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September 11, 2007 

 Q&A: InterPro Translation CEO Ralph Strozza on Globalization, Translation 9/11/2007
The mission of Going Global, which appears on MidwestBusiness.com on most Tuesdays, is to educate and inform Midwest technology companies on what local technology companies are doing internationally so other firms can learn from the successes of like-minded peers.

CHICAGO – In part two of a three-part Q&A, InterPro CEO Ralph Strozza spoke with Michael Muth about globalization, internationalization, localization and translation.

Michael Muth: Globalization, internationalization, localization and translation (GILT) seems to be quite fragmented. How do you see that changing?
Ralph Strozza: Consolidation is heating up again. Companies such as SDL and Lionbridge are public companies. To feed the appetites of their stockholders, they have to be profitable and grow. They can’t do it organically.

The only way to do it rapidly is to buy middle-market companies. Common Sense Advisory’s “global watch tower” focuses on what’s happening in the GILT industry. They have very good insight into the industry and publish an annual list of the top 20 localization companies.

The revenue of the top 20 ranges from several hundreds of millions of dollars down to $21 million for No. 20. SDL continues to buy software companies such as it did with Trados two years ago. In April, they bought a content management software company called Tridian. They recently bought PASS Engineering, which is the developer of Passolo.

Passolo is a visual localization tool that allows you to localize in a WYSIWYG environment and in context. It’s a difficult situation having one of our competitors owning the tools on which we base our core services. We have been a Trados shop almost since inception. When SDL bought them, a lot of language service providers were uncomfortable getting in bed with a competitor.

The question on everyone’s mind was: “How are they going to use it against us?” We’re pretty self-sufficient technically because we don’t depend on them for support. We’ve been using it for 12 years. We haven’t noticed much difference since the acquisition because we have so little interaction with them. Trados and Passolo were developed in Germany.

None of the tools we use have been developed in the U.S. It’s not a failure but rather a reflection of the historical need for translation in Europe as opposed to here.

They have an ongoing need to translate that we just don’t have in the U.S. The underlying operating system technology for these tools, however, is developed by Microsoft and made in the U.S. They couldn’t have developed their tools without American [knowledge]. It would have at least taken them longer.

MM commentary: I met one of the principals of Common Sense Advisory at a LISA event a few years ago. They’re good. My impression is the U.S. has advantages on the technology side of localization and Europe on the language side of localization.

MM: What’s more important: knowledge/experience in technology, language or business?
RS: It depends on what you’re in the market for: products or services. For application software, I would look for technology experience. When I was at SSA and looking for a company to do localization, I needed people who understood the technology of the AS/400 platform.

They could train the linguistic resources on what they needed to do. In that particular case, technology was the most critical need followed by language skills. For marketing presentations and brochures or collateral materials, it’s a different story. Language skills absolutely come first.

Work we do for NAVTEQ involves translating marketing collateral concerning their clients (i.e. Audi, BMW and Volkswagen), which ends up both in print and on their Web sites. We will get the source as Quark files for the Macintosh and translate the content using Trados.

That’s a very different animal than an ERP application software program. If we are translating multiple products for the same client, there is some knowledge required of the various product lines. We need to know about their business and make every effort to learn before we start a project.

MM commentary: In other words, localization providers need knowledge and experience in technology, language and business.

MM: How is the proliferation of online media affecting GILT?
RS: NAVTEQ publishes in print and posts online. We deliver to them a Quark file for the Macintosh as well as a high-resolution PDF file to post on their Web site. We also do HTML-based help localization. How we translate that is not all that different from other content types. We put it through Trados.

Whether it goes to print or online, it doesn’t matter. The only real impact of dynamic Web pages is that you have to translate it and get it to the client as quickly as possible. You can’t deliver in a week. They need the translated update tomorrow. With Trados, anything that changed is readily identifiable. We usually address just what has changed.

While we haven’t yet had any projects involving YouTube, we have localized a lot of Webinars and online corporate presentations for dissemination on the Web. Clients want to make these available in multiple languages. They want us to handle everything. A 20-minute presentation in English becomes a 30- to 40-minute presentation by the time we’re done localizing it to Spanish.

We need to time the visuals to coordinate with what the speaker is saying. We localize training videos and computer or Web-based training courses.

While Webinar voiceovers are typically not done by professional studio talent, we always ask our clients what level of quality they need. They know if it needs to be recorded in a studio that it will be more expensive. While they usually say a microphone and PC are fine, we have partners that enable us to offer it both ways.

MM commentary: I haven’t seen or heard much foreign-language online video or audio. It does seems as if even these providers don’t even offer their sites in local languages.

MM: How can clients use more graphics to avoid some sticky GILT issues?
RS: They really should. If you can avoid graphics that contain translatable text, do it. If not, supply us with layered graphic files to make it faster, easier and less costly.

Clients typically have a hard time locating their source graphic files. This slows everything down and ends up costing more to translate since we sometimes have to recreate them. We advise our clients to avoid putting text in graphics. For example, use stop-sign icons to signify stop.

We do work for Zebra Technologies in 29 languages. They are very, very good at content reuse and as skilled as Adobe at using advanced Framemaker features. They don’t have to localize graphics because of the way they’ve designed them without text. We translate Zebra’s content and don’t have to deal with their graphics.

MM commentary: Pardon the cliché, but a picture really is worth a thousand words.

MM: What are the GILT trends in desktop publishing and marketing collateral?
RS: Everything is being developed for multiple platforms whether it’s for the Web, print or delivered on CD. It’s all one basic format that can be supplied according to the demand. We are seeing more and more content being developed in XML, too.

It’s another great equalizer that works for almost everything in a vanilla format depending on what the audience wants. No one really wants to go to print any more if the content can be made available online. In some cases, though, you have no choice. Some clients expect it. If we know something’s going to print, we have to ask more questions.

A printing company in Chicago might not have the actual localized language versions of Quark. We know to turn the text into outlines so the printer can open it within an English version of Quark.

MM commentary: While I don’t want print content any more, I guess some old-line industries still require it.

MM: How have translation tools advanced the last few years?
RS: The technology has become much more user friendly, intuitive and comprehensive. There was nothing that resembled content management when we started InterPro. Before, you had to develop for the Web and other platforms separately.

With a content management system (CMS) and global management system (GMS), today you really only have to develop content once. The first version of Trados didn’t have the filters it has today. Today, they allow it to handle many different formats. You used to lose all your formatting.

While clients don’t want to pay for 100 percent match text, we always recommended that we review them because the context may have changed and they require editing.

When working with Trados now, we don’t need to worry about that. We just work with what Trados tells us has changed since the previous translation. This has made our jobs easier and has also made clients much more sophisticated purchasers of translation.

MM commentary: The thought a couple years ago was that the content management companies would acquire the language service providers. That doesn’t appear to have come about.

Michael Muth is managing director of GATA, an international business development consultancy that helps technology companies build international partnerships. He can be reached at muth@midwestbusiness.com.
Click here for Muth’s full biography.

Previous Columns in 2007:
Q&A: InterPro Translation CEO Ralph Strozza on Intercultural Translation Issues (8/7/2007)
Q&A: Madison Capital Partners CEO Larry W. Gies on Specific Country Issues (7/10/2007)
Q&A: Madison Capital Partners CEO Larry W. Gies Jr. on Cultural Differences (6/26/2007)
Q&A: Madison Capital Partners CEO Larry Gies on International Private Equity (6/11/2007)
Q&A: Scott H. Lang of S.H. Lang & Co. in Chicago on Foreign Deal Making (5/15/2007)
Q&A: Scott H. Lang of S.H. Lang & Co. in Chicago on Middle-Market M&A (5/8/2007)
Q&A: Scott H. Lang of S.H. Lang & Co. in Chicago on Middle-Market Firms (4/24/2007)
Q&A: George Filley of NAVTEQ in Chicago on Data Localization, Reach (3/27/2007)
Q&A: George Filley of NAVTEQ in Chicago on Partners, Personal Privacy (3/20/2007)
Q&A: George Filley of NAVTEQ in Chicago on Digital Mapping (3/7/2007)
Click for 2006 column archive.
Click for 2005 column archive.
Click for 2004 column archive.

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