New Articles

Translating Your Product For The Global Market? Beware The Silo Effect.

translating

Translating Your Product For The Global Market? Beware The Silo Effect.

Those “silos” that often pop up in large organizations – where departments fail to share information, tools and priorities – can prove especially vexing when a product’s global success depends on translating information into other languages.

Because of silos, the same information might be translated separately by every department, costing the company thousands in extra (and unnecessary) translation costs. A product’s packaging claim could conflict with material the marketing department is sending out. Or trouble could begin brewing over translations that weren’t vetted by the legal department and inadvertently violate another country’s laws.

“Silos can land a project in marshy ground and create major, costly delays,” says Ian A. Henderson, author of Global Content Quest: In Search of Better Translations and co-founder with his wife, Francoise, of Rubric (www.rubric.com), a global language-service provider.

Here’s just one real-world example the Hendersons encountered: They were hired by a U.S. company that planned a European rollout of a new personal hygiene product. When Francoise Henderson began working on the translations, she noticed the ingredients list planned for advertisements differed from the labels on the bottles.

It turned out the formula had been changed because some ingredients were banned in Europe.

“No one told the marketing department, though,” Francoise Henderson says. “Translation is about communication, and yet communications breakdown happens way too frequently in the world of translation when someone’s not overseeing the big picture and making sure the silo effect isn’t undermining the larger effort.”

Why are silos so common and what can be done to address the problems they create? The Hendersons provide these observations:

Company culture. On occasion, it is company policy or company culture that leads to the emergence of silos. For example, Francoise Henderson says, company policies may be in place to avoid breaking antitrust laws, or keeping up walls might help prevent conflicts of interest. “Company culture and policies can be the hardest thing to change,” she says. “Encouraging communication is a good start.”

Empire building. While sometimes silos just happen in the natural course of things, in some larger corporations, the building of silos is deliberate. “People might harbor concerns that a more streamlined process will make their own jobs obsolete,” Ian Henderson says. This could result, for example, in a marketing team in Belgium refusing to communicate with the marketing team in Japan. One way companies overcome this problem, he says, is to have a central communications hub that all information flows through.

Basic confusion. A company may have up to five separate sources of content, such as marketing, communications, technical, legal and packaging. “Each of these areas may have no sense of where their work intersects with the others, and how there may be redundancies in translations and beyond,” Ian Henderson says. “This can lead to confusion and even unnecessary work through duplication.” Companies should make sure each department has an understanding of what other departments do, and that they regularly interact with each other, he says.

“Silos are not a new problem, and they are not going to disappear overnight,” Ian Henderson says. “But when they are approached with foresight and experience, they can be dealt with and eventually dismantled.”

__________________________________________________________________

About Ian A. Henderson

Ian A. Henderson (www.rubric.com), author of Global Content Quest: In Search of Better Translations, is chief technology officer and co-founder of Rubric, a global language service provider. During the last 25 years, Henderson has partnered with Rubric customers to deliver relevant global content to their end users, enabling them to reap the rewards of globalization, benefit from agile workflows, and guarantee the integrity of their content. Prior to founding Rubric, Henderson worked as a software engineer for Siemens in Germany.

About Francoise Henderson

Francoise Henderson is chief executive officer and co-founder of Rubric, overseeing worldwide operations and Global Content strategy. Under her guidance, Rubric has generated agile KPI-driven globalization workflows for its clients, reducing time to market across multiple groups and increasing quality and ROI. Francoise has over 25 years’ experience in corporate management and translation.

translation

Is Your Business’ Global Message Lost In Translation?

American businesses with plans to take their products global know they will need to overcome language barriers, but that little chore could prove to be a greater challenge than they realize.

The potential for missteps abounds as companies attempt to translate websites, apps, user manuals, print advertisements, marketing emails, and other materials for a customer base that’s not their usual audience.

“It’s critical that companies be aware of not just how their products will be perceived, purchased, and used in other countries, but also that selling internationally requires tweaking business processes,” says Ian A. Henderson, author of Global Content Quest: In Search of Better Translations and co-founder with his wife, Francoise, of Rubric (www.rubric.com), a global language-service provider.

“Many products designed for and by Americans are in high demand in other countries, but that doesn’t mean the user experience will be exactly the same.”

Some translation complications that businesses encounter could easily be avoided, Rubric’s founders say. A few of those problematic situations include:

Creating poor user journeys. The Hendersons say they sometimes encounter clients who have a general idea of what the content should be in English, but have not thought about what it should be in other languages, or how to adjust it for different cultures. “Because of this,” Ian Henderson says, “people often end up translating for the sake of translating from some vague idea of necessity, rather than to intentionally grow the international market for their product in a strategic way. This leads to a poor user journey.” If you don’t put time and thought into what you are translating and why, he says, you may end up with inconsistency in content.

Using misapplied tools. Companies often look for software that will solve all their problems, and in many cases a multi-language feature is sold as part of a content-management system, or a product-information management system. “Unfortunately, it is often not very effective,” Francoise Henderson says. “Translation is more of an art than a science, and it is rarely as simple as plugging words into a program.” She recommends running a pilot program to test out new software before committing to buying it.

Adding translation to someone’s other responsibilities. Companies often make the mistake of assigning translation duties to someone already on staff simply because they speak the languages in question. “On the surface, that seems to make sense because the person knows your product and is already on your payroll,” Ian Henderson says. But the employee won’t make translation a priority because of competing responsibilities. When the employee does prioritize the translation, the rest of their work suffers. Also, just because they speak the language doesn’t mean they are competent writers who can successfully convey a message from one language to another.

Being stuck in silos. If departments within a company fail to communicate, information might be unintentionally translated multiple times, costing the company thousands in extra translation costs, Ian Henderson says. Other times, different departments will use different vendors to translate. So when put through translation, a product’s packaging claim might not correspond to the material that marketing or legal is sending out. One solution, the Hendersons say, is to have a central communications hub through which everything flows.

“One thing we’ve learned is translation is more than just a language problem,” Francoise Henderson says. “People and the products they buy vary from country to country. As a result, marketing can’t be too uniform because it won’t speak to all the audiences. But if it’s too individualized, you can lose your brand identity. The trick is creating a balance that both preserves the global brand and serves the local needs.”

_____________________________________________________________

About Ian A. Henderson

Ian A. Henderson (www.rubric.com), author of Global Content Quest: In Search of Better Translations, is chief technology officer and co-founder of Rubric, a global language service provider. During the last 25 years, Henderson has partnered with Rubric customers to deliver relevant global content to their end users, enabling them to reap the rewards of globalization, benefit from agile workflows, and guarantee the integrity of their content. Prior to founding Rubric, Henderson worked as a software engineer for Siemens in Germany.

About Francoise Henderson

Francoise Henderson is chief executive officer and co-founder of Rubric, overseeing worldwide operations and Global Content strategy. Under her guidance, Rubric has generated agile KPI-driven globalization workflows for its clients, reducing time to market across multiple groups and increasing quality and ROI. Francoise has over 25 years’ experience in corporate management and translation.