Localization Business School: Three steps to tame global content

“Global web content is like kudzu, the Japanese weed that climbs over trees or shrubs and grows so rapidly that it kills them.” That’s how Debra Jul described her frustration with global expansion. As web content manager of Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), she saw the organization’s website grow from English-only in 1995 to nine languages in 2008. By 2010, it was suffocating her team.

She went from publishing web pages in English-only to hard-coding single pages for Spanish, French and Simplified Chinese. In 2004 she used an open-source content management system that would allow her to establish regional sites based on defined markets.

When OCLC merged with a European service partner in late 2007, she inherited four more languages. This merger also increased OCLC’s product portfolio, and some offerings were only available in certain markets. In addition to managing language versions of certain web pages, the organization now needed to manage marketing campaigns that were specific to individual countries and regions.

 Global web content began to grow around Jul like kudzu. Manual cutting and pasting between translation agency and the web content management system (CMS) began to climb and coil around her fast and steadily. Instead of implementing solutions for better digital marketing, she and her team spent too much time on cutting, pasting and sending content to and from translators — often jeopardizing global and regional campaigns.

Manual labor in digital marketing was killing productivity and creativity in her team. But Jul would not allow global content to take the sunlight out of her day, like kudzu that kills everything below its shade. She developed a plan.


Step 1: Automate cut and paste

Jul knew that it would be hard to get the funds for a full solution that fit all of her requirements. So she started with a small automation project.

She used a middleware to get content out of her CMS, upload and download content onto an FTP site, and put translated content right back where it belonged into her CMS. Her team’s workload dropped to about 50% within a few weeks.


Step 2: Connect to a translation management system

This solution would still require the same manual processes in translation. The web team got immediate relief, but the translation vendor still required a project manager to download and upload content from and to the FTP site, manually analyze content, produce quotes and send translation work to translators.

To reduce cost for managing products on the vendor side, Jul used the middleware’s existing integrations with a translation management system (TMS). The full automation increased the speed with which she could launch global campaigns.


Step 3: Drive technology adoption

Jul learned early that some translators are often averse to using the latest translation technology, while some are thrilled with the prospect of a more efficient process.

Some vendors may resist automation, because it potentially reduces their income. Automation allows for savings by enabling reuse of previously translated content; shortening review processes and reducing project management time. A number of negotiations and training sessions were required before these benefits materialized.

The analogy to kudzu still survives. After destroying or removing the kudzu root crown it may require up to ten years of supervision to make sure the plant does not return. If any portion of a root crown remains after attempted removal, the kudzu plant may grow back.

So it goes with global web content. Without content governance that defines who can update and publish content — and which of this content needs translation — it will once again climb out of control.

Key findings when going global

Every additional language will amplify even the smallest flaw in your workflow.

Getting source content out is easy — putting translated content back is not.

Quick wins are possible with workflow review and automation.

You can easily automate translation between a TMS and a CMS.

Automating localization of media requires manual labor.

Neither CMS nor TMS fully support you in managing all aspects of localization. You will need additional tools to manage all aspects of localization.

If you need to connect multiple systems your best option might be middleware.

Hiring a web localization consultant is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Work with a consultant to find your best return on investment.