Why We Need to Adopt an Agile Approach to Translation and Localization

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Agile is the new black. But it’s not just a buzzword. The agile approach offers a lot of benefits for the language industry, from being involved in projects much earlier on and delivering better results, through to reducing overall costs.

What Is the Agile Approach?

The agile movement was born in the software industry some fifteen years ago as a response to missed deadlines and underwhelming results. The culprit behind these problems? The waterfall model, where projects are delivered in consecutive, linear stages. This traditional method of production resulted in misinformation and delays at each stage of the process. With the agile methodology, the project team responds to changes as they arise rather than following strict, immutable plans. Projects are delivered in many small iterations, and are continually improved, rather than waiting to deliver all changes in large, infrequent releases.

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How Can Agile Help the Language Industry?

Much like in software development, traditional translation and localization processes are linear, taking place right at the very end of a project. And yet translation and localization specialists often highlight major problems that need to be fixed before product launch.

For instance, had Mitsubishi consulted with Spanish speakers prior to launching the Pajero, they would probably have renamed it, or at least for certain markets. In contrast, Disney Pixar recognizes the value of incorporating localization much earlier into their workflows, making adaptations to many of their animated films to ensure they resonate with both international and domestic audiences.

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Photo by Clickiopath on Unsplash

As we’ve seen, the consequences of leaving localization to the end can be catastrophic. Work may have to be redone. This leads to lengthy, expensive to-and-froing between stakeholders as they try to resolve misunderstandings. And all this affects the bottom line.

How to Become More Agile
1. Involve translation and localization professionals early

Ensure that language and cultural experts are involved at the early stages of a project so they can provide valuable insights and help clients get the results they want, faster. This also helps avoid misunderstandings. For language service providers, this means you need to convince your end client to involve you much sooner.

2. Accept small translation requests, often

The agile approach necessarily means very small requests with short turnaround times. These projects can’t be charged on a minimal project fee basis as the costs would be prohibitive for the end client.

3. Streamline the translation process and minimize overheads with automation

This is key to being able to deliver quickly while maintaining your margins. Automate as much as possible so that computers take care of menial, time-consuming, error-prone tasks. This will give your team the time to do what they do best – communicate and nurture client relationships.

4. Integrate your translation systems with your client’s tools

Now that projects are managed via dedicated automation tools, being able to integrate your own systems into your client’s delivery chain will make their lives easier and set you apart.

How to Convince End Clients That Agile Is the Way

Even if you’re sold on the agile approach, it may be hard to convince your clients of its merits. Especially when it means involving language service providers earlier than they’re used to. What can you do about this? Well, we’ve put together a snapshot of some key benefits to this way of working. Try telling them that agile translation and localization means:

● faster delivery
● more predictable final delivery dates
● reduced costs
● less reworking