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Archive for the ‘GlobalLink’ Category

eCommerce in Europe: Size Matters

Posted by Nick Peris on September 1, 2014

eCommerce in Europe: size matters

eCommerce in Europe: size matters

 

Commerce, with only 2 e’s please!

We’ve all heard the stats and we don’t need them to tell us: we all prefer to buy in our own language. In fact according to the E.U., 2 thirds of E.U. web shoppers will simply not buy in a foreign language. Yet, we also like to shop online because there is more choice, better value and the facility to easily compare alternatives. The key is that we value a personal touch at the time of the transaction. By transaction I mean not only the financial aspect but also the decision process and the post-sale relationship.

This is why the “e” in eCommerce is about to drop, and Commerce is being rethought as an integrated or omni-channel experience. Models like Personal pick-up where you purchase online and pick-up in-store, Cash On Delivery where you only order online and pay on delivery and Try it on before you buy where you simultaneously shop in-store and purchase online, must all be seen as equal-opportunity conversion channels.

Simply said if someone, somewhere is interested in a product you have on offer, you need the tools to make sure they end-up buying yours, whichever way they prefer.

What’s up, Europe?

The fact that people are naturally inclined to complete purchases in their native language can be an even bigger challenge in Europe. Contrary to what institutions are aiming for, Europe is not a single market. Europe is a conglomerate of countries which do not speak the same language, do not have a single culture or a strong common identity and where in truth people do not think of themselves first as European. This has a very real impact on any pan-European Commercial strategy. The economies of scales you could expect from a 505 million strong E.U. population (and over 740 million in the whole of Europe) simply do not simply materialise as soon as you decide to sell across Europe. The European Union has 24 official and working languages;  it needs to employ 1,750 linguists and 600 support staff, and has one of the largest translation services in the world.

No one can communicate in Europe with one voice, much less one language.

International Expansion

eCommerce blockersThis cultural, political and social diversity explains a lot of the differences in international expansion between U.S. and European companies. A European company is more likely to look at expansion into other territories as an incremental process rather than a full-on Globalisation plan. This is compounded by complex practical considerations such as preferred payment methods, shipping options, local regulations including language laws, customer service requirements and return policies. These are equally a challenge to European and non-European businesses wanting to sell in Europe. But European companies are more aware of them, and they can be more to prone to tackling them methodically one country at a time, rather than creating Global Departments in charge of each aspect or even outsourcing to local partners. Plus there are the Locals: what makes your offer more compelling than the existing national businesses in the first place? This is a paradox where more people, more languages and arguably more cultural diversity can result in companies appearing less prepared to invest in Enterprise Language Solutions.

Lower economies of scale and a lack of clear path to expansion are the blockers.

Powering Multinational SMEs

Europe also has an overwhelming proportion of businesses which are Small and Medium Enterprises and employ a very small number of people each: 90% employ less than 10 people according to the Harvard Business Review blog. This means European companies who want to expand outside their national territory and have the most localisation needs are SMEs. Sometimes referred to as the Nano-Multinationals, these would-be giant slayers do not behave like Multinationals or their local subsidiaries. They have to expand from the ground up, more progressively and often excel at figuring out smart ways to do things themselves. Their expansion is not likely to be backed by a multi-year globalisation budget. It’s a bit like the stereotype of the American tourist versus the European one: the first allegedly does Europe in a week, while the latter often prefers to settle somewhere and get to know the place. It doesn’t matter which is right (if any); if you work in tourism you have to account for that fact and adapt your offering to each one of them.

Providing Translation Technology to multinational SMEs requires a specific business model.

Translation Technology is not Machine Translation

The Translation Technology business model needs to adapt in order to respond to the needs of European businesses. Access to automation must have an easier entry-level, and I don’t mean a low-cost solution involving Machine Translation or Crowdsourcing. True, MT has evolved a lot and has proven capable of being a very effective technology, like Translation Memory has been. Crowdsourcing itself has had great results for organisations such as Twitter and multiple others.

But in the case of International Commerce the answer is not cheap tricks, it is scalable automation.

The Cloud

Clouds are not too popular here in Dublin, where I live. We see enough of them as it is, so you won’t get a diagram featuring a computerised fluffy cloud from me (no more than you’ll get a 140-character post). I do however want to talk about Cloud-based Translation Technology, or more precisely Software-as-a-Service as an essential enabler for eCommerce in Europe.

There is no longer a need for translation buyers who want to automate to own translation technology. With web applications like the GlobalLink platform (TransPerfect‘s GMS) for example, businesses of any size can access tailor-made solutions which are able to adapt and grow as their International Expansion gathers momentum. These applications can be accessed via any web browser and from various devices without having to install anything. They feature optional Modules so each user only gets access to what they need. Plug-ins are even available so content can be sent to translation and deliveries received directly to and from eCommerce platforms such as hybris, DemandWare, Magento or EPiServer Commerce etc. without the need for complicated middleware deployment.Translation Automation via Web Services

Any security and practical concern around renting online technology in general has been allayed through stringent auditing processes and extensive deployments of SaaS solutions across the entire I.T. sector. In fact in the case of Translation technology, it is clearly an improvement over FTP and emails based processes as well as traditional on-premise TMS applications. It provides seemless Software upgrades, dedicated IT infrastructures for hosting, audited disaster recovery procedures and automated back-ups, without any effort on the part of the user.

It is now the sensible choice to rent Translation Technology as a Service and very much the exception to buy and install a TMS on-premise.

Integration versus Proxy

All this makes a big difference for Multinational SMEs particularly, because it means:

  • lesser upfront cost
  • lower initial and ongoing impact on internal resources, especially IT
  • shorter learning curves
  • quicker Go-LiveTranslation Automation via Proxy

In the case of GlobalLink it also allows for the flexibility to continue using preferred local translators or in-house resources and local distribution partners as language providers. Alternatively existing Subject Matter Experts can be promoted to a role of Language Quality partner (collaborating to the maintenance of brand & style guides, and glossaries) so the increase in translation volumes does not end-up affecting their primary functions which are usually Sales or Marketing.

One more level of flexibility exists where Translation Technology customers can choose between connecting the SaaS solution directly to their back office or using it as a Proxy between the internet users and their original website. This choice is more strategic than technical. In the first case the business continues to manage their translated assets in the back office like their CMS, eCommerce platform, PIM etc. With the proxy approach, the business can outsource the entire localisation effort using a solution like GlobalLink OneLink which provides not only all the linguistic services and automation but also the engineering, QA, international SEO and maintenance.

The overall result is that companies of all sizes can support their international expansion efforts with translation automation which can evolve with the company’s eCommerce strategy.

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Posted in eCommerce, Globalization, GlobalLink, Internationalization, Translation Management Systems | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Workflow Technologies: Top 10 Must-Have Features

Posted by Nick Peris on September 2, 2013

A Typical Localisation Workflow

Example of a Typical Localisation Workflow

Over the last few years, the number of Globalization Management Systems (GMS), Translation Management Systems (TMS) and similar Workflow technologies dedicated to Localisation has increased steadily. It is not quite comparable to the explosion in the number of Content Management Systems (CMS) but the choice certainly has increased. As a result it has become more complicated to thoroughly evaluate all options available, and the rise of more specialised subcategories such as Localization Management Systems, Proxy and Cloud-based solutions, Crowdsourcing Portals etc.  only adds to this information overload.

This evolution indicates that this technology sector is vibrant and not yet as saturated as the traditional CAT tools market. It remains innovative and in my opinion contradicts analysts who argue that GMS’s will be absorbed by CMS’s and the booming eCommerce platforms.

In fact, there are so many CMS’s and eCommerce solutions around, from the big players such as EpiServer or Adobe Experience Manager (formerly Adobe CQ) to open-source solutions like Drupal and proprietary systems provided by website integrators, that there is no way these can be relied upon to provide workflow features which can respond to the specific requirements of the translation supply chain.

The GMS sector has also become more of a replacement market, where Enterprises are often looking to replace an existing GMS with their second or third technology. A certain lack of innovation, excessive licensing costs and mergers among some of the traditional big players have created an appetite for diversity and an opportunity for innovators.

There are certainly some interesting new technologies. Some focus on the User Interface and the easy-of-use, others on community with in-tool forums for users to share tips and experiences and real-time Support to keep production streaming. Others yet allow segment-level task completion and embedded MT to enable real-time progress. Most, if not all of these efforts seem to concentrate on improving ownership satisfaction which has long been a shortcoming of GMS’s.

Unfortunately, fundamental GMS features can sometimes be lacking when these tools are released at an early stage in their Development, or when their design is not aware of the requirements of the entire supply chain. Prospective GMS-buyers should not get distracted by the bells and whistles, and miss possible issues with the more essential features.

The 10 fundamentals below should be your starting point and the rest should only come as extras. The order of priority between these will depend on your own business process.

Automated Quote Process

Workflow systems are used by Enterprises which have a regular stream of translation requirements. Vendor rates are usually pre-agreed rather than negociated on a project by project basis. The Workflow technology should be able to hold these rates and automatically generate a quote when a translation request is submitted. It should be able to handle minimum charge, PM fees, volume discounts and provide a workflow step where the requestor or authorised user can accept or reject the quote.

CAT Tools compatibility

Ideally there should be an online translation interface as well as the option to download translation requests and work offline.

The online interface should include enough features to ensure it can be used by professional translators: Spell-Checker, Tag Checker, Terminology Checker, Concordance Search are the minimum required.

The offline option should be vendor-agnostic and offer XLIFF as well as the bilingual formats for the main CAT tools such as WordFast, memoQ and Trados. The ability for these tools to connect to the online TM and Glossaries and update them in real-time is also expected more and more commonly.

Connector library

CMS connectors: GlobalLink hybris extension

The GlobalLink extension, available from the hybris website

A library of CMS and eCommerce adaptors should be available. GMS’s such as GlobalLink provide a library of connectors for the most common systems as well as an API to create connectors for new CMS and eCommerce platforms or proprietary systems.

There should also be the possibility to monitor FTP locations and file systems.

Dedicated Review Portal

Client review or independent linguistic review is common in translation chains where volumes a big. This is mainly due to the fact that big volumes mean multiple translators must work simultaneously, and the Review step is needed to enforce consistency and monitor quality trends. A dedicated Online Review environment can make this process immensely more efficient if it’s kept clear and free of the more specialised features required in the Translation Interface. Client-side reviewers are rarely linguists and more likely employees whose primary task is brand and marketing related. Live in-context preview is more relevant to them than a side-by-side segment layout.

The Review environment should have its own reporting tool to monitor quality if error categories and scores are used. Reports on individual projects (online scorecards) and Organization-level reports are equally as important. The system should keep an audit trail of changes, and offer some workflow functionality towards Implementation whether it is done by the reviewers or by the translators.

Changes implemented in the review tool must be automatically added to both the final deliverable and the translation memories.

File Filters designer

Most file types will be supported out-of-the-box but it is also crucial to have the ability to easily add future or unusual file types without having to resort to Professional Services. The file filter interface must be flexible and allow Administrators to import filters from CAT tools but also create filters online in the GMS. I have yet to see a tool, let alone a GMS, which does that as well as a Alchemy Catalyst and its EZparser but hopefully that day will come. In the meantime do not settle for a system that wouldn’t let you parse all tags in a JSON or other custom XML and ensure post-filters are supported (e.g. for HTML code nested within XML or XLS).

Linguistic asset management

A good GMS will let users with appropriate permissions perform all TM and Terminology set-up and maintenance tasks natively. This includes manual editing of both asset types, TM sequencing (with leverage priority, penalties, update TM selection), workflow-driven automatic updates, terminology extraction and approval. All users need the ability to search TM’s and Glossaries, while only experts will get the permissions to perform Maintenance.

Project creation templates

The key to workflow management is automation. Clicks are a GMS’s worst enemy and should be a primary focus during User Acceptance Testing.

Any repeatable task should be recorded and automated. The requestor should not have to type anything other than the project name. Everything else should be available through menus and selectable options, each with the most commonly used choices pre-populated. Ideally, the software should interactively learn and remember the behavior of each user, but pre-programmed defaults are the current standard.

Reporting Tool

Jaspersoft iReport DesignerThere should be a choice of download formats, and a way to create custom reports based on queries to the underlying database. Client-side users don’t always need visibility into the linguistic side of the system. What they do need is flexible on-demand reporting. Whether there is a live dashboard or a facility to run reports, the system has to be customisable so the reports respond to their Organization’s needs both from the point of view of Program Management and Financial tracking.

Unlimited number of users

The pricing should not be directly linked to the number of users. I have often come across Enterprises with state-of-the-art workflow systems where the vendor side PMs had to download and upload translation kits on behalf of their freelancers. The hidden cost of such a limitation is monumental and the amount of negative sentiment generated towards a system which is supposed to automate repetitive tasks cannot be recuperated.

Role-based permissions should allow Administrators to control what everyone is doing at a granular level, and all routine user assignment should be automated. Once you own a GMS, every single transactions must be seamlessly supported, and no one should ever have to be delayed by timezones.

Workflow designer

Localization workflows vary. The technology you choose should offer enough flexibility to support your business process without too much adjustment. The Workflow Designer should offer a customisable library of human and automated steps and the possibility to have more than one outcome to each workflow step (e.g. Pass/Fail, DTP/no DTP etc.). The best Designers have a graphic interface and allow the easy cloning of existing workflows.

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