About this Author
John Yunker is founder of Byte Level Research
and author of the widely acclaimed book, Beyond Borders: Web Globalization Strategies
and editor of Global By Design
He has covered the emerging field of Web globalization for half a decade and has published a wide range of reports dedicated to best practices in Web localization and internationalization.
About this blog
Going Global focuses on the risks and rewards of expanding into new geographic and cultural markets, from Web globalization to international marketing to global usability.
April 27, 2004
Although the Web globalization industry has been around for half a decade, it is still very much in its infancy. The past few years have been particularly challenging for those executives in charge of global Web sites, as budgets have largely been on life support.
However, this year Web globalization appears to be making a comeback, driven by a rebounding global economy and emerging markets.
I have spoken with a number of executives who tell me that Web globalization is back on the âfront burner.â And every week it seems that another American multinational announces signs of âstrong growthâ abroad. Consider the following:
- eBay president Meg Whitman recently announced that her company would produce a full-scale Chinese Web site staffed by employees in China. She said she believes that China could eclipse Germany and England and become eBay's second largest market within 10 to 15 years.
- Amazon reported that Q1 2004 revenue in the US rose 20 percent to $847 million while revenue from its international stores (United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Japan) jumped 80 percent to $684 million. At this rate, Amazon could be generating the majority of its revenues from outside the US by the end of 2005.
- Coca-Cola, which already brings in more than two-thirds of its sales and four-fifths of its profits from overseas markets, is pressing ahead with its global expansion. Management stressed last month that Asia and Europe are the two markets it is most focused on these days.
The United States is a massive but mature market. Companies in search of long-term, double-digit growth have no choice but to pursue emerging markets such as China, India, and Eastern Europe. As a result, Web globalization is becoming an essential piece in the global marketing puzzle.
But even as companies increase their investments in Web globalization, they are doing so with more realistic goals and budgets. Every additional Web site is expected to generate additional revenues but also cut customer support costs. Today, I find that companies are asking fewer questions about building multilingual sites and more questions about how to use translation memory, and content management tools and how to measure return on investment. These are all great questions â and questions I plan to address in the months ahead, with your help.
What are your Web globalization plans?
I am going to be speaking with a number of small and large companies over the next few months about their current and planned Web globalization activities. Every company that participates will receive a free copy of my findings when the report is completed. If you would like to participate in what I believe will be an invaluable survey, please contact me
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Globalization | Web Globalization
April 25, 2004
Large companies are in a constant state of flux about how to best manage translation. Should they do the work in house or should they outsource it to a translation agency? Ask any translation vendor and they will passionately tell you that outsourcing is the only way to go. Ask any in-house translation team and they will argue the opposite.
Some companies, such as Siemens, rely on a combination of both internal and external teams. As an $80 billion company, Siemens has plenty of translation work to go around. Although Siemens has had an internal translation division for years, it did not require its divisions to use them. Similarly, this internal translation team was not required to work only on Siemens projects; today, roughly 25% of its revenues are generated by non-Siemens work.
But this arrangement came to an end on April 7th, when Siemens formally spun off (or âcarved outâ) its translation agency. According to the press release, the move was part of Siemensâ âcontinuing strategy of concentrating on its core portfolio.â This new company is known as LS Language Services GmbH (www.ls-international.com). It has 20 employees and manages up to 70 different language pairs. In 2003, the company generated sales of 9 million euros -- a very respectable figure for a firm this size.
I suspect that this move was largely driven by Siemensâ stated goal of reducing head count, but I also believe there are other factors at work here.
I spoke with Ilona Wallberg, head of sales and marketing at LS Language Services. Although LS Language Services is still owned by Siemens, she believes that it now has a degree of independence that will help it win new business. In the past, her company lost out on non-Siemens projects because of conflict-of-interest concerns. For instance, a telecoms vendor would naturally be reluctant to give translation work to a division of a company that it competes closely against.
Wallberg believes these concerns will be less of an issue now that her company has a new name and an independent business plan. She expects that in five years approximately 50% of the companyâs revenues will be generated by non-Siemens work. She also believes her firm will expand its industry focus far beyond IT and telecoms.
So what does this development signify, if anything? Here are a few thoughtsâ¦
Some skills may be better kept in house
While I realize that companies are always looking for ways to reduce head count, I canât help but wonder if Siemens is outsourcing a skill set that would be better off kept in house. Consider the value-added services that a translation division could provide to a large company, if it were effectively used. Translators and project managers could educate the many marketing and product development teams to better understand the cultural issues of each market and region. It could even provide high-level cultural and linguistic analysis of every new product name, color, positioning statement â just the types of services already being outsourced to naming and brand consultancies (many of which do not have global expertise).
Granted, most in-house translation teams do not provide these types of services today. They translate text and manage print and electronic localization projects and thatâs about it, which is why they are so easy to âcarve out.â But I do believe these are the types of services that companies increasingly need and are not getting from their conventional translation agencies. This in turn opens the door to consultants (such as Byte Level Research).
Whoâs going to manage that Web site?
LS Language Services is one of many handlers of the Siemens Web site. Wallberg notes that there are hundreds of people involved with updating content to the site and only a handful of those people are professional translators or project managers. Last year, in our Web Globalization Report Card, we gave the site a score of 62 on a scale of 1 to 100. The site clearly has room to improve, and Iâm not convinced it will get there any faster by outsourcing all work. In fact, I believe it will be increasingly important to have full-time Web content managers in house to work hand-in-hand with product developers and marketing managers.
Translation agencies are not viewed like advertising agencies â which is both good news and bad news for the industry
In advertising, it is rare to find competitive companies using the same agency. For example, the agency that has the Verizon Wireless account wonât also have the AT&T Wireless account. Companies view their agencies as consultants or partners, privy to high-level strategic intelligence and planning.
Now look at the translation industry. It is much more common for a translation agency to do work for competing companies simultaneously. Companies may have their concerns about such an arrangement, yet these concerns are not as frequently an issue. Non-disclosure agreements are signed, and thatâs the end of it. On one hand, this is great news for a translation agency, as it can thrive by focusing on specific industries. But it is also bad news because it means that companies do not view translation agencies as highly as they view advertising agencies. In other words, a translation agency is akin to a print shop, not a partner.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Globalization | Translation | Web Globalization
April 15, 2004
While Krispy Kreme continues its seemingly slow migration across the US (Boston only recently saw its first location), it is aggressively expanding outside the US. It already has stores in Australia, the UK and Canada, and recently opened a store in Mexico City (the company plans to open 20 stores in Mexico over the next six years).
It has even localized its Web site for the new markets:
Next Stop: Japan
According to the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), the company is in negotiations with a potential Japanese partner. No doubt the company has witnessed the success that Starbucks has enjoyed in Asia. According to the article, Japan "is the largest market outside the U.S. for McDonald's Corp. and coffee chain Starbucks Corp. But others, such as Burger King Corp., failed to attract Japanese consumers."
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Globalization
April 12, 2004
According to Samuel Huntington, in Foreign Policy Magazine, the "unprecedented inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages. Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and other Latinos form their own political and linguistic enclavesâfrom Los Angeles to Miamiâand reject the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream."
Mr. Huntington is not the first American to spout the equivalent of "there goes the neighborhood" in response to a wave of immigration. The mid- to late-18th century saw similar views expressed by similar alarmists. And I suspect the Native Americans said the same thing when those Anglo-Protestants first hit the beach.
I disagree with his argument on many levels. And I found his writing downright nasty at times; nevertheless, I believe the article is worth a read because the underlying argument is not likely to go away anytime soon.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Cultural Issues | US Hispanic Market
April 8, 2004
The BBC writes about the expanding translation demands of an expanding European Union. When 10 additional countries join the European Union on May 1st, they bring with them the demands of translating and interpreting nine additional languages. This is on top of the existing 11 languages the EU currently manages (and Turkish will be next).
The world's largest commercial translation agency, Bowne Global Solutions, is a $200 million company. Compare that with the EU, which is about to devote more than $1 billion (US) to translation and interpreting.
Here are some interesting stats from the article:
EU Translation: Before and After
- European Commission has 1,300 translators
- They process 1.5 million pages a year
- They cost the EU 550 million euros
After May 1st, staff will almost double in size:
- They will translate 2.5 million pages a year
- Their budget will be over 800 million euros
The article also touched on the challenges of interpreting. For example...
The need for translation already takes away the cut and thrust of a normal parliamentary debate.
When the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, last year likened a German MEP to a Nazi camp guard, it took several seconds before the German realised he was being insulted and pulled off his headphones in disgust.
This is a great article, as it touches on so many issues. Some within the EU are calling for a common language. Naturally, English has been proposed, but the French will have none of that. Esperanto has even been proposed. I think it's safe to say that for the foreseeable future, European translators and interpreters face a bright future.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Globalization Vendors | Translation
April 7, 2004
Here's an entertaining CNN article about the inherent risks of extending humor across cultures. For example, according to the Body Language Lady...
A smile, often the best ice breaker, is not necessarily a sign of approval, said Wood, also known as the Body Language Lady. "For Chinese, Japanese and Malaysians, a 'masking smile,' with corners of the mouth turned down, is a polite way of letting you know what you are doing is not appropriate."
The moral of the article: Jokes don't travel.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Cultural Issues