The World Needs Agile Translation

Agile Translation

Early last week Stepes was privileged to attend the Gilbane Digital Content Conference in Boston, an annual industry gathering of the world’s top content development and translation professionals. This year’s theme focused on the latest trends and technologies in web content development, user experience management, new information frameworks, data analytics, social media, and advertising tools, as well as ecommerce, CRM, and translation solutions.

The distinguished Marissa Jarratt, Vice President of Global Marketing of PepsiCo, gave a spirited keynote presentation on PepsiCo’s effort to transform their corporate marketing content approach into a modern and agile strategy that aims at the improvement of audience engagement. She highlighted Static text-based emailPepsiCo’s internal employee newsletter that PepsiCo sends out to its 260,000 workforce around the world at the end of each year, which showcases growth milestones, company awards and employee success stories. The newsletter was traditionally shared in the form of a long email document with lengthy text and a long list of bullets highlighting the various achievements. Due to the decreasing attention span associated with the new digital economy, Marissa and her team at PepsiCo noticed a continual drop in percentage of employees reading the Employee Newsletter in its entirety. There was also no easy way to track data points such as open rates, engagement by department, web page visits, podcast downloads, most watched videos, or determining what content people were most interested in reading.

Indeed a paradigm shift has occurred in our digital world increasingly driven by mobile consumption. Audience behavior has moved from reading long and static documents to compact, dynamic content, consisting of short and modularized text chunks supplemented by videos and info-graphics. The era of waterfall content creation is becoming less relevant to the modern digital audience, especially the millennial generation that are rapidly becoming the world’s leading consumer base. This is when Marissa and her team came up with the Spark initiative that aimed to fundamentally transform PepsiCo’s content development into a more agile process. This new initiative generated significant interest and success amongst PepsiCo employees.

Pepsico Spark

Agile content development evolution

Global content development has evolved, from the standalone authoring using static word processing tools such as Word and FrameMaker in the 1990’s, to single source publishing based on conditional text in 2000s, to CMS/XML based technical writing powered with DITA or other object oriented content development mythologies. Similar to Legos that use basic block pieces to build complex structures, object oriented authoring aims to write small chunks of text for each topic or unique concept, and then assembles them to create the final document. As content is increasingly developed in small blocks of Lego-like pieces, the entire authoring process become more agile and iterative, allowing powerful content reuse among writers for dramatically improved efficiency and content consistency.

Fragmentation is the rule

The rapid development of the mobile internet and social media channels have transformed the global content landscape into fragmentations of small and modularized texts that serve everything from corporate marketing, customer support to product documentation, and employee trainings. Fragmented contents collectively represent 70% or more of all new enterprise content today that’s created on the fly and around the clock. The trend in content fragmentation will only continue from here as enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management applications expand further into the mobile space. This means document sizes will continue to shrink as the content world shifts to a more agile model. Content is being created in smaller chunks with higher frequency and they all need translation right away and on a continuous basis.

Translation modernization

Despite the rapid growth of agile based content development, translation has remained a stubborn process that’s anything but agile and iterative. Companies invest heavily in CMS tools in order to develop content in smaller topics and text modules, to be more agile. But the reality is many companies still have to output the English (source) documents before sending them to the localization vendor (LSP) for translation. The result is a long delay to a company’s international product deployment, leading to lost revenue and opportunities all because of this outdated translation workflow.

Today there is a strong case to be made for agile translation, a term that is rarely mentioned or used in the localization industry. However, agile translation is exactly what the new world economy demands to deliver just-in-time translation solutions that are able to respond to the increasing demands of our digital age. Going forward, translation must be done in a DITA or Lego-like process, allowing each topic to be translated as it’s created. Only by adopting this new workflow can we achieve a true simultaneous product release in global markets. Let’s face it, companies that refuse to embrace the changing times will be left behind by their competitions.

When translating small chunks of texts, mobile translation technology such as Stepes will play an important role because it allows linguists to immediately be notified when a topic is created and ready for translation. Stepes also allows translators to streamline and improve the translation process by having access at anytime and anywhere, all from their smartphone. This new process of agile translation will significantly improve translation speed and scalability, all while ensuring linguistic quality. This is the future of the localization industry.