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Presentation by Translated.net on workflow automation. Reactions?
Thread poster: Henry Dotterer

Henry Dotterer
Local time: 18:50
SITE FOUNDER
Aug 4, 2008

In the current survey, a number of respondents compliment Translated.net's translation management system. Visiting the company's website, I noticed a presentation on "Real-time Human Translation of Highly Dynamic Content".

To see the presentation, go to: http://www.translated.net/en/inc/Workflow-Automation.pdf

These slides makes a strong case that workflow automation is desirable for both translators and end clients. Quotes:

* "Automation allows people to use their brain instead of wasting time with administration tasks"
* "100 words in 35 languages = 25 minutes"

I would be interested in reactions to this presentation.

Also, and on the other hand, speaking about translation management systems in general -- not Translated.net's solution in particular -- only 17% of respondents say that 'yes' they prefer to use them.

I wonder: why the disparity between the theoretical benefits and the real-life preference of translators?


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:50
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Way to go! Aug 4, 2008

A very interesting paper indeed. It is very much in line with my ideas of what an MLV should be in the future: very little staff, all processes automated, automatic decisions as to who gets the job (based on previous results, availability, customer feedback...). This is quite simply an automated agency. All steps and processes described are those currently done by humans in translation agencies. They are simply automating them.

As for translation management tools, the last ones I have used were awful, in the sense that:
1. They made it difficult to go back to an already translated unit if you changed your mind later on, as a consequence of learning more about the matter at hand. In translation, decisions are always made that make you go back to previously translated content.

2. They made it difficult to integrate other vital people in the process, like an editor or a proofreader. They were devised with an individual translator in mind.

3. They made it difficult to assess the amount of work still pending, something we always need to know as jobs roll in.

These are probably the same things experienced by other people who are not very fond of these systems. And maybe these things are already fixed in more modern systems. I must try to find out.


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 00:50
English to German
+ ...
misunderstanding here.... Aug 4, 2008

Hi! See notes -

Let translators do what they do best: translate
– 1 click to accept job, no paper to sign
– Consistent communication job after job
– Automatic electronic invoice generation
– No DTP


fine with me.

• Allowing hotel owner to manage their
content easier -
Is he asking to manage his content???

• Decrease translation cost, increase quality - Why it takes some cells to translate the subject, so the minimum charge must be maintained.

• More languages - how many languages a normal human can translate into, may be two or three. 35 is an outrageous figure.

LSP should have a Webservice. - we have proz.com mail servers .


– A web service is not a web interface! It’s a server-toserver
communication. - Costs as well and does not come for free.
• TMS Integration - Do people need a TM or the translation, is it not more work???
• Customer should be able to easily identify new or modified content - He then should come with his own glossary. When a customer undergoes so much trouble, he might try translating as well, who is stopping.

3. Checking availability
• Ok method: Send email, wait for response - why the OK and send mails, it is a big world out there. Just post your job and wait for response.
• Better method: Web Interface
• Best method: Desktop application - The best I can offer is a hand written translation. Would the 12 century japanese be OK.

@Henry - I did not mean to write like this,but considering the politics in this industry this paper represents throw away translators - attitude.

35 losely organized words into 64 ( some figure) languages are for the machines. BR Brandis


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chry01
Local time: 00:50
Swedish to English
+ ...
Way to go! But are we there yet? Aug 4, 2008

Interesting when I click the link I get to a PowerPoint presentation, not a paper! This makes all the difference because it's harder to follow. Wild statements are made that could be questioned by a participant at a conference but which now just have to be digested. It's hard to visualise the process. For example:

3. Checking availability
• Ok method: Send email, wait for response
• Better method: Web Interface
• Best method: Desktop application

Could anyone enlighten me?

Prehaps the disparity between the theoretical benefits and real-life preferences lies with the blindspots of translators.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
One source of unease Aug 4, 2008

Henry D wrote:

I wonder: why the disparity between the theoretical benefits and the real-life preference of translators?


I quote from a public website: "At the heart of Freeway is Logoport, Lionbridge's advanced language asset management system ... For instance, a marketing team can "network" their TMs with those from the product development group, increasing the likelihood of a matched segment and reducing the volume and associated cost of retranslating content."

I was contacted by the company using Freeway and Logoport, but have not yet jumped on the bandwagon. Apart from the fact that the standard contract supplied seemed extreme in its clauses concerning ownership and rights, there is the issue of quality vs. pricing again.

While I would be very happy for my administrative time to be reduced, I have simply had too many (bad) experiences with "TM matches" to agree to a blanket discount (which was proposed) - and which from their own statement, seems to be one of the main goals here.

I haven't had the opportunity to try this system out - and I would be happy to hear from other translators who use it and who could potentially ease my mind - purportedly there are thousands and thousands of them.

But my main concern remains whether or not a company will use such a system to "force" me to use translations from other translators and projects that are contextually inappropriate (or, I hate to say it, sometimes just plain incorrect) and to give me the luxury of charging them less for the privilege of doing so.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Another option Aug 4, 2008

3. Checking availability
• Ok method: Send email, wait for response
• Better method: Web Interface
• Best method: Desktop application


May I present: Skype (to name one). Several of my clients use it, we can communicate instantaneously via our desktops, send files, and even "phone" or "teleconference".

Best part - the application itself is free too.


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Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:50
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
Where is the beef? Aug 4, 2008

"Workflow automation" great buzzword, where is the beef? I mean, what do they do to achive it?
Many companies are forcing their "Workflow automation" onto the translators, who end up spending more time to adapt to the workflow of company A or company XY.

The ideal "workflow automation environment" does not intrude into my "workflow automation environment" but provides interfaces.

Just a few comments:

Checking availability/Job assignment
Getting an email with a job assignment is a kind of interface to my environment. I can receive it on my desktop computer, on my handheld, via my mobile phone, I can print it, store it, file it for my administrative system etc. A Web interface might provide some of this functionality, but might not work on my mobile phone, and it is unlikely that it produces automated SMS to inform me at the beach that a new job arrived. A desktop application is a disaster, noc chance to get it running on my handheld, no chance to get it running on my mobile phone, it sits in my memory and eats resources, no thanks

No minimum fees
what has this to do with "Workflow automation"?. The minimum fee is required for individual small jobs, that I need to enter in my accounting system etc. independent of the workflow of the customer. This has nothing to do why arrangements where several smalll wordcounts are combined in one job for invoicing e.g. at the end of the month.

Online translation environments
are in my opinion the worst invention in this respect. I very often hear the phrase "It is gone" when talking to people working with online systems, meaning they accidently hit a button and the translation unit is gone.
A good environment lets me download the source, allows me to translate it with my tools, assists and supports me with terminology and concordance searches, allows me to print the text, so that I can hand it to my proofreader or to check it where I want. Again here, the interface aspect to connect their environment to my environment can not be valued high enough.

So the question remains, if you strip away the marketing waffle, where is the beef for us - the translators.

There are hardly any systems that take the workflow of the translators into account, most of them concentrate on their own workflow, and this is in my opinion the reason why most fall down on usability and translators don't like them.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 23:50
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Workflow automation Aug 4, 2008

>> Assume:
>> – Translators waiting and ready to start

I have a number of issues with the model described by Translated.net, though within a very limited scope of application, I think it would work well enough. The idea of no minimum charges, however, is ridiculous. If a translator is expected to drop work in progress and translate 5 words, then send these off, then there should be a reasonable minimum to cover the interruption. The idea that a larger number of good translators will be "waiting and ready to start" seems a bit ludicrous. The good ones that I know aren't waiting around for anything, they are working to get a backlog of projects delivered.

Workflow automation in general is a good thing I think - I am encouraged by some of the things I have seen ProZ do in this regard recently. However, my experiences with most agency attempts to automate workflows with web interfaces where I am expected to log in to view job details, make deliveries, etc. are very unsatisfactory. The thought of dealing with nearly 100 clients using such systems, each requiring its own login, etc., each with its own interface is simply a nightmare.

[Edited at 2008-08-04 12:00]


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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 18:50
SITE FOUNDER
TOPIC STARTER
Are the popular systems the ones that allow translators their own workflow? Aug 4, 2008

Siegfried Armbruster wrote:
There are hardly any systems that take the workflow of the translators into account, most of them concentrate on their own workflow, and this is in my opinion the reason why most fall down on usability and translators don't like them.

That view seems consistent with the comments being made in the survey.

Getting good reviews relative to the others, in addition to Translated.net, are Sajan (GCMS), LanguageDirector (thebigword), WorldServer (Idiom) and SDL TMS 2007. (SDL is doing best of all.)

I wonder what these five have in common. Do they offer relatively greater flexibility to the translator? Or is it just that they are more mature?

(By the way, there are many TMS systems that are not as widely used as the above crop. The way the survey is structured, these won't necessarily come up, so it would not be fair to conclude from the above data that those systems are technically the best. Still, the question has meaning because there are another five or so systems that are widely used but are not favored.)


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:50
German to English
Horses for courses Aug 4, 2008

Henry,

Apologies for falling back on this tired old expression yet again, but - just like the TAUS issue - I think it's vital to distinguish here between the mass market and the premium segment.

What Translated.net seems to be describing here is a highly automated TMS (note for the acronym-challenged: TMS is now understood to mean "Translation Management System", not as in the past - "Translation Memory System") designed for the mass market business. Like all commodity translation, it assumes that translators are interchangeable, for example (and in the mass market they largely are, of course). I have the impression that speed of response and delivery are the key factors here, coupled with maximum cost reduction (not just for translation, but also for process management).

This sort of TMS is now being widely adopted throughout the industry, and I have no doubt that the efficiency gains being obtained will benefit the agencies and end customers involved. Another factor is that the even higher level of automation now being achieved will allow a greater volume of text that was previously regarded as untranslatable (because of cost/time issues) to be translated. Despite the blurb, the role of the translator is being increasingly marginalised. If translators choose to acquiesce in this development, they can't complain about their working conditions.

TMSs are also making inroads into the premium segment, but I think for different reasons, or at least with a view to obtaining different outcomes. They help simplify interchange with clients, especially given the fragmentation and disorganisation that characterises so many corporates and professional services clients today. By essentially forcing clients to use a single point of access (preferably via a secure server), not only are the LSPs able to manage the corporate chaos to a certain extent, they also eliminate security issues at one fell swoop. Communication with external providers (freelancers) is also simplified, tbough it remains on a one-to-one basis, i.e. direct contact with the freelancer rather than some sort of automated bidding process. Information and requests are still pushed from the LSP to the translator, rather than expecting the translator to waste valuable time logging into the web interface. Good translators are too valuable as "assets" to treat them otherwise.

Coupled with the significant efficiency and quality gains possible in internal PM processes and the tight integration with language technology systems that TMSs can offer, I think that TMSs can further develop the professionalisation of premium-segment LSPs without forcing them to go downmarket in the automation race. Speaking to other LSPs in this segment, the general consensus is that you have to involve all stakeholders (clients, internal translators and PMs, external translators) if you want to implement a TMS, rather than trying to force it on any one group (especially external translators). Maybe that's the key to getting translators to buy into the concept: tangible benefits for all concerned, not just for the LSP's bottom line. But the driving factors are certainly different in the mass market.

Robin


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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 00:50
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Translator-based system Aug 4, 2008

Kevin Lossner wrote:
Workflow automation in general is a good thing I think - I am encouraged by some of the things I have seen ProZ do in this regard recently. However, my experience with most agency attempts to automate workflows with web interfaces where I am expected to log in to view job details, make deliveries, etc. are very unsatisfactory. The thought of dealing with nearly 100 clients using such systems, each requiring its own login, etc., each with its own interface is simply a nightmare.


That is quite true - the systems which increase their productivity decrease our productivity...

The only workaround I see is to create a system that could be used by translators on their websites - it would allow PMs to contact the freelancer for a quote (naturally, with email and SMS notification options), leave files for review (which could be automatically saved locally according to translators preferences), get completed files, etc.

If (ideally!) a large number of translators adopt this system, the systems used by agencies could be made to interface with it - so their workflow is automated and our is.

I wonder how much development of such a system could cost? Maybe it could be provided as part of the ProZ.com hosting? Note that some portions are already in place (the new file download system), translator data etc., so it does not have to be done from scratch...


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 23:50
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Potential for hosted TMS, etc. Aug 4, 2008

Jabberwock wrote:
The only workaround I see is to create a system that could be used by translators on their websites - it would allow PMs to contact the freelancer for a quote ...



Eeee. Not too sure about that one. Then the PMs would face the same problem that some of us do dealing with cumbersome TMS systems on agency web sites and that for God-knows-how-many translators.

The "prequalified job" beta that ProZ has implemented has the potential of being a good TMS for routine jobs. There are still a lot of little details to be sorted out, and it will need to be localized properly before I can recommend it to many of my agency customers, but it is not obnoxious to use on either end in my opinion. For jobs requiring secure delivery, etc., something else is needed, however. This might be another hosting application for ProZ to consider. I have about a dozen clients that want "secure deliveries" - either using passworded ZIP files, secure FTP sites or secure Web sites - but request these at such irregular intervals that I am always hard pressed to remember the passwords and cope with some of the intricacies of site navigation. Most of these businesses use ProZ in one way or another, and the half that haven't thrown away big bucks on their own web solutions could probably be persuaded to use a cost-effective hosted solution if their fears regarding security can be addressed. It would certainly be easier for me to deal with a single interface for such scenarios.


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:50
Member (2004)
English to Italian
easy... Aug 4, 2008

Henry D wrote:


I wonder what these five have in common.


Low rates...

As usual, they are trying to lower the costs to be competitive. What does this mean for us? The companies will still make the big bucks and we will be working for peanuts, because the savings the end client makes will be passed on to us. We will be paid less.

Also, I find these online systems very mechanical, user-unfriendly and cumbersome. I refuse to work with these agencies. It's a nightmare for us and they use them only to save money. But they make our life extremely difficult.

And as Kevin said, the good translators are always busy and don't need to wait for anything...

[Edited at 2008-08-04 12:45]


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:50
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Automated Translation Management Aug 4, 2008

I work with two agencies who use the automated translation management model in order to eliminate any "downtime" between regular translation jobs.

For the first company, when they receive a job from a client, they enter it into their database. If this is one of your language pairs and if the price the client is willing to pay does not exceed your rate by a certain percentage, you are sent e-mail notification that the job is available along with pricing and deadline information - the lower your rate, the more jobs you receive. If you are available, you can accept the job, but you have to act quickly before the job is taken by someone else. You are then sent another e-mail informing you that another translator has accepted the job (which usually happens quite quickly). The disadvantage with this particular model is that you are not able to actually view the document to be translated before you agree to do the job. However, this does not seem to be a problem for anyone but me, so it appears that people may be content to translate anything that comes their way.

For the second company, you only log into their system when/if you are available and ready to work. Clients enter their translations directly into the database via the internet. Translations in your language pair are then automatically routed specifically to you in the order you logged in. When a translation pops up on your screen for you to view, you generally have around 2-3 minutes to decide whether or not you wish to accept this job. If you reject the job, it is routed to the next translator and you wait for the next job to be routed to you.

For both systems, when the translation is complete, you log into your profile and upload the job. You do not need to send invoices because the system tracks pending payments for you. The first company pays for all jobs done the previous month on the first of the month and the second company pays via PayPal whenever you request payment (you can wait until you have a high amount).

With both systems there does not seem to be any kind of mechanism in place to try to match jobs with the same translator who did a previous job for a (presumably satisfied) client. I do not know if either company has any quality control procedures in place or if the files are just automatically sent to the clients.


[Edited at 2008-08-04 13:44]


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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 00:50
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Well, they do it to us... Aug 4, 2008

Kevin Lossner wrote:

Eeee. Not too sure about that one. Then the PMs would face the same problem that some of us do dealing with cumbersome TMS systems on agency web sites and that for God-knows-how-many translators.



Well, they want us to do their work, let them do ours... But seriously, I hoped that with a little bit of standardization the systems might talk to each other directly, eliminating the most tedious elements of the automated job experience, i.e. logging, clicking numerous tabs and buttons, different for each agency.

That is why the the push for standard communication would have to come from a large group of translators; agencies do not have any interest in making their own systems compatible.

In a way, it is quite similar to the discussion on online translator details forms, which got to a point where they are counterproductive (when agencies lose potential translators because filling several pages of online forms is too much for busy translators, and most of busy translators are good translators...).

The possible solution is described here:
http://www.proz.com/forum/translator_resources/107633-asking_prozcom_to_create_templates_of_translation_agency_forms.html

Of course, the question is, how much translators as a group can influence agencies. For now it seems not really, if at all...

Jeff: I think you nicely described the possible deficiencies of eliminating the human factor. I think that the net result would be a lower customer satisfaction, but I may be wrong...


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