Globalization Primer – An introduction to preparing your business and products for success in international markets
I came across a great Globalization Primer put out by the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) published a few years ago and want to share it with you. The authors Arle Lommel and Rebecca Ray introduce you to the concepts of globalization, internationalization, and localization, along with their roles in international business today. It presents the history and current role of the industry and will help you understand the business opportunities that globalization offers to enterprises today. It describes the major parties and technologies involved in globalization and helps you understand the roles they play. It also provides reference information needed to better understand the technical aspects of globalization.
Planning for globalization
Successful globalization requires proper planning for both the internationalization and localization phases, as well as for ongoing support and maintenance needs. To make proper plans, these two phases need to be understood as part of the larger global product development cycle. When globalization is treated as a cycle, it becomes clear that globalization ties into every level of the business and must be treated as a core function if it is to succeed.
Product Requirements Analysis (Global/Local)
Any product design process starts with a basic requirements analysis. What is the core functionality and content that users—wherever they are—need? What are they prepared to pay money for? What feedback has been received on previous versions, and how do competitors’ products compare? What return on investment must be generated within what time frame?
In a global environment, the important point is to make sure that this analysis is conducted not just for the domestic market, but for all potential markets. This fact-finding and planning process should draw on the expertise of in-country staff, distributors, and users, at the same time that it takes into account overall ROI (return on investment) and strategic considerations. It must include an evaluation of the potential difficulties in each market and what steps are required to overcome them.
There are two principles to be considered when creating an internationalized product: flexibility and translatability. Keeping these principles in mind throughout the design phase will take care of most potential problems.
A flexible product is easily adaptable by design. In software, a flexible product is engineered to support multiple writing systems, e.g., languages such as Arabic and Hebrew that are primarily read from right to left. In hardware design, flexibility means the automatic adjustment for different voltages of power input. It means engineering an automobile so that the steering system can be placed on either side of the car without needing to re-engineer the entire transmission and steering system. Wherever possible, such a product will utilize international and operating system standards that have been designed to work with various languages and cultures. While such design may increase design costs and the cost of the base product, it will save costs overall when international markets are factored in.
A translatable product has all of its translatable content written with translation in mind (see the LISA publication Quality Assurance: The Client Perspective, available from the LISA web site, for more information on this subject). In addition, all of the content is accessible to translators and can be easily changed. For example, user interface strings should never be hard-coded into software (where translating them requires altering the program itself).
Instead, they should instead be loaded from an external resource file so that the translator can easily access them. Markings should not be etched into hardware components. They should be printed separately so that they can be easily altered. In all cases, leaving room for text shrinkage/expansion is a critical aspect in translatable product design.
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