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Smith's Blog

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.


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