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Smith's Blog

Posted Aug 15, 2012 at 7:01 AM by Smith Yewell

In June, I attended the Localization World conference in Paris.  In conjunction with the the event we also conducted our own vendor conference as well as a client conference, and with strong representation from both our clients and vendors, we decided to do something unique this year. I am not sure it has been done before.  It was certainly the first time we had ever done it.

The experiment began with the challenge of finding a taxi in Paris during the morning rush hour.  The long line of available taxis we saw conveniently waiting in front of the hotel the day before had vanished. Not a taxi in sight!  Ten minutes passed and still no taxis. And thus began our Paris Metro experience. Taking the Metro is no problem, but trying to coordinate a large group of people in getting on and off of packed trains, at the right stop, without losing anyone – was a true challenge in logistics.  The feeling was strangely familiar to managing a large translation project.

Once we arrived and got settled in the conference meeting room (everyone made it), I kicked-off our first ever combined Client-Vendor summit!  I started by thanking our staff, clients and vendors for the excellent achievements we have made so far this year:

* Revenue in the first half up by 12.4%
* 4 upgrades to GlobalSight and 10 new GlobalSight clients
* Machine Translation Innovation: We are developing our own automated MT scoring tool (beta already running) 

I then discussed our new format for the meeting.  We have been conducting separate client and vendor summits for years, but this was the first time we had ever combined the two meetings.  Our clients and our vendors suddenly found themselves sitting together in the same room.  Yes, many of our client’s reviewers quite often meet our translators, but this was something different.  For an entire day, the Welocalize staff, our clients and our translators met together and discussed key business challenges that we each face at our unique points in the supply chain.  The result was outstanding with one client telling me “it ended too soon”!

One of the really interesting sessions was during a panel comprised of both our clients and our translators.  Antoine Rey, our Sr. Director of Europe & Asian Sales, Lyn Carroll, our Sr. Director of Global Vendor Management, and myself moderated a series of questions put to the panel.  The following question sparked an interesting debate: how necessary is a client review step in the translation process?

The client review process can be very expensive.  I have heard some clients say they spend up to 20% of their budget on this step while I have heard others say they have eliminated the step entirely.  Why are there opposite opinions around such an important question?  We put it to the panel.  One client on the panel informed us that they had stopped doing the review and suggested that time spent on creating a better upfront process produces better quality in the end, and that what they found to be more useful was “allocating more time and authority for the translator to do their job properly.”  The opposing view on the panel was also interesting.  This client pointed out that their review feedback was not intended to be critical but was intended more specifically to help educate the translator on the language that is unique to that client’s products.

I think both points of view are valid depending on the maturity of a translation program.  Naturally, a program that has been running for years will have experienced translators who have learned to “speak the language of the customer.”  In addition, much of the actual translation itself may become less and less new words, and a large and reliable translation database lends itself to greater confidence in eliminating the review step.

I think that what is most important in delivering “quality” is structuring a translation program around a candid assessment of the “maturity” of the program.  Naturally, new programs require additional steps and time to fix the bugs in the program.  Some of the steps become unnecessary as the translation supply chain gains more experience.  This necessary experience comes from patience and investment during the inevitable highs and lows of a translation program life-cycle, and the strongest partners are those you can count in either case.  I want to thank those partners, clients and vendors alike, who have helped us create a truly unique company in our industry and for your willingness to try new things such as this combined summit.  I want us to innovate together wherever possible!


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