International users of computer software have come to expect their software to “talk” to them in their own language. In many cases language barriers and nationalism preclude end-users from utilising English-language software. This is only part of the problem though, even for those that understand English, a major issue is productivity. Users who understand a product fully will be more skilled in handling it and avoiding mistakes. On a purely financial level, globalised software will lead to greater potential for the introduction of products, both in terms of penetration of new emerging markets, and by allowing greater reach to users in existing areas.

The value of internationalising software and user interfaces for the international market is no longer in question and in my opinion over the next few years, markets will be divided between those players who succeed by understand the importance of fast globalisation i.e. simultaneous localization of their products into all markets in all languages, and those that fail. A successful global product or service is not made only for a single language group, it is made for a global community of users. The price of not understanding this can be pretty high, according to the U.S. State Department, U.S. firms alone lose $50 billion in potential sales each year because of problems with translation and localization.

Internationalisation, though, it is not an easy task It is therefore essential to understand the needs and requirements of the international marketplace as early as possible in the development cycle, and then to build the capability to support these into the product design and development processes. It is important to develop the product in a modular, extendible, and accessible way, so that when the need to localise for a particular market arises, the localisation can be done as easily and cheaply as possible. Few people have an issue with the idea of developing open systems these days. This means products that are developed with an eye to scalability, portability and interoperability. It is my contention that a fourth important dimension of any open system as we move into the global marketplace is localisability.