The boom in globalisation gives firms tremendous opportunities, particularly as the internet means that selling and marketing to growing economies is easier than ever.
Translation software technology can help support growth abroad but has traditionally been difficult to use, and in budget-constrained departments has struggled to demonstrate return on investment.
It's still the case that translation software is not perfect but its promise is compelling, especially for companies with a need to reuse information. The software can add an economy of scale by getting translations correct first time -- usually with the assistance of experts -- and applying the same terminology to subsequent documents. Most of the world's population does not speak English fluently and technical language can be complex even when it comes from a native speaker. Translating often means that subtleties are lost and there can be unforeseen consequences: the long words of German can mean document overspills, for example.
Using software at least saves time and so-called translation memory technology offers a way to spot and store phrases so that consistency improves and more reuse is possible. Supporters of the sector claim that about 80 per cent of content can now be automated. Costs are cut, review time is reduced and there is superior control of processes.
However, although translation and global information management technology would appear to be of paramount importance to firms of all sizes as they expand on a global basis and publish sales and marketing literature, support documents and so on, it has typically been a hard sell. CIOs have struggled to get the importance of the seemingly 'bolt-on' technology across to the board, despite its obvious (to those in the know) benefits.
As well as ease-of-use issues, there is a variety of standards in the area, the market has taken a while to mature, and unlike many pieces of software, translation tools have never been truly automated, always requiring a keen set of human eyes to monitor and assess its work.
So is translation software an expensive folly? Not according to experts in the field who say translation tools can actually -improve, advance and empower the CIO, and become a key factor in organisations' global plans.
Mick MacComascaigh, research director at analyst firm Gartner, believes that not only are the tools necessary if a firm is to expand, but they are also great enablers in other ways.
"The role of the CIO will change because of [translation software]," he argues. "It will bring the 'I', for Information, back to the role. Rather than just being an administrator or datacentre manager, the CIO will be able to stop thinking about processes and start to think about how the firm gets more return on its information."
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