and the use of sophisticated software engineering to ensure your core product looks, feels, and performs like it was built especially for a particular language user.

Mixing the two up can have a serious impact on the user experience and the integrity of your product.

If you’re serious about succeeding internationally and you’ve invested heavily in getting your core software right, a simple translation isn’t going to help you build a robust global business in the long term.

Unrealistic budget

You’ve probably invested a significant sum developing your core product, and now you’re planning to spend a thousand getting a few UI strings translated for the global market?

Good luck with that.

Quality localisation should be seen as a revenue driver, not as a cost. Without it, you’re not going to see meaningful international growth.

Building an international business requires a financial commitment — to undertake the initial localisation work, and to keep up to date with ongoing updates. Perhaps the best way to review your budget is to consider what the cost of failed market entry would be, and work backwards from there.

The Wrong Partner

Businesses succeed and fail based on the relationships they forge. Localisation is no different, and if you choose the wrong partner it can have serious consequences for your international growth.

‘Wrong’ in this context will usually mean one that isn’t aligned with your culture, values, and day-to-day needs. Many early and mid-stage companies make the mistake of choosing a provider based on their size (is bigger better?) or price. A mistake at this stage can slow you down, lock you into a process that can’t scale with you, or come with a raft of hidden costs that don’t show themselves until you’re much further down the line.

Take a look at this article if you need some help in choosing the right partner for your business.

If you’re serious about growing internationally, and really don’t want to screw it up — drop me an email, or give me a call on +44 207 096 0390.

Iota work with some of the fastest-growing and most innovative software companies across North America and Europe. In many cases they’ve grown to be the leaders in their field, and we can help you do the same.

Is your global strategy putting your IP at risk?

Is your global strategy putting your IP at risk?

You don’t need me to tell you how important intellectual property (IP) is to any technology firm. At every growth stage, IP is key:

Looking for seed funding?

… ‘Tell me how you’re developing your IP assets’

Chasing VC investment?

… ‘Let’s talk about your IP protection’

Heading for IPO?

… ‘How secure is your IP?’

Retaining an established market position?

… ‘Your IP is everything’

And so it goes on. Within the tech ecosystem, intellectual property and its protection should be high on any Chief Executive’s watch-list.

Which is why there’s an apparently innocuous scenario where you might want to re-think your international strategy.

It’s not unusual for technology firms, particularly in the software space, to allow (or even encourage and facilitate) their in-country channel partners to deal with the translation and localisation of their products into the local language.

This might seem sensible at first glance. It has the potential to reduce costs and you’d be justified in expecting the cultural considerations of the local market to be met. Let’s be honest here, it also seems like a lot less hassle to pass the localisation responsibility on to someone else to deal with.

But it comes with hidden dangers that could potentially be very damaging to your business.

Top of the list comes our old friend intellectual property.

If you pass the responsibility for translation and localisation to your channel partners, who owns the IP in the translated versions?

If your master contract is sound and your legal advisors have done a good job, you’d expect the underlying code and core features to be protected. But what about the elements that have been translated and adapted for that individual market? What about the UI and help files? What’s to stop your channel partner staking an ownership claim on the localised version?

It’s a huge risk. If your relationship sours with the partner at any point, you don’t want to find yourself in the position where you have to withdraw or stop selling the localised product in a developing market. A protracted legal case to settle any claim could cripple your business financially, and render all market development work in the affected country a total write-off.

Your IP advisers will be best-placed to advise on the protections you need if you permit channel partners to localise your products. However, the only way you can be absolutely certain you’re protected is to take ownership of the localisation process centrally, and deliver a local market-ready product to your channel partners.

There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be involved in this process, and we’d recommend they are, but the crucial factor is that the work is commissioned, paid-for, and managed centrally within your business.

There are other advantages to this approach too. There’s no risk of a third-party diluting your brand or producing a localised version that’s inferior to your core product. Centralised localisation also helps you to manage your marketing more effectively and can reduce costs where common campaigns are run across multiple markets.

Another significant benefit of centralised localisation is simultaneous shipping. It’s damaging to your brand to have differing feature-sets and mismatched versions available across markets — unless of course there is a strategic reason to differentiate. Holistic management of localisation means that you can co-ordinate releases to match your marketing and sales effort on a global scale.

If you work with a localisation partner like Iota, you can still benefit from the insight and cultural awareness of in-country resources without the risk of losing control your product and IP. The demands placed on your internal team won’t be much greater than they would be if you were passing the responsibility to a channel partner, just with a better outcome and none of the risk.

Get in touch and we’ll be happy to talk you through how we help some of the most successful technology businesses in the world localise and release their products in multiple markets every day of the week.

International markets and the customer experience conundrum…

International markets and the customer experience conundrum…

It’s pretty much accepted that if you want to expand your business outside your domestic market, you have to localise your product. Whilst we tend to focus heavily on language, let’s not forget that localisation also takes in cultural adaptation, user acceptance, and a multitude of other factors that go beyond simple translation.

And whilst we’re looking beyond the surface, let’s talk about customer experience.

Customer experience (CX) is what happens when you interact with the people who buy your stuff. That’s a pretty broad definition, but it’s quite useful when you look at it through a localisation lens.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re targeting consumers or businesses — we all have a customer, whoever and whatever they may be.

So if you’re a fintech firm busily disrupting the commercial finance market, or a cloud software company providing enterprise-wide data analytics, CX should be just as important to you as it is to a high-street retailer.

Customer experience is intrinsically linked to user acquisition, retention, support costs and profitability.

Therefore, it’s important. Especially important to a company that wants to scale quickly.

But how does this fit in with localisation?

It’s simple really. We all know that we need to localise for the different markets we sell in. But where some businesses come unstuck is that they lose sight of why their doing it, and how they can optimise the customer experience along the way.

It’s important to remember that localisation isn’t just a tick-box action to be taken in preparation for launch.

Let me give you an example. You’ve probably bought a generic electrical item at some point that came with a slip of wafer-thin printed instructions. These were probably really badly translated from the language of the manufacturing country, and provided only the most basic details of how to get your product up and running. When the product failed, you went online for help, but found only a website in a language you couldn’t understand. You emailed, but got no response.

Now think about when you bought another similar product — did you seek out the original brand? Did you buy from the same source? Did you reach out to the company for pre-sales information?

No. You didn’t.

Because the original customer experience was poor. The product wasn’t effectively tuned to your locality, the instructions you received were minimal, and the overall experience was one of a cheap commodity. No warm and fuzzy feeling was felt. No brand loyalty was nurtured.

Now think of your own product. It’s probably very different, but the principle still applies.

Is your website fully localised for the countries and primary languages you’re targeting? Are your downloadable datasheets and marketing information available in the language of the person you expect to buy from you?

Does your brand voice come across as well as it does in your home market, or has it been lost in a basic translation? Have you switched-off a large proportion of your potential user base by using an inappropriate image on your landing page?

And this is all before your potential buyer has committed to anything, and assumes that the product or service is suitably localised too.

CX really comes into its own at the point the customer is acquired. A software product can’t be launched in another market if the user-interface isn’t available in-language, and a customer won’t be retained if they find errors like dialogue boxes with overlapping text and out-of-context instructions.

At this stage there’s also the potential to minimise set-up and support costs by providing effectively localised support material. Self-service help costs a lot less than manning a multilingual support desk and fielding written and spoken queries in numerous languages.

Don’t cut corners when it comes to localising knowledgebase and help articles — providing comprehensive information, translated with context and skill, can significantly reduce your support costs and enhance the overall ROI of your localisation effort.

Today’s SaaS subscription models, and many other B2B propositions rely on ongoing customer satisfaction to deliver profitability. Therefore, a customer that is acquired and supported effectively in their own language is far more likely to be retained and deliver more value into your business in the long term.

In short, it’s all about the customer experience.

If you’re wondering whether your localisation efforts are delivering the best customer experience possible, get in touch and I’ll be happy to look at it with you.

Localisation gripes you might just recognise…

Localisation gripes you might just recognise…

As you’d expect, we spend a lot of time talking to people. It’s in our DNA. We speak to our clients virtually every day, and we speak to prospective clients all the time.

When we talk to potential new clients about why they’re considering moving their localisation to us, some common themes and concerns come up time and time again.

Let’s take a look and see if any are familiar to you:

1. (CEO) They just don’t ‘get’ what we’re trying to do.

This is a biggie. In a world where automation, technology and ‘process’ is becoming more prevalent every day, it’s easy for localisation providers to lose sight of their core purpose.

Which, as we all know, should be to maximise the acceptance, uptake, and overall success of your launch in whichever language market you’re targeting.

At Iota there are a number of elements that make up our ability to ‘get it’. None are revolutionary. We simply work on the basis that if a group of highly-experienced localisation experts take the time to talk to you about your business, your strategy, and your objectives they’re in with a good chance. Add a healthy dose of strategic insight, questioning, and ongoing collaboration, and you’ll understand why all of our clients are confident that we understand what they’re trying to do.

2. (CMO) Our brand voice just isn’t coming across.

We hear this one a lot too. It’s usually rooted in a ‘translation by numbers’ approach, where a localisation provider selects translators based purely on the cheapest rate per word. It’s the hallmark of many large companies who boast databases of linguists numbering thousands. Instead of selecting the most appropriate, experienced, and proven translators for your project, you’ll find they run a quick search for the cheapest linguists available.

This rarely ends well.

Translation is an art. To be conducted well it requires subtlety, nuance, and immense skill. This is especially important for marketing copy and any content where tone and context are central to supporting your brand.

To ensure your brand voice is reflected accurately, your localisation partner needs to do two critical things. Firstly, they need to make the effort to fully understand your business and what you’re looking to achieve (see point one, above). Secondly, they need to painstakingly choose the right linguists (ie. probably by hand, and not an automated search), with the right experience, and the right mindset for your project. This choice will certainly not be based on the lowest rate per word.

3. (CFO) Hey, that’s a lot of money.

The money-shot. Professional localisation isn’t cheap. Legal advice, R&D, and software development aren’t either — but they all play a comparably crucial role in the success of your business.

If international development features prominently in your business plan, professional localisation must be a critical component of your strategy. It’s as simple as that.

Choose your provider carefully, and the investment you make will be minimal in comparison to the potential return. Choose the wrong provider, or cut corners in localisation, and you may find that the market does not respond in the way you have forecast. Taking into account the wider costs involved in entering a new geographic market, failure can be financially catastrophic.

If you’re going to make that investment, it’s prudent to work with the partners most likely to help you succeed. Think of it this way — if you were heading off on a 6,000km road-trip, would you buy the cheapest tyres?

4. (CPO) You’re going to break my software.

It’s your baby. Your creation. We get that.

Which is why you need a partner whose engineering skills are a match for their linguistic expertise. It’s easier said than done — most can manage a Word doc or PDF, but not all can treat a sophisticated software product with the respect it deserves.

Look for a partner that has no hesitation in letting you speak to some of their existing clients. If those clients include the largest and most successful providers of complex SaaS, streaming and data analysis products in the world, all the better.

But what about bugs? You’ll introduce bugs!

Maybe. But they’ll be found and dealt with during testing and QA. As all developers know, bugs are part and parcel of the software development process — and localisation engineering is no different. The difference comes with how your provider deals with them. At Iota, our QA processes evolve as we encounter new challenges and incorporate new methods of dealing with them. And if no bugs are found, it might be time to worry.

5. (Everyone) But I didn’t want to do it that way!

If I had to pick out the top reason why companies switch to Iota, it’s this:


Whilst there are savings to be gained from taking a standardised approach to localisation and applying a single set of processes and procedures, for many companies it simply doesn’t work.

Especially the type of companies we tend to work with. These are complex, fast-moving technology firms, often with aggressive expansion targets linked to investment stages. The evolving nature of their businesses and the environment they work in does not lend itself to a rigid approach. With innovation comes unpredictability and change.

And huge localisation companies don’t like unpredictability and change. It upsets them and throws up an error on their proprietary workflow tool. So every client must fit into their process, deliver files in the way they like, review them in a defined manner, and request changes via protocol number 467 of the standard operating procedure.

OK, I’m being melodramatic here — but you know where I’m coming from.

A responsive localisation partner will work with you to provide the most effective solution for your individual needs. That might be a willingness to use a specific translation tool you’ve already invested in and like, or it might be the ability to scale capacity up or down at short notice. It might be something as simple as being able to pick up the phone and call one of the senior team at any time — knowing that every one of them will be fully up-to-date on the project you’ve commissioned.

If you recognise your own situation in any of these scenarios and would like to talk, we’d love to hear from you. If you have any horror stories of your own, feel free to share them!

Where the e-learning industry fails to impress…

Where the e-learning industry fails to impress…

A quick glance at Twitter or any of the major e-learning providers’ websites will confirm that Learning Technologies 2017 was the event to be at last week.

There are countless general reviews, round-ups, and assessments of the event being published as I write, so I’ll keep this brief and very much focused on localisation.

And it seems to me that the e-learning industry is missing a bit of a trick here.

There were countless exhibitors pushing subtly different Learning Management Systems (LMS) and content solutions, but relatively few who set themselves apart from the crowd.

Even fewer seemed to truly recognise the value of localisation to their corporate clients.

Whilst most e-learning providers will provide ‘translated’ content to some extent, relatively few offer a sophisticated localisation solution that will meet the needs and expectations of a major global corporate.

This isn’t limited to content-focused firms whose primary function is to provide off-the-shelf course content. It’s common to creators of bespoke programmes too.

Relatively few have ready-access to localisation expertise that can integrate with their core team to produce premium e-learning resources that have been effectively translated and culturally adapted for use on a global scale. Virtually none have on-demand access to in-country subject matter experts, transcreation specialists, or localisation strategists.

And that’s a shame. It reduces the amount of business they win from global businesses who see an international approach with careful local adaptation as crucial to their L&D activity. It limits their ability to add value and differentiate themselves from an increasingly homogenous crowd.

As technology develops and we see more interactive content, more gamification, and dare I say it, more VR — the localisation challenge for e-learning companies will only grow. Any ambitious e-learning provider targeting the corporate market will need to partner with an experienced localisation partner at the earliest stage. Those that don’t, or who rely wholly on an internal team of translators, will find themselves side-lined by increasingly demanding and tech-savvy corporate buyers.

To stay ahead of the game, you need to establish an ongoing relationship with a proven localisation partner. This should be based on a true partnership, with input from both sides at bid stage, collaborative pricing and solution architecture, and shared responsibility.

Anything less, and you’re left with the old e-learning buyer / translation-vendor model which stifles innovation and encourages the production of cut-price programmes that fail to deliver.

But what gives us the right to make such proclamations?

A decade-long relationship with the largest SaaS solutions provider in the world is one. An ongoing responsibility to localise their software into more than 30 languages and their sophisticated e-learning assets into 5 languages for another. Not to mention a significant portfolio of high-profile Fortune500 and FTSE100 localisation clients for whom quality, flexibility, and accuracy are everything.

If we took one key thing away from our attendance at the Learning Technologies Conference last week it’s this:

There are many, many, exciting e-learning companies out there who are harnessing the very latest in animation, video, virtual reality and the wider tech ecosystem to produce innovative learning solutions.

But crucially, they will find it increasingly difficult to win major corporate contracts if they can’t show localisation insight in their bids that mirrors the quality and sophistication of their core solution.

Guess what? We can help. Get in touch directly for a chat or visit before you submit your next bid…

5 common questions about localisation…

5 common questions about localisation…

There comes a point when most technology businesses will make plans to expand internationally.

For some this will have been part of the strategy from day one, or the opportunity may have arisen from early growth at home. For others, the decision may be influenced by external investment partners — it’s common for firms to start talking to us when they’ve reached series A funding stage.

One thing that’s common to all is that international expansion can be exhilarating, exciting, and terrifying in equal measure.

Amongst the plethora of commercial, product, and marketing aspects to consider sits localisation. You know, that mysterious term that many people use interchangeably with ‘translation’.

Whilst translation will undoubtedly feature in your localisation strategy, it’s only one part of the puzzle that will drive the success of your international journey. We’ll revisit the contentious localisation / translation definition debate in a later article. In the meantime, let’s concentrate on the top 5 questions we hear from tech firms when they’re planning their expansion:

When do I need to think about localisation?

Yesterday. Seriously.

Quite simply, it’s rarely too early. The specific timing will depend on your business of course, but many bumps in the road can be avoided by choosing a localisation partner early, and engaging with them deeply. Choose the right partner, and the process will be a whole lot smoother and you’ll benefit from their experience of working with companies at a similar stage of development as yours.

At a functional level, you should really be thinking about localisation from the moment you even think you might want to look outside your own domestic market.

For example, if you develop software, your engineers will need to take steps to internationalise your product before it can be localised. Internationalisation is the design and development of your product so that it can be localised and translated effectively further down the line. This usually means ensuring that your core build can support different currencies, date and time formats, right to left text direction, and other international elements. Leaving lots of space in the user interface (UI) for text expansion in different languages can reduce costs and headaches further down the line.

To get back to the original question — if you’re reading this you’re clearly thinking about localisation (well done!) and now is probably the right time to take the next step.

What should I localise?

This will depend heavily on the nature of your business and your budget. Certain elements are a given. To succeed in a market where English isn’t the primary functional language, any elements that will impact directly on uptake or use will need to be localised.

For software businesses, this will usually include the UI and any critical help files and resources. Where a physical product is involved there may be further packaging and documentation considerations.

Web assets and marketing materials are usually closely allied to the product localisation and will often be included in the project from the first stage. This might also include channel-support and sales material, depending on your business model.

At a more granular level, you may choose to have specific web assets like video fully localised and re-shot, or it may be more cost-effective to take the more common approach of adding in-language subtitles to existing assets.

Who needs to be involved?

It’s important to consider all the key functional elements of your business that localisation will ‘touch’.

Key executives with oversight of the product, marketing, technical, and engineering will all play a role in most cases. It helps if one person can take ownership of the relationship with your localisation partner, even if everyone liaises with them on a day-to-day basis.

Talking about your localisation partner, who should be involved from their end?

You should have a defined ‘go-to’ contact from the first time you contact them, but you should also have full access to the project team working with you and a defined feedback loop to in-country resources and linguists. If your prospective partner tries to force every interaction through a junior ‘account handler’ who doesn’t really understand what you’re trying to achieve — walk away.

I’m targeting 6 countries and core languages, should I do them all together?

Even if you’re planning to simultaneously ship new releases and updates in the future it can make sense to focus on just one or two languages initially. However, if your localisation strategy is investor or demand-driven you may be working to a timescale that dictates that they need to be completed at the same time. For experienced localisation providers like Iota, working on a range of languages concurrently is perfectly normal and won’t present a problem.

What will it cost?

Costs will vary considerably between projects. You should probably be wary of any potential partner who is quick to fire out a quote without fully understanding what you’re trying to achieve.

In order to produce an initial estimate, your provider will need to see any original source files and documentation and analyse them in detail. A credible partner will be looking much deeper than the number of words for translation and will consider the complexity, subject matter, your wider localisation strategy, and much more when discussing the project with you in the early stages.

In general, costs will be broken down into various elements, which will probably include the core translation rates per language, project management and engineering.

Certain costs will reduce over time. For example, most localisation providers will use translation memory tools to store your previously translated text in each language. When an update or new release is due, the source content is analysed to see which elements are common to earlier translations and don’t need to be charged as ‘brand-new’ content.

Given the strategic and commercial importance of an international launch, it’s wise to look beyond the numbers when choosing which provider to work with. ‘Fit’ is crucially important and can have a big impact on your success. Also consider the intangible elements that might be important to you like support and consultancy. Some providers will be happy to share their experience and expertise with you as a matter of course, whilst others might expect you to pay additional consultancy fees for anything beyond the functional tasks they’ve quoted you for.

These are just some of the most common questions we hear. If you have any questions of your own, get in touch or leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help.