COPING WITH THE OTHER GLOBALIZATION CHALLENGE

COPING WITH THE OTHER GLOBALIZATION CHALLENGE

I feel that globalization - not the pejorative term used to bring attention to the outsourcing of American jobs, but rather the expansion of American business using e-commerce to grow overseas - will be the next big thing requiring management's attention.

And I believe that, in the way that companies were proud to announce ''We are ISO compliant,'' companies that globalize will show the same pride.According to Rory Cowan, the chairman of Lionbridge Technologies, a major firm in this business now, the logic is simple: Commerce over the Internet will continue to grow and in a few years, 65 percent of the users of the World Wide Web will come from other countries.

In industries like software, 40 percent of all sales come already from overseas, and it is no surprise that Microsoft has the largest budget among U.S. corporations for fitting its operations and products for overseas uses. Allied Business Intelligence estimates that by 2003 expenditures on language translation and other ''localization'' services will reach $17.2 billion worldwide.

Sure, many Internet users speak some English. But in making purchase decisions they use and think in their native tongues. If you don't want your online profit lost in the translation, you will have to create a Web site that has the touch and feel of their local marketplace.

If a company will not help Internet users bridge the language gap on its Web site, these users will go to another one that speaks their language.

The old use of the term globalization meant that to be global you had to physically have offices, agents, distributors and salespeople overseas.

Today you are global if you have a Web site - but your effectiveness depends on how you handle it.

Forester Research reports that in 1999, nearly half its interviewees turned away international orders because they didn't have mechanisms in place to fill them. This clearly can't go on; the world should be management's oyster, not its ball and chain.

Leading companies like Dell and Cisco and DHL have already globalized themselves and are reaping the rewards. The arrival of globalization has made delivery of web services in ''localized'' formats crucial in all e-business from e-commerce and e-support to e-learning and e-release.

These distinct parts are essential for a true global business - just having a multilingual web site is not enough. It has to be interactive in a number of languages, according to Cowan.

* E-support: With support lines giving way to Web-based self-help, resolving problems in local languages is imperative to meeting demand for cross-cultural market support. Companies must make their support available to all possible customers.

* E-learning: When you transfer product and service training from the classroom to the Web, it is critical to present the course work in a cross-cultural format. If a learner struggles with a language barrier, dissatisfaction with your company and your product will escalate.

* E-release: If you sell software and you think you can release an English version of your product or service, and then roll out localized reasons at your leisure, you're sadly mistaken. The lag time in localization can be quite costly. Once word is out, international sales will slow down in anticipation of a new launch.

When you are doing business globally, you have to release your product or service globally and at home simultaneously.

So how do you turn an U.S.-centric Web site into a global one? While there are no hard and fast rules, I'd like to suggest a few do's and don'ts:

* Don't separate localization by enterprise function. Companies are separated into different profit and cost centers, but if you let product development, documentation, technical support, legal and marketing communication each pursue their own global path, you'll end up with an expansive, inefficient mishmash that will confuse and frustrate your entire globalization process.

* Do integrate those four areas. The companies most successful in localizing their Web business create common glossaries (the ''verbal identity'') of a company. They leverage data bases as central repositions and automate work-flow technologies to manage the velocity and volume of changes.

* Do plan for localization from the start of the project. If you accept globalization as the next big thing, it's far less expensive and time-consuming to initially design products and materials to accommodate multiple languages than to try to redefine them after a U.S. release.