Daunting task for firms seeking global Web presence

Establishing Web sites for your firm 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 challenges are 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 of the Web sites. Not all content is appropriate for all sites, Corwin explained, and that's taken into consideration during the monitoring process. For example, some changes in content about products on the main site may be irrelevant to a Japanese site if Eastman doesn't sell a particular product in that country.

Corwin said that so far, 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.. 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. now includes machine translation software from Transparent Language Inc. in its Enterprise Portal product line. Transparent Language was recently acquired by UK-based SDL PLC.

Tim Fallen-Bailey, director of global products at Sybase, said the machine translation software is most useful for routing customer service questions to the right person in a given country.

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