Influencing Technical Communications

by Christian Zeh, Welocalize Business Development

Christian at TEKOMThe big event in the European technical communications industry, tekom and tcworld conference 2014, took place this month in Stuttgart, Germany. I spent three days talking to delegates, clients and vendors and also delivered a presentation in German on the localization of user generated content (UGC) that you can reference below. Living near Stuttgart and in my role as Business Development Manager at Welocalize, I am primarily focused on the German market so this event is always a pleasure.

Over the course of the three day conference, this year’s event gave me the chance to meet many technical communication professionals and also speak with several technology and CMS providers that the tekom and tcworld conference attracts each year. It was my second time as a presenter at tekom and I was delighted that my presentation about localizing UGC attracted so many delegates. This is indicative of how people within the technical communication space are looking beyond the traditional methods of authoring, publishing and translating content and looking at emerging content types, like UGC and social media to improve technical content.

Technical communication materials are very different to other types of content, such as marketing and software materials. The localization of technical communications requires a high level of subject expertise including good terminology management, knowledge of required in-country standards (legal and otherwise) and high quality output to ensure the optimum end-user experience. A poorly localized technical instruction manual can result in the failure of a global product launch or even a lawsuit. Accuracy is of the utmost importance so these localization tools for technical communication must be carefully assessed for suitability.

I attended several excellent sessions at tekom. A very interesting presentation was given by Tony O‘Dowd from KantanMT, talking about measuring the performance of Statistical MT. This presentation was very accessible and provided good insight to how MT and training of the MT engines are currently working.  As an example, looking at how “fuzzy matches” in the MT output explained how automated utility scoring works in the real world. This aligned with my presentation materials. Special note:  Welocalize also hosted a presentation on The MT Engine Lifecycle that you can view here.

Historically, technical content may not have sat within the overall central content strategy at an organization. Separate authors and translators can result in an inconsistent customer experience, which can be confusing to the client. If the marketing materials promised a certain type of brand and customer experience and the technical instructions don’t look anything like that promise, you could be in big trouble!

Often centralizing the creation and localization of all content, including technical communications, ensures consistency. By developing a key relationship with a global localization provider, like Welocalize, we can together achieve consistency for the end users. We can maximize the return of investment made in technical content, by using trained and dedicated translator and reviewer teams and up-to-date technology tools. For companies in industries like manufacturing and automotive, who are producers of large volumes of technical communications, content could be one of their biggest business assets. Simple steps like setting up glossaries and terminology management programs can contribute significantly to the global content strategy and quality of localized technical content.

In a recent Welocalize survey, technical communications is one of the top five priorities in 2015.  Is it one of your priorities?  How are you thinking about UGC and social media in relationship to your technical communications. Let’s continue the conversation if you attended tekom or if you would like to discuss my presentation (in German or English) and how we can help you. Send me an email at


PRESENTATION:  Tekom 2014 – Nutzergenerierte Inhalte – kostengünstige Lösungen zur mehr… (User-generated content – cost-effective solutions for multilingual publication)