Quality Software & Analysis: Lost in Translation

October 28, 2010
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Localization streamlines communication across continents.



Many of today’s enterprises are no longer isolated to one corner of the globe-they span continents. With organizations sharing knowledge and information across these global enterprises, it is crucial to effectively translate all aspects of software to ensure harmonized communication. Localization technology makes this possible.

Effective localization involves much more than just language translation. Localization adapts the software to a certain culture, language, and look and feel, enabling systems to better adapt to a specific locale. Localization also should translate a system’s calendars, to update holiday differences; dates; time formats-such as a 24-hour format or a.m./p.m.; and design, even down to colors-colors that are acceptable in one country may have negative connotations in another. Workflow and phase names, field help, keyword options and system dialogues also must be translated.

Translation at this level of detail contributes to ease of use, which ultimately contributes to user acceptance of software applications developed in other countries.



Localization and QMS

Localization technology can be used in a multitude of systems. With respect to the Quality Management System (QMS) and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) system, the ability to have a localized environment is of paramount importance-particularly when product quality, process quality and regulatory compliance are factored in.

For example, the ability to accurately understand the instructions and field labels on a complaint form can have tremendous implications on a product or corrective action. If there is an error due to translation problems, it can have an effect on overall product quality. Similarly, being able to collaborate with the supplier in his native language has tremendous value as it can greatly reduce miscommunication.

Ultimately, quality relies on collaboration, following procedures and proper data entry. Organizations can mitigate the risk of errors by translating all aspects of their QMS and/or EHS through use of a localized environment.



Setting the Stage

The first step to effective localization is internationalization. Internationalization is the process of creating software that can be easily adapted to other countries. It is essentially the process of preparing software for localization once implemented.

Trying to localize a software system that is not already internationalized can be extremely difficult because the system will not be fully prepared to adapt to other languages. Internationalization prepares the system for potential use anywhere and for easy adaptation to other countries without the need for extensive configuration or customization by removing all cultural assumptions.

These capabilities enable seamless adaptation of localized nomenclature, formats, glossaries and similar features that vary from country to country. Internationalization and localization go hand in hand and together result in a truly global solution and best in class system for the organization.



Drawbacks

Localization must be properly established for it to be effective. Otherwise, the system will lack the necessary components. Some difficulties with ineffectively localized systems include:

Copying the software design instead of translating the text in the design. Too often, software implementations involve making local copies of the software for each language. While this does localize the software, it makes configuration changes nearly impossible. Instead of managing one software environment, the user is now managing dozens for every language, and to make a change in one means a change must be made in all the others.

Effective localization solution: It is better to manage one install of the software and create a localized version of the design elements, such as keywords and formats. This allows the user to make global changes to the software in a single environment while still maintaining a localized look and feel. Do not make copies of the software-make copies of the design elements for each language to mitigate the need to manage more than one copy.

Single, master glossary of languages. When a software system is supporting multiple languages, the localized terms and formats often are stored in a master file, which can contain dozens of languages and localized formats. Filtering through this master glossary can be a tremendous drain on system performance.

Effective localization solution: Provide a simple glossary available in standard text format for each language. These are kept separate from the other language glossaries allowing each localized environment to access it quickly and efficiently.

Not providing complete translation. Attention to detail is critical when localizing an environment. Too often, some text elements are overlooked, such as error messages, date format and help text.

Effective localization solution: Depth of translation has to be one hundred percent-even system error messages have to be translated. Translation to this level of granularity can reduce critical errors and prevent anything from becoming lost in translation. Look for a system that includes the necessary dates and format type, including calendars for selecting date and a.m./p.m. format. Additionally, all terms must be translated-look for a system that will automatically use the default language for any nontranslated terms, allowing the user to be selective about the translation, if they choose.

Lacking internationalization. Systems that are not first internationalized will take much longer to localize because a system that is not designed with the global market in mind often requires extensive custom development to retrofit design elements to localized environments.

Effective localization solution: Provide the internationalization capabilities that will foster implementation to multiple locales without the need for custom development.



Best Practices

Localization should support as many languages as needed without disturbing the design or requiring custom development for each location. It enables the system to operate in a centralized environment with each location adapting native nomenclature, formats and translations.

In order for localization technology to be effective, it must provide functionality down to the smallest level of detail. Doing so will ensure that each environment is truly localized and, as a result, will reduce errors due to miscommunication or poor translation. Below are some of the characteristics of best in class localization technology.

Simple, text-based glossaries. When localizing a system to native format, glossaries are used to allow the system to translate languages, formats and other aspects of the system. Look for systems that are able to use simple, text-based glossaries-this makes it easier for translators to work with than proprietary third-party translation software formats.

Supporting complex languages. Look for a solution that supports double-byte languages, such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean (which entail thousands of characters that require special design), as well as right-to-left (RTL) languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Urdu and Farsi.

Simplifying language preference. An effective system will efficiently recognize what language to use by including a language preference in the Web browser that can be modified by simply changing the browser’s default language.

Providing a centralized environment. For localization to be effective, it is necessary to implement a solution that mitigates the need for duplicate configurations to be made for each language. A localization solution that provides a centralized environment for all localized languages allows changes that are made in one location to be made across the enterprise, greatly enhancing convenience for the end user and increasing functionality across the enterprise.

Enhanced reporting. As stated, effective localization must provide an extremely detailed level of translation. For example, it is important to translate keywords in forms as well as their resulting intelligence, such as reports and charts. This ensures that a keyword entered in one language has the same meaning as that keyword entered in another language. This ability enhances the resulting report view because there will not be duplicate categories for each reportable event entered within the global enterprise.



Due to the changing face of business today, localization has become more of a necessity. To effectively keep a global enterprise running, it is essential to have technology in place that can ensure consistency from one country to another.

Localization is the key to ensuring that nothing is lost in translation. The pitfalls of ineffective localization, such as lacking internationalization, result in a longer localization process, as extensive configurations most will likely be needed. Characteristics of effective solutions, such as the capability to adapt to as many languages as needed, include complex double-byte and right-to-left languages, without the need for custom development.

For those using a QMS and/or EHS system, localization is key to ensuring that all aspects of the system are translated completely. Localization effectively translates functions such as complaints handling, supplier management and document control, as it seamlessly adapts to all aspects of a system to contribute to efficient processes across the enterprise.

Use of localization technology results in a system that has been seamlessly adapted to the highest degree, resulting in a user-friendly system regardless of where the end user is located, truly uniting the enterprise and enhancing communication across the globe.





Tech tips

  • Localization adapts the software to a certain culture, language, and look and feel, enabling systems to better adapt to a specific locale.

  • Internationalization prepares the system for potential use anywhere and for easy adaptation to other countries without the need for extensive configuration or customization, by removing all cultural assumptions.

  • In order for localization technology to be effective, it must provide functionality down to the smallest level of detail.

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