Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Month: December 2007 (Page 1 of 3)

Enterprise Search and Its Semantic Evolution

That the Gilbane Group launched its Enterprise Search Practice this year was timely. In 2007 enterprise search become a distinct market force, capped off with Microsoft announcing in November that it has definitively joined the market.

Since Jan. 1, 2007, I have tried to bring attention to those issues that inform buyers and users about search technology. My intent has been to make it easier for those selecting a search tool while helping them to get a highly satisfactory result with minimal surprises. Playing coach and lead champion while clarifying options within enterprise search is a role I embrace. It is fitting then, that I wrap up this year with more insights gained from Gilbane Boston; these were not previously highlighted and relate to semantic search.

The semantic Web is a concept introduced almost ten years ago reflecting a vision of how the Worldwide Web (WWW) would evolve. In the beginning we needed a specific address (URL) to get to individual Web sites. Some of these had their own search engines while others were just pages of content we scrolled through or jumped through from link to link. Internet search engines like Alta Vista and Northern Light searched limited parts of the WWW. Then, Yahoo and Google came to provide much broader coverage of all “free” content. While popular search engines provided various categorizing, taxonomy navigation, keyword and advanced searching options, you had to know the terminology that content pages contained to find what you meant to retrieve. If your terms were not explicitly in the content, pages with synonymous or related meaning were not found. The semantic Web vision was to “understand” your inquiry intent and return meaningful results through its semantic algorithms.

The most recent Gilbane Boston conference featured presentations of commercial applications of various semantic search technologies that are contributing to enterprise search solutions. A few high level points gleaned from speakers on analytic and semantic technologies follow.

  • Jordan Frank on blogs and wikis in enterprises articulated how they add context by tying content to people and other information like time. Human commentary is a significant content “contextualizer,” my term, not his.
  • Steve Cohen and Matt Kodama co-presented an application using technology (interpretive algorithms integrated with search) to elicit meaning from erratic and linguistically difficult (e.g. Arabic, Chinese) text in the global soup of content.
  • Gary Carlson gave us understanding of how subject matter expertise contributes substantively to building terminology frameworks (aka “taxonomies”) that are particularly meaningful within a unique knowledge community.
  • Mike Moran helped us see how semantically improved search results can really improve the bottom line in the business sense in both his presentation and later in his blog, a follow-up to a question I posed during the session.
  • Colin Britton described the value of semantic search to harvest and correlate data from highly disparate data sources needed to do criminal background checks.
  • Kate Noerr explained the use of federating technologies to integrate search results in numerous scenarios, all significant and distinct ways to create semantic order (i.e. meaning) out of search results chaos.
  • Bruce Molloy energized the late sessions with his description of how non-techies can create intelligent agents to find and feed colleagues relevant information by searching in the background in ways that go far beyond the typical keyword search.
  • Finally, Sean Martin and John Stone co-presented an approach to computational data gathering and integrating the results in an analyzed and insightful format that reveals knowledge about the data, not previously understood.

Points taken are that each example represents a building block of the semantic retrieval framework we will encounter on the Web and within the enterprise. The semantic Web will not magically appear as a finished interface or product but it will become richer in how and what it helps us find. Similar evolutions will happen in the enterprise with a different focus, providing smarter paths for operating within business units.

There is much more to pass along in 2008 and I plan to continue with new topics relating to contextual analysis, the value, use and building of taxonomies, and the variety of applications of enterprise search tools. As for 2007, it’s a wrap.

Conversations for 2008: Our Globalization “Wish List”

As we close our first year of the Gilbane Globalization blog, we looked back at our initial goals to help readers meet the challenges of multilingual business communications. Three conversations stood out as emerging themes that we felt were critical then — and now:

    • Understanding the impact of globalization on customer experience and brand management
    • Viewing the global content lifecycle as a strategic business practice
    • Closing the gap between content and translation management processes

Communicating the importance of each drove our 2007 blog entries, our conversations with corporate users and technology vendors, our globalization-specific case studies and whitepapers, and the design of the Globalization Track at Gilbane Boston 2007. As we did so, our favorite mantra continued to bubble up as the ultimate success criteria: A holistic focus on the People, Processes, and Technology that create, translate, manage, distribute, and consume global content.

Our conversation wish list for 2008 is very “PPT”-driven. In fact, we can’t think of any theme that does not require a collaboration of people, an interoperability between processes, and an integration of technologies:

    • The power of single-sourcing to redefine “multi-channel” as more than device-driven outputs.
    • The impact that human + machine translation combinations can have on the availability and quality of multilingual content.
    • The value of terminology management in combating the proliferation of insulting translations.
    • The potential of multilingual social networking.

And last but not least, the availability of “the wisdom of the crowds,” or from our take, global access to shared best practices that enable organizations to learn from each other in attaining quality multilingual communications. We’ll aim to make sure that goal is ongoing.

The Global “Customer Experience” Redefined: Gilbane Boston Keynote Summary

The topic of the globalization track keynote was billed as “delivering the global customer experience.” Earlier in the conference (in the Wednesday keynote, I believe), a speaker eloquently offered an alternative for the now-almost-meaningless term “customer experience.” Customer experience can be good, bad, or indifferent, as noted elsewhere in our blogs. This speaker distilled the business requirement as “enabling valuable interactions.” This phrase resonated with us, and we used it to introduce the globalization keynote session. How are companies, today, enabling valuable interactions with customers in any language, through any channel?

We set the panel up to answer this question from the various perspectives that should be represented at the table in the conference room when planning global content strategies: the business people responsible for delivering content to customers, the translation professionals who make sure that content in the customer’s language is of the highest possible quality, the content management professionals who facilitate the content lifecycle, and the analysts and consultants who can give stakeholders access to industry knowledge and best practices.

The goal of the session was to give our audience guidance on framing the globalization discussion within their organizations. What matters to which constituents? What’s the lens through which they look at the problem and the opportunity? Participants were Brian Shorey, director of engineering at Cisco Systems; Donna Parrish, publisher of Multilingual; Dean Berg, currently with Sajan, formerly with Stellent, now Oracle; and my colleague Leonor Ciarlone.

The panel offered insights too numerous to report, but the key topics included small successes with “unfunded but mandated programs,” the need for translation professionals to begin considering themselves project managers, and the growing requirement for collaboration across the global content lifecycle, which Leonor identified as a potential hot topic at next year’s Gilbane Boston conference. Personally, the keynote brought together the key themes that defined content globalization for me in 2007, especially the changing nature of the business case for investment in people, process and technologies that support global content — and therefore enable valuable customer interactions.

The other personal observation worth sharing, I think, is that content globalization was, for the first time, an integral part of the industry dialog that takes place at Gilbane conferences. All of the sessions in the track were well attended. Multi-lingual business communication was discussed throughout the entire conference program, not just in the globalization track. Eyes no longer glazed over at the mention of translation process management. Improvements in the quality of machine translation were even mentioned in the keynote on the future of content management.

What’s fueling the content globalization discussions within your organizations? How can we bring your hot topics to the forefront at Gilbane San Franciso 2008? Email us with ideas for sessions in the globalization track. If you’re game to tell your own story, consider submitting a speaker proposal. The deadline for submission is January 15.

When is a Wiki a Whiteboard?

A: When its a huddle.

Q: When is a huddle an environment for multilingual communication?
A: When a huddlee can dynamically change the user interface to work in her native language.

Q: Why is this interesting?
A: Because we’ve yet to see a concentrated focus on globalization requirements in the social computing and collaboration space. In fact, we’ve been wondering where is the “L” is in Web 2.0?

Q: What if you don’t speak German?
A: The company that built and manages the huddle concept (Ninian Solutions Ltd) provides a French user interface as well and according to our interview with the company, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese will follow.

Q: So how will content created by huddlers get translated?
A: Machine translation may very well prove its use within a Web 2.0 environment. Stay tuned.


Understanding Globalization Standards: Gilbane Boston Session Summary

The Globalization Track’s “Understanding the Globalization Standards Landscape” session provided a trio of experts to content management professionals wading through the industry’s “alphabet soup” of authoring, translation, and integration standards. Moderator Kaija Poysti deftly led the audience on a road trip through a multi-dimensional standards landscape with more than a few controversial roadblocks.
The mission was to understand how a standards-driven strategy provides an impact on customer experience, provide expert guidance on which ones really matter, and take-away advice on what to ask when evaluating solutions. Panelists Don DePalma from Common Sense Advisory (CSA), Andrew Draheim from Dig-IT!, and Serge Gladkoff from GALA delivered on the mission and then some, with commentary on which are practical, which are simply theoretical, and most importantly, which have a positive impact when adopted. Highlights:

    • On a “standards reality check”: “You have no choice on some; Some are about good hygiene, but little used; and others are not ready for prime time in their current form. However, the code and content ecosystems definitely need an injection of globalization DNA.” Don DePalma, CSA.
    • On standards benefits: “Adoption can decrease the internal cost of doing business, decrease typical business risks, facilitate business interactions, increase the value of services to clients, save on R&D and business development, and save on internal personnel training. However, there are too many private standards and too few generally-adopted public standards. Standards are notoriously difficult to develop and upon completion, they compete; be warned though, the “winning” standards not always the best ones.” Serge Gladkoff, GALA Standards Committee Chair.
    • On synergies between content and translation management: “When these technologies work together, it streamlines processes, reduces duplication and errors, and makes publishing easier. Which standards will be around tomorrow? Take a look at Translation Memory eXchange, Segmentation Rules eXchange, XML Localisation Interchange File Format (XLIFF), and TermBase eXchange.” Andrew Draheim, Dig-IT!.

Many thanks to our panel for guiding our audience through the globalization standards landscape with candor and real-world advice.

Quality at the Source: Gilbane Boston Session Summary

The Globalization Track’s “Quality at the Source: Creating Global Customer Experience” provided advice from those in the trenches striving to do just that: bake in quality from the “get-go.” From Gilbane’s perspective, delivering customer experience is one thing; delivering global customer experience is quite another.

Our presenters understood this perspective from a “been there, doing that” frame of mind. Mary and I would like to thank Dee Stribling, Project Manager at SAS, Lori Kegel, Manager Technical Communications at Boston Scientific, and Richard Sikes, Senior Consultant & Advisor at The Localization Institute for demonstrating that global customer experience is not yet another industry phrase designed to bolster new marketing campaigns. Putting the global in customer experience is a necessity, critical for those with multinational revenue profiles, and presents tangible challenges for organizations to view the content lifecycle from a totally different perspective.

When perspective morphs to reality, organizations often unearth champions with a range of specialties that define the pillars for “going global.” Consider the following quotes from our presenters that epitomize some of the success factors for globalization in organizations that clearly get it:

  • On terminology management: “Words are the building blocks of an organization’s conceptual framework. The quality of terminology directly relates to an organization’s presence in the global community – words are an essential corporate asset!” Dee Stribling, SAS.
  • On source inconsistencies: “The whip cracks loudest at the farthest end. Follow the creative process back along the whip to minimize fluctuations at the source.” Richard Sikes, Localization Institute.
  • On globalization issues within an M&A environment: “The overall end goal is the same for both business units. There are nuances specific to each business unit based on their internal goals and objectives (portfolios are different and cultures are different). These differences are largely due to where in the translation, memory management, and content management processes a business unit is functioning; one can be at the infancy stage and one can be much further in the growth within these processes.” Lori Kegel, Boston Scientific.

Many thanks to our panel for sending the message that a satisfying customer experience happens only when communication is clear, consistent, error-free, and in the customer’s native language.

Now That’s Customer Experience: Part Duex

I received a number of emails after my blog on Iron Mountain’s Friendly Advice Machine, including some from non-John Cleese fans who still thought it was a fun experience. I even know of some colleagues who have visited the site multiple times 😉
Still, I thought it would be interesting to get the real statistics on visits and impact from the company themselves. Iron Mountain’s Karen McPhillips, VP Marketing, answered my call for an interview. Here are some interesting excerpts:

  • Aimed at IT managers, a marketing research team developed the campaign by creating a literal “buyer persona” resulting from over 100 interviews with existing and target prospects. This was not a “closed door brainstorming” session. The team identified and aggregated a long list of common process and technology IT-based pain points to drive targeted messaging with a healthy dose of humor.

  • By end-October, the first month of release, the site received 19,000 hits and exceeded viewing expectations by 20%. Audience segmentation revealed 60% U.S.-based views and 16% Eastern Europe-based views.

  • The previous Cleese-based campaign featured the comedian as Dr. Harold Twain Weck, Director of the Institute for Backup Trauma. By the end of its run, the site had received more than one million hits from IT professionals alone.

  • The company markets the campaign globally, but it is available only in English. Given the difficulties of true context-driven translations, especially for “Cleese humor,” this seems prudent. McPhillips reports no complaints on the decision from the company’s major global markets, including France and Germany.

The company expects an 18-24 month shelf-life for the campaign.

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