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Posted May 28, 2010 at 3:10 PM by Smith Yewell

The fundamental business drivers in our industry have not changed much – time, cost and quality still rule the day.

The following elements are changing so fast it is hard to keep up with them: connectivity, collaboration and community.

So how do we keep up with the changes and what impact do they have on our business?

Connectivity and Time

Let’s look at the relationships between old and new and start with connectivity and time. Time cycles are constantly being compressed. Why? Because time to market is a competitive advantage. Increased connectivity has only heightened the importance of time to market. Most of us are connected at virtually all times of day in all places, and we have come to expect to have instant access to what we want, when we want it, in the way we want it on any device of our choice at any time. Information, entertainment and applications are all moving to the cloud, ready on demand. This has enormous implications on our translation supply chain.

If we look at our supply chain historically, first there was a translation project methodology, then there was a simultaneous-ship methodology and now what is required is a simultaneous streaming methodology. Connectivity and time cycles are moving in inverse directions. In order to keep up, translation must become an always on, on-demand utility.

Quality and Community

What is the relationship between quality and community? This is where it gets very interesting. Quality is a sometimes objective, most often subjective assessment in 2 general stages. Stage 1: you have no familiarity with the product or service, so you must rely upon references. Stage 2: the quality assessment is based upon your actual experience. was an early leader in tying quality to the community. Like many people, I check what the community thinks about a product on the Amazon site before I buy it. The larger the community of ratings, the more confident I become in a Stage 1 assessment. In a Stage 2 assessment, if I am a happy buyer, I am also happy to rate the product as a member of the community. The cycle becomes self-perpetuating, self-reinforcing and very powerful. The opinion of the crowd drives buying behavior.

Interestingly, although rating translations is part of our industry’s standard process, very little of this dynamic community element is deployed. Most often, ratings are limited to one linguist’s opinion of another linguists work. Although this is an important step, it misses the most important person of all, the user/buyer. What does the “community” really think of our translations and how should that impact our decisions/process/budget?

Cost and Collaboration

Collaboration enables members of a team to leverage each other’s work in order to increase productivity and drive down cost. Translation memory (TM) was probably the first collaboration tool in our industry, so let’s look at its progress. First, there was the desktop TM tool, then there was the server TM tool, and now the next logical step is the cloud-based TM. The TAUS TDA initiative shows real promise in this area. Words and their subsequent translation pricing is a commodity, so why not devise a way to leverage that commodity for maximum benefit? Does sharing translated words reduce competitive advantage? In certain cases, yes. But if both the source and translated text are publically available on your website, you can be sure someone is already crawling your site and building a corpus of your translated content. The TAUS TDA initiative offers third party, non-profit impartiality to govern, manage and leverage the publically available content that is already being shared by the crawlers.

The more we collaborate - the more we reduce cost. It is a brave new world out there.

Smith ...

Posted May 11, 2010 at 2:34 PM by Smith Yewell

Change is exciting, because what invariably follows change is opportunity. 
I see the following translation industry macro-changes in process.

In general: I feel like our industry is somewhat like Henry Ford trying to build an assembly line with all of the parts and tools suppliers providing pieces of various sizes and dimensions, according to different specifications, at different time intervals – with a blindfold on!

1. An open translation platform raises all boats: I see a lack of uniform standards on top of an open and shared platform as our industry’s primary productivity and innovation barrier. It is interesting to see a company like Google sharing the same thoughts. “A well-managed, closed system can deliver well designed products in the short-run – the iPod and iPhone being obvious examples – but eventually innovation in a closed system tends towards being incremental at best,” wrote Jonathan Rosenberg, a Google executive. I would like to see our industry associations take on a singular challenge faced by all constituents in the industry: a standard set of common protocols to exchange/interchange data amongst systems/tools. XLIFF, TMX, SRX and TBX are a good start, but there is still a lot of work to be done around standardized calls, published, documented and supported APIs and fundamental integration components between tools. These integration widgets and APIs should be open and shared by all, and one of our associations could make a name for itself by leading the effort to produce them.

2. Web 2.0 sparks a new “quality” question and radically changes the old QA model: The traditional quality process is centered around asking a reviewer to compare the quality of the source and target language in a side-by-side comparison. This is a necessary step in the QA process, but is it the central question around which the quality process should be built? What do end-users (the community) think, and shouldn’t quality expectations be built around their involvement/expectations?

3. A new, transparent relationship with translators changes all relationships in the chain: I attended many meetings in 2009 where clients and vendors collaborated on the key challenges facing the client. These meetings were very beneficial, but in none of the meetings were any translators in attendance. If we are to truly optimize the translation supply chain to improve time, cost and quality- translators must be part of the solution in an open way that harnesses the power of the community as a whole.

4. Collaborative “translation as a utility” leaves behind old “project” model: The majority of information and applications are moving to the cloud with the supporting delivery model being on-demand on any device. This has dramatically changed the translation and review process. Faster time lines and higher-quality are a requirement in this hyper-competitive, hyper-collaborative and ever-changing environment.

5. New business intelligence systems create “safety in numbers”: as the saying goes, you can’t manage what you can’t monitor. Many large companies find it difficult to even calculate their total spend on translation, and I have yet to see a company be able to justify translation ROI in simple terms and metrics. We have failed as an industry in not being able to provide our clients with a way to quantify both value and translation ROI across the supply chain.

6. Machine translation becomes a standard step in the supply chain process: quite simply, we will not be able to keep up with the rapidly evolving time, cost and quality demands without machine translation. MT is not a magic wand; it is a productivity tool.

7. Collaborate or perish: clients are demanding that the walls come down in the supply chain, because the silos are slowing down their businesses. Collaborative, community-enabled, extensible and interoperable supply chain solutions will determine the next-generation leaders in the industry.

Smith ...

Posted May 6, 2010 at 12:16 PM by Smith Yewell

OK, first of all, what is the definition of an assembly line? From Wikipedia: “An assembly line is a manufacturing process in which parts (usually interchangeable parts) are added to a product in a sequential manner using optimally planned logistics to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods.”

Let’s begin with the preconditions we have that need to be factored into our translation assembly line:

1. It needs to be faster, better and cheaper

2. It needs to support nearly all of the world’s languages

3. It needs to support nearly all of the world’s electronic file formats

4. It needs to support nearly any tool one may choose to use

5. It needs to be able to be monitored and generate necessary budget to actual reports

Where do we start? Well, whenever I think about assembly lines; I think about Henry Ford. What did he do? What preconditions did he face? How can we learn from it?

Again, from Wikipedia: “Henry Ford was the first to master the assembly line and was able to improve other aspects of industry by doing so (such as reducing labor hours required to produce a single vehicle, and increased production numbers and parts). However, the various preconditions for the development at Ford stretched far back into the 19th century, from the gradual realization of the dream of interchangeability, to the concept of reinventing work flow and job descriptions using analytical methods.”

Reducing the number of hours required, reinventing work flow , increasing production, interchangeability – these all sound like the same challenges we face in the translation industry.

Here is another example outside of the automotive industry also from Wikipedia:

The Terracotta Army (circa 215 BC)

"The Terracotta Army commissioned by the first Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi is a collection of about 8000 life-sized clay soldiers and horses buried with the emperor. The figures had their separate body parts manufactured by different workshops that were later assembled to completion. Notably, each workshop inscribed its name on the part they manufactured to add traceability for quality construction."

Whether is it is Qin Shi Huangdi, Henry Ford or the translation industry. The challenges remain the same, how do we bring together a workforce, a set of materials and a set of tools and build something in a faster, better and cheaper way?

Challenge #1: The Materials

An electronic file is typically the first thing to enter our translation supply chain, and that file has typically come out of a different assembly line such as an authoring system, publishing system or a development system. In the automotive world, car parts are standardized so that they fit together predictably once they reach the assembly line. Same story with the Terracotta Army body parts. In our world, not only is there no standard, we typically have to disassemble what we receive to get it into our assembly line before we can even start work.

Challenge #2: The Tools

We need tools to automate repetitive tasks on our assembly line. In our auto and terracotta examples, both assembly lines have been designed with interchangeable tools and interchangeable parts according to proscribed standards. In our world, standards are weak, and there are only limited interchangeable tools and interchangeable parts.

Challenge #3: The workforce

Repetitive tasks have been automated in the successful automotive and terracotta examples leaving their workforces to focus on adding value to continuous improvement of the process. In our world, the workforce barely has time to think about improvement, because the friction associated with workarounds, dropped hand-offs, unclear standards and limited interchangeability leaves them barely able to keep up. Not to mention their piece rate, price/word, continues to go down.

My Suggested Solution

Open and shared tools, with standardized ways of connecting to and processing the materials (files) in an interchangeable way so that our workforce can be more efficient in producing faster, better and cheaper translations. This is the only way we will ever build a true translation assembly line.

Who can make this happen? Industry associations in partnership with academia and commercial organizations are how it is done in other industries. Let’s face it; most of the time we spend on this our industry is attending conferences (largely for networking purposes), and there has been only limited progress in interoperability, extensibility and efficiency to benefit the industry as a whole.

Smith ...

Posted May 4, 2010 at 5:27 AM by Smith Yewell

As Warren Buffet mentioned in his recent shareholder’s letter, “Sing a country song in reverse, and you will quickly recover your car, house and wife.” I am sure many companies wish it were that easy when looking back on 2009. However, there are many changes from 2009 that we here at Welocalize would not alter, because those changes put us into an even better position for 2010 than we had hoped. Our Q1 2010 results highlight this fact with total sales up 24% year over year while our top-50 clients increased their business with us by 25%!

We made a very difficult decision in 2009. We decided to refer a large number of clients who had only sporadic needs to new providers who could better meet those needs. We then invested heavily in growing in tandem with the needs of our strategic accounts. Welocalize has built a global platform with a sizable infrastructure. We cannot be all things to all clients, but we do want to be everything to a specific group of clients - our strategic accounts where we have created a true partnership. As Mr. Buffet continues in his letter, “If Charlie and I were to go into a small venture with a few partners; we would seek individuals in sync with us, knowing that common goals and a shared destiny make for a happy business marriage.”

Our “business marriage” with our clients is built upon the foundation of our 4-Pillars: Customer Service, Quality, Innovation and Global Teamwork, and these principles should be self-evident in all of our relationships. Our goal is to reach #1 in each pillar for each of our clients, so please feel free to let me know how we are doing!

We have some exciting things planned for 2010.

• Keep an eye out for our next release of CrowdSight which will include powerful new community features which I call bridging the first and last mile of our supply chain.

GlobalSight continues to gain momentum with eight new clients having begun implementations in Q1, and we have exciting integrations planned with other open source/open system products later this year.

InSight is rapidly becoming the most powerful business intelligence tool in our industry with more new reporting features planned.

MarketSight is meeting the need at Microsoft to manage distributed sales and marketing translation needs in a self-service portal, and with their input and others, we are planning some powerful new enhancements.

Our year has started in a very strong way, and I want to thank you for your continued support.

Smith ...

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