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Alles ist Mögliche (Everything is Possible)
If you’re like me then the only foreign language you know was that which you were taught at school. Any attempts to use this since are confined to holidays when you ask the waiter, “Puedo tener a Corbata Amarillo”, only to be told you had just ordered a yellow tie, rather than the seabass you were hankering for.
The thing is though, once you immerse yourself in a culture, it’s surprising how quickly you pick things up. And with the right technology, a bit of self-learning, some adapting and overcoming, everything is possible.
To give you an example, I worked on a project a few years ago where the customer was based in the UK and had an office, shop and warehouse in Germany, and I spent quite a lot of time travelling over there.
The project was to implement Microsoft Dynamics NAV version 4, but we quickly changed to version 5 sp1 when it was released as there were some performance benefits. As things were still in the development stage, it was much easier to do this earlier on in the project.
One of the good things about Dynamics NAV is that it has localizations for multiple different countries and supports their fiscal rules, as I found out the rules for Germany and the UK are very similar, so this helped quite a lot with the implementation.
The main challenges with this project though, wasn’t the technology – it was the language barrier between me as a developer from the UK, and the developers in Germany (although I have the same problem in the UK – book and buck are two different words when you’re from Stoke…)
So to try to make things easier I picked up a translation guide. After a couple of weeks of fumbling around with a paper based system, I quickly sought a way to make things even easier for myself, and managed to find an App for my XDA (yes that’s right I was one of those people who bought the sliding brick…).
Now armed with the right technology I could move forward with the project, and in the various meetings that we had, I started to pick up on words and used the App to translate to English.
It helped immensely as I could follow parts of the conversations, and interject with ideas and solutions to help keep things on track.
The biggest challenge came, however, when the customer then wanted to link in their Japanese office to NAV…
Never one to pass on a challenge, I contacted a few people to see if anyone had implemented Dynamics NAV in Japanese. I got quite an overwhelming response of, “It’s just not possible to have NAV as a single SQL database which has UK, German and Japanese companies in it…”
This made things even more interesting, and gave me more of a reason to see if we could make it work.
Luckily we found a Microsoft Dynamics Partner in Japan who spoke very good English, so that removed a language barrier, but still left a technology one.
The characters in the Japanese language are complex, and so this is stored within computer systems as 2 bytes (known as Unicode) as opposed to 1 byte that Western European languages use (known as ASCII).
The problem here is that up until 2013, NAV didn’t fully support Unicode out of the box. So we had to get a couple of files from the partner in Japan, and make some changes to the SQL code-page, and after a couple of days we were rocking and rolling.
The most surreal part of the whole project though, must have been towards the end. We were having a few problems with performance and had a few bugs. I was explaining what the problems were to one of the German developers in English, he was talking back to me in German, and we both had an understanding of what each other was saying!
So as you can see, technology can literally help the world go round:
Alles ist mögliche
Everything is Possible!