Faster, better, cheaper. No, you didn’t land in a Daft Punk song. You’re just reading the mantra of today’s business world. In practically any business discipline, be it software development, marketing or technical support, it’s a challenge to keep deadlines, budgets and quality under control. In some of those disciplines however, people have come to realize that the only way to survive and keep pace is to be agile. Finally, the translation industry is catching up on that idea as well. 

Today’s business world is facing another kind of ‘faster, better, cheaper’ than, say, fifteen years ago. In an age where globalization, internet and social media are calling the shots, content creation is exploding and content updates are generated faster and in greater numbers than ever before.

For technical translators, it can be hard to manage the continuous stream of content, from small to big translation jobs. In spite of short deadlines, quality expectations are always high and budgets are always tight. This is especially the case in large, global companies, which have to deal with multiple languages, across different departments, and on different content platforms.

Revenge of the nerds

Some fifteen years ago, the world of software development had similar challenges. Software development teams were lacking a thorough strategy to face the many missed deadlines, exceeded budgets and bad product quality.

Software teams at that time were working in a way that everyone was working: according to a thoughtful step-by-step process that runs through many different phases, including conception, analysis, design, construction, testing, implementation and maintenance. This is called the waterfall model.  

Code

The problem with this model is that a particular stage can only begin after the previous one has ended. There is also typically a gate between each stage. Just think of the cumbersome review and approval processes in your company and you’ll know what we mean.  

The agile model presented by a group of software techies in the early 2000s proved to be a more suited model for software development. This model focusses on short sprints, collaboration and early customer feedback.

Small is beautiful

For software development teams, agile has become the new norm. In a recent survey by HP, software developers say they use agile methods because they enhance collaboration, increase product quality and customer satisfaction, shorten time to market and reduce development cost. Not bad at all.

Fairly recently, agile has planted its flag on translation territory. Just like in the software world, the agile translation method is aimed at quicker organizational planning, faster updates and the ability to adapt fast. In a waterfall model, a translation job could only be started when all necessary information has been collected or when large volumes of text are ready for handover to the translation agency. In contrast, agile translation focusses on small sprints of fast content translation, with smaller batches of content, but on a continuous basis.

An agile translation workflow imposes quite some requirements on organizations, both on translation agencies and on customer organizations. In order to get ready for agile translation, these are just some of the challenges your organization will be faced with.

Automating workflows

Turbo

Human interaction is very important in the agile philosophy. However, human interaction can also cause confusion, inconsistencies and delays, especially in organizations with complex organization charts. For processes where computers can do a much better job than humans, automation is the way forward.

This might mean doing away with e-mail-based information exchange altogether. Especially in large teams, communication by e-mail among various stakeholders inside and outside of the company can be a challenge. Today, web-based platforms and workflows offer a much better solution for the submission of translation requests, content reviews and content delivery.

An automated workflow also relates to a company’s back office, e.g. automated invoicing or an automated way of delivering content into the right format.

Facilitating collaboration

In an agile world, collaboration across different levels is encouraged. Flat-structure organizations usually take to agile like a duck to water, whereas strictly hierarchical companies have more difficulties in doing so. Technology can lend a hand in clearing potential barriers between collaborators out of the way. For example by making use of intuitive web-based review platforms, translators, editors, reviewers, and others can all collaborate more easily within the same workspace.

Standardization

Standardization supports consistency and ultimately leads to doing things in less time, with less effort and cost. Standardization can refer to a shared framework of understanding about the way work is done, but it can also relate to the use of actual standards, such as COTI. This file standard was developed to make the exchange between content management systems and translation memory systems more smooth and efficient.

We are ready for agile

Your organization’s content motor might be running at two different speeds. At Yamagata, we still promote a bundled approach when it comes to translation content delivery, because this will be more cost-efficient and will result in more consistent translations. However, many companies have to deal with a steady stream of small batch translations as well, putting a constant pressure on the organization’s performance.

At Yamagata Europe, we are prepared to meet both of those needs. When the need for continuous small-batch translation arises, we can help our customers meet all agile challenges described in this blog post. For example, with our dedicated portal called Nano, which is specifically aimed at managing small-batch translations. Accessible online anywhere, the Nano translation portal can be used to hand over translations very fast and to check the status of your translation job at any time. But we also help our customers set up automated workflows to facilitate the interaction between translation management and content management systems.

Is your organization ready to go agile? Then let’s talk about what we can do for you.