Ian A. Henderson

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Implementing simultaneous shipment of product documentation to all target languages is an immense undertaking. Successful simship adoption delivers a host of benefits, and yet, just like any major business transformation, the transition can be disruptive.

But it doesn’t have to be.

With the right approach, it’s entirely possible to adopt simship while maintaining normal production of documentation throughout the transition. A carefully considered, gradual transformation will enable you to continue meeting deadlines as you shift to a more efficient and cost-effective workflow.

 

Why simship?

For enterprises operating on a global scale, the business case for simship is compelling. Shipping localized documentation to all target audiences simultaneously improves time-to-market and unlocks significant additional revenue. This speed also leads to competitive advantage when it enables you to reach global audiences ahead of rival businesses, and serving all customers at once generates brand loyalty by showing that your organization values each market segment.

However, these long-term simship benefits will be meaningless if the implementation disrupts documentation production in the short term. Fundamentally, simship requires a mature and scalable localization workflow. Getting to that point often involves a substantial process shakeup for technical writers—who can’t afford to be responsible for any kind of delay to product launches or updates.

This puts technical publication managers in a lose-lose situation: either they continue with a suboptimal global content strategy and miss out on the advantages of simship, or they take the plunge and risk falling behind schedule on short-term document production. Fortunately, these aren’t the only options.

 

Seamless simship implementation is possible

The key to a non-disruptive simship implantation is to take a measured, methodical approach. Instead of making the move all at once, break the transformation down into more manageable pieces that you can tackle on the side while maintaining standard operations.

Adopting the DITA authoring framework, for instance, is an effective path to simship because it supports content reuse, cutting the time and cost required for localization. But DITA represents a major paradigm shift for technical authors—content written in DITA looks more like code than traditional text—so it pays to take your time when implementing it. Investigating DITA tooling, training writers, and running a pilot are all examples of smaller tasks that you can approach as side projects while you build towards a seamless switchover.

 

To learn more about transforming your international documentation processes, check out our blog on how manufacturing translation fits into digital transformation.

With this kind of incremental transformation, you can continue producing documentation uninterrupted.


Ian A. Henderson
April 13, 2020
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File management is a topic that’s often overlooked, but when it comes to your global content strategy, it’s critically important. Correctly optimizing your localization files will save a considerable amount of time for you, your localization service provider (LSP), and your translators – leading to faster content delivery, fewer mistakes, and lower costs.

Fortunately, preparing files for localization is easier than you might expect. You can streamline the localization process for all parties by keeping things simple.

 

Keep it simple

An easy trap to fall into is assuming that you will make things easier for translators if you copy your content into a format such as Excel or Word. But in reality, this only adds to the complication. It’s actually better to provide localization files in their native format, whether that be HTML, strings, JSON, RC, INDD, FM, or otherwise.

Changing the file format adds to your workload both in preparing the files for translation and in copying the translated content into the correct places when you get it back. Each time you change the file format, you risk missing content or adding in mistakes. And if you copy content into Excel or Word, you may introduce unnecessary additional formatting to the files which can make them difficult to process in a Translation Management System (TMS).

Naturally, if you are keeping localization files in their native formats, you need to make sure that your LSP can handle that format. This will ensure that translators don’t have mess around with formatting on their end. What’s more, working with the native format can actually improve the quality of translation, since the translator has additional contextual information to help them better understand where the content will go. With some formats the translators will even be able to check the layout.

 

Your Global Content Partner can help set up your files for translation

If you’re worried that your files aren’t well optimized for localization, a Global Content Partner can help. At Rubric, we maintain ongoing feedback loops with our clients to help them prepare their source content, and we have helped many of them clean up complex files sets and simplify them for localization.

Here are some examples of the ways that we optimize source content:

  • Removing redundant content
  • Giving files meaningful names so it is clear to the translator what they are working on
  • Ensuring that language codes are correct
  • Testing content with pseudo-translation to ensure that it can be easily manipulated by clients when they receive it back

 

Send LSPs all the files they need, and none that they don’t

One easy file management mistake that we sometimes see is clients sending us unnecessary content. They’ll give us the entire project folder, complete with old drafts, reports and unused audio. This risks over-translation if content that isn’t actually needed is included in the project scope. Furthermore, inclusion of unnecessary content can lead to problems with file transfer and delays. Always try to keep your folders up-to-date, streamlined, and well labelled – and only send over files that are needed.

 

If you’d like to learn more about optimizing your file management, look out for a more detailed guide that we’ll be publishing soon. In the meantime, check out some of our other Best Practices guides. We’ve done deep dives into Video Localization, Business Transformations, and Online Learning Localization.


Ian A. Henderson
February 17, 2020
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“The user journey you create for your customers when buying your product should be the first thing you consider when developing your strategy.”

—Ian Henderson, Global Content Quest: In Search of Better Translations

 

While product design, advertising, and speed-to-market are all critical to your company’s success, it’s the user journey that will make or break your business – especially if you’re looking to go global. In a mature market where customers have no shortage of providers to choose from, product quality is often not enough to secure a competitive edge. Instead, brand loyalty, repeat sales, and recommendations are all driven by positive user journeys.

To deliver the best possible customer experience and provide relevant content at key moments, you need to understand your users’ expectations and design their journeys accordingly – but that’s easier said than done when catering to multiple user groups across multiple countries. In this blog, we’ll explore how to identify customer personas and tailor the user experience for your different target markets.

 

Identifying customer personas

The first step is to determine who your users are. The age, gender, location, and income of your customers will all factor into how you should design the user journey. Additionally, in today’s landscape it is critical to consider what devices your customers will use to access your content, and which channels they will interact with.

For instance, a younger audience will make extensive use of smartphones and social media, so optimizing their experience will require responsive web design and active social channels. On the other end of the spectrum, an older audience might eschew digital channels altogether in favor of printed content. Note that while content will naturally vary across these contact points, messaging should still be aligned to ensure a consistent user experience and a stronger brand.

 

Don’t assume you know your customers

It’s all well and good to say that you need to understand user expectations, but how do you achieve that understanding? It can be tempting to assume that you already know what your customers want, but in our experience, assumptions rarely line up exactly with reality. A good starting point is to seek insight from employees based in the markets you are targeting, since they will have a better understanding of local customer expectations than head office. But for the best results, you’ll need to go to the source and speak with actual users.

Interviewing customers might seem like a daunting prospect, but research from Nielsen Norman Group has found that you only need to test with 5 people per distinct user group for optimal insights.

You can also take advantage of user data from your existing products and content to drive your decision-making. Metrics around how your products are used, which content is most viewed, and how it is accessed are all invaluable.

 

Different language, different journey

Operating on a global scale introduces another layer of complexity. Firstly, you’ll need to establish what level of localization users expect in each region. Do they speak English? Would they respond better to translated content? Do they expect translated video voiceovers, or would subtitles be sufficient? Taking the time to answer these questions will not only enable you to deliver a better experience to global customers, it could also help you save resources by ensuring that you are only localizing content that will deliver value.

Additionally, bear in mind that user expectations will change from market to market. What works with your home audience might not be so effective – or even legal – in another country, and your product might appeal to an entirely different demographic in a different region. Our client manufactures cleaning technology equipment, and while their products sit in the middle-to-upper range in the United States, they retail at the top end of the luxury market in India.

Similarly, the same demographics in different countries won’t necessarily share the same shopping behaviors and channel preferences. For instance, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are all blocked in China; and the vast majority of German customers prefer not to make online payments using credit or debit cards. Learning these differences and adjusting the user journey accordingly is key to winning over global customers and driving action.

 

Putting it into practice

The user journey spans every contact point where a customer will interact with your business. Typically, that means product documentation, websites, and apps – but it can sometimes be more glamorous. We recently helped one of our clients deliver its annual, high-profile convention. The function was attended by guests from all over the world, and it was crucial that each of them enjoyed a seamless experience.

By reaching out to the attendees in advance, our client was able to gather information on what languages would be required for the signage and information materials; it was able to offer different menus to cater to the diets of different national groups; it created a multi-language app to help users navigate the rich program of activities; and it even provided illustrated guides to explain exactly what the dress codes meant. Without taking the time to understand user needs, the company could never have delivered such a successful event, and the user journeys of its VIP guests would have been compromised.

 

At Rubric, we love working with our clients to deliver the best user journeys for localized content. Get in touch with one of our experts to discuss how we can help you optimize your company’s global content strategy. And to learn more about enhancing the global customer experience, check out our new book. Global Content Quest – it has an entire chapter dedicated to user journeys!


Ian A. Henderson
February 3, 2020
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In the manufacturing sector, digital transformation goes far beyond the factory floor. Today’s consumers expect a fully digital, personalized customer experience that spans documentation, social media, videos, and apps – and they expect it in their native language. With global customer experience (GCX) playing such a major role in brand differentiation, manufacturing translation quality has never been more important.

But delivering a consistent, digitized customer journey on an international scale takes more than just translation. Leading manufacturers are approaching localization as a business-wide process. To achieve maximum value from your digital transformation, it’s critical to align your teams and processes with a cohesive global content strategy.

 

Digital transformation breaks down silos

Expanding the scope of your digital transformation to include the global customer experience might be easier than you expect. If you’re already pursuing a typical digital transformation – modernizing your internal processes and technologies – you should have a solid foundation for a digital content transformation.

As mentioned above, a strong global content strategy relies on business-wide collaboration, so it stands to reason that the biggest barrier to success is silo culture. When different business units operate independently and fail to communicate, it becomes impossible to deliver a cohesive, high-quality customer experience.

This is where your digital transformation comes in. New technologies such as cloud-based productivity suites and IoT networks are incredibly effective at breaking down silos. What’s more, improved analytics and business intelligence technologies open the doors to much more personalized, data-driven customer communication. With newly-connected departments leveraging deeper insights, it’s easier than ever to drive customer-centric innovation and execute an effective global content strategy.

 

Controlling the costs of digital content

Supporting the customer journey across digital channels will inevitably increase the overall quantity of content you’ll be creating. In turn, this will lead to higher translation volumes and a greater design workload. All of this can come with a hefty price-tag, so it’s important to take advantage of tools that will help you control costs.

In our experience, utilizing DITA (the Darwin Information Typing Architecture) is one of the most effective ways to minimize the cost of producing digital content on a global scale. DITA is an open standard, XML-based writing and publishing architecture, and it is particularly valuable here for two reasons:

  1. Content reuse – A large amount of the content you produce will invariably be repeated across different deliverables. DITA is built from the ground up to support content reuse, so rather than spending resources re-authoring and re-translating similar content again and again, you can seamlessly import existing text modules.
  2. Design – When publishing so much content to so many channels in numerous languages, design costs can rapidly spiral out of control. In fact, desktop publishing (DTP) was the biggest expense for one of our clients across their entire digital content strategy. But with DITA, design is taken out of the equation. A DITA publishing engine will generate deliverables that are automatically formatted according to pre-defined templates.

 

Partner for continuous transformation

Digital transformation isn’t a quick, one-time thing; it’s an ongoing process. As new technologies become available, your infrastructure, capabilities, and priorities will evolve – and your localization approach will need to evolve along with them. At Rubric, this is why we aim to partner with our clients long-term. By gaining a full understanding of a client’s business, we can help them to continuously improve their localization processes and achieve immense long-term value.

For example, we’ve worked with one U.S. manufacturer for over 10 years. In that time, we’ve helped them drastically reduce translation volumes through rigorous content reuse, and streamline regulatory compliance by integrating legal departments into the content creation process. We have ongoing discussions with their authors and dev teams to ensure that source content and UIs are optimized for localization; and we deliver translations that are ready for immediate publication. Today, that manufacturer has one of the most mature localization processes that we’ve encountered, and they’ve been able to add additional languages without increasing costs.

To learn more about how a long-term partnership with Rubric can benefit your business, check out our Amazon #1 Best Seller book, Global Content Quest, and download the first chapter for free.


Ian A. Henderson
January 6, 2020
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Translation compliance is a challenge that we run into quite frequently, especially with our clients in the manufacturing and cosmetics industries. When creating content, businesses in these sectors are subject to a variety of regulations designed to ensure end-user safety and honest customer communications. Regulations often demand the use of specific terminology in marketing and technical documentation, or prohibit the use of language that implies an unproven claim.

Keeping on top of regulatory compliance can be an onerous task at the best of times, but the difficulty skyrockets for organizations operating on a global scale, where different international markets enforce their own regulations.

Regulations can vary massively between different countries. For instance, a marketing image of a woman with a measuring tape around her waist would be illegal for a nutrition company in Turkey; but the same image would be acceptable in the USA.

With these differences in mind, the challenge for global businesses is to create localized content that not only complies with local market regulations, but also delivers the message accurately and in a way that is effective with the local audience.

 

Compliance vs customer experience

In our experience, the issue that most commonly stands in the way of effective, compliant localization is when different lines of business – such as legal and marketing – are not aligned towards the same globalization goals. While some departments might see translation as a legal requirement, others will view it through the lens of the global customer experience. If these groups maintain a siloed mindset and fail to communicate, reviewers will waste time and effort working at cross purposes.

Veering too far towards either side will also lead to sub-optimal content. If localization is purely compliance-led, it is easy to miss out on the extensive brand loyalty and growth-related benefits that strong global content can deliver. Similarly, when marketing reviewers make edits to improve readability – for example, by eliminating repeated keywords – they risk compromising translation compliance.

Businesses will typically err towards prioritizing compliance (and justifiably so, when the consequences of non-compliance include law suits, user injury, and even deaths), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to enjoy the best of both worlds. And that’s where Rubric comes in.

 

Align priorities and implement automated terminology checks

At Rubric, we follow CSA Research’s Globalization Maturity Model. This means that we approach globalization holistically, putting localization into context as one piece of the puzzle, and factoring in the needs of your whole business and your broader corporate strategy. By looking at localization as an enterprise-wide globalization process, we can work with teams across all relevant departments to ensure that everybody understands both compliance and customer experience priorities. And by working with our clients’ authors, we can help them create source content that meets these priorities while being written with localization in mind.

We also make certain that both our consultants and translators fully understand the purpose of the source content: what it’s for, and why it is written in a certain way. This ensures that the messaging is properly conveyed in the localized versions, with none of the nuance or compliance lost in translation.

Last but not least, we can help create style guides and design repeatable, automated checks to ensure that the correct, compliant terminology is used in all translations – particularly for keywords and numeric content, which often carry regulatory implications. While these mechanisms cannot fully replace existing legal review processes, they can deliver major time savings and provide an additional safety net. What’s more, these same tools will help you leverage repetition to minimize translation costs and improve the quality and consistency of your localized content.

 

To learn more about translation compliance, and how Rubric can help you optimize your own localization processes, download a free teaser of our book, Global Content Quest.


Ian A. Henderson
November 18, 2019
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In a global business, multilingual content isn’t the responsibility of just one department – it’s relevant throughout the organization, from product development to legal to marketing and beyond. In a recent blog post, we explored the importance of communication between departments and of avoiding a siloed approach to localization. But you can go one step further by ensuring that all content has centralized, executive oversight. Keep reading to learn how a Global Chief Content Officer can elevate your global content strategy.

In an ideal situation, we recommend appointing an executive-level sponsor – a Global Chief Content Officer, as it were – who has an overview of all content development and the authority to promote multilingual content planning across every level and department. They will be empowered to bring about change, secure funding, and hold teams accountable – which, in turn, supports international growth.

As CSA Research explains, brand loyalty and growth in competitive, international markets depends in large part on the quality of your global customer experience 1. And localized content is a major factor in that experience. Given the importance of multilingual content to globalization strategy, it’s only logical that it deserves dedicated global content management.

 

The advantages of high-level oversight

Appointing a Chief Content Officer can benefit globalization maturity, in line with the principles of the Globalization Maturity Model (CSA Research). Firstly, a Global CCO will have the insight and authority to ensure that strong processes and best practices are followed across departments including product teams, marketing and internal documentation. This will drive high quality authoring and translation, plus enable your business to benefit from efficiencies of scale.

For example, ensuring that all lines of business utilize the same content management tools, terminology and translation memories will lead to more consistent content and unlock more opportunities for content reuse. Keeping language consistent across content produced by different departments improves overall clarity and plays a huge role in optimizing the customer experience. And reusing content is one of the best ways to reduce localization costs.

The key to creating a more cohesive content strategy is supporting the Global Chief Content Officer to combat silos and influence systemic change company wide. With oversight of your entire global content strategy, senior leadership will have the perspective to capture ROI data for marketing and localization efforts and use it to inform high-level decision-making. They will be able to optimize globalization strategy and ensure that branding is consistent and effective across every market that you operate in.

Astute readers will already have realized why these responsibilities can’t be left to a lower-level administrator, such as a localization manager. The key factor is power. Meaningful change and improvement won’t happen without authority and funding – and those require executive involvement.

 

Cohesive global content strategy

Transparency, communication, and hierarchy are key here. It is crucial that the right people have the authority to make content decisions, and that everyone involved is working together with a view to the bigger picture. With the leadership of a Global Chief Content Officer a wider analysis of the content development process is possible, and systemic changes embedded at the optimum point in the process. Understanding the global impact of design choices, and importance of structured authoring at each stage of content development can only be achieved with executive oversight.

Read more about how to achieve your global content strategy with a free teaser download of our new book Global Content Quest, and get in touch to discuss how Rubric can support you to accelerate your globalization journey.

 

1. CSA Research, The State of Global Customer Experience, p.3-4.


Ian A. Henderson
November 4, 2019
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Anyone who even vaguely follows recent technology trends will know that artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are exceptionally hot topics. We’ve written in the past about how automation and AI are transforming the factory floor – but now, we are beginning to see considerable use of these technologies within the localization process itself.

More and more Translation Management System (TMS) providers are starting to position AI and automation as key value propositions for their software. These off-the-shelf tools are designed to enable a largely hands-off approach to the localization process, often combining automated project management with machine translation functionality.

Such a high level of automation can lead to major cost and time savings, so at first glance, these solutions might seem like a no-brainer for any business pursuing a global content strategy. However, we all know that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In this instance, the trade-off for efficiency is often a drop in the quality of your localized content.

In this article, we’ll explore the applications and benefits of AI, and we’ll share our best practice advice for striking a balance between automation and the human touch.

 

Automation is highly effective in the right context

There’s no denying that automation has a lot to offer localization, so long as it is used appropriately. For example, automating repeat translation management activities is an excellent way to save effort. Good candidates for automation include the sending of notification emails, file management, and tool configuration – basically, any routine task that will be performed over and over with minimal variation.

When it comes to translation itself, we consider Translation Memory (TM) systems to be absolutely essential. These solutions store all past translations and automatically generate suggestions whenever the same or similar English text appears in new content. TM systems are typically designed to assist human localization experts, and effective use of a TM system can be one of the best ways to reduce translation volume and cost.

 

But what about machine translation?

It’s true that great strides are being made in AI-driven machine translation – software that automatically translates text without human intervention (although human post-editing is often added). For instance, as D!gitalist Magazine observes, Facebook’s AI can now factor in the context of a sentence to deliver more accurate translations. And yet, machine translation still falls well short of what a skilled human translator can produce. A recent test in South Korea comparing machine translation to human professionals found that 90% of the AI-translated text was grammatically awkward or clearly non-fluent.

While machine translation makes sense in a “quantity over quality” situation like Facebook, or for content known to have low user traffic and low value, we find that most businesses are more successful when they prioritize fluency and clarity for content that plays a key role in delivering a positive global customer experience (GCX). As CSA Research reports, GCX is key to generating brand loyalty and growth in mature, international markets1.

 

The human touch in translation management

As we’ve noted, automation is great for streamlining simple tasks, and AI has a place in translation management. However, global content and GCX are far from simple, and we don’t believe that AI is ready to fully take over.

Localization projects don’t stand alone – they are part of a wider landscape that spans all the deliverables, products, and brands that makes up your overall content strategy. AI can do a lot on a project-by-project basis. It can determine which translators are available and best suited for the job, which TM systems to use, and which glossaries to follow. But AI cannot see the bigger picture.

This is where input from a human expert really shines. As your global content partner, Rubric can help you develop a holistic content strategy that supports your international business goals. When you partner with Rubric, it’s not just a transactional, project-by-project relationship; it’s a cohesive program of work that aligns with your corporate strategy.

By approaching localization holistically and analyzing your content in a wider context, our project managers can find opportunities for process optimization that outweigh the time and cost savings provided by automation. We help our clients overcome silos, enhance the customer experience, and create content with global success in mind. And when it comes to utilizing data to drive improved decision-making, our experts can identify, understand, and contextualize trends in ways that off-the-shelf AIs cannot – at least not for now!

It’s also important to note that project management isn’t just about processes. As APM explains, human relationships also play a key role in successful projects. A machine can follow a process, but it can’t work with people to overcome resistance to change, foster enthusiasm, or encourage a team to push through obstacles. Creating an effective working environment is something that only a human can achieve – and with IPMA-recognized qualifications, it’s something that our project mangers excel at.

To discover the difference that Rubric can make to your content strategy, why not partner with us? We’ll work with you to create and manage bespoke localization processes that are tailored to your unique needs and deliver real value.

 

1. CSA Research, The State of Global Customer Experience, p.3-4.


Ian A. Henderson
October 8, 2019
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Discover the real source of translation problems

I’m very excited to announce my book – Global Content Quest: In Search of Better Translations– written from over 25 years of experience in the localization business. In it, I share my journey of changing the process of translation into an industrial one. Choosing the right language service provider can be daunting. Learn the strategy Rubric uses to change the narrow view of translation into a broader content issue, as this yields a much more worry-free, cost-effective way of reaching a global audience. Take a sneak peek into the table of contents:

 

Chapter 1 – Marshy Ground: Through our many years of translating, we’ve developed a philosophy that can help companies achieve enormous gains in efficiency, accuracy, and revenue.

Chapter 2 – Complexity: We’ve developed an innate understanding of the common challenges that arise when working in translation.

Chapter 3 – Who We Are: Learn how Rubric was started and our journey to becoming a Global Content Partner.

Chapter 4 – Silos: Silos will not go away on their own. The importance of content oversight is only going to grow as time goes on.

Chapter 5 – Getting Out What You Put In: Learn how combining highly-specialized programs translators use with polished materials results in a seamless, high-quality translation.

Chapter 6 – Missapplied Tools: While human expertise and oversight is always essential, the right tool can be a great asset to a project.

Chapter 7 – Poor User Journeys: Awareness of your customer is the first step toward improving their experience.

Chapter 8 – Inspirational Outlook: Read about the Localization Maturity ModelTM (LMM) and how we use it to equip clients with processes to avoid complex problems.

 

Click here to learn more about Global Content Quest & download the first chapter for free!

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