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Implementing a Global Content Management System: Some Tips from the Front

By: Anna Schlegel and Eva Klaudinyova (Verisign)

19 September 2007

The Valley is once again gaining momentum. High-tech companies are going global in a big way and global gurus are in demand. Once a company has decided to go global, it can take a while before senior management decides to create capable localization teams and let them run their globalization efforts. This was the case of VeriSign.

In the past three years, we have been fortunate enough to establish a great globalization team with global web producers, localization experts, international developers and several in-country managers supporting our efforts from the front ranks.

Once we presented the case that we, as a company, were well over 2 million words a year in translations, the senior management wanted to meet and decide how we would manage the workload. We tested several tools, talked to several vendors offering Global Content Management Systems (GCMS) and finally made our choice. We also established a Localization Team, centralized our localization process, and decided on four global localization vendors, whose combined yearly output surpasses 3 million words translated for VeriSign. So our new adventure was about to begin.

Implementing a Global Content Management system is serious business and we decided that we would engage three senior localization managers from our team to oversee the implementation. By then, we had already obtained budget approvals and assigned the implementation team to identify localization requirements and survey types of files used across the whole company.

Spending enough time to prepare a Statement of Work (SOW) that details how the GCMS is supposed to perform is key. We suggest that you obtain access to a demo version of a GCMS, experiment with the tool and get as much feedback as possible from your colleagues before you finalize the SOW. Implementation will follow the precise details of the SOW, so make sure you have covered everything – expected performance, training and testing.

We decided to divide the implementation into two phases. The first phase would get the GCMS up and running as a stand-alone tool with manual upload of files. The second phase would connect it to our current CMS to push and pull files.

As of publication, we have completed the first phase; it has been hard work and quite a learning experience. We know that the GCMS is going to be used as a company-wide tool, which makes us very proud. An important part of the first phase was to train our localization vendors and test a variety of file types with them, as well as all of our customized workflows. We have vendors who are headquartered in the Silicon Valley, right around the corner, and vendors on other continents as well. Some have had previous experience with GCMS tools and some have never used similar tools before. Key in this phase was the detailed preparation that went into planning the different rounds of testing with each localization vendor. Schedules were put in place to test different languages, different workflows and different file types.

Before we begin the second phase, we would like to test the system for a few months as a stand-alone tool and learn all its capabilities. We will also need to assess the localization needs of the various VeriSign groups, the systems and databases they use, and decide whether we would simply hook up the GCMS to our CMS, or whether we would need to build a connector between these two that can not only connect these two systems, but also other databases. There might be a few challenges lying ahead and we need to take enough time to prepare for the next phase.

Here are some tips we would like to pass along to see if we can help those who are in the process of implementing a GCMS:

  1. Review localization processes within your company before you begin implementing a GCMS. Make sure that you are aware of all processes and workflows used by the various departments in your company. Those workflows and processes have to be well thought-through, established and evangelized before you bring the tool in. You also need to decide whether you want to adapt your existing processes to your GCMS capabilities, or vice ver.
  2. Review all file types localized in your company. Make sure you are aware of all file types and specific file requirements that both your company and your GCMS need (encoding, software versions, file types that the GCMS cannot handle, etc)
  3. Review all software and hardware requirements. Make sure that you have the necessary software versions supported by your GCMS. Decide whether you are going to have your GCMS vendor host the tool for you, or whether you are going to host it in-house. If the latter is the case, ensure that you have the necessary hardware and that the hardware versions are compatible.
  4. Alert your localization vendors early . Repeat, repeat, repeat. Let them know that your implementation of a Global Content Management System will change the way you have been doing business with them and give them enough time to adapt their process.
  5. Get your localization vendors on board . Have the vendors assign at least two key senior managers, assisted by an engineer, who will learn the system in advance and will be your partners during the implementation.
  6. Assign Lead Project Managers in charge of the implementation . One of the PMs should be on your side, the other on your GCMS vendor's side. Your Lead PM should be assisted by two or three senior managers experienced in localization and content management systems. Ensure that at least one team member has the necessary technical background.
  7. Clear up your calendar. Whoever is implementing the GCMS needs to make this their number one priority and have their manager's buy-in. The implementation is time consuming and will take most of their time. They should not try to juggle many other major projects in parallel.
  8. Plan all phases and keep a detailed schedule. Plan all phases of the implementation along with your GCMS vendor and your localization vendors. Have one of the team members manage the schedule. It is crucial to establish a deadline which everyone works towards and equally important that everyone works hard towards that one release date.
  9. Have regular update calls or meetings . Have the whole implementation team meet with your GCMS vendor regularly, to discuss progress, action items, issues and resolutions, and plan the next steps. Schedule these meetings at least once a week.
  10. Request clear training and testing instructions. Ask your GCMS vendor for clear instructions that all team members and localization vendors can refer to during training and testing. Send them to all your vendors ahead of time, before you start training them and testing files. The vendors should review these in advance and send their questions ahead of time so that you and your GCMS vendor can provide the answers before the actual training or testing begins.
  11. Identify super-users and administrators. If you are hosting the GCMS in-house, identify at least 2 super-users who will manage the hardware and the system itself. Secondly, decide who in your team will be an administrator of the tool. We suggest having at least 3 people who know the tool in and out and have been part of the implementation team to be able to cover several scenarios, share the workload and attend to user requests.

Yes, this is a lot. Globalization is a tricky world in itself and not everybody has the necessary knowledge to weave global thinking into well-established management structures. However, investing in the right team and appropriate tools will streamline globalization and let companies shine through internationally much faster.

One thing is for sure: a Global Content Management System will assist localization in unprecedented ways.

Eva Klaudinyova is Localization Manager at VeriSign, Inc. Apart from managing localization vendors and processes at VeriSign, her localization experience also includes translation, QA and project management. She is from Slovakia, and has a Master's degree in Foreign Language Teaching (English and German) from Slovakia, as well as a Master's degree in Translation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA.

Anna Schlegel is Executive Producer, Localization and Web Teams at VeriSign. Anna has been in the globalization industry since 1986. Anna has a Masters degree in German linguistics from Humbolt University in Berlin and a double English and German Linguistics BA from the Central University of Barcelona. She is the author of a bilingual Telecommunications Dictionary and has led globalization teams at Cisco Systems, Xerox, and VeriSign.