Content Goes Global: Communicating With Customers in Their Own Language

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Measure, Build, Repeat
The first steps for successful globalization efforts are to understand why it's being pursued and then develop metrics to track it. According to Laplante, standard formulas for such tracking are nonexistent. "You have to capture performance that's relevant to the business," she says.

Examples of globalization ROI goals according to Laplante are increased customer satisfaction and sales and the establishment of an information architecture that is able to quickly leverage global revenue opportunities, cost savings, and regulatory requirements.

Once enterprise goals for business globalization are clarified, the process of successful internationalization hinges on three factors: repeatability, scalability, and flexibility. With regard to repeatability, the easier it is to replicate the localization process for a new language, the faster a company can move into a new market. The notion of reuse also plays into this theme; when a standard paragraph or component is translated, it should be done with an eye toward using it in multiple channels, doing it correctly the first time so that it need only be translated once into each language.

There are a number of technical trends that make repeatability a bit easier, according to Roth. "Being able to use XML and metadata in a content management setting is really helpful,"he says, because it provides context to translators and assists in version control.It also helps companies personalize the information that they deliver to customers around the world.

Another approach rapidly gaining ground is the concept of content componentization. By breaking content into small chunks within a content management system (CMS) that can be translated once and then reused and combined with other content chunks for different purposes, the sheer volume of translations needed can be reduced, and consistency can be improved.

For enterprises creating large amounts of structured content, such as user manuals and training materials, the application of Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) can also help ensure the content consistency that underpins repeatability. DITA is an XML-based method for writing and delivering information in a variety of forms. It consists of a set of tags that provide information to assist in accurate translations. Its strict topic orientation makes it unwieldy when expressing more artful content such as a marketing or branding message. But when a company wants to explain the proper way to service an airplane engine to its service technicians in Spain or Taiwan, the use of a DITA-based architecture can assist in making sure the translation is done consistently and correctly.

Scalability and Flexibility
Scalability is another key consideration, as the sheer amount of content generated in business-by both internal and external parties-explodes. For internally generated content, it's important to create a system that can achieve consistency in messaging and voice to garner the positive benefits of scale without sacrificing the localized.

Ron Glotzer is global brand marketing director at Cork Supply Group, which specializes in the manufacture and distribution of goods and services to the global wine industry. Glotzer says one of his main challenges is managing content changes. "Content management becomes a larger issue as our sites scale. If I make a change on the English-language site, I want to be sure it carries through all our localized sites," he says; without fluency in all five languages in which is available, he relies on in-house language expertise and his own attention to detail to ensure that content is propagated correctly.

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