I attended the ECM pre-conference training session this week at the AIIM conference in Boston to learn about the latest ECM practices that address today’s global companies’ growing needs.
While presenting her points the instructor was compelled to remain independent of specific tools and vendors. By doing so, unfortunately she gave up not only the reference to and use of commercial tools, but also a myriad of other proprietary solutions, open source technologies and de facto standard tools. Instead, she opted to rely solely on theory in what resulted in a rather dull PowerPoint presentation. Needless to say, the highly anticipated and sold-out full day session fell flat on the ears of its eager audience.
This however was not the only glaring problem of the session. The first goal according to AIIM was to “Learn global best practices for planning and implementing ECM”. So the primary interest for me was to hear about the challenges that multilingual content brings to bear on global ECM solution implementers and users, and to learn about the best practices that AIIM recommends in managing them.
While starting the session by indicating the need to “think globally [and] act locally”, as the training session wore on, the aspect of thinking globally didn’t quite fully materialize. Multilingual content support was never flagged as an issue for attendees to consider!
There are obvious and significant implications that multilingual content will have on ECM practices. For those truly dealing with global ECM, here are a few to think about and plan for, while implementing your solution:
- If you rely on search-engine based ECM classification, make sure your search engine accepts entries in all needed characters and not just Latin-based. Cyrillic, Asian and Middle-Eastern languages may create a problem. You want to enable all your international users to enter keywords in their native language to search for their in-country developed content and documents.
- If you rely on taxonomy, controlled vocabulary or complex thesauri for classifying your content, consider localizing them to facilitate classifying multilingual documents. English taxonomy may be ambiguous or irrelevant in other languages.
- While storing and retrieving multilingual documents make sure your storage and viewing tools correctly deal with non-Latin based characters and not transform them into junk characters. If you need to support bi-directional languages, like Arabic or Hebrew, make sure they can handle text written and displayed from right to left.
- If your web content is localized into multiple languages like most global companies’ websites, decide on how to store your multilingual content and how to associate it and keep it synchronized with its source. Also think about how to deal with source text changing over time and how that will impact your multilingual content. Web pages are dynamic and organic in nature. Keeping all languages in synchronization is a significant undertaking that should not be underestimated.
- If you are dealing with outside translation companies who will keep your multilingual text in sync with the source, work out the details of how you will interface with their translation content management system. Also, look into automating the text export and import processes. XML and custom connectors can greatly simplify the hand-off process and streamline these operations.
If you are a global company, don’t limit your thinking and work to the implementation of an Enterprise Content Management System. Instead, think about the implementation of an Enterprise Multilingual Content Management system. Only by supporting and maintaining multilingual content will your ECM solution truly ensure global authenticity, integrity, reliability and usability!