Time-to-Market: It’s Standards or Die!
F-Secure was an early supporter of the TMX standard and continues to be an extremely strong advocate on the customer side for encouraging language tools vendors to play to their individual strengths, rather than investing in proprietary tools and processes. The company depends on an open environment to meet its critical time-to-market goals in the extremely competitive security market. Mika Pehk onen describes how the Localization and Development Teams are integrated at F-Secure to produce a security service that ideally responds to threats even before they materialize. For more details, see Pehkonen’s presentation at the recent LISA Forum Europe, Expanding TM Usage Across the Enterprise (available to LISA members).
INSIDER: What is the localization strategy at F-Secure?
The current localization strategy is to support the rest of the organization to reach the goals stated in the corporate strategy. In the case of localization specifically, the strategy is to enable expansion into new markets in a financially sound way.
There are not many businesses in software localization more market-driven than security software.
INSIDER: Do you face any unusual challenges in localization?
There are not many businesses in software localization more market-driven than security software. The market demands that we produce a security service that ideally responds to threats even before they materialize. From a time-to-market standpoint, we should always be the first to offer a solution for any given problem. Of course, this limits the criteria we can use to measure success and the quality of our work. In other words, the biggest challenge for us is to find the balance between linguistic values, time-to-market and internal resource consumption in order to support the growth of the company. We cannot afford to solely concentrate on our own ideals of linguistic quality.
INSIDER: What role do standards play?
Using a standard is thus basically the only solution if we want to meet our deadlines.
With restrictions such as the one above, there is very little room for tweaking individual parts of a process, especially with localization partners. The amount of time available for proprietary solutions and tools that require us to train our partners is practically non-existent. Using a standard is thus basically the only solution if we want to meet our deadlines and still retain the maximum reuse benefit from key deliverables. We simply cannot spend much of our own key resources reinventing the wheel and instructing partners.
In addition, deliverables that meet the standards are much less error-prone, saving resources where they are most critical, i.e., in costly in-house work. If you look at the big picture, the internal resources spent on detecting, fixing and retesting a single localization bug caused, for example, by a partner using an unfamiliar program because we have required that they do so, far outweigh the perceived benefit from the reuse percentage gained by always using the same software. With the TMX standard, we allow our partners to work with the tools that they are experts with. That way, they can work faster and more efficiently, and help F-Secure to reach its most important goal, which is time-to-market.
INSIDER: What is your current workload?
We translate approximately 860,000 English words per year, divided over roughly fifteen R&D projects and various non-R&D projects (marketing materials, web content, etc.). Most of our major projects are done in 10 – 16 languages, occasionally 20, sometimes in just one.
INSIDER: How are your resources and workflow structured?
We have four people working on the Localization Team: one Localization Manager and three Localization Coordinators. My role as Manager is to deal with the business/decision-making issues. Once we have a project at the development stage, I may also be involved in troubleshooting. Localization Coordinators take the projects and run them either as sub-projects to an R&D mother project, or as separate R&D projects where they function as the main Project Managers. One of our Coordinators concentrates mainly on non-project internal customers with a smaller load of project work.
The workflow is loose to enable us to react with maximum efficiency to constantly changing requirements.
Duties for an average mid-sized to large project include project management, coordinating external localization resources, original language material reviews, localization kit production, internal localization/globalization consultation, coordinating outsourced localization testing, bug fixing, post-project maintenance and process maintenance.
Basically, once the decision to go ahead with a project is final, the business case is valid, the budget and the resources exist, it is one person who has ownership for the localization sub-project. However, the whole team sits in the same room, so if there are problems, the whole team takes part in the problem-solving process, or helps out in the actual work. The workflow is loose on purpose. It enables us to react with maximum efficiency to constantly changing requirements.
We are involved with the mother projects right from the beginning with planning and decision-making. Once the project enters the actual development stage, we consult with Development until the time of outsourcing, when we start coordinating the outsourced localization work with our partners. We handle the deliverables, as well as related questions (in both directions), as well as arrange for outsourced testing. We manage our own bug database, fix most of the linguistic and cosmetic bugs and delegate the ones we cannot handle back to Development. After this, we perform most of the value-added work in-house, such as DTP (desktop publishing) and help file engineering. Once the TMs (translation memories) from the project are final, and reflect the changes from the validation phase, we feed them into AAC TermBank so that they are visible to the whole organization for future reference.
INSIDER: What localization tools do you use?
We use SDL Localization Suite, Multilizer and AAC TermBank, all of which are TMX-compliant, and among which SDLX is TMX-certified. We are not heavy tools users. As mentioned before, we prefer to let the experts do their work the way they see fit, and use the tools in-house that we find to be the most suitable for us. In addition to that, we use Niku Portfolio Manager for tracking resources, and whatever tools our Development Team uses to produce the localizable content.
INSIDER: Where are you in terms of terminology management?
I must admit that terminology management is one of the key areas targeted for future improvement. Our current strategy is based on small pre-project glossaries for new features that we run by the people who will actually be selling the product. Otherwise, our terminology management is almost purely based on reuse through TM and by making the TMs visible to the rest of the organization.
Once we saw the benefits of TMX as part of the big picture, there really was no going back.
INSIDER: When did F-Secure “discover” TMX? Why are you such a strong proponent?
We first noticed the need in our organization for TMX around 2000-2001. Once we saw the benefits as part of the big picture, there really was no going back. The most important reasons for us to promote TMX are (1) to make our internal process efficient and (2) to allow external experts to work more efficiently. If the industry is going to evolve towards the point where everyone wins, there is no need for everyone to reinvent the wheel to come up with proprietary tools and processes. Instead, tools vendors should play to their individual strengths. The worst enemy of progress is vendor deadlock, where you are stuck with a vendor because you have invested heavily in its proprietary tools and processes. All players in the industry can benefit greatly by maintaining a healthy open environment with common goals and success criteria.
Thanks to AAC TermBank and TMX, our TMs now benefit the entire company.
INSIDER: How does TMX fit into your workflow?
The primary TM usually resides with the partner who does the translation. We regularly ask for copies that we feed into the TermBank so that existing translation segments can be browsed by our whole organization. We try to maintain a master TM and topical TMs so that we can browse the TermBank by product. What we are aiming for with the TermBank solution is to increase the reuse of already localized strings by reusing the official English strings at the development stage.
We also see a potential for using the TermBank for problem-solving by Customer Support by working with the localized version back into English as well. In practice, we have built our current in-house process around the TMX standard. Thanks to AAC TermBank and TMX, our TMs now benefit the entire company.
INSIDER: Do you use different TM tools for different projects?
Multilizer really shines for wireless projects. We use SDLX for everything else, including TM management. The AAC TermBank is a different layer to the whole process, and is the window for the rest of the organization into the work done with Multilizer and SDLX.
The bottom line is that TMX-certified tools give us peace-of-mind.
INSIDER: What do TMX-certified tools enable you to do that you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise?
In a corporate environment, translation memory is the key to consistency, cost savings and return on investment. We ensure the technical compatibility and cross-project reusability of our most important asset, our translation memory base, by having our partners deliver in a well-defined format that is universal – TMX. The bottom line is that TMX-certified tools give us peace-of-mind. We know that we really do not have to worry about the quality of the TMs, and this allows us to use a lot of the time that would otherwise be spent on TM validation and maintenance on other critical projects.
INSIDER: What issues do you face currently with TM maintenance?
We really do not have that many issues. If we have a problem that is difficult, we have an expert look at it.
INSIDER: If you could attend an OSCAR meeting, what three features would you ask the members to implement over the next twelve months?
I would not ask for anything. Personally, I would just concentrate on fixing existing bugs and allow time for the rest of the industry to catch up to implement it.
INSIDER: Is F-Secure using TMX for any non-standard uses?
Not yet, but we are definitely looking into it. I think that we have chosen a slightly different strategy based on the goals and demands of our business.
INSIDER: F-Secure has recently implemented a strategy to gain significant market share increase in key European markets. How has this influenced the company’s localization goals? How do you stay “one step ahead” in localization, as the rest of the company does with its anti-virus research?
The company’s goals mean that we need to gradually decrease the impact of localization on the resources of the core competence of the company, which is R&D. We need to free up those resources for new development and focus the efforts of the Localization Team on delivering the quality and speed of service that are appropriate to the business case. In other words, the way we stay ahead of the game is to look at the big picture of the effects of localization both internally and externally. This allows us to produce localization in a way that is profitable and comfortable for both F-Secure and its localization partners.
Mika Pehkonen is Localization Manager for F-Secure Corporation, where he has worked for seven years. He received the ClientSide Excellence Award in the Localization Manager category in 2003. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Reprinted by permission from the Globalization Insider,
9 November 2004, Volume XIII, Issue 4.1.
Copyright the Localization Industry Standards Association
(Globalization Insider: www.localization.org, LISA: www.lisa.org)
and S.M.P. Marketing Sarl (SMP) 2004
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