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Smith's Blog

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.


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