We recently had the opportunity to talk with Ben Cornelius, the director of content localization at PayPal, the well-known online payment system and one of Acrolinx’s long-time customers. Ben has been working in content for 20 years and, in his role at PayPal, is responsible for overseeing the teams that produce the company’s content for global customers. That includes the transliteration of content from English into a variety of other languages so that PayPal’s products and marketing campaigns make sense to audiences around the world.
Below are some highlights from our discussion about how PayPal has mastered Agile content development practices to get better results for customers.
Acrolinx Team: To start off, what exactly does Agile mean to you?
Ben Cornelius: Agile is about rapid planning, development, and release. It’s also about getting feedback as quickly as possible. To put it another way, it’s about being nimble and able to take on feedback so that you can get to your company’s next release as fast as you can.
AT: Ok, and why is being agile so important for your business?
BC: To be honest, we really have no other choice. It’s driven by both our customers’ needs and by international regulations. You see, banking regulations have deadlines that we have to hit. If we don’t, we’re putting our banking license at risk along with our ability to help our customers may their payments online. For that reason, it’s critical for us to be agile. Plus, being agile gives us the opportunity to address people with our content based on what they’re looking for at any given time. In my organization, for example, we interact with hundreds of teams globally to be able to send 667 different content variations out to 203 countries every 24 hours. Without Agile, that just wouldn’t be possible.
AT: How does being agile change the way that content gets created?
BC: Content is part of what we deliver to our customers because it’s part of the PayPal experience. So we work hand in hand with development, product, marketing, and every other team across the company to create content for our customers. Since I’m helping support them in their effort to achieve their goals, those teams welcome the collaboration and see it as a great partnership. As a result, at PayPal we think of content development as development. We do our planning with the software developers. That way as new products are being defined, we’re already looped in and thinking about what content we can create to support it. It really helps to break down silos.
AT: How does need for silo busting actually work in practice when it comes time to partner with a development team?
BC: When we engage with development teams, we use simple tools that we built to look at the code repositories where all of the products live. We also go into all of the management command and control consoles that our engineering and product teams use to make sure that we’re aligned with what they’re building. In other words, we get very deep with them from the point of planning on. That way, by the time that they’re in execution, we already know most of the things that need to get done. That allow us to better help them.
AT: It sounds like you’ve managed to role your sleeves up and get your hands right into the source code repositories to get a hold of the content you care about. That’s great.
BC: Yes, and we’ve made it simple so that that the people on my team aren’t looking at ugly XML structures, but rather at what seems like the PayPal experience. The only difference is that they can click into it and change the words in real time.
AT: So is Agile always a good thing? Are there places where you shouldn’t pursue it?
BC: The short answer is that there’s no team for which Agile isn’t a good thing. Of course, the long answer is that it’s more complicated with the lawyers. In fact, trying to remain agile while working with our lawyers is one of our biggest constraints. To get around that, we try to make their lives easy so that they want to do the work and are able to do so quickly. That means making sure they have a visual context for what particular strings are going to look like to users so that they know exactly what they’re reviewing.
AT: How has PayPal benefited from your use of Agile and have your customers noticed?
BC: Our internal customers have definitely noticed. They no longer come to me saying things like “your team is late,” “your stuff isn’t here,” “I’m going to miss my release,” or “my revenue is at risk.” Plus, our customers are happy because we do heavy analytics. Since we’re a heavily regulated industry we have to do analytics, and rather than look at that as a burden, I’ve made it into one of my team’s greatest strengths. For example, when we change words, I can show people when there’s an increase in internal payments being used against that particular flow. Basically, we’re able to show the business value of our content through the customer experiences it creates. I think everyone notices that.
AT: That’s great Ben. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today.