Industry Trend: Quality at the source
Understanding how an Information Quality Strategy is essential in today’s business world
Today, companies must reach global markets faster if they want to remain competitive. To reach those markets most effectively, corporate content such as web sites, product information, and sales materials must be translated into their customers’ native language. However, translation and localization are often roadblocks to successfully releasing products into international markets quickly. The two biggest hurdles for localization are cost and time. Traditional translation done with a translation vendor can range in cost from 0.15 to 0.30 cents per word depending on the provider. That can mean millions of dollars when translating millions of words in multiple languages. Additionally, localization is often the last step before a product release. Once a product is created, the release is delayed until all of the translation is completed. Every day spent waiting on translation is a day that companies are losing money and market share. Imagine if the Blackberry™ smart phone was released in France two months before the iPhone™ because of translation delays. How many potential customers would have been lost? Could Apple ever get those customers back?
This article will focus on strategies for dealing with the biggest challenges with localization—cost, time, and quality. You will learn how to create an Information Quality strategy to decrease the cost of translation and contribute to your company’s strategic objectives of reaching global markets faster.
What is Information Quality?
It is important to understand what Information Quality means and how to measure it to create a strategy for reducing localization costs and addressing international release delays. Information Quality refers to the measurement of excellence for a company’s written content. Corporate content in multiple formats (XML, HTML, Word documents, Power Point slides, and so on) can be measured for accuracy, readability, clarity, consistency, conformance to corporate and industry standards, and translatability. This measurement can be used as an Information Quality standard. Software products like acrolinx IQ™ can provide data on the quality of corporate information and help improve this quality over time.
Many companies look downstream to their translation vendors to solve their cost and time challenges. Yet, looking at the content at the beginning of the information lifecycle adds more value to the organization. By improving the source content, companies drive down the supply chain costs, improve their customer experience, and accelerate time-to-market at the same time.
Writing to improve Information Quality
Information developers are an essential part of an organization. Yet, their work is often undervalued. The source content that they create has an effect on customer satisfaction, translation costs, and publishing costs. Why is their work so important? It is the information that your customers are seeing. Customers want to be spoken to in a language that they understand! That means that they want to read and buy in their native language, feel comfortable with the product or service, and understand the information that they are reading. If, for example, an American travels to Africa and books a room at a Hilton hotel, he or she expects it to have the same look, feel, and service as a Hilton hotel in the United States. Customers feel the same way when they are reading information in their native language. They expect it to have the same high quality as the English content. The rule of thumb is: when communicating brand, translating into different languages, or indexing information for searchability, the better the source content, the better the output.
You can improve source quality in many ways. First, consider the audience. Do not reference information that is not relevant in a global way. Some good examples are holidays, date and time formats, and catchy phrases that wouldn’t translate well into another language. Second, define your corporate terminology. Using consistent terms for your company’s products, services, and messages affects brand recognition, customer satisfaction, and the cost of translation.
Developing a corporate style guide and terminology database, making them available for everyone in the organization, and using technology to alert writers to improper terminology help ensure consistency throughout your content. Additionally, decreasing the amount of content by eliminating unnecessary words and phrases, writing the same information the same way, and reusing previously written and/or translated content will have a dramatic effect on cost and time.
Why is translation so expensive?
To keep translation costs down, it is important to understand why translation is so expensive. Traditional translation is done by human beings who are native speakers of a target language, translating word by word. The downside is that human beings can only translate a limited number of words per day, and the process can be time consuming and expensive. Though there are many technological advances to improve this process such as Translation Memories and Machine Translation, they still have their challenges. Translation Memories only match on previously translated content and if the content is not exactly the same, it will cost money to have it verified or manually translated by a translator. Also, Machine Translation engines have a reputation of producing poor quality translations and generally cannot be used for customer-facing content.
Since translation is generally priced on a per-word rate, decreasing the number of words can have a huge effect on the overall cost. Writers often use unnecessary words, write the same thing in many different ways, or fail to use the corporate style and terminology guide. Consider the examples in Figure 1 and their effect on cost.
Figure 1: Word Volume
Inconsistencies and Errors
Many times, translation costs skyrocket because of errors, updates, and inconsistent language in the source content. When an error or update is introduced and fixed at the source, there is a minimal cost to make the change. If that error is then introduced into multiple channels for product information such as website, user guides, and online help, that cost is multiplied by each form of content. When that error is then translated into multiple languages, the cost is exponentially greater. Mistakes and inconsistencies in the source content can proliferate through all corporate information. The cost to fix it at the beginning of the content lifecycle is significantly less than finding it after translation.
The key to keeping costs down is to insist on quality source content that is consistent, streamlined, and accurate. Information Quality directly affects the downstream cost of translation (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Inconsistencies and Errors
How does this help me get products to market faster?
Simultaneous shipping, or releasing products in all markets and languages at the same time seems unachievable for many product manufacturers. Typically, companies can’t afford to release a product while they wait for all of their product information to be localized. The localization process simply takes too long and waiting costs too much in revenue and market share. High-quality information at the source helps get products through translation and to target markets faster in several ways. First, it decreases the volume of content to translate, which decreases the time it takes to translate it. Second, it decreases the time that content is in the review cycle because high quality information is easier to understand and translate. Finally, it prevents errors and inconsistencies in the content that cause delays in the release.
An Information Quality Strategy should:
- Eliminate unnecessary content and encourage reuse
- Enforce corporate terminology and style guides
- Make it easy for authors to recognize where they can make improvements
- Provide Information Quality metrics
- Decrease translation and publishing costs
- Get to market faster
- Improve efficiency for authors
- Makes information easier for the customer to understand in every language
Implementing Information Quality standards across the enterprise can benefit organizations in multiple ways. They provide benefits in cost, time, and efficiency. Bottom line: Without an Information Quality strategy that empowers Information Developers to maintain quality in the source content, companies will lose time and money. It is essential to measure and identify quality trends. Companies need to put in place quality metrics tools and provide objective, real-time feedback to writers in order to maintain quality standards. Whether companies want to measure and enforce quality manually or rely on an Information Quality Management tool such as acrolinx IQ™, it is apparent that quality information needs to be part of every company’s strategic mission.
Jennifer Beaupre is the Director of Marketing at acrolinx, responsible for all their flagship technology product acrolinx IQ™, an easy-to-use software tool that helps companies build in quality from the beginning of the content lifecycle. She is bi-lingual in Spanish and English and through her work in localization and IT, she has an excellent understanding of the cultural and linguistic challenges that businesses face when operating on a global scale.