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?

  • Enforce standards and familiar infrastructure. Make globalization-enabled software a requirement in any request for proposal (RFP) for enterprise software. Most independent software vendors (ISVs) build their database, customer relationship management (CRM), software development tools, and application server products on an evolving foundation of de jure and de facto standards like Java, .NET, SOAP, SQL, and Unicode. Created for global use, these technology building blocks are flexible enough to be used anywhere and typically support content in other languages. However, few software vendors offer developer interfaces in anything other than English, thus limiting the pool of potential developers at their customers' locations. Push suppliers to do a better job to support global enterprises.
  • Start with solid source material. Create content that is clear, to the point, on brand, and flexible - and ready for translation for other markets. Success here will lead to better content re-use, a good thing in its own right. Suppliers such as Adobe, Arbortext, Macromedia, Microsoft, and Quark have optimized their products to allow rapid, easy creation and publication to various formats. Supporting these tools are language compliance checkers, software and methodologies that ensure the quality, appropriateness, or corporate consistency of content. Supplied by smaller firms such as Acrolinx, ArchiText, Smart, and Ycomm, these checkers depend on controlled or simplified languages, style guides, and glossaries that restrict or direct what authors write. Assembled into an authoring workstation, these tools support the goal of "write once, publish everywhere" global single-sourcing.
  • Transform content to market needs. The process of translation takes information in one language and conveys the same details and concepts in another. Besides the huge volume of words, often inadequate budgets, and time constraints, the big challenge for translators is to get content into the form that is most suitable for its audience.

    Translators employ a battery of tools to transform content from the source to the target language. "Translation memory" (TM) from suppliers such as SDL, Star, and Trados is the most basic cross-language technology - it lets translators use previously translated work, from a specific project or from an organization-wide corpus of translated materials. Translation tool suppliers typically package translation memory with a suite of other aids, including productivity enhancers such as dictionary support, cost calculators, word counters, and often a terminology management component for creating glossaries and indexing commonly used terms. The terminology management piece could complement knowledge management, search, and other natural language processing (NLP) initiatives in technically savvy organizations.

    Is machine translation (MT) from vendors such as Language Weaver, SDL, and Systran the magic bullet that will make more content available globally? They largely eliminate the human from the equation, using rules or statistical algorithms to generate output in other languages. The best use for MT today is as an alternative to "zero translation" - that is, not translating anything at all. Improvements in technology and quality of output will increase the use of MT in the global content value chain.

  • Patch the foundation. Before developers can translate text or localize products, they "internationalize" them to ensure that a product can support the character set of a target market and adapting systems so that content authors and coders can write instructions, messages, currency, and measurements for local markets. Prepping the infrastructure of websites, corporate applications, or software-enabled products involves specialized localization tools "localization" from suppliers such as Alchemy, Multilizer, and Passolo. This process tailors a product, software, or service to local computing, business, legal, and cultural requirements.
  • Manage projects. Translation workflow management solutions from companies such as Idiom, SDL, Trados, and Transware orchestrate the enterprise-wide multilingual journey of content from author to editor to reviewer to compliance checker to web publisher - and then through the whole review itinerary again for updates and fixes. These systems complement content management systems such as Documentum and Vignette, the best of them promising to reduce cycle time, manage multiple information stores, automate tasks, and manage the constant interactions and flow of content through a complex content value chain - all with fewer people involved. These solutions typically bundle translation memories, terminology bases, and other specialized translation tools.
Developing a content value chain strategy, discovering and formalizing the processes, and integrating the requisite tools will not happen overnight. For most organizations, this effort will be a work in progress for some time, carried out in conjunction with other projects such as knowledge management, with enterprise software suppliers, and with partners up and down the business supply chain.

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 www.commonsenseadvisory.com or call 866.510.6101.

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