innovation.jpgThe localization industry is often proud of its role as the critical facilitator for enterprises and organizations wishing to "go global". Yet it has been surprisingly slow to accept the full strategic consequences of embracing innovation. Innovation in the localization space has often been limited to incremental steps: cost reductions and service upgrades. But the innovation really needed in the industry goes much deeper. It is very hard to do, especially if the image of who our customers really are starts to blur. The urge to change goes beyond the traditional client-supplier relationship and involves a global audience of end-users, citizens, patients and tax payers.

The question is: can the localization industry, as we know it, survive in a world where a simple translated word has no price at all and control over resources (translation memories and translators alike) is not so evident anymore? Disruptive change is already happening, and as always it comes from outsiders and new entrants into our industry.

Three innovation drivers

At TAUS we are dedicated to charting the role of innovation in the localization space. We have therefore published a new white paper, entitled "Localization Business Innovation" which offers a comprehensive tour of the industry's innovation space, from initial drivers to probable consequences. We have identified three main factors in the categories of market forces, relationships and technology, that in their various ways function today as drivers of greater innovation in the localization industry.

Content disruption - the market's urgent need to translate new types of content beyond the traditional documentation and software localization genres, and especially various forms of user-generated content, is impacting the "word price" model of doing business, and the traditional iron rule about "first author, then translate" workflows.

Communities and collaboration - new relationships between translation buyers and vendors and the "community" at large, including the emergence of non-professional/volunteer community-based translation projects and wiki-type collaboration, are opening up new solutions for the industry, and new growth opportunities for innovation. Sharing (instead of fencing off) language data is a further dimension of this democratization of resources, both human and linguistic.

Separating "infra" from "lingua" or the words from the pipes that carry them, is enabled by the ambient technology, and means that open translation platforms can be developed, providing all-in-one tool options, less management overheads and speedier time to market for end users. The same IT infrastructure also enables translation automation - machine translation for instance - to become just another feature on a website.

Innovation base station

Those who fully understand and embrace these powerful drivers for innovation will arrive at innovation base station. They will be comfortable with two governing principles in the localization future: zero word rates and free and open sharing of resources.

Zero word rates. In the heady days of the early internet , when some revolutionaries thought that this new network was a separate territory, Steward Brand famously claimed that "information wants to be free". We all smiled when for-pay content sites blossomed all over the web. But bits and bytes often do leap over the fences that ring them in - as old print media websites realize today. In the same way, machine translation engines and communities are now circulating words without a price tag - words are merely the electrons of the content industry, not the utility itself. Innovators will create value and generate revenue through new services and delivery platforms.

Open sharing of resources. Memories and terms and even translators 'owned' by vendors have been considered a major commercial asset. Most of the small and some larger innovations in the industry have been focused on ensuring that translation workflows and management systems carefully protect the ownership of these linguistic resources. Free and open sharing of resources will dramatically cut the cost and complexity in localization practices. The whole philosophy of owning and controlling the words and the pipes will fade away, replaced by the kind of disruptive innovations we can no longer afford to ignore.


localization business innovationLocalization Business Innovation

Authors: Andrew Joscelyne and Jaap van der Meer 

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