By Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler

Move over cowboys. Once you’ve finished wrangling your content into a more intelligent format, the next thing up on your agenda is to figure out whether your content is global ready and, if not, what you can do about it.

I’ve written a lot about intelligent content. Ann Rockley and Joe Gollner cover the topic from a strategic vantage point in An Intelligent Content Strategy for the Enterprise. For the uninitiated, intelligent content is content that is structurally rich, semantically aware, automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable. Intelligent content plays a critical role in helping organizations go global (expand into new markets). But intelligent content is just one part of a global content strategy. Two other important elements to consider are managing your content efficiently and making your content global ready.

What is “global ready”?

“Global readiness” is the process of creating and optimizing content so that readers all over the world can grasp its meaning and intent. Making your content global ready is an important — and too often overlooked — consideration before you translate and localize content. And, it’s equally important to make your content global ready to ensure that it communicates effectively to native and non-native readers of your content.

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The translation market is predicted to reach US$25 billion by 2013 (Source: Common Sense Advisory)

Common Sense Advisory says, “Translation and localization professionals often point out that quality [content] starts at the source. Poorly constructed text is notoriously difficult to translate, but the definition of “good writing” may vary from one language to another.”

To make your content global ready, you can’t rely on your Style Guide. You must, at a minimum, standardize your content by:

  • Creating and managing your terminology
  • Enforcing grammar and style rules for simplicity and consistency
  • Eliminating unnecessary words
  • Shortening unwieldy sentences
  • Avoiding idiomatic phrases

Standardizing your content is necessary to become global ready. Most content suffers from a variety of internationalization problems that introduce additional, unnecessary costs and slow time-to-market, limiting sales.

Creating internationalized, global ready content makes sense because it helps reduce the cost of localization and translation, and it enables companies to launch products in multiple languages and locales simultaneously with minimum delay. Companies have a narrow window to create and sell products — especially if they are competing in the ever-changing technology sector and/or their products are protected temporarily by patents — so the faster they get to markets around the globe, the more likely they are to make sales.

In addition to speeding time-to-market, companies are spending huge amounts of money on translation and localization. Common Sense Advisory says that the translation market is predicted to reach US$25 billion by 2013. That’s a lot of money. And a lot of it is wasted. It’s no wonder nearly every global organization is looking for ways to reduce translation and localization costs as they enter more and more markets, translating into an ever-increasing number of languages.

Global readiness is best determined with the help of software

Making content global ready is no job for mere mortals. Writers and editors do not possess the superpowers necessary to plow through all of the content you have and ensure it is ready to go global. You’ll need to enlist the help of software tools designed specifically to spot global readiness problems so you can fix them before your product launches.

Early entrants in the global readiness category of software focus on standardizing the content that surrounds technical products. A great example is acrolinx IQ, which is distributed as a cloud-based service in the U.S. by Content Rules. What I like about this service is that you can give them a small sub-set of your content (web pages, PDF, Word, XML, etc.), they’ll analyze it and provide you with a free report detailing errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, style, terminology. The report will help you pinpoint where you have problems with your content. It will also provide you with an idea of how much return on investment you’ll achieve by enforcing global readiness principles and content standards. You’ll be surprised at how much you don’t know about your content and why it costs as much as it does to create. And, you’ll likely spot areas in which improvements can yield significant benefits.

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Content Rules offers cloud-based access to terminology management tools from acrolinx

Keep in mind, the free analysis isn’t using your own corporate terminology, jargon, branding, style guide and authoring guidelines. It’s using 90 or so standards, rules, and language resources to test your content against. So the return on your investment of using these tools will likely be even higher than estimated once you configure the tools to enforce the terminology criteria specific to your industry and organization.

Global content strategy

Content strategists should add global readiness to their checklists. In organizations that sell products or provide services to people who live in other nations, a content strategy should definitely include preparing content for global consumption. That covers most large organizations with multi-national audiences on the web. In organizations that sell products or provide services to people who live in the same country but speak different languages, a content strategy should also address global readiness. As it turns out, the improvements in content quality that global readiness preparation provides also makes your content easier for local, non-native speakers to understand.

Start at the beginning

Creating global ready content from the start is a best practice. Organizations that enforce content standards (and have made global readiness a strategic goal) are smart. They value their content as a business asset worthy — and important enough — to be managed efficiently and effectively. Managing content means controlling both the content production process and those human beings who create, edit and make it available to your customers. Managing content quality at the source (while it’s being authored) makes far more sense than trying to edit away the problems that never should have found their way into your content in the first place.

If your organization values its content and you’re not managing terminology and content quality during the authoring process, isn’t it time you should be?

To learn more about terminology management and its place in a formal content strategy, listen to this recorded webinar “A Rose By Any Other Name Is Not A Rose: Terminology Management Matters” with Rahel Bailie. If you decide you’d like to learn how to get started, I’d suggest requesting a free global readiness evaluation from Content Rules.