This is the final paper presented by Eric Dillow, a recent graduate of the Global Digital Marketing and Localization Certification (GDMLC) program. This paper presents the work being produced by students of The Localization Institute’s Global Digital Marketing and Localization Certificate program. The contents of this Paper are presented to create discussion in the global marketing industry on this topic; the contents of this paper are not to be considered an adopted standard of any kind. This does not represent the official position of Brand2Global Conference, The Localization Institute, or the author’s organization.
Ciena Corporation’s globalization journey is probably not unlike that of most other companies: Challenges, pitfalls, learning experiences…and eventually, success! My colleague Chinedu Mkpuluma did an excellent job recounting some of the oral history of web globalization at Ciena (you can read it here ), so I’m going to focus this discussion on some of the more granular challenges that we faced as an organization.
As Chinedu noted, Ciena’s acquisition of Nortel’s Metro Ethernet products thrust us from a medium-sized North American company to a very large international company practically overnight.
One of the initial challenges was determining which languages to focus on and develop. After some market research, research into Nortel’s customer base, and internal discussion, we decided on 12 initial languages: Korean, Japanese, French Canadian, Latin American Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, French, Spanish for Spain, German, Russian, Italian, Polish and Arabic (we have since added Dutch and will launch a Hebrew-language site for Israel in the near future).
Many years later, we faced a dilemma: we had all of these fully-translated global sites, but only about half of them were performing at a level that we felt justified the continued maintenance and translation costs that they required. It was at that time that we decided to split our sites into three groups:
- The BIG 7 sites (Japanese, Korean, LA Spanish, BR Portuguese, Russian, French and German) remain fully translated, with input from the regions.
- The SMALL 4 sites (Polish, EU Spanish, Italian and Dutch) received a homepage treatment that remains in-language, and still maintains input from the region, but all of the links from the translated homepage point to English content on our .com site.
- Two of the sites (Canada and Middle East) were reverted back to English-only sites.
One reason that the SMALL 4 tactic works in our instance is that the business that Ciena conducts in these areas can often be done in English, so that factored into our decision to scale back some of the less-visited sites. We discovered from many of our sales teams that our business is so technologically specific that many sales conversations, even in regions where English is not the primary language, are held in English. Our global sites need to appeal to in-language users from a marketing perspective, but once it comes down to conversations around products and sales, English is common, so pointing users to English content, at least in our line of work, is acceptable.
Moving to the BIG 7 and SMALL 4 workflow helped us dedicate resources and time to the fully-translated sites that were performing well, and allowed us to maintain an in-language web presence while reducing the amount of time spent updating the sites that weren’t performing as well.
For several years, any updates, changes, new product offerings, new collateral, marketing campaigns, landing pages…you name it…were also processed, translated, and added to each of the global websites without regard for local market trends or focus. This led to us spending a lot of time and resources translating content that wasn’t likely to be seen by certain regional audiences. The nature of Ciena’s business (optical and packet networking) is such that not every product is relevant to every regional market. Still, although it was not the most efficient way of doing things, at the time it was just easier to take everything, translate everything, publish everything, and then move on to the next web update.
That worked well enough for a while, but once we started getting some requests from regional offices for custom landing pages, event pages, and in-language byline articles that were Ciena-focused. They needed more than just the translated content that we were bringing over from Ciena.com. With the regional offices showing an interest in the sites, we made an effort to meet with them on a consistent basis to discuss what was going on from a sales and marketing standpoint in their regions. The marketing teams in EMEA, CALA and APAC were more than willing to meet with us regularly to discuss how we could better support their marketing efforts, and we now have twice-monthly calls with them during which we brainstorm ideas for new digital content based on what is going on in the region, what events are upcoming, if we’ve had any recent press, what products or services we are pushing at the moment. Through these relationships and discussions, we are able to keep each of our global domains updated with the most relevant content for that country.
We took this a step further with our recent redesign project. We’ve had generally the same look and site architecture for about 5 years, so we went through the process of redesigning Ciena.com and our global sites. One of the goals was to reduce the number of pages on our sites and simplify access to our web content. In addition, we met with the regional representatives as we went through the redesign planning process to ensure that the new site design and architecture work for both an English-speaking audience as well as our global audiences. We also worked with our development team to ensure that the back-end of the site is flexible enough to allow the kind of translation ease-of-use that we require. With the new sites launched in late September, we have moved away from the “1:1” scenario that we’ve previously used and towards a truly customized site for each region and language.
Sometimes, the initial and market challenges I highlighted earlier seem to pale in comparison to some of the more technical challenges that we’ve faced over the years. Between our content management system (CMS), translation tools and software, and our custom-built API tool that allows for batch translation, there are a lot of technical moving parts that are susceptible to version updates and other factors that can interrupt our translation process.
We use a robust CMS platform, and one of the best parts about the platform is the ability to create content hierarchies that helps us keep our content organized. Basically, when we create a piece of content for .com and assign it a unique content ID (CID), we can duplicate that same piece of content for any or all of our global domains. During the duplication process, it is assigned a unique content ID as well. This helps us stay organized, and the platform has a view that allows us to see which global versions we have for any specific CID.
We contracted with a software development agency called to help us develop a tool that allows us to batch up any number of CIDs and send those out as a group for translation for any language (or multiple languages) that we select within the tool interface. This makes it very easy to send over large amounts of text all at the same time. Each batch is given a unique project name, and once sent, the translators can grab the project, translate it, and submit it back to us for import into our CMS. The tool also handles this part of the process: once a linguist let us know that their translations are complete, we use the same tool to specify a language for import, and each unique global CID is populated with the new translations.
Prior to a few months ago, we had been using the same translation management system (TMS) for a number of years. However, our linguists and globalization manager were interested in finding a tool that would allow the linguists to see the content that needed translation in context with how it would appear on the site. After quite a bit of research and vetting, we moved to a new TMS, which necessitated some changes to our API tool.
Once the changes were made, we sent some test CIDs over using the new version of the tool, but we ran into a few issues. The main issue was that not only were the translation strings being sent over, but all of the accompanying HTML tags were as well, which was causing some confusion for the linguists. We re-engaged our software developer with the issue, and after a few meetings internally and with the new TMS team, we were able to figure out the root cause of the issue and correct it. In this case, there was a setting within the new TMS related to CDATA that needed to be changed…no changes to the API tool were necessary! We’ve now been using the new TMS platform for about one month post-fix, and the linguists are happy with the new format on their end. On our end, not much changed…we still duplicate CIDs within our CMS, we still batch CIDs and send them via our API tool, and we still import them via the tool once they are complete.
What We’ve Learned
As with learning anything new, there were bumps and bruises and plenty of frustrations along the way. But with those came a much better understanding of not only globalization and localization as a whole, but also a better understanding of the processes and tactics that it takes to be successful.
One of the main things that we’ve learned during this process is that the more we plan ahead, the better we are in the end. This likely seems like common sense, and to an extent it is, but making sure that ALL stakeholders are a part of our planning process has really helped us avoid potential bumps in the road during or after a given program. While adding multiple parties along the way can seem like it would slow the process down, we’ve found that making sure that our website developers, our translation manager, our software developers, our in-region marketing liaisons and our management team are all involved in the process has actually streamlined the process and has significantly reduced confusion along the way.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, we learned that you can’t do everything at once. It would be great to be able to duplicate all content, all the time, and have it ready for our global audience immediately after the content is available on Ciena.com, but that’s unrealistic given our technology and personnel availability. When we took a more granular approach to each global site, and were more targeted in what we decided to translate, we were much more successful.
Ciena’s globalization and localization efforts continue to be a work in progress; to think that we have it all figured out and that we won’t encounter challenges moving forward is to ignore the reality of our business and the globalization dynamics that are always in play. However, by overcoming the challenges I outlined above, we have positioned ourselves as a successful web globalization team, and we look forward to continuing our globalization journey.
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Eric Dillow a digital marketing professional primarily focused on web globalization and localization strategy. During his time at Ciena, visits and visitors to their 12 translated global websites are up, launch timeframes are down, and the quality of Ciena’s global web presence has grown dramatically. Eric delivers best-in-class global content and user experiences throughout Ciena’s many online channels.
Connect with Eric on Linkedin: HERE