Agile Localization, a Flexible Approach to Content Approval

welocalize February 11, 2022

We’ve all been there. You work flat out to develop content in time for your deadline, negotiate it through Veeva approval and cheer when it’s finally completed. Only to remember you need to translate the content into 30 languages. With the same deadline.  

If this scenario churns your stomach, you’re not alone. Translations and localization can often be the last step in the content journey, started at the point everything has been approved. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to delivery delays, spiraling costs, and markets lagging behind. 

There are many theories and methodologies for project management, in particular for localization. And one gaining increasing popularity is agile. Agile provides a framework that incorporates localization at the start of the project, allowing for flexible management and regular revision, thus preventing delays in delivery. 

This blog provides an overview of agile, how it can be used to support localization regulated industries, and the best practice approaches for implementing it with your projects. 

What is agile localization? 

Agile is a methodology that originated in software development. Established in 2001, the ground-breaking project management approach adheres to four main values: 

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools 
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation 
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation 
  • Responding to change over following a plan 

In practical terms, agile methodology breaks up elements of a project into chunks that can be worked on simultaneously. The project is managed in short bursts, called sprints, where the team stays in regular contact to ensure quick responses to problems and the completion of each interval point. This modular approach contrasts with the traditional ‘Waterfall’ style of project management that uses a sequential methodology.  

By working on smaller content chunks in short cycles, agile allows for rapid asset creation. In addition to speed of turnaround, the agile methodology helps detect issues faster, incorporates changes flexibly and minimizes resources. 

One of the great benefits of agile is that it brings localization from the end of the project to the beginning. Each module is completed and translated separately from the others. Therefore, if changes are required, they can be made to these smaller chunks of content quickly, rather than tackling the whole document. Additionally, if multiple documents use the same content, translations can be reused, speeding up development.  

Under Agile, localization teams have the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues who design and deliver content and code to integrate localization workflow from day one. According to data from CSA Research, content creators, software coders, localizers, and compliance experts must participate together from the beginning in order for Agile implementations to have any hope of success. 

How can agile localization be applied to life sciences and healthcare? 

In such a highly regulated industry as life sciences, it is understandable why an agile methodology, with its simultaneous, unstructured approach, has taken some time to adopt. Approval teams often want to see content pieces in their entirety before they will sign off, encouraging a sequential approach. 

However, when agile is used as a centralized strategy, it can support a flexible approach to content approval. By splitting content into chunks, translating and approving these, this content can be used across a number of documents or places within the document. This modular approach also allows quick amends to be implemented, taking only one chunk out of the content cycle, rather than the whole document.  

Imagine if you had a study design, fully approved in twenty languages, that you could slot into the clinical materials you’re developing? Or if your local markets were able to include approved, localized contraindications and important safety information into their marketing materials? The efficiency of your project would increase dramatically.  

Agile content also allows rapid adaptation to an organization’s needs, such as specialized content production or the development of reactive training materials. So, if a quick training module is needed, the use of approved, localized content can facilitate rapid development. 

What are the agile best practices? 

Agile localization works best when the whole organization buys into the methodology, when every team builds their processes around the strategy and works together. This may be daunting, but we’ve outlined some of best practice suggestions to help frame your approach. 

Involve Localization from the Beginning

Agile localization should start when the project starts. At the beginning. By planning localization in early, so much time can be saved further down the line. Work together with your language services provider (LSP) to create a globalized content strategy that brings effective translation into the journey early. Ensure content is written with localization in mind, minimizing the use of colloquial language or region-specific terminology. 

Use Structured Content Management System

When you’re managing multiple, smaller chunks of content creation and approval, having full and constant visibility is essential. That’s why a good CMS is invaluable. These content management systems create a structured and transparent workflow, where each chunk has its own lifecycle, allowing tracking of each chunk and interval individually, as well as the project as a whole.  

Develop an Intelligent Content Strategy

Developing an intelligent content strategy is key to rolling out agile localization. Early planning can have your content factory running like a dream: 

  • Identify how content can be broken into chunks and deliverables with modelling 
  • Define which chunks of content can be reused, and how 
  • Determine where to apply metadata and the allowable values to include 
  • Create a workflow that allows teams to control content throughout its lifecycle 
Is agile localization right for regulated industries? 

Agile methodology requires a complete rework of teams and priorities, as well as an overhaul of processes and approvals. For any company, this is no easy task, let alone for highly regulated industries like financial services, legal, and life sciences.  

Additionally, compliance and regulatory requirements may be too high a barrier for many life sciences organizations, with uncertainty around changing processes and the risk of fines and reputational damage resulting from errors. 

However, with increasing costs and competition, large-scale changes may be what’s required to stay relevant. And the benefits of this methodology can actually improve the accuracy and delivery times of content, reducing approval times. 

Partner with your LSP

Work closely with your LSP and include them in early strategy discussions to ensure best practices throughout the journey. Welocalize specializes in agile workflows and can support you from early planning, including test workflows, to quality assurance.  In fact, our own agile methodology allows us to slot into any workflow, meaning we can deliver projects fast and to an ISO-certified quality.