I have been working with some companies looking to take their enterprise solutions global. Global content has always been interesting topic to me. Often people think that content globalization is a fifteen-minute canned presentation. But once you start looking at content globalization you know that there is no such thing. There are just too many questions to ask and every case is different.
I want to start by looking at the two “easy questions” that I usually get asked and their hard answers. Depending on who is asking the question usually the first question about globalizing is about translation or connection. I’ll share some interesting data sources along the way.
When starting with a business owner the first question is often about language. “How do I translate my documents into Spanish?” Well depending on the type of content, this could be a valid question. But often it is not. The answer starts a translation and localization.
Formally, translation addresses only changing the language of a document. My follow-up question is, “What kind of content are you trying to make available in what countries?” Some countries have no official language. Other countries have several official languages. For example, Switzerland has German, French, Italian, and Romansch.
Language requirements can also be outside national borders. Certain regulations may mandate languages. Pharmaceutics in Europe are regulated by European Medicines Agency (EMA). EMA mandates that product labeling be in all 24 official European Union languages plus Icelandic and Norwegian.
Looking at a single language, there may be multiple regional differences too. There are 10 major dialects of Spanish spoken in 19 countries. Back in the late 90’s there was an attempt to create a normalized, mid-Atlantic Spanish. It failed. Language translation needs to look at the individual nuances of the vocabulary. Often French translations are not enough for parts of Canada where they are proud of their Quebecois dialect.
Localization of translations goes a bit further. Currencies, weights and measures, industry jargon, and even included graphics all need to be addressed. All of these need to be considered as part of localizing content. You may be able to share a language translation across countries, but you may still have localization issues. Switzerland is not on the Euro, so while you could use a German language translation you may still need to localize for Francs.
The CIA World Fact Book is a great source of general information about all the countries. Yes, this is the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. They have a list of each country’s official languages which I like to use.
Sometimes the conversation starts with, “How fast can I get my content in a global deployment?” It’s usually a hard question to answer. Not because the answer is complex but because the answer is hard to accept. The only answer has to be “it depends”. Global content transfer speeds need to consider the average size of the content and the connections between then locations. Usually a company is willing to accept a standard speed on a single geographic deployment.
The challenge comes in crossing geographies. Some countries that are located next to each other may not be directly connected to each other. Usually this results in a hub and spoke model where a geographically located data center serves content for the region. So the follow on questions are “What sort of connection exists between geographic data centers?” “Is it shared or owned?” “What connections exist within the region?” In some cases, “how reliable is the existing connection?” This still leaves questions of existing global network bandwidth usage and how content will affect those connections.
The only way to discover connection times is through hands on testing. If you’re looking for a great way to show global connections the TeleGeography has a map on-line that shows all of the submarine internet cables. Also a good source for internet connection speeds is Akamai’s State of the Internet report. The site includes an interactive map that show you average internet speed for every country.
So far I have only addressed questions the tip of the iceberg in globalizing a content solution. In future posts, I will address other topics. I will look at how some business processes are very different between countries. I will also look at enterprise applications as part of the global deployment.