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It’s not unusual for companies to create content without giving consideration to how that content will be altered for consumers in other locales – that is, until the organization wants to grow beyond its immediate regional footprint. Even then, localizing content is often an afterthought in the overall content development process.

For that reason, many organizations are creating strategies for content globalization and localization and creating enterprise-wide awareness that can make such efforts both more efficient and more effective.

“Globalization is intertwined with localization; it’s not one versus the other,” says Stephen Powers, vice president and research director for Forrester Research. “Globalization is the consistency and localization is the context. It’s just two sides to the same coin.”

Typically, organizations want one globalized set of content--from graphics to Web copy to PowerPoint templates--that’s consistent across all channels, and another set that can potentially be localized.

“The first challenge is to realize that globalization is a core requirement of the content that you’re producing,” says Geoffrey Bock, principal of Bock & Co., a technology consulting firm. “Most companies that want to grow now realize they’re going to need to have some kind of global reach.”

With that in mind, organizations need to create content strategies, a task that begins with making some important decisions. Among the first, Powers says: identifying the most important factors involved in either globalizing or localizing the experience. “You have a certain amount of brand consistency no matter what those functions are, but you also have to localize or personalize or contextualize it to an extent,” Powers says. “It’s that balance.”

Powers identifies three categories of content:

--Global content, such as company logos that remain the same throughout the world.

--Local content, which can be modified at the local level to contextualize it for different markets.

--Global content that local entities have the option of localizing.

Organizations should start by tackling what Powers calls the biggest hurdle: identifying who owns the global version of the content. “Start setting up the rules in terms of what global content can be overridden, what can’t be, and what content can be purely local,” he says.

The next step: Establish processes supporting those rules. “Educate your content producers that that’s how things are going to work. It’s less of a technology issue than a governance issue,” says Powers. Once you’ve established that governance, you’ll need to check regularly to make sure all involved are following the appropriate processes and guidelines.

In addition, keep in mind that even those global content owners must be aware of localization issues. “Localization is how you create an experience and make it culturally compatible for the people you are trying to reach,” Bock says “There is a whole set of content-related issues around how you organize and write your content so that it can be easily translated into multiple languages that you want to support.”

Experts emphasize that all those issues involve changing some long-held mindsets and practices. “Four to six years ago, most people designing websites or writing product information would write it in one language, then deal with globalization later,” Bock says. But that approach is no longer efficient, particularly given the massive amounts of content that many organizations generate today.

Now “when you produce the content the first time, the people who are writing it need to make sure they are writing very clean and clear content,” Bock says. Technical writers, marketing copywriters and others involved in content production need to agree on consistent terminology and similar standards.

Following those kinds of rules will make automated translation easier and more efficient. Before the development of translation-support systems, organizations translated content manually. That involved sending content to translators who would rewrite the content and, weeks or months later, sent it back to the company.

“The amount of content has exploded and the product development cycle has contracted so companies that are selling to international markets have to translate more content into more languages faster than they have done before,” Bock says. “This gets you into translation support systems as a technology--solutions on the market that help manage the globalization functions.”

Those systems help automate the processes associated with globalization. “Translation is one of these content-development processes that it’s easier to set up a workflow around,” says Bock. Translation-support systems also offer translation memory functionality. If you’ve already translated a sentence or phrases once, you can store and recall it as part of the workflow, Bock says. “As part of that, depending on the system, you would typically need a local language editor to review it and make changes and additions to the translation memory,” he adds.

Translation-support systems are just one example of technologies that support global and local enterprise content management strategies. Some organizations may use content management systems allowing them to tie various versions of content back to the master version. That way, if that master version is altered, local owners are notified that they need to change their versions--or the changes cascade automatically, Powers says. Digital asset management systems offer another option.

Regardless of which systems and tools organizations choose, it’s important to realize that technology won’t do all the work. “A lot of people initially try to solve it with technology, but the technology comes in later,” Powers says. “You need to figure out what the policies are, what the roles are in applying those guidelines. Then the technology will aid you in enforcing local and global policies.”

READER FEEDBACK: Is your expanding company revamping its content management strategy? If so, ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.

About the Author

Crystal Bedell is an award-winning freelance writer who specializes in covering technology. Contact her at cbedell[at]bedellcommunications.com.

More by Crystal Bedell, ebizQ Contributor



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