Globalization Myth Series – Myth 4: It Takes 6 WEEKS to Localize a Product!

This article was originally written in English. Text in other languages is provided via machine translation.
Introduction

Adobe’s Globalization team is committed to driving continuous improvement in customer experience and improving efficiency.  These are two of Adobe’s areas of focus for 2013.

The top customer feedback we used to receive was that localization of our products needed to be more agile.  The digital video team, for instance, moved to releasing English and localized products in one installer; they needed to sim-GM in order to release quickly and meet the market expectations.  The creative products customers in Brazil and Russia, for instance, were getting tired of waiting six months to get their hands on a localized product.  Like many in the industry, Adobe’s Globalization team began to face pressure to localize with fewer resources, reduce localization turnaround time, and improve quality.

Our challenge is to meet the aggressive release schedules of Adobe’s Clouds—Digital Media and Digital Marketing, their companion products and tools in 20+ languages. Currently, our team uses, roughly, 65% of our resources on Digital Media localizations, and 15% on Digital Marketing localizations (20% is dedicated to Print, tools development, finance, and other initiatives).  The localization team is made up of approximately 150 people—international program managers, international engineers, international quality engineers, and interns located in the US, China, India, Japan, and Romania, supporting approximately 150 product and functional teams.

In this paper we will show how Adobe has been able to accelerate localization and we will, hopefully, debunk the belief that localization takes 6 weeks.  With limited budget, we are meeting expectations, sim-shipping English and 20+ languages for the Adobe Cloud-based products—Digital Media and Digital Marketing– Developer/Web tools, and Touch Apps.  We support any agile workflow and release schedules can be as short as every 2-4 weeks (Photoshop.com, Acrobat.com, Cloud Manager, adoberevel.com), 6 weeks (DPS, AdobeRevel), to continuous releases (CCM) varying from twice a week to monthly.  In these workflows, we can complete a localization cycle as quickly as within 24 hours.  Our ultimate goal?  We are preparing for the day when Adobe products get released multiple times a day!

Sample SCRUM Schedule – Localized product sim-releases in 20 languages every 6 weeks

Slow is History! – Product Team Concerns in the Past and Globalization Team Response

Adobe product development models come in many flavors.  In general, the ‘waterfall’ model was considered standard.   Products such as Photoshop, Acrobat, InDesign, and Illustrator were well-suited for standard localization.  That is, at UI Freeze milestone, the localization team would step in and begin the localization process.  This meant that, by English GM, the localized versions were lagging behind by 4-6 weeks.

This localization model—start localization after UI Freeze milestone—had several drawbacks.  Localization partners got overwhelmed at end game; localization issues were found too late and, when issues were classified as “show-stoppers,” they could jeopardize the product release schedule; many critical defects ended up getting deferred for the next product release.  The model was costly, time consuming, it increased stress and burnout.

With the event of multi-lingual installers, SaaS, Cloud-based products, and new development workflows used by Adobe product teams such as Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, or Adobe’s own Aphid,  the Globalization team was faced with new requirements which called for a more accelerated localization workflow.  The new business model required that localization should be possible in any locale, be scalable to a large set of languages, and respect various budget constraints.  Product teams started to question whether the localization team was ready to keep up with the pace of the business. The answer was a big “YES, OF COURSE!”

For the sake of comparing two different models, see below a waterfall-model localization schedule and an agile localization schedule from the same period—2004.  The product following the waterfall model on the left, chose to ship single-language versions in a staggered schedule; the one on the right, based on Adobe’s Aphid model, released their product with a multi-lingual installer as a single binary.  At this point in time, Globalization was ready to accommodate both Product Teams.

Waterfall – InDesign                                                                             Agile – Audition

 

With the acquisition of Macromedia in 2005, Adobe Localization faced many new and exciting challenges. Dreamweaver, for instance, ran prerelease programs for all languages, which meant that localization had to be right behind English, at the same level of development, testing, and stability as English. Thanks to the many talents that we acquired and the level of cooperation between companies, we were able to leverage best practices and meet the expectations of the new Product Teams.

In 2007, Adobe acquired Scene7, a software company enabling websites to have real-time rich media; then Omniture, in 2009.  In 2010, Adobe acquired Day Software, a market leader in next-generation Web Content Management.  In 2011, web tool companies such as TypeKit and Nitobi, the maker of PhoneGap; Efficient Frontier, a digital marketing company; and Iridas, the maker of SpeedGrade, a professional color correction application; in 2012, Adobe acquired Behance, the leading online platform to showcase and discover creative work.

All these new cloud-based services demanded improved localization velocity, mostly through internationalization and automation.  Development cycles were short – 2-6 weeks – and updates were frequent and web based. Our team needed to shift focus in order to meet these cloud-based product requirements.

The Globalization team, in partnership with the Product Teams, worked towards an agile localization model.  Here were the first steps we took towards acceleration:

  • Ensured Adobe products were World Ready — created an assessment tool called the Globalization Report Card (GRC) to determine world readiness compliance.
  • Engaged international QE early in the development cycle to test and report internationalization bugs.  With that, international bugs were addressed in a timely manner which helped speed up the development cycle and improve products’ quality.  See “Globalization Myth Series – Myth 2: This software product is only for the U.S.” for evidence on the benefits of addressing internationalization issues at the beginning of the development cycle.
  • Worked cooperatively with the new Development Teams to set common goals and share best practices. This cooperation has resulted in better success rates than if localization were considered as an after-thought and as a different team.
  • Changed the mindset – if we got content EARLY and ITERATIVELY, we would localize software and documentation continuously.  Waterfall-based products started working with the globalization team prior to UI Freeze milestone.  We started localizing glossary kits early and testing localized builds sooner than in the past.  Documentation team started handing off non-final files prior to the usual “screen-shot ready build” milestone.  Localized documentation is now uploaded to the web at the same time as the English product and localization versions ship.
  • Developed more tools – invested in ALF (the Adobe Localization Framework is a multi-tiered system whose primary intent is to automate the localization process and facilitate the creation of localized products), machine translation (takes strings in one human language and automatically translates them into other human languages), World Server (an enterprise translation and globalization management system that enables Adobe to simplify and accelerate our translation and localization processes for any content, from our websites to instructional content to software applications and beyond), tools that helped achieve localization of fast releases nearly in sync with English.
  • Engaged our external localization partners earlier and began growing expertise in those teams. Some of our vendors now are capable of offering turnkey localization services for Adobe products. They have learned our products through prerelease, product demos, and training by our Globalization team.
  • Found new ways to engage with our customers through the Adobe Translation Center, international prerelease, and forums. These customers know our products best, so they can provide early feedback and we can save time in the long run.

With these measures in place, we were able to get closer to the English product schedule and were behind by just a couple of weeks.

Currently, the Globalization team has reorganized internally to manage the localization process for the end-to-end customer experience which includes software, marketing/web content, documentation, internationalization/localization testing, and educational materials.  We are better aligned and more agile, able to support localization for product cycles of 2-4 weeks (Photoshop.com, Acrobat.com, Cloud Manager, adoberevel.com), 6 weeks (DPS, Adobe Revel), to continuous releases (CCM) varying from twice a week to monthly. In order to achieve such challenging schedules, we are turning localizations around in 24 hours at times.

For instance, Adobe Creative Cloud is released with 16 localized components and its schedule today looks like this:

Standard, large projects schedules like Flash CS6, look like this:

Looking Forward — Introducing A.L.A., the Adobe Airport

One of Globalization’s biggest challenges is to meet the aggressive release schedule of Adobe’s Clouds, its companion products, web tools, and touch apps in 20+ languages.

In the same way that planes have to leave on scheduled time, crew and passengers in place, in a continuous flow, so do our localized products, where the crew is formed by International Program Managers, International Quality Engineers, International Engineers and ‘passengers’ are the assets (strings) for translation, from any number of products. The plane may only be going to France (say) or it may be doing stops in numerous countries. The frequency of flights will also vary, depending on demand.

Airport Background

We started out with pilot projects, mostly projects which needed quick localizations at end game.  Our requirements were:

  • Source strings were final and reviewed (proofread)

Our Product Teams’ expectations were:

  • Human translations compliant with Adobe terminology
  • Fast translation
  • No functional/linguistic testing

Note that even though our tool collects strings from multiple products and sends them to the translators, we can guarantee terminology consistency and quality because the strings are first leveraged through World Server; and our translators make use of our glossaries for reference.

The Adobe Localization Airport (A.L.A.)  aims to provide one-hour localization turnaround. Our tool collects strings from multiple products and sends them to the translators. Once translated, the strings are distributed back to their respective products, presto!

 

Turn-Around-Time (TAT)from Q2 2012 to Q1 2013, TAT has decreased from an average of 12.7 hours to 7.8 hours.  Our goal, by end of Q2 2013, is to reach 1 hour TAT or less, should the project require that much acceleration.            

Airport Turn-around-time per language, per quarter

Conclusion

Localization does not take 6 weeks—it takes an average of 7.8 hours.  Our goal, by the end of Q2 2013, is to reach 1 hour TAT or less! This is a myth that we have debunked.  The Globalization tools and initiatives aim to make localization at Adobe even more agile, without compromising our products’ quality as well as customer satisfaction.

____

Credits:

The A.L.A. team—Ajay Kumar, Guta Ribeiro, Joel Sahleen, John Nguyen, and Warren Peet
Jean-Francois Vanreusel
Leandro Reis
Quynn Megan Le

2 Responses to Globalization Myth Series – Myth 4: It Takes 6 WEEKS to Localize a Product!

  1. Pingback: The Problem with Localizing Software for Multiple Platforms » Adobe Globalization

  2. Pingback: Scale Agile and Go Global By Using Cloud-Based Collaboration Tools « Jonckers

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