Firms face daunting task in keeping global Web presence current

Establishing Web sites for your company in 30 countries, all with local content, is one thing. Keeping them current while routing customer requests to the right people in the right countries and linking all that information to databases in the home office is something else entirely. Just ask Toni Corwin.

Corwin is the Web globalization program manager at Eastman Chemical Co., a chemical supply firm in Kingsport, Tenn., with a Web presence that's 6,000 to 7,000 pages deep and localized for more than 30 countries.

Her challenge now is to ensure that all content is kept up-to-date and that database information such as product catalogs can be transferred accurately to and from all the Web sites. Not all content is appropriate for all sites, Corwin explained, and that's part of the monitoring process. Some changes in content about products on the main site are irrelevant to a Japanese site, for example, because Eastman may not sell a particular product in Japan.

Corwin said there haven't been any instances in which content on one local site conflicted with that on another. "But we could see the writing on the wall," she said.

To keep content current on different sites in different languages, she chose WorldServer software from Idiom Technologies Inc. in Waltham, Mass. The software tracks content changes on each local Eastman Chemical site, alerts translators for the other sites that the change has been made and sets up a workflow program whereby the translation is automatically sent through a predetermined chain of command.

Though she has installed WorldServer for a beta test, Corwin must still resolve database compatibility problems, like the fact that Eastman's back-end systems can't accept Asian character sets.

Another problem with managing content is tracking customer input on one site through the entire customer relationship management system. One way to resolve that problem is to use machine translation software. For example, Sybase Inc. in Emeryville, Calif., now includes machine translation software from Transparent Language in its Enterprise Portal product line. Merrimack, N.H.-based Transparent Language was recently sold to SDL PLC in Berkshire, England.

Tim Fallen-Bailey, director of global products at Sybase, said the machine translation software is most useful for his customers as a way to route customer service questions to the appropriate person in a given country. The Transparent Language software translates messages in real time.

"No one's under the illusion that machine translation is 100% accurate," Fallen-Bailey said. But, he added, it does help some internal processes.

This story, "Firms face daunting task in keeping global Web presence current" was originally published by Computerworld.

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