Donald A. DePalma

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Adding Global Markets to the Content Life Cycle

What tools best help unlock the value of information globally?

When mankind built the Tower of Babel in its vain attempt to reach heaven, information traveled no farther than the builders' voices could carry it. The small human population on this pre-literate planet communicated its newfound knowledge from mouth to ear.

Millennia later, billions of people create enormous amounts of new information daily. Governments spew out crushing heaps of information. Corporations increase the data they store by more than 50 percent every year. To be useful, much of this content needs to be translated into many languages and formats. The European Union alone mandates publication of Community law in 20 languages, more as it expands to the east. Multinational corporations produce websites and publish marketing collateral for dozens of languages.

Left Behind in the Original Language
Due to the flood of words, inadequate budgets, time-to-market concerns, staffing shortfalls, and broken processes, more than 99 percent of what people write, say, or generate never leaves the language in which it was created. Complicating this problem with traditional documents and software is the flood of e-mails, text messages, and blogs containing potentially relevant or valuable information. Governments and companies wonder how to deal with these new text types entering the pool of potentially valuable - and thus translatable - items.

This article focuses on the challenges posed by this potentially global content and the tools that will help unlock this valuable information. Organizations around the world will have to employ an array of familiar software solutions and specialized language tools to increase the productivity of code developers and content authors.

Why Should You Worry about Global or Multilingual Markets?
For large corporations, offering valuable content in a variety of languages is not an option but a prerequisite of doing business across the planet. Many global enterprises mandate English for internal operational use while their market, sales, and support teams cater to international customers who prefer transacting in their own languages.

It's often tougher for smaller enterprises to justify entering foreign markets. However, depending on what they sell, they might not have a choice about dipping their toes into global business and offering up more of their information in other languages. Exports and imports already make up roughly 20 percent of the gross domestic product in the United States. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), world output will increase 4.4 percent this year, down slightly from 2004's 4.6 percent but higher than the U.S. economy's projected rise of just 3.9 percent.

That seemingly small 0.5 percent difference in GDP growth means U.S. firms will find that profits from their non-American operations grow up to 15 percent - or US$45 billion. Cheaper dollars - more than 30 percent less valuable than in 2000 - will make foreign sales more profitable for U.S. firms. Meanwhile, America's Hispanic population - 13 percent of the population moving toward US$1 trillion in buying power - typifies the largely untapped lure of targeted, multicultural marketing and its requirement for translated or at least culturally aware content.

Global Business Raises the Enterprise Bar
At first blush many organizations think that supporting international markets is just about translating websites, however this is only the tip of the global marketing and business iceberg. Any organization hoping to meet the needs of linguistically and logistically different audiences will find a range of requirements driving the localization process.

  • Publish audience-appropriate content. Doing business internationally means that global organizations must have a physical or web presence and product offerings in the form that makes sense for each national or domestic ethnic market. Traditionally that has meant translating marketing materials, service manuals, and documentation.
  • Deal with converging code and content. More reliance on the internet means that international aspirants will add global websites and multilingual e-mail, internal applications, and collaborative applications to their "must-have" list. More advanced systems - customer relationship management, business analytics, transactions, support, and games - increase the demand for adapting materials to market requirements in real time (see Figure 1). Little information stays in its original form. Suppliers such as EMC report that organizations store at least 50 percent more content year over year, visibly increasing the pool of potentially valuable content.

More Stories By Donald A. DePalma

Donald A. DePalma, PhD, is the author of Business Without Borders: A Strategic Guide to Global Marketing, and the president and founder of business globalization research and consulting firm, Common Sense Advisory. For more information on Common Sense Advisory's research, workshops, and consulting services, visit or call 866.510.6101.

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