Fourth in a series of interviews with sponsors of Gilbane’s 2009 study on Multilingual Product Content: Transforming Traditional Practices into Global Content Value Chains.

We spoke with Karl Darr, an independent consultant working with STAR Group.  STAR Group is a leader in information management, localization, internationalization, and globalization solutions that address the entire lifecycle of technical communications. Karl talked with us about the importance of addressing the global content value chain (GCVC) in a comprehensive way, STAR Group’s role in delivering such solutions, and what he found compelling about the research.

Gilbane: How does your company support the value chain for global product content? (i.e., what does your company do?)

Darr: STAR Group’s mission has been to enable companies to build a single product that they can sell, ship and support anywhere in the world, along with all of the appropriate technical and end-user support literature in the native tongue for any target market. In every case, we find that the customer’s satisfaction and their perception of a quality purchase are directly related to understanding their new product in their native language. 

Early on, STAR understood that a comprehensive, integrated solution could increase efficiency, while improving data quality and consistency.  So, rather than acquire and integrate third party solutions that were not designed to work together, STAR Group developed a seamlessly integrated, end-to-end solution suite that included tools to accelerate SGML/XML authoring productivity with increased quality, integrated with Terminology Management, workflow, content management, Translation Memory, and publishing – all subject to monitoring and leaving a complete audit trail. 

All of STAR’s technologies can be purchased as stand-alone products. They integrate and interoperate very well with other vendors’ products to provide a complete solution in mixed technology environments.  However, as you might expect, STAR’s complete suite affords uncommon degrees of added efficiency, accuracy, quality and operational cost reductions.

Gilbane: Why did you choose to sponsor the Gilbane research?

Darr: STAR Group co-sponsored this research because the GCVC concept speaks directly to the sweet spot on which STAR has focused for 25 years. STAR Group has provided technologies and services to support every step along the GCVC, from information engineering, creation, and cross-functional synchronization to translation, localization, management, and static and dynamic publication along with dialog management and reporting. 

Gilbane: What, in your opinion, is the most relevant/compelling/interesting result reported in the study?

Darr: The most relevant/compelling/interesting result reported in the study is that 70% of respondents claimed that the process of integrating their GCVC technologies was difficult at best.  What is even more surprising is that, according to the research, only 20% of respondents claimed they had API-level integration between their translation management and CMS tools.

In other words, respondents are suffering from the fact that the people responsible for globalization efforts are dealing with limited vision, scope and fragmented tool sets.  This causes ambiguities, duplications and errors that unnecessarily waste time, energy, resources and corporate profitability – while damaging product and corporate images, and at the same time weakening customer affiliations with the company.

I believe that this situation can only happen when top corporate management is more focused on getting product out the door than they are on optimizing the customer experience, which is critical to increasing profits.  When customer experience is a top priority, these companies will recognize that globalization (or the GCVC) is a manufacturing process in its own right that needs to be prioritized right along with design, engineering, production and customer support. The GCVC is not a ‘bolt-on’ solution because it needs to be intimately involved in all of these processes. As such, GCVC efforts need to start as soon as the product planning process begins, be fully engaged as customer specifications become requirements, and continue in a collaborative manner throughout the process of a project becoming a product.  But, they don’t end there either.  Ongoing multilingual product support is critical for delivering an optimal customer experience, one that results in repeat or recurring business.  Because all GCVC solutions will require ongoing maintenance and support, end-user companies need to ensure that whoever is providing support can cover the full spectrum of GVCV functions. 

Often, our discussions with companies have only begun when organizations understand the depth and breadth of the GCVC. In some cases, they end up relying on us for nearly everything – from their technical writing to translation, workflow, content management and publishing, to spare parts order management with optimized diagnostics delivery and dialog management.  Many of these organizations – some among the most successful global companies – have relegated the notion of a “document” to be an artifact of a by-gone era. 

For insights into technology integration across the GCVC, see the section on “Content Management Integration” that begins on page 32 of the report. You can also learn how STAR Group helped BMW Motorrad implement an end-to-end infrastructure for global technical communication. Download the study for free.