There are 7,105 known living languages in the world. Cloud-based business solutions have to address at least the top 10. Without local language support, a cloud company has to rely on target audience professional language skills which can be problematic. While someone may be very good at reading and writing common English, that same individual may be completely at a loss when it comes to words and terms relating to his or her profession. A marketing professional from Stuttgart may have read the entire Stephen King ‘Dark Tower‘ series without missing a word only to get stuck on a platform that asks: Please enter unit contribution for incremental cost analysis.
Anyone know what a ‘question wagon‘ is? This is an Icelandic market research term and it is introduced here to illustrate the language problems associated with professional terms and phrases. If you understand a ‘question wagon‘ to be ‘survey‘, you are correct. This type of scenario is typical in professional environments and we must remember that one of the primary skills associated with any business degree or profession is linguistic command; the actual application is literally dependent on it. If we lack the words, we cannot communicate effectively; if we cannot communicate, we cannot execute. As a result, the tools we use to develop our strategies and tactics become less useful.
Cloud companies tend to be reluctant to offer localized version of their webs due to loss of central control; i.e. the partners handle local sections. When it comes to platform localization, the problem becomes that of magnitude; the task may simply be too great for partners to handle. Both concerns are valid but there are ways around these problems. By breaking the GLOCAL approach in two sections – web and user platform (i.e. user interface) – we are left with two challenges:
- How to maintain multilingual webs.
- How to maintain multilingual dashboards.
The top 10 languages of the world are (parenthesis reflect what percentage of world population uses each one):
- Mandarin (14.1%)
- Spanish (5.85%)
- English (5.52%)
- Hindi (4.46%)
- Arabic (4.23%)
- Portuguese (3.08%)
- Bengali (3.05%)
- Russian (2.42%)
- Japanese (1.92%)
- Punjabi (1.44%)
In order to provide sufficient local content to capture target audiences, the website has to provide some content in the local language. This is not a complete translation of online materials, just what is most important such as:
- The sales pitch: Targeted material as to how the company and its platform leads to customer success.
- Peer pressure: A list of local customers with quotes and local media coverage.
- Contact info: Localized support makes most business managers – buyers – feel more at ease with their decision to buy.
This content can be delivered on 2 – 3 pages by the partners, who then use direct links for marketing purposes. The only issue the company needs to decide on is how may local urls it wants to secure. It is a considerable investment, but for a serious company it is one of the keys to staying at the competitive forefront.
Dashboards and cloud applications require partners to do some more work, however. Sometimes, this is best left to professional translating agencies for two reasons:
- Partners may not be talented copywriters which renders the text clumsy.
- Partners are supposed to actively engage the market and this activity may slow them down.
Still, partners know their market and how to approach it which renders them ideal to lead this effort. One of the main challenges is that dashboards and platforms cannot be condensed as localized web pages can; it is an all-or-nothing affair. In order to make this step easier, it is highly recommended that developers use a separate language table rather than fixing the language in the code itself. Partners are then directed to translate these tables and maintain them; it is simply part of their responsibility. This design issue is often overlooked when planning cloud applications and while it may work initially, it creates problems once the company attempts to go global. In some cases, tearing the application apart and piece it back together with proper language controls in necessary, but that is a step most CEOs hesitate to take and for good reason.
Cloud cooperation is one thing; efficient cooperation quite another. Partners need to become more involved in localization activities so they can capture their own sections of the world. In order for this to happen, the cloud company needs to ask itself whether or not it wants to apply the GLOCAL approach or not. If it decides against it, it risks losing market share to local competitors.