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Internationalizing a business

Internationalizing a businessSeems like everywhere you turn these days, there are people fretting about how to address the business process and cultural challenges of "going global".

It's no surprise that there is a good bit of hype involved. But smaller companies are also coming to the realization that going global isn't as easy as it seems.

Before you worry about software internationalization, there are business partnership to be made to cover fulfillment, logistics, financial clearance/payments systems, legal and tax issues, etc. Pre- and post-sales service must be local or at least designed locally.

A couple of years ago, Bank of Scotland shook up the Irish mortgage market very successfully, from a call center in Scotland. However, the business was designed in Ireland, with a thorough investigation of the local issues. They then went on to open the Netherlands market - this time online. Again, huge success, again firmly founded in local partnerships and implementation.

Content is still King. Yahoo! is genius at providing regionally relevant content - they have hundreds of local content partnerships. Similarly, MTV's European success only started when they addressed local needs, by adding local programming feeds and advertising windows. And McDonald's makes sure they satisfy local tastes by giving you mayonnaise with your fries in the Netherlands and Curry Potato Pie in Hong Kong.

Once you've worked through all the business stuff (and there's plenty more here - brand and marketing for a start), you are ready to start designing the systems. At its most simple, think of globalized system design as having two layers:

  • internationalization - coping with things that have to be done, or supported (e.g., character sets) and
  • localization - local issues supported by the internationalized layer (e.g., use of color).
Some more fundamental internationalization challenges are addressed by technology: plenty of packages address language, dynamic page build, personalization, content management, and so on. Hosting must be regional, and mirrored, to ensure respectable download times.

And finally there is naming itself. Logigo.com (a now-defunct e-logistics firm) had their company name checked for worldwide cultural acceptance. The report concluded: "We have looked at this from the Chinese, Malay ... and as a long shot we think that perhaps the pronunciation of the words could be close to a local expression Lau-chee-ko which roughly translated in a Chinese dialect used locally means 'dirty old man.'"

The lesson? Get local, expert assistance when you internationalize your business.

ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized translation and software localization services to drug and device companies. Contact us to learn more.


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