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Agile Globalization: The Next Big Opportunity for the Localization Industry

By: Gerardo Laster (Citrix) - Citrix Systems, Inc.

06 March 2015

The convergence of the cloud, big data, and mobile can open incredible new opportunities. Although the translation shops that refused to embrace the new paradigm have been replaced by the newcomers, all companies will need to look at the opportunity and decide how best to embrace it. 


At the intersection of the cloud and mobile there is an explosive need for rapid content generation and software creation. Although this may not affect the entire GILT (Globalization, Internationalization, Localization, and Translation) industry, it particularly affects marketing, web, and software development.


Highly competitive markets with low entry barriers enable relatively small companies to generate applications that have a readily available market in end user phones all over the world. This usage drives the need for highly iterative software development methods, and fast response of the localization processes to put the applications in the hands of the users simultaneously with the base language version..

Highly sophisticated CMSs with integrated analytics allow marketing content creators to respond to their customers’ wants in almost real time, while marketing automation platforms enable response times to user actions that a few years back were unthinkable.

Because of the acceleration of revenue that these highly iterative methodologies provide, we can expect to see their adoption grow and the offerings and methodologies diversify. What will remain a constant will be the need to provide just-in-time response to changes in the original content.

These forces (which disrupted the mobile phone and continue to disrupt the software industry) are disrupting the GILT industry from the customer’s end to the freelance contractor’s end of the supply chain. At the same time, they are challenging translation software companies to develop features and functionality to respond to this challenge.

A third force outside the scope of this article is big data, which will influence machine translation and will put further price pressure on LSPs.


I am looking at the industry from the point of view of a $3.6B software company with a large global presence and I am seeing the GILT industry change and adapt to these challenges.

Here is what I think some of them are doing wrong, and will erode their business:

  • Piecemeal change:  Changing one aspect of the supply chain may not be sufficient. At Citrix Globalization Services, however, we discovered that adopting the ‘lean’ principles of tenacity, transparency, transition, and totality produced superior results and put us in a position to tackle the most iterative and dynamic projects.
  • Focusing only on changing the pricing model:  Rush job and minimum charges don’t make any sense when all the jobs are urgent and small. Some business practices that work well in waterfall or in general, non-iterative types of projects, break entirely when applied to iterative production methods.

Changing only the pricing model, however, is an incomplete approach. In addition to a different pricing model, LSPs may need to abandon the agency model and become trusted suppliers of top talent to their customers.

  • Finally, a model that would seem to make sense to provide rapid response, the proxy model, doesn’t seem to be sustainable in the long run because enterprises tend to absorb these types of tasks in-house as a way to reduce transaction costs as they mature and learn what needs to be done to go global.

On the other hand, we are also discussing and sharing ideas with many companies that “get it”:

  • They treat Agile Localization as a strategic business opportunity and endeavor to provide end-to-end solutions that reduce overall production costs by reducing costs of poor quality.
  • In embracing Agile, they focus on individuals and interactions over processes and tools. The conversations are about how to achieve goals together, rather than about pricing or scheduling.
  • They are trusted advisors in the realm of Agile localization and translation focusing on their customers’ success as a means to their business success.
  • Finally, they have the capability to provide a holistic solution that includes consulting, integration, technology, people, and pricing.

The opportunity

The internet brought tremendous opportunity to LSPs in the 1990s by opening access to high quality human resources across the globe, creating new markets, and opening entirely new business avenues. The convergence of the cloud, big data, and mobile can open even bigger opportunities.

However, as the translation shops that refused to embrace the new paradigm were replaced by the newcomers, the current incumbents will need to look at the opportunity and decide how best to embrace it.

In terms of volume and margins, Agile localization may not look like quite as a big an opportunity right now. But I would contend that is a simple case of the innovator’s dilemma, and companies that fail to change may risk relevancy.

On the other hand, as Agile and highly iterative practices mature within companies, these will need to build or buy systems, develop or adopt processes, learn or receive training.

There is a huge market opportunity in providing these services and tools, and it’s there for the taking.

Gerardo Laster has over 20 years of experience in the publishing, translation and localization industry. He worked at LSPs, content producers, and software companies. For the past seven years he had a leading role implementing an end-to-end solution for the single sourcing of technical documentation, and most recently he took the role of architect of the Citrix Agile Globalization Platform.