During my time with memoQ, I used to hear a lot about process quality. Our customers at the time – mostly translation companies – complained that ISO 9001 had taken a lot of time and a lot of unnecessary writing.
Our turn came after a large customer insisted that we should obtain the standard, and I was scared it would turn into a huge endeavor. But to my surprise, we had little work to do on top of what we had. Our process-oriented employees, mostly in the area of software development, had already established all the foundations.
To date, most localization managers in the enterprise world have LSP background, and most likely are used to the realities of poorly defined processes. And those who do have enterprise experience may have a hard time communicating and implementing processes across the supply chain, not knowing how they are affected.
In 2022, automation is a key trend that revolves around a simple principle:
you should be able to make the right decision simply based on the information you have, without having to ask anyone.
Just like translators, project managers also need context to work efficiently, prevent quality problems, and multiple back-and-forths that create bad karma between your people and your vendors. In a healthy project management ecosystem, well-established processes are paramount. Yes, a good process in itself does not guarantee good quality, but a bad process makes maintaining quality really costly.
In this blog article, we’ve collected valuable advice for enterprise localization managers who want to benefit from process automation on the vendor side. Process automation has been a privilege of larger multilingual vendors, never covering the entirety of stakeholders, but with BeLazy we are on the way to democratizing this technology which actually means auditable process compliance for the enterprise. No matter which automation technology your vendors use, the following information is essential to your process design:
1 - Identify the core process across the supply chain
A sample core process is like this:
Step 1: Preparation
- The prepared document is pre-translated in our TMS using the translation memory of the department that only contains client-reviewed translations.
- The glossary and the style guide are added to the project and the documents are assigned in our TMS to the vendor.
- The objective is to ensure that all translations are following the corporate style and client reviewers don’t have to check previously checked translations.
- The project deadline is calculated after having analyzed the document, with the standard deadline being 5 days, but adding 1 day for each 2000 words above 5000 words.
Step 2: Translation
- The document is translated into multiple languages by the vendor. The objective is to have the documents in the target language.
- The vendor does not need to touch in-context translations but has to check 100% match segments.
Step 3: Review
- The document is checked by another translator.
- The objective is to comply with the style guide and terminology glossary, and report internal inconsistencies when detected.
- The reviewer communicates any issues.
Step 4: Implementation
- The translated content is implemented in the system where the translation is needed, if applicable.
- The internal project manager performs a spot-check to see if everything appears correctly and notifies the internal customer who has two weeks to come back with quality concerns.
- If there are no complaints after two weeks, the translation memory is updated. (until then we are aware that new projects do not benefit from these translation memory matches).
- The objective is to find out and fix any possible issues that are context-bound and not visible during review, and give a chance to the customer to give guidance for later translations.
2 - Identify variations
Here we share a few examples to make the point clear:
- If the customer uploads an InDesign file, step 0 is international preparation, making sure nothing is crowded and there are no hard returns. This can be done by internal teams or a vendor.
- In the case of a PDF file, the first thing is to go back and ask for the original document.
- If the customer hands over a multilingual Excel file, the first gateway is to check whether the sequence of languages and the structure is identical to the recommended pattern used with them.
If the customer comes back with quality complaints, there is a fifth step, which is linguistic sign-off.
3 - Decide on what metadata influences the variations
To manage translation projects effectively, most systems allow the use of metadata such as statuses, tags, or variables, and using them properly is essential for a well-defined continuous process.
Some can be implicit, for example when the file format is a factor in the file extension.
Others are explicit though. How do you define urgency levels or how to establish what document goes into what languages (mostly it’s best to set up internal SLAs according to document types/document uses)? How do you check if the cost center is ready to pay for the translation cost, and the translation can be ordered from the vendors?
If you work with a combination of internal and external providers, what goes to internal staff and what goes externally?
4 - Establish the systems to gather the relevant information
You don’t need to ask everything, you just need to ask the right things at the right time. While most companies talk about a customer portal, bear in mind that a customer portal is not a single thing, but it’s usually constituted of two or three parts:
- Data entry is what guides your customer through inputting the right information.
- Status check allows for an easy overview of the status of ongoing projects.
- Historical data visualization is the cherry on top, and not essential in most cases.
The most important thing is to create an intuitive, well-functioning, easy-to-use data entry system. You don’t necessarily need this to be a module within your TMS. Tools like Typeform can serve this purpose and can even be further automated to create the project in your TMS.
The status check requires some TMS connection, but not necessarily through its own interface.
Data visualization tools like Tableau or PowerBI can also offer you this functionality.
5 - Do not settle for exceptions from systems
While sometimes it may be a valid request to deviate from the process in the case of a project, it’s not an exception: in most cases, it is about not having the right system.
Dig down to understand the reason why something is out of the ordinary and why your system of metadata fails to grasp and improve the metadata.
If you are working with several project managers, you could set up a feedback system that allows you to capture such information. When you allow treating projects ad-hoc, you’re opening loopholes in your system and working against automation.
6 - Keep your process descriptions open to vendors
Your documentation is not meant to become intellectual property but its ultimate goal should be to support the delivery of good translations. The more the vendors know, the more help they can give you by suggesting different quality assurance processes.
7 - The production process impacts every other process
While there is not a single process, there is a lead process which is the production of translations. All other processes like linguistic quality assurance, terminology management, translation memory management, style guide management, or machine translation training revolve around the same process and need to be revised when the main production process changes.
While the above steps seem to be very formal and logical, in reality, if you want to introduce process automation, you need to be an excellent communicator, ask the right questions and be transparent about the reasons why you ask them.
Reaching seamless processes involves a lot of tweaking, checking actual projects against the conceptual framework, and responding to real-life challenges. Have your steps well-defined, with actual objectives and tasks.
The success or failure of any automation attempt depends on whether you can specify your processes correctly. If you don’t feel that you have what it takes to do this job, you can also request help from external consultants.