November 6-8, LocWorld returned to Silicon Valley for the sixth time since the conference series first launched in 2003. Given the theme of the 2019 conferences — Go Global, Be Global! — the location was particularly apt. Against the backdrop of the world’s most famous fonts of innovation, localization professionals gathered to discuss some of the pressing challenges facing our industry and the clients we serve. Many generous sponsors supplied the food and festivities, including RWS Moravia, Memsource, Akorbi, thebigword, Venga and AWS Machine Learning.
Go Global, Be Global!
One common thread that ran through the various panels is that the industry has expanded beyond the realm of localizing content and into localizing market strategy itself.
Conversations surrounding the tools, processes and stakeholders involved in adapting content for the global marketplace were couched in broader discussions of how to strengthen brand presence, support local customers and align localization efforts with growth targets.
The keynote speech was led by investment banker and serial entrepreneur Vitaly Golomb, who discussed the market forces that shape the journey from startup to global enterprise. Golomb highlighted six industries that are on the rise and enjoying high levels of investment:
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- Industry 4.0
- Software and Internet
Though he did not tie his insights directly back to their effect on our industry, Golomb gave the audience an overview of verticals likely to see an increase in demand for localized content in the coming years.
The ROI conundrum
No fewer than four panels were devoted to the question of how to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) on localized content and language technology investments. Buyer-side localization professionals are being challenged to implement ever-more sophisticated metrics to justify spend on localization. The question on everyone’s mind was “how do we measure the impact of localization on user engagement?”
Panelists offered a variety of solutions that have helped them justify localization spend to internal stakeholders: from mapping 75+ touchpoints across the customer journey to creating custom dashboards that track efficiency gains when linguistic assets are centralized across business units.
On the panel Being Global: Proving the ROI for Global Content Technology Investments, Rahul Sharma from HP pointed out several of the difficulties inherent to tracking and reporting the ROI on localization. Part of the challenge is that stakeholders in tech, marketing and product are not interested in the same metrics, requiring a flexible approach to reporting. Additionally, Sharma pointed out that metrics will continue to change and evolve as products are introduced that allow teams to leverage content in new ways.
Open House and MIIS: opening opportunities for the next generation
The conference also continued the Open House initiative, which allowed students and anyone else who wanted to experience LocWorld to attend a panel and visit the exhibition area on Thursday afternoon. According to LocWorld’s registration manager Bernie Nova, the Open House attracted 124 total attendees, including 92 first-time attendees and 39 students from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
As Bernie noted: “As for MIIS students, we are big supporters. We use many as volunteers and offer the other students a significant discount. This conference had a higher rate of regular conference registrations who were students at previous conferences and are now out in the field working for established companies. This is exactly why we think they are very important to our industry.”
Unconference: flipping the panel format to foster collaborative solutions
For those unfamiliar with it, another strong feature of LocWorld has been the so-called “Unconference” sessions. In this format, participants form a roundtable and agree on topics they then brainstorm as a group. Teresa Marshall, vice president of globalization and localization at Salesforce, moderated three unconference sessions during which project managers, localization engineers and CEOs discussed a variety of issues such as how to design a more user-centric linguistic quality assurance process. The format gives participants space to rethink ingrained processes, question the true sources of challenges, have an opportunity to discuss them with peers and return home with actionable insights.
Process Innovation Challenge: because there’s never enough innovation
It wouldn’t be a LocWorld without the Process Innovation Challenge (PIC), where six finalists presented their solutions that improve upon existing processes or address previously unmet needs. This time Lori Silverstein of SPi Global took home the spoils based on her approach to dubbing – SmartDub – which blends AI and text to speech (TTS) technology to generate synthetic voices. SmartDub enables users to produce different artificial voice outputs for multiple languages by changing voice variables such as pitch, tone, volume and speed.
As Alessandra Binazzi of Asics, one of this edition’s process dragons put it: “The PIC gives our industry an opportunity to celebrate smart approaches and technologies, and gives the audience ideas and tools to leverage and perhaps apply in their businesses.”