LISA Best Practice Guide: Managing Global Content Globalization translation jobs
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LISA Best Practice Guide: Managing Global Content

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LISA Members Alison Toon (HP) and Andrew Draheim (Consultant to the World Bank) are leading the LISA Global Content Management Initiative. Based on their Based on their popular workshops at recent LISA Forums (one of which they will give in Zurich on November 7), they have written a Best Practice Guide to help you understand your global content management needs, how you can procure the best solutions, and how to help your users get started. Toon and Draheim are two of the world’s most experienced implementers of Global Content Management and Global Translation Management Systems, so don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to leverage their expertise. Order your copy today! We include a short excerpt below.

Andrew DraheimAlison Toon

What is Global Content Management? What are Globalization Management Systems (GMS) or Global Translation Management Systems (GTMS)? Why do they matter to companies doing business internationally? How can you implement them to support your own business and to further your international goals? These are the questions that Managing Global Content is designed to help you answer.

Many companies recognize a need to implement CMS or GTMS, but simply saying that you need to implement them is like saying that you would like to travel. If you do not know where you want to go, how you are going to get there, or what you want to do upon arrival, you may end up someplace you don’t want to be. The person who walks 500 miles on foot across the north of Spain on a traditional pilgrimage route and the individual who takes a three week cruise in the Caribbean on a luxury cruise ship are both traveling, but their needs and goals are very different. Similarly, a small company looking to maintain a sales site in three languages will face very different needs from a large multinational corporation maintaining a support site in twenty languages. Both may implement CMS and GTMS systems to achieve their goals, but the cost, scope and complexity of each solution will be very different.

The success of your CMS/GTMS implementation depends on understanding your critical business issues and how various technologies can help you achieve your goals (or not). CMS and GTMS have the potential to accomplish the following:

  • reduce costs
  • automate certain phases in the localization process
  • assure the highest quality standards
  • improve time-to-market and time-to-value
  • simplify both translation and content creation workflows

Achieving these goals involves selecting and customizing the appropriate solution and realizing that there is no one-size-fits-all.

The human element is an important factor in all CMS/GTMS implementations. In any major technological advance, workers may fear that new technologies will render their skills obsolete and lead to job loss; this fear may lead the people you need most in implementing a solution to reject that solution. Ways of working that have delivered good results in the past may not be needed anymore, and people will need to acquire new and/or additional skills. While some may embrace new technologies as a way to expand their horizons, others may try to "trick" or bypass the system without even realizing that what they are doing will cause problems. Some users may refuse outright to use new tools or processes because they do not see an immediate benefit. All of these are valid (although perhaps not helpful) responses to the radical change in work practices that are required to take full advantage of CMS and GTMS technology. Any successful project implementation must account for these responses.

This guide will help you understand the factors involved in implementing a CMS and/or GTMS for managing and localizing multilingual content. Based on the experience of leading implementers, this guide reflects real-world experience and practice, illustrated with practical examples.

Before discussing implementation, however, it is important to first understand some of the basic concepts that will be discussed in this guide. A more detailed technical overview of components involved in global content management solutions is presented in Appendix A.

What Is CMS?

Content Management Systems (CMS) have become key components in information and knowledge management for modern organizations. CMS are used to manage content (including any relevant meta-data) and to promote its reuse. While some CMS have localization features, e.g., for storing same-language content that is appropriate to different markets (see Appendix A for more details), they are not designed to manage the translation process.CMS are used mainly to keep track of content for reuse in different environments. For example, a company may have a support knowledgebase for a product family. The company will want to ensure that all help and support content is consistent and that updates are carried through all versions of content. A CMS keeps track of where content is used and in what formats.Take the case of an automotive manufacturer that has instructions on how to replace a vehicle lamp. These instructions are available on the web, in the printed user manual, in a service bulletin and as part of on-board informatics. Obviously, these instructions must be consistent in all instances to prevent confusion. Therefore, the manufacturer uses a CMS with an integrated authoring environment to create and access these instructions. The CMS has links to the various locations where the instructions are used, and when they are updated in the CMS, they are automatically updated in the correct format in each location. Furthermore, the CMS stores information that states that these instructions are also used in manuals for four other models that will also need updating, and it alerts the documentation manager that these vehicles are affected as well.

CMS can account for translation needs too, by keeping multiple language versions of content linked, so that all language versions are synchronized. In general, however, a CMS links the language versions of content, but does not provide any tools for managing localization-specific tasks or changes. As a result, GTMS and CMS applications play related but different roles: the CMS is used to generate, develop and maintain the content, while the GTMS enables this content to be translated more quickly and at a lower total cost. In addition, the GTMS helps manage linguistic assets, such as translation memories, terminology and translation resources.

Why Use CMS?

There are a number of reasons to use CMS:

  • Elimination of manual processes. Manual processes may prevent organizations from storing, processing and publishing their content with the time and resources they have available. Manual processes that create bottlenecks to content reuse include moving files, converting formats, copying and pasting text, and any other steps that require human intervention.
  • Elimination of duplicated efforts. In a traditional document production environment, many processes are duplicated. For example, content may be translated multiple times in different formats or in different documents. Or, it may be edited in different formats (e.g., in a manual and as on-line help, or as both a report and a press release). By tracking and controlling content, and allowing it to be output (published) in many formats from a single source, CMS technology can reduce the number of changes that must be implemented (and the number of times manual tasks such as formatting need to be carried out). This feature becomes especially critical when localization is considered, since each localized version potentially multiplies the process duplication.
  • Allow for easier reuse. Structured content databases managed by CMS keep content at a highly abstract state, thus allowing it to be reused in multiple contexts. Content not in a CMS must reside in a particular format; converting it to another format may cause difficulty.

Taken together, these characteristics of CMS lead to lower costs, higher quality and greater consistency for your documentation.

What Is Global Content Management?

Definitions of global content management will vary, but in general, they refer to the systems and processes used to create, manage, publish and archive information as text, images, prices, statistics, measurements, articles, documents, descriptions, sound bytes, video clips, etc., in multiple languages and for use in multiple countries, regions and/or markets. A truly global content management solution provides the necessary infrastructure to enable an organization to ensure that its content is ready for publishing when and where it is needed, in the right format, language and form. In addition, it should do so efficiently and cost-effectively, and be well integrated with the organization’s other systems and processes.

To be successful, global content management must include defined processes and take into account multiple people with different roles. In addition, it may involve the following components:

  • A Global Translation Management System
  • One or more Content Management Systems
  • People and/or processes in more than one country and/or language
  • People and/or processes outside of the organization managing the content
What Is GTMS?

GTMS stands for Global Translation Management System(s). GTMS were developed in the late 1990s in response to the difficulties large organizations faced in managing international web content. Web content represents one of the most challenging types of localization because web content tends to change very rapidly (often in the form of numerous minor updates) and is typically very time-sensitive. An example of time-sensitive information is a web promotional offer for a product that is valid for only three days. If it takes five days to prepare the offer’s text for translation and to publish it on the web (so the translation arrives after the offer is over), then translation does not make sense. If, on the other hand, the text can be translated in a few hours, then translation will contribute to a successful promotion.In contrast to web content, most document translation processes assume a “stable” product in which all components of a project are delivered simultaneously, or within a short period of time, and in which content will be valid for a relatively long period (several months at a minimum). This type of project then moves through a well-defined process involving translation, quality assurance (QA) and other related processes (localized DTP, testing, etc.) to completion. While this process serves traditional localization projects well, it is not suitable for localization of content that has frequent updates or which is particularly time-sensitive. Traditional localization processes are not scalable from a few large jobs to many small jobs: each job requires a certain fixed minimum of management overhead, much of it manual. Attempting to scale the process to support the demands of most web sites leads to very high costs, missed deadlines, unhappy customers and even unhappier translators.Because of the limitations of traditional workflows, localization service providers began to experiment with workflow automation in the 1990s. Automation promised to reduce the per-project overhead incurred for many small projects. Workflow automation proved an especially good fit for operations that generated large amounts of content for web sites in small batches. These early technologies grew into the modern Global Translation Management System (GTMS), also known as Globalization Management System (GMS).While the most obvious benefit of automation is seen in projects with frequent incremental changes, GTMS can also be of benefit for large traditional localization projects. One key component of a GTMS is a “change detector” that detects when content within a repository (whether structured or unstructured) is changed. When a change is detected, the GTMS then follows a set of pre-defined “business rules” to decide what to do with the changed page. As an example, take a web site with thousands of product pages. An author updates a single English-language page to reflect a new product offering, adding 300 words to a page containing 800 words and changing an additional three sentences slightly. When the author has completed his or her additions, the change detector determines that a new version of the page has been released. Based on its business rules, the GTMS knows that the particular product range described in the page is available only in the U.S., Japan and China, but not in any other markets. It therefore automatically prepares a translation request containing the new 300 words and the three changed sentences and sends the request off to pre-selected Japanese and Chinese translators. When they have completed the translations and returned them, it automatically rebuilds the translated pages and alerts a human reviewer to check its results and make any needed adjustments.Prior to the introduction of GTMS technology, the human author would have needed to notify a translation manager that changes had been made. The translation manager would have had to initiate a translation job manually, applying any business rules to the best of his or her knowledge, and use any needed translation tools (such as translation memory), prior to sending out the translation request. If anyone had missed a step or misunderstood business priorities, the translation might not have happened, been delayed, or have had errors. With GTMS, the only mandatory human intervention outside of translation and review is the authorization of the translation job. However, organizations typically define their specific workflows with milestones for approval by a human.

GTMS clearly can offer great advantages over the manual workflows that have dominated the localization industry, but they are complex solutions that have to be tailored to specific needs, rather than shrink-wrapped applications that anyone can use.

Why Use GTMS?

What sorts of organizations will benefit from a GTMS implementation? While organizations will implement GTMS for a large variety of business reasons, GTMS are generally used by organizations that need to:

  • Manage high translation volumes. Organizations with limited volume and language needs cannot usually justify the cost of buying and implementing a GTMS solution, i.e., those who translate only a few tens of thousands of words a year will likely not see a return of investment. However, organizations that have previously bought 20 or more desktop licenses for a translation memory system can actually reduce their translation costs by implementing a GTMS.
  • Share translation assets across the entire enterprise. If translation assets (such as translation memories and terminology) are to be used across the enterprise, rather than maintained in local "silos," GTMS can ensure that all areas of the enterprise and any external partners have access to them on demand.
  • Control translation processes and costs. The management tools of GTMS systems can help organizations control and account for their localization costs in a transparent manner. In addition, they can lead to a better understanding of the sources of localization costs and the opportunity to implement processes to control those expenses.
  • Reduce the manual work associated with managing frequent minor content updates. If content is expected to change frequently in relatively small ways, GTMS technology provides a way for localization managers to keep up with the burden of tracking projects.
  • Improve time to (local) market delivery. If content or products that depend on content must be quickly delivered to local markets, GTMS provides a way to drastically reduce time to delivery (and thus time-to-value) of the localized information.
  • Maintain international brand and terminology. GTMS technology can help maintain consistency of message and content across language and national boundaries. Because it helps eliminate content differences, managers can be assured that all of their language versions are delivering the same message at the same time, and that their brand is being consistently presented everywhere.
The needs identified above apply to many, if not most, multinational organizations, as well as to many smaller organizations. The more of these demands that an organization faces, the more compelling a GTMS. On the other hand, if an organization faces only a few or none of these challenges, GTMS may represent a solution to problems the organization does not (yet) face.

In addition to considering these issues, organizations must determine their specific business needs and how they expect GTMS technology to meet them. A major cause of project failure or disappointment is the lack of a clear understanding of what can be accomplished and how. GTMS is not a magic solution to reduce translation costs: if implemented poorly or in situations where it is not appropriate, it can actually lead to increased translation costs.


GTMS and CMS together offer a powerful way to control global content to meet the pressing needs of business in the 21st century. Careful planning will increase the likelihood that organizations will see the benefits that these technologies offer. This guide will provide guidelines for how to best select and implement CMS and GTMS systems to fit your needs.

© 2005 LISA. All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission from the Globalization Insider,
October 2005

Copyright the Localization Industry Standards Association
(Globalization Insider:, LISA:
and S.M.P. Marketing Sarl (SMP) 2005

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