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Globalization Is Here! The Year of Content


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Pierre Cadieux, President, i18N Inc.Language is a double-edged domain. On one hand, one of the saddest things about our industry is that language-related features are often considered after all others. Most often, new technologies are first thoroughly developed in English before any real language support is implemented. On the other hand though, the drive towards globalization is unstoppable: the world is getting smaller, the Internet is here to stay. Companies need to grow sales via global markets and the need for translation is constantly growing.
Editor’s Note: Links to presentations cited in this article are only available to LISA Members. If you are interested in joining, please click here.

People will always favor products in their language, because language is an intensely personal thing: language defines who we are, the community we belong to (see, for example, the column You are what you speak on the BBC Web site). Companies that do not globalize will lose ground, i.e., market share, to those that do.

In short, language always comes late, but language always comes. Now, more than ever, globalization technology is emerging, driven by the need for Global Content Management (GCM).

Why GCM Matters

Many global companies today achieve more than 50% of their revenues from global markets. That in itself should be sufficient reason to pay attention to proper management of content globalization! Those that do not will encounter numerous problems:

  • Without centralized globalization management, content translation efforts are handled by many departments on many projects with many different budgets and vendors. Ultimately, this results in a lack of visibility into what is going on. Such companies do not know where nor how much they are spending on translation, and therefore lack the basic data to manage it. In many cases, the same content is being translated numerous times, by the same or different vendors. At the LISA Forum Europe 2003 in London, Charles Farimoyo of Canon [see the event summary, available here, page 41] reported that his company achieved 20% savings simply by avoiding work duplication. (Certainly a better way to save money than to starve translators, Translator X would say!)
  • Manual management of content translation usually translates into chaos. With numerous email, fax and/or FTP exchanges with zipped attachments and last-minute cut-and-paste operations to integrate translations where they belong, the whole process is time-consuming, error-prone and expensive. Synchronizing content across multiple languages cannot be achieved in a timely manner and, thus, sales are lost while potential buyers wait for product brochures.
  • Without centralized, consistent terminology and templates, the corporate image will vary according to vendor, language, country, etc. Once country organizations have created their own vision of the enterprise brand, it will be even more difficult to restore a consistent global brand. Remember, taking care of your global content is taking care of your global brand.

Components of GCM

At present, the main high-level technology components involved in GCM are Content Management Systems (CMS) and Globalization Management Systems (GMS). There is a great deal of confusion about what these systems do, whether or not they are worth the expense and even whether or not they are the same thing. We would like to dispel this confusion by showing:

  1. what these systems do,
  2. that they are indeed very useful (inevitable, in fact) and
  3. that they are not the same thing!

Note: The separation of CMS and GMS reflects the rather persistent duality of our domain: content is first authored in a single language, and then translated as a second step (the problem being that the first step is often unaware of the second). I believe that the true solution to Global Content Management is a new, holistic paradigm, where multilingual content is created collaboratively by a team of authors, terminologists and translators, using an integrated Global Content Management System (GCMS); but that is the topic for another article!


In the meantime, you may want to consult Ben Martin’s presentation at the LISA Forum Europe in 2001 in Vienna, Enterprise Content Management: An Assessment of the Multilingual Content Market.

What is Content?

Content is really a general term representing just about any information object produced by the enterprise: documents, brochures, contracts, Web sites, tutorials, product catalogs in databases, etc. Most content is primarily textual, but it can also include images, voice, animations, streaming media, etc. Content comes in a variety of formats such as Word, HTML, PDF, XML and Photoshop, each requiring specialized tools. Content can be anywhere in the world, stored in a multitude of repositories such as files, databases, email servers, content management systems, etc.


Code is also a form of content. By code, I mean program logic written in some programming language and stored in a text file. More and more, text and code are intermixed: Web sites contain code (e.g. JavaScript), Word documents can also contain macros (a form of code). Text is by definition static; code complements text by providing dynamic, adaptable behavior.

Many CMS issues, notably content chunking, content reuse and content globalization, are the same issues faced by programmers twenty years ago, i.e., software modularization, code reuse and software globalization and internationalization. Code has been neglected as a type of content, yet much can be learned by applying software engineering principles to the general problem of content; in particular, the fact that language needs to be considered up-front, not as an afterthought.

Content is Crucial

As steel and concrete were fundamental building blocks of the industrial age, content is the fundamental building block of the information age. Billions of pages of content are being disseminated by all manner of people, enterprises, organizations and communities around the world on literally all available media, be it paper, cell-phones, intranets or the Internet.

Governments around the world are using the worldwide Web and associated technologies to drive information flow to citizens and corporations as well as to offer direct services. Enterprises use intranets to help design and build products, then use their Web sites to help sell and support products. In many cases, content is itself the product! The success of the enterprise is thus intimately linked to the quality of content. Content must be accurate, useful and up-to-date. Maintaining content day-to-day as time goes by is both challenging and essential for it needs to be correct not only when it is created, but also when it is used.

Bottom line: it's all about content. Good content and you win. Out-of-date or incorrect content, and you loose.


Read The Business Case for Terminology Management (available here. This presentation, given by Laurie Kamerer of Cisco at the LISA Forum Europe 2002 in Heidelberg, explained how Cisco could save millions of dollars on customer support costs by managing its terminology.

Content Management Systems

Content is crucial, yet creating it is not easy. Content creation involves many steps, many tools and many professionals, e.g., technical writers, graphic artists, integrators and editors, all working as a team. The complexity of creating and maintaining content has provided the impetus for the development of content management systems.

A CMS has two major roles to play: content creation and content delivery.

Content creation includes many functions; among them are authoring, tagging, chunking and workflow. Authoring is facilitated by built-in text editors (rich text and/or XML), as well as through interfaces to more powerful tools such as Word or Dreamweaver. Tagging consists of adding additional data, called metadata, to each content item to better describe it. It often consists simply of a few keywords that can be stored in the CMS along with the content, allowing the latter to be found by search engines. Chunking refers to breaking up documents into smaller pieces or chunks that can then be reused and reassembled into other documents. The metadata just described also helps authors find and manipulate content chunks. Finally, workflow is required to tie all of this together. It allows business processes to be defined and implemented in a predictable and repeatable manner. For example, a text just authored can be automatically routed to an editor for review through defining the required steps in workflow.

Content delivery also includes many functions; among them are repurposing, personalization, caching and searching. Repurposing, also known as single-sourcing, refers to reusing the same content for delivery in several different formats such as HTML, WML (Wireless Markup Language), PDF, etc. Personalization refers to a wide variety of techniques designed to make content more appealing and useful to the user, i.e. dynamic customization of content based on whatever information is known about the user, e.g., past purchases, location, specified preferences, etc. Caching consists of keeping frequently accessed items in memory (or, more generally, in some faster storage area) as a means of delivering the content more quickly. Searching, finally, is about helping users find the content they need quickly and easily. Searching is, in fact, quite complex and several companies are entirely focused on delivering search-related products (Convera, Copernic and Verity, to name a few). Many CMS vendors have given up building their own search tools and are now licensing search engines from these companies.


Content Management is all about quickly delivering the best content… but are we successful? In a thought-provoking presentation at the LISA Forum USA 2001 in Chicago, Claudio Pinkus suggested that we need to introduce feedback into the process because (1) the content that is developed and never used can tell us what content not to develop in the future, and (2) the data collected on unsuccessful searches indicates what content users are looking for and not finding, and therefore indicates what content to develop in the future. Click on Content Management Optimization for the Global Enterprise, available here.

2004: The Year of Content

A few years ago, many companies developed content management systems in-house, and as a result, literally thousands of such solutions were implemented. This happened because the original needs seemed easily manageable, and a number of features such as workflow and search appeared deceptively simple at first sight. These early attempts helped enterprises understand the complexity of content. Yet as the amount of content to be managed increased, the rising cost of maintaining in-house CMS became painfully obvious. As a result, the growing feature sets of commercial products from companies such as Documentum, Interwoven and Vignette became more and more economically attractive.

Now, after a recession and a war, the stage is set for renewed growth. Many authors are predicting that 2004 will be the year of content and CMS. Gerry McGovern, for example, argues that enterprises will finally stop perceiving content as a cost and realize that content is truly an asset that can drive productivity and profits.

The importance of this mental shift for our industry is hard to exaggerate. If content becomes an asset, then global content becomes an even bigger asset. This is a strategic opportunity with many ramifications. And it will significantly help localization vendors establish their value proposition in customers’ minds.

At the same time, the wider deployment of CMS will make the production and publishing of content much easier. Publishers will be able to publish more, and more people will have the ability and tools to become publishers. The net result of CMS deployment in an enterprise is often a content explosion. Imagine the exponential growth of widespread CMS deployment: content needs CMS, which in turn means that more content is managed, which…

For the localization industry, more content will mean more work. And since customers will become increasingly aware of the value of our work, the future for our industry looks bright!

Globalization Management Systems

If content management is complex and requires a CMS, just think how complicated managing content in 20, 30 or 60 languages and cultures can be! If workflow is required for authoring content, it is absolutely essential for dealing with the translation of content into multiple languages by multiple professionals working in multiple countries. They all form part of a complex supply chain stretching from the freelancer, through the small in-country agency to the larger multi-language vendor.

So, the content explosion is coming. Both customers and vendors realize that technology is the only way to deal with the kind of volumes that we will soon be facing in order to avoid chaos, lost opportunities and spiraling costs. The rise of CMS will inevitably mean the rise of GMS (or GCMS, GMS integrated with CMS). As we said earlier, language comes late in the plan, but it always comes to the fore in the end!

So what is a GMS? It is a software system designed to support the translation/localization process. It includes content connectors, text extraction filters, translation memory, terminology management, vendor management, workflow and more.

  • Content connectors allow the GMS to access content anywhere in the enterprise, be it in files, databases or CMS. Text extraction filters then extract the text from the various content formats such as Word, HTML, FrameMaker, etc.
  • Translation memory stores translation knowledge; it reduces work and increases consistency by storing and allowing easy access to past translations.
  • Terminology management is also a form of stored knowledge. It maintains the enterprise glossary, i.e. the language (terms and expressions) created by the enterprise, be it marketing’s brand names, or IT’s product architecture concepts.
  • Vendor management refers to the facilities provided to manage vendors. This includes a searchable database of vendors and their capabilities. It may also allow access to translation tools throughout the supply chain, so that even freelancers may be benefit from the translation knowledge stored in the GMS.
  • Finally, as with CMS, workflow is required to tie it all together.

If you need a clear picture (literally) of what GMS are, please consult my reference model for automating localization workflow.

CMS vs. GMS

CMS and GMS are often confused. Indeed, they both have workflow, and they both manipulate content. However, CMSs deal with content creation and content delivery, while GMSs are focused specifically on managing content translation.

Let's compare them. With regards to content delivery, GMS have none of the features of CMS - they simply return the translated content back to the customer. But there is a parallel between content creation and translation since translating is really a form of authoring. Not just technically, in the sense that translators type in text, but creatively, as translators have to invent ways to correctly render source text of increasingly poor quality. So, whereas a CMS will interface with authoring tools like Word, GMS will interface with translation tools such as TRADOS Workbench. Whereas a CMS uses controlled terminology to support metadata tagging of content (and sometimes authoring), a GMS will provide terminology management to support the translation of both the metadata and the content.

In other words, the main difference between CMS and GMS is all about translation, i.e. the translation memory technology, the translation tools, the translation vendor management facilities, and more generally, the management of the entire translation supply chain.


The adoption by Documentum of TRADOS technology (both the translation memory server and the terminology server), announced at the end of 2003, is a real step forward towards GCMS.

Are GMS Ready?

The early GMS were targeted at Web content and had only a few basic translation features. This was the era when the Web was at the center of everything, and Web developers had only an intuitive and very naïve view of what translation was. Enterprises were concerned about the scalability and reliability of GMS, while translation agencies were concerned about the lack of translation features.

Then the Web bubble burst, and the GMS vendors had to re-invent themselves. They moved from WCM (Web Content Management) to ECM (Enterprise Content Management). They developed solid, scalable architectures (J2EE and Oracle) and improved their translation tools. But would they prove successful? At an SAE conference in Nashville 2002, Don DePalma and I held different opinions on this. However, we did agree that the Uniscape GXT deployment at HP would be a significant test.

Well, TRADOS merged with Uniscape, and the jury came back: the HP installation of TRADOS GXT is not only successful, but it is growing. Likewise, the IDIOM deployment at eBay is impressive. Finally, the GlobalSight installation at the World Bank translation service is indicative that translation agencies are managing to find the translation tools they require.

The GMS are ready, but do they solve the whole problem? Stay tuned for part II of this article, in which we will examine the globalization supply chain.


Pierre Cadieux is President of i18N Inc., a firm specializing in internationalization training and consulting for Web sites and Globalization Management Systems, shrink-wrap software and embedded systems. Pierre is Technology Editor for the LISA Newsletter and teaches internationalization at University of Montreal. He has been Director of Localization Technology at Bowne Global Solutions, where he published the first generic model of Web globalization, and VP Technology at Alis Technologies, where he pioneered the transparent handling of Arabic and Hebrew languages and created the core bidirectional technology licensed by Microsoft. Pierre also regularly presents workshops at LISA on CMS/GMS and internationalization and localization issues in general. He can be reached at pcadieux@i18n.ca.

 


Reprinted by permission from the Globalization Insider,
14 April 2004, Volume XIII, Issue 2.1.

Copyright the Localization Industry Standards Association
(Globalization Insider: www.localization.org, LISA:
www.lisa.org)
and S.M.P. Marketing Sarl (SMP) 2004









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