Market Research Report Provides Best Practices For Authoring in Global Communications

The process of global content creation is complex. Content source optimization requires the author be clear and concise, use correct terminology, avoid national or cultural references in verbal or graphical imagery, and comply with international style guides. Market research firm Common Sense Advisory surveyed and interviewed dozens of global product manufacturers on their authoring technologies, processes, and tools for its authoring best practices research report, “Content Source Optimization.”

The report highlights organizational change, process improvements, and technology solutions among advanced global content producers, many of whom employ more than 50 authors on internal teams. Leading practitioners have begun to adopt tools for source optimization, including terminology development and style guide checkers (used by 30% of respondents). Fewer companies systematize multilingual terminology management (13%); “authoring memory” software is used in only 17% of the advanced authoring environments examined. Common Sense Advisory found that glaring gaps still exist in the software solutions due the early stage of market development, but also stemming in part from confused goals and inadequate planning among information producers.

Comments report lead analyst, Ben Sargent, “Tools that help content creators do better work, increase efficiency, and collaborate across regions, languages, and corporate functions are badly needed. But to succeed, the organizational and process barriers between technical authoring, marketing, and translation must be broken down.”

The findings from the research show that quality and price are key drivers for content source optimization:

* Companies seeking to reduce the cost of customer support were 14 times more likely to favor technology implementation over other approaches.

* To reduce cost of translation, information producers were four times more likely to favor training and professional development over other approaches.

* To improve the quality and consistency of translated content companies flagged technology, process re-engineering, and training in nearly equal measure, indicating that no single approach gets the intended results.

But improving quality and reducing cost were not the only factors driving change. To increase agility and reduce time-to-market, companies may reform various parts of the global content creation process. For example, firms addressing markets across the European Union expand to as many as 23 languages. If their plans include Russia, Turkey, the Middle East, and East Asia, the tally quickly climbs to 35 or 40 (see “The Top 40 Global Online Brands,” Nov09). That means dozens of streams of information depend on the quality and accuracy of the original materials.

To tackle the challenges of global content creation, Common Sense Advisory recommends a six-step process:

Step 1: Find a Content Optimization Champion
Step 2: Trace “the secret life of shared words” (to map content transformations)
Step 3: Align organizational goals across multiple functions within the enterprise
Step 4: Assemble and prioritize business needs for global communications
Step 5: Determine success factors for measurement of information quality, cost, and time-to-market
Step 6: Plan the implementation (often a multi-year process)

Adds Sargent: “These six steps will go a long way toward addressing the current chaotic state of content development and translation; improving a company’s ability to forecast and direct the flow of information through an organization. But technology vendors must help information producers to bridge process gaps by unifying terminology and style guide definition and enforcement across source and target language content creation processes.”

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