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Clients insisting you use their own special TM software: why?
Thread poster: Andrew Levine

Andrew Levine  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:27
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
May 20, 2009

How many times has this happened to you: You get a job offer from a new client. You take a look at the document and send them your rate for the project. They agree to it and just as they are issuing the purchase order (or sending you the test sample, which they promise to pay for) they add, "Oh, by the way... We want you to use our own special in-house CAT tool for the project. Download it here. Be sure to read the instructions, follow the tutorial, etc..."

Why do they do this? If they want the TM export they need only request it. The software they ask you to use rarely has any features not found in the one you are already accustomed to. What possible benefit could accrue to a client from developing their own CAT tool (or licensing an obscure one) and insisting that freelancers use it, to the exclusion of industry-standard tools?

[Edited at 2009-05-20 22:04 GMT]


 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:27
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Why do they do it? May 20, 2009

I am not sure why. Have you agreed to a total project price, or just a rate (perhaps with fuzzy discounts)? If the latter, the reason may be that their tool gives a different word count that is favorable for them. (I have had this.) You need to check this, as if working with that tool puts you at disadvantage on a continuous basis, you may need to adjust your rates. If it only means some extra learning time at the beginning, you could negotiate an extra one-time amount based on your hourly rate and the time needed to download, install the tool, read the manual/tutorial and do a short test yourself.

There may be plenty of legit reasons why they insist on their own tool - none of the CAT tools are perfect, and none of them are suitable for ALL types of projects.

I also had my initial reservations, but I was pleasantly surprised a couple of times when clients required using a CAT-tool that was not one of the major market leaders...

As long as it is not a disadvantage from the business point of view, I look at these cases as learning opportunities.

Katalin


 

Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:27
English to Japanese
+ ...
Don't know why, but... May 21, 2009

When I get an offer like that (I had a few in the past), I turn down that job. Reason? Plenty. I don't know what kind of bugs that particular CAT tool has, takes time to get used to the software and too troublesome and don't have the time to learn the functions. Why install a CAT tool which you would almost never use in a different project? To me, no advantages at all. For me, it's not worth it.

 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
Something very creepy about this approach May 21, 2009

I recently came very close to doing a job for a large multinational translation firm with its own online CAT tool. I pulled out in the end - the rate was low, the PM was unprofessional, and the deadline would have forced me to neglect other, much more profitable, clients.

But what most annoyed me about this firm was their insistence that I work with their clunky old software. Insisting that somebody uses your tools is strangely creepy and I cannot see any advantages for the translator.

I would have to be very hungry before considering work from this firm again.


 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:27
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
The tool is just one factor, right? May 21, 2009

John Rawlins wrote:
I pulled out in the end - the rate was low, the PM was unprofessional, and the deadline would have forced me to neglect other, much more profitable, clients.


Had they offered a good rate, had a professional PM and a reasonable deadline, would you have stayed?

What I am saying is that the tool is just one of the parameters influence your decision, which should be made with not only short-term but also long-term issues in mind.

A client could be a good client without offering extra advantages for the translator. (I consider project fees at my expected level and reasonable deadlines normal, not an advantage. Long deadlines that allow scheduling of other work, or fees higher than my average are things that I would consider as "advantages". Short deadlines that require extra working hours per day, or rates lower than my average are "disadvantages".)

As long as the requirement about the tool does not put the overall deal into the "disadvantageous zone", I would consider the job.

Insisting that somebody uses your tools is strangely creepy


I would not make a generalized statement like that. There may be very good reasons for them to insist on their tools, methods etc.

Just an example:
I have a regular client that requires using a non-standard tool. I had to learn it at the beginning, as it was different from all other tools I was used to. At first, it seemed clunky, and it is old indeed, but you know what? It actually has a few features that are very useful for large software localization jobs, and this is what this agency is dealing with. Still, I have moments when I pull my hairs out because the tool is unable to deal with XML or HTML tags in fuzzy matches (you have to put them back in manually). They also have an online system for submitting questions: it is a bit clumsy and has its own little bugs, but it is helpful in keeping track of all queries and sharing all the answers between many translators that work in many languages on the same source. I was annoyed at the beginning with these tools they required me to use, but I am glad I looked at the whole picture and decided to work for this client as they have interesting projects that they manage professionally, reasonable deadlines and they pay me reasonable rates. They offer no particular "advantage", just what is in line with my normal expectations.

and I cannot see any advantages for the translator.


Can regular work (which meets your expectations in terms of all other parameters) be considered a long-term advantage?

Katalin


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 01:27
English to Hungarian
+ ...
technical reasons May 21, 2009

I have come across the odd CAT situation in localization projects. The obvious reason is that there are special requirements in software localization. They have to identify translatable text, extract it from the software, add some sort of an ID and hopefully some context information to help the translators, translate and then reinsert it in the correct place. Really, it's no surprise that companies like SAP have their own way of doing things. And once a company has introduced a software solution, they are unlikely to transfer all the TM and terminology data to another one and take the trouble to work out all the problems that will inevitably pop up.

On the other hand, I have no idea why a client would insist on you using some dumb CAT for straightforward text files if there are no shared server resources to use. Ignorance and/or lazyness, probably... They started using that tool at some point when it seemed like a good idea for whatever reason, and now they are reluctant to make the transfer. After all, telling translators to learn it and use it is much less work than transfering all their legacy stuff to a new system and learning to use it themselves.

[Edited at 2009-05-21 07:48 GMT]


 

Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:27
Finnish to English
Ignore May 21, 2009

I never use agencies' own tools. What makes life simple for them makes ours complicated.

Translation companies need us more than we need them, I like to think.

They should do things more our way - we are the product.

best

spencer


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
On reflection - I would have stayed May 21, 2009

Katalin Horvath McClure wrote:

Had they offered a good rate, had a professional PM and a reasonable deadline, would you have stayed?


Katalin - how irresistibly reasonable you are.

On refection, I would have stayed if the rate and deadline were right. My response to their software was mostly emotional and was stirred by an irritation at the poor terms on offer.

Somewhere in the back of my mind are some other objections linked to ownership of the TM and so on, but I would have happily jettisoned these worries if the money was right.


 

Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 08:27
Japanese to English
Ownership of the side-product May 21, 2009

John Rawlins wrote:

Somewhere in the back of my mind are some other objections linked to ownership of the TM and so on, but I would have happily jettisoned these worries if the money was right.


Exactly. Any job where you don't end up with a usable memory represents loss of value to the translator. It's hard to put an exact figure on it, but this consideration should be reflected somehow in the price.


 

Adam Łobatiuk  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 01:27
Member (2009)
English to Polish
+ ...
There may be some legitimate reasons May 21, 2009

1. There are many translators who can't (or think they can't) afford CAT tools, so such companies provide them for free.
2. They developed their software some time ago, when the CAT market looked different, and want to make the most of their investment.
3. There may be some specific advantages to such software (e.g. I sometimes switch from Trados to Wordfast to use certain features).
4. The tool may be integrated with their project & vendor management or financial systems.
5. Their client may require specific tools, especially for software localization.

But there can also be a hidden agenda:

1. Confusing wordcounts that are different from e.g. those in Trados and otherwise hard to verify (as Katalin wrote).
2. With server-based tools, they want to keep the TM safe from you, by only allowing you to use matches for the documents you are translating.
3. Again, with server-based tools, some of them allow collaboration in real-time, which sounds great to PM's and clients, but is really a lot of mess as you have to deal with other translators' unproofread segments.


 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
tools and goals May 21, 2009

The only reason I can think of is to get ‘even bigger discounts’.
1) Why, we did provide you with (the latest, the best, the exclusive etc) version of XXX, so give us a some -30% discount. 2) Then, you did work using ‘our’ Software and translated more than you could manually, so you must comply with our CAT-rates. 3) And yes, in the future we will assume that you’re using our Software and apply the discounts. Thank you for your cooperation.


Can’t remember that I tried to persuade, for example, my mechanic to use my tools only and give me his best discounts’ for this or instruct him how to do very his job. So, why should I accept such terms if I know that my tools are better for me ?

It's a weird thank-you for nothing.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:27
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Two issues here... May 21, 2009

Andrew Levine wrote:
They agree to it and just as they are issuing the purchase order ... they add, "Oh, by the way... We want you to use our own special in-house CAT tool for the project.


In my opinion, this is the time at which to say "Let me have a look at your CAT tool first, because I prefer to use X" and when you discover that you don't like their CAT tool, you should feel no remorse in writing to them "Thanks but no thanks" even if you've already "agreed" to take the job. One must be firm with clients if they come with last-minute requests that they believe to be completely reasonable but which in reality is rather unreasonable.

If they want the TM export they need only request it. The software they ask you to use rarely has any features not found in the one you are already accustomed to. What possible benefit could accrue to a client from developing their own CAT tool...


Quite a number of translators are CAT hackers. I mean, they think that a format is simple, and that anyone can figure out how to work with it. They believe that all file types are within their skill range, regardless of the tool they use. Unfortunately many such translators overlook little things that can cause havoc with a client's sytem or workflow. Translators who hack CAT tools, do so manually. They hack on a case by case basis. They do not seem to realise that the client probably has 1000 files in a 100 languages to deal with, and he can't afford to spend his time (as the translator would) rehacking a mishacked file into the correct shape.

I myself am guilty of hacking CAT formats. I don't use Idiom, Transit or SDLX, but I have delivered files in those formats and I stll do. I think the reason why I succeed is because I check my files in the appropriate program before sending it to the client (i.e. I open e.g. a TTX file in Trados before sending it off, even though I didn't use Trados to do the translation). I also make sure that any TM the client may have given me (or that may be present in the program) is used by me. But I can imagine that some translators don't do that -- they simply assume that their hack works and they send a file to the client that is broken, or a file that wasn't QC'ed using the program's built-in QC systems, and which eventually cause delays and egg on faces.


 

Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 01:27
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Client should pay for special requests, shouldn't they? May 21, 2009

The key issue here is that they wanted you to work with their tool for your regular rates. This simply does not make sense - it is absolutely certain that your productivity will be lower if you learn the tool during the project.

Adding a reasonable surcharge to your regular rate might also help them to "see the light" - seeing that they are losing more on the rates than gaining on the workflow (or whatever their reason for proprietary tools), they might think again...


 

Uwe Schwenk (X)
Local time: 18:27
English to German
Customer CAT Tools May 21, 2009

In my opinion, Katalin stated it best when she said in her post:

"As long as it is not a disadvantage from the business point of view, I look at these cases as learning opportunities."

As with every other profession, the more you know the better, and the more marketable you become.


Uwe


 
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