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Archive for the ‘Translation Management Systems’ Category

eCommerce in Europe: Size Matters

Posted by Nick Peris on September 1, 2014

eCommerce in Europe: size matters

eCommerce in Europe: size matters

 

Commerce, with only 2 e’s please!

We’ve all heard the stats and we don’t need them to tell us: we all prefer to buy in our own language. In fact according to the E.U., 2 thirds of E.U. web shoppers will simply not buy in a foreign language. Yet, we also like to shop online because there is more choice, better value and the facility to easily compare alternatives. The key is that we value a personal touch at the time of the transaction. By transaction I mean not only the financial aspect but also the decision process and the post-sale relationship.

This is why the “e” in eCommerce is about to drop, and Commerce is being rethought as an integrated or omni-channel experience. Models like Personal pick-up where you purchase online and pick-up in-store, Cash On Delivery where you only order online and pay on delivery and Try it on before you buy where you simultaneously shop in-store and purchase online, must all be seen as equal-opportunity conversion channels.

Simply said if someone, somewhere is interested in a product you have on offer, you need the tools to make sure they end-up buying yours, whichever way they prefer.

What’s up, Europe?

The fact that people are naturally inclined to complete purchases in their native language can be an even bigger challenge in Europe. Contrary to what institutions are aiming for, Europe is not a single market. Europe is a conglomerate of countries which do not speak the same language, do not have a single culture or a strong common identity and where in truth people do not think of themselves first as European. This has a very real impact on any pan-European Commercial strategy. The economies of scales you could expect from a 505 million strong E.U. population (and over 740 million in the whole of Europe) simply do not simply materialise as soon as you decide to sell across Europe. The European Union has 24 official and working languages;  it needs to employ 1,750 linguists and 600 support staff, and has one of the largest translation services in the world.

No one can communicate in Europe with one voice, much less one language.

International Expansion

eCommerce blockersThis cultural, political and social diversity explains a lot of the differences in international expansion between U.S. and European companies. A European company is more likely to look at expansion into other territories as an incremental process rather than a full-on Globalisation plan. This is compounded by complex practical considerations such as preferred payment methods, shipping options, local regulations including language laws, customer service requirements and return policies. These are equally a challenge to European and non-European businesses wanting to sell in Europe. But European companies are more aware of them, and they can be more to prone to tackling them methodically one country at a time, rather than creating Global Departments in charge of each aspect or even outsourcing to local partners. Plus there are the Locals: what makes your offer more compelling than the existing national businesses in the first place? This is a paradox where more people, more languages and arguably more cultural diversity can result in companies appearing less prepared to invest in Enterprise Language Solutions.

Lower economies of scale and a lack of clear path to expansion are the blockers.

Powering Multinational SMEs

Europe also has an overwhelming proportion of businesses which are Small and Medium Enterprises and employ a very small number of people each: 90% employ less than 10 people according to the Harvard Business Review blog. This means European companies who want to expand outside their national territory and have the most localisation needs are SMEs. Sometimes referred to as the Nano-Multinationals, these would-be giant slayers do not behave like Multinationals or their local subsidiaries. They have to expand from the ground up, more progressively and often excel at figuring out smart ways to do things themselves. Their expansion is not likely to be backed by a multi-year globalisation budget. It’s a bit like the stereotype of the American tourist versus the European one: the first allegedly does Europe in a week, while the latter often prefers to settle somewhere and get to know the place. It doesn’t matter which is right (if any); if you work in tourism you have to account for that fact and adapt your offering to each one of them.

Providing Translation Technology to multinational SMEs requires a specific business model.

Translation Technology is not Machine Translation

The Translation Technology business model needs to adapt in order to respond to the needs of European businesses. Access to automation must have an easier entry-level, and I don’t mean a low-cost solution involving Machine Translation or Crowdsourcing. True, MT has evolved a lot and has proven capable of being a very effective technology, like Translation Memory has been. Crowdsourcing itself has had great results for organisations such as Twitter and multiple others.

But in the case of International Commerce the answer is not cheap tricks, it is scalable automation.

The Cloud

Clouds are not too popular here in Dublin, where I live. We see enough of them as it is, so you won’t get a diagram featuring a computerised fluffy cloud from me (no more than you’ll get a 140-character post). I do however want to talk about Cloud-based Translation Technology, or more precisely Software-as-a-Service as an essential enabler for eCommerce in Europe.

There is no longer a need for translation buyers who want to automate to own translation technology. With web applications like the GlobalLink platform (TransPerfect‘s GMS) for example, businesses of any size can access tailor-made solutions which are able to adapt and grow as their International Expansion gathers momentum. These applications can be accessed via any web browser and from various devices without having to install anything. They feature optional Modules so each user only gets access to what they need. Plug-ins are even available so content can be sent to translation and deliveries received directly to and from eCommerce platforms such as hybris, DemandWare, Magento or EPiServer Commerce etc. without the need for complicated middleware deployment.Translation Automation via Web Services

Any security and practical concern around renting online technology in general has been allayed through stringent auditing processes and extensive deployments of SaaS solutions across the entire I.T. sector. In fact in the case of Translation technology, it is clearly an improvement over FTP and emails based processes as well as traditional on-premise TMS applications. It provides seemless Software upgrades, dedicated IT infrastructures for hosting, audited disaster recovery procedures and automated back-ups, without any effort on the part of the user.

It is now the sensible choice to rent Translation Technology as a Service and very much the exception to buy and install a TMS on-premise.

Integration versus Proxy

All this makes a big difference for Multinational SMEs particularly, because it means:

  • lesser upfront cost
  • lower initial and ongoing impact on internal resources, especially IT
  • shorter learning curves
  • quicker Go-LiveTranslation Automation via Proxy

In the case of GlobalLink it also allows for the flexibility to continue using preferred local translators or in-house resources and local distribution partners as language providers. Alternatively existing Subject Matter Experts can be promoted to a role of Language Quality partner (collaborating to the maintenance of brand & style guides, and glossaries) so the increase in translation volumes does not end-up affecting their primary functions which are usually Sales or Marketing.

One more level of flexibility exists where Translation Technology customers can choose between connecting the SaaS solution directly to their back office or using it as a Proxy between the internet users and their original website. This choice is more strategic than technical. In the first case the business continues to manage their translated assets in the back office like their CMS, eCommerce platform, PIM etc. With the proxy approach, the business can outsource the entire localisation effort using a solution like GlobalLink OneLink which provides not only all the linguistic services and automation but also the engineering, QA, international SEO and maintenance.

The overall result is that companies of all sizes can support their international expansion efforts with translation automation which can evolve with the company’s eCommerce strategy.

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Posted in eCommerce, Globalization, GlobalLink, Internationalization, Translation Management Systems | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Workflow Technologies: Top 10 Must-Have Features

Posted by Nick Peris on September 2, 2013

A Typical Localisation Workflow

Example of a Typical Localisation Workflow

Over the last few years, the number of Globalization Management Systems (GMS), Translation Management Systems (TMS) and similar Workflow technologies dedicated to Localisation has increased steadily. It is not quite comparable to the explosion in the number of Content Management Systems (CMS) but the choice certainly has increased. As a result it has become more complicated to thoroughly evaluate all options available, and the rise of more specialised subcategories such as Localization Management Systems, Proxy and Cloud-based solutions, Crowdsourcing Portals etc.  only adds to this information overload.

This evolution indicates that this technology sector is vibrant and not yet as saturated as the traditional CAT tools market. It remains innovative and in my opinion contradicts analysts who argue that GMS’s will be absorbed by CMS’s and the booming eCommerce platforms.

In fact, there are so many CMS’s and eCommerce solutions around, from the big players such as EpiServer or Adobe Experience Manager (formerly Adobe CQ) to open-source solutions like Drupal and proprietary systems provided by website integrators, that there is no way these can be relied upon to provide workflow features which can respond to the specific requirements of the translation supply chain.

The GMS sector has also become more of a replacement market, where Enterprises are often looking to replace an existing GMS with their second or third technology. A certain lack of innovation, excessive licensing costs and mergers among some of the traditional big players have created an appetite for diversity and an opportunity for innovators.

There are certainly some interesting new technologies. Some focus on the User Interface and the easy-of-use, others on community with in-tool forums for users to share tips and experiences and real-time Support to keep production streaming. Others yet allow segment-level task completion and embedded MT to enable real-time progress. Most, if not all of these efforts seem to concentrate on improving ownership satisfaction which has long been a shortcoming of GMS’s.

Unfortunately, fundamental GMS features can sometimes be lacking when these tools are released at an early stage in their Development, or when their design is not aware of the requirements of the entire supply chain. Prospective GMS-buyers should not get distracted by the bells and whistles, and miss possible issues with the more essential features.

The 10 fundamentals below should be your starting point and the rest should only come as extras. The order of priority between these will depend on your own business process.

Automated Quote Process

Workflow systems are used by Enterprises which have a regular stream of translation requirements. Vendor rates are usually pre-agreed rather than negociated on a project by project basis. The Workflow technology should be able to hold these rates and automatically generate a quote when a translation request is submitted. It should be able to handle minimum charge, PM fees, volume discounts and provide a workflow step where the requestor or authorised user can accept or reject the quote.

CAT Tools compatibility

Ideally there should be an online translation interface as well as the option to download translation requests and work offline.

The online interface should include enough features to ensure it can be used by professional translators: Spell-Checker, Tag Checker, Terminology Checker, Concordance Search are the minimum required.

The offline option should be vendor-agnostic and offer XLIFF as well as the bilingual formats for the main CAT tools such as WordFast, memoQ and Trados. The ability for these tools to connect to the online TM and Glossaries and update them in real-time is also expected more and more commonly.

Connector library

CMS connectors: GlobalLink hybris extension

The GlobalLink extension, available from the hybris website

A library of CMS and eCommerce adaptors should be available. GMS’s such as GlobalLink provide a library of connectors for the most common systems as well as an API to create connectors for new CMS and eCommerce platforms or proprietary systems.

There should also be the possibility to monitor FTP locations and file systems.

Dedicated Review Portal

Client review or independent linguistic review is common in translation chains where volumes a big. This is mainly due to the fact that big volumes mean multiple translators must work simultaneously, and the Review step is needed to enforce consistency and monitor quality trends. A dedicated Online Review environment can make this process immensely more efficient if it’s kept clear and free of the more specialised features required in the Translation Interface. Client-side reviewers are rarely linguists and more likely employees whose primary task is brand and marketing related. Live in-context preview is more relevant to them than a side-by-side segment layout.

The Review environment should have its own reporting tool to monitor quality if error categories and scores are used. Reports on individual projects (online scorecards) and Organization-level reports are equally as important. The system should keep an audit trail of changes, and offer some workflow functionality towards Implementation whether it is done by the reviewers or by the translators.

Changes implemented in the review tool must be automatically added to both the final deliverable and the translation memories.

File Filters designer

Most file types will be supported out-of-the-box but it is also crucial to have the ability to easily add future or unusual file types without having to resort to Professional Services. The file filter interface must be flexible and allow Administrators to import filters from CAT tools but also create filters online in the GMS. I have yet to see a tool, let alone a GMS, which does that as well as a Alchemy Catalyst and its EZparser but hopefully that day will come. In the meantime do not settle for a system that wouldn’t let you parse all tags in a JSON or other custom XML and ensure post-filters are supported (e.g. for HTML code nested within XML or XLS).

Linguistic asset management

A good GMS will let users with appropriate permissions perform all TM and Terminology set-up and maintenance tasks natively. This includes manual editing of both asset types, TM sequencing (with leverage priority, penalties, update TM selection), workflow-driven automatic updates, terminology extraction and approval. All users need the ability to search TM’s and Glossaries, while only experts will get the permissions to perform Maintenance.

Project creation templates

The key to workflow management is automation. Clicks are a GMS’s worst enemy and should be a primary focus during User Acceptance Testing.

Any repeatable task should be recorded and automated. The requestor should not have to type anything other than the project name. Everything else should be available through menus and selectable options, each with the most commonly used choices pre-populated. Ideally, the software should interactively learn and remember the behavior of each user, but pre-programmed defaults are the current standard.

Reporting Tool

Jaspersoft iReport DesignerThere should be a choice of download formats, and a way to create custom reports based on queries to the underlying database. Client-side users don’t always need visibility into the linguistic side of the system. What they do need is flexible on-demand reporting. Whether there is a live dashboard or a facility to run reports, the system has to be customisable so the reports respond to their Organization’s needs both from the point of view of Program Management and Financial tracking.

Unlimited number of users

The pricing should not be directly linked to the number of users. I have often come across Enterprises with state-of-the-art workflow systems where the vendor side PMs had to download and upload translation kits on behalf of their freelancers. The hidden cost of such a limitation is monumental and the amount of negative sentiment generated towards a system which is supposed to automate repetitive tasks cannot be recuperated.

Role-based permissions should allow Administrators to control what everyone is doing at a granular level, and all routine user assignment should be automated. Once you own a GMS, every single transactions must be seamlessly supported, and no one should ever have to be delayed by timezones.

Workflow designer

Localization workflows vary. The technology you choose should offer enough flexibility to support your business process without too much adjustment. The Workflow Designer should offer a customisable library of human and automated steps and the possibility to have more than one outcome to each workflow step (e.g. Pass/Fail, DTP/no DTP etc.). The best Designers have a graphic interface and allow the easy cloning of existing workflows.

Posted in CAT Tools Comparison, GlobalLink, Translation Management Systems | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SDL WorldServer: Getting Started with Custom Reports

Posted by Nick Peris on October 22, 2012

The Report Center was completely upgraded with the last major release of WorldServer. Overall the new offering was very good, with a more modern interface and a more powerful underlying technology.

Yet upgrading the Report Center and starting to make the most of its full potential required a certain amount of effort. This is mostly because while it is accessible through WorldServer, the Report Center is in fact a completely separate application. Moreover,  it is made-up of three distinct elements, for which no integrated documentation exists: the queries, the reports layout and the repository site.

This post reviews the basic functionality of the current version and suggests ideas to improved it in the future.

Managing the Report Center

Adding Reports

Adding Jasper Reports

WorldServer Reports are designed offline (see next section). Once ready, they need to be imported:

  1. Open the Report Center (Tools > Report Center)
  2. Click View > Repository
  3. Right-click on the folder where you want to add a report
  4. Click Add Resource > JasperReport
  5. Enter a name for your report and upload the JasperReport file (.jrxml)

At first glance this works well and certainly is easy. There are however a few ways I think it could be made more efficient:

  • Add Version Control and Roll-back functions for successive uploads of the same JRXML. This is essential since the queries and layout cannot be edited via the Report Center.
  • Automatically read the Report Name and Resource ID from the JRXML file, to save manual steps and prevent typos.
  • Batch JRXML upload: this would be very useful to support upgrade effort, as well as to transfer reports from a Test server to a Production environment.
  • JRXML Download would help with future migration and simplify back-up processes
  • Finally some editable JRXML samples should be provided to show users how JasperReports can be used in WorldServer.

Data Sources

Creating a Report

Next, each Report has to be connected to a database. The setup steps may differ slightly depending on whether WorldServer uses Oracle or SQL, and drivers may need to be installed.

First, create a Data Source:

  1. Right-click on the folder where the reports are located
  2. Click Add Resource > Data Source
  3. Enter your Database details and test the connection before clicking Submit

You can now connect Reports to the Data Source:

  1. Right-click on a Report
  2. Choose Data Source > Select data source from repository
  3. Browse to the database you just connected

Here again, there is room for improvement in my opinion. The possibility to connect a location within the Report Center to a database would be helpful. Instead we have to connect each report one at a time.

Permissions

User access can be managed at both user or role-level. You can also setup different access for each report separately or for a folder within the repository. This is in keeping with one of WorldServer’s strengths, where permissions are extremely flexible, and relatively easy to fine-tune.

You could for instance have some reports only visible to Project Managers and others to Language coordinators. You could show linguists reports where the data only relates to their own work, or create Customer or Business Unit specific reports and then only grant access to them to people in selected groups.

Permissions can be edited by right-clicking on a report and choosing Permissions. Roles and Users are accessed via the Manage menu.

Inputs Controls

Search Parameters

A dialog box can easily be created to allow users to filter their searches or, more precisely, to set up the value of parameters to use when the report runs. In an SQL-based setup, percentage signs can be used for wildcards. A parameter added to the report during layout design is associated to each Input Control setup in the Report Center.

To create an Input Control:

  1. Right-click on Input Controls in the Repository
  2. Click Add Resource > Input Control and follow the steps on-screen

Note: the parameter name must match that from the Jasper Report (case-sensitive).

Once an Input Control is created it can be re-used for any number of reports:

  1. Right-click on the Report
  2. Click Edit > Controls & Resources > Add Input Controls and follow the steps on-screen

A Report can have several input controls, so the user could for example set a value for Project NameLanguage and Workgroup themselves, before running the Report. The Input Controls dialog also lets you save commonly used search parameters.

Overall this too works very well and is also  relatively easy to setup. My only criticism is the lack of documentation: there is no Online Help or Report creation guide apart from the Samples in the View menu.

Designing the Reports Layout

JasperSoft

The layout of WorldServer Reports cannot be designed or changed from WorldServer. The best way to do that is to embed your SQL query within a Jasper Report (.jrxml) using the JasperSoft iReport Designer. There is a free version available for download, which provides everything needed to design a WorldServer Report. Once again though, there doesn’t seem to be any WorldServer-related documentation available.

Jaspersoft iReport Designer

Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  1. Connect iReport to your WorldServer database
  2. Create new report (File – New)
  3. Copy your query into the Query viewer iReport Query Edit button
  4. Click Read Fields iReport Read Fields button
  5. Go back to the Designer and drag 1 or more fields from the Report Inspector into the Detail area. This will automatically create headers which you can then rename, align etc.

Online vs. Offline

It can be time-consuming to pretty-up reports in iReport. The first way to gain efficiency is to make a choice between the way they look online and how clean the exports are. If you expect your users to consult the reports online, you may want to spend time making the report look good online, and load fast for example by breaking the output into pages. By opposition, if you expect the reports to be downloaded and their data further manipulated in Excel, you should instead make sure that the output doesn’t have empty lines or columns.

Re-using layouts

If you are creating several variations of a report, or migrating a number of reports between successive versions of the Report Center, it is worth trying re-use some of this tedious layout work:

  1. Open an existing JRXML in iReport
  2. Save it under an alternate name
  3. Overwrite or edit the query
  4. Click Read Fields iReport Read Fields button to update the list available in Designer
  5. Edit the Fields, Descriptions, and Parameters which need to be changed in the layout.

Editing Queries

SQL Server Management Studio

SQL server management studio

The query viewer in iReport is useful to a point but it doesn’t provide much feedback regarding syntax errors or other issues in queries. Another big limitation is that it doesn’t give any visibility into which Tables and Views are available in the database.

If your WorldServer uses an SQL database, you should consider using SQL server management studio when writing the queries. You can create and test your queries there before copying them to iReport, and browse through the database to get familiar with how the data is structured.

One thing to remember is that active and completed projects are in two separate locations. Just like in WorldServer you have a view for Active projects and another for Completed and Cancelled Projects, under Assignements, the database has the latter in dbo.archive Tables, and the former in dbo.active Views. Performance is much better when querying active projects, and the way the data is structured can also differ in the two locations.

You must have a very clear understanding of the following 3 WorldServer concepts.

  1. Project Group: all files, all languages, 1 file submission
  2. Project: all files, 1 language, 1 file submission
  3. Task: 1 file, 1 language

Their ID numbers are essential within queries because they link information associated with each of them. For example the language name is Project data, but the current owner is Task information. The 2 will need to be joined in order to create a report on current Task owners which lists the languages.

Lastly, any search parameter is better created directly in iReport once the query is finalised. Just replace them with an arbitrary value for testing purposes while working in the server management studio.

Learning resources

There are plenty of tutorials available for beginners and less-experienced database users, and a lot of them are free. I found SQL course.com very clear and concise. The interactive SQL interpreter is great for practicing and experimenting safely. W3Schools is another very good resource.

Posted in Beginner's Guide, SDL WorldServer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

WorldServer v. SDL TMS

Posted by Nick Peris on March 20, 2012

Designing Workflows in WorldServerSDL recently made a statement via the SDL Users Group on LinkedIn updating and clarifying their strategy for their 2 competing Workflow Management applications, WorldServer and TMS.

Paul Harrap (Enterprise Localization Consultant at SDL) said: “We’ve obviously got several products that fit the same broad product niche in the enterprise TMS space (…) and need to focus on one for future Sales and Marketing to avoid a confusing message to the marketplace. That is World Server.” more

Tim Lee (Director of Product Management at SDL) added: “(…) As the person responsible for product management of SDL TMS and SDL WorldServer, please let me start by confirming that SDL continues to be committed to both TMS and WorldServer with dedicated teams and roadmaps for each product respectively.more

The overall message is that WorldServer is now the flagship product, but support and development will continue for both products until at least 2013. This may be seen as a change in direction compared to what was originally stated when SDL acquired Idiom in 2008, and the priority seemed to be given to TMS. However, SDL commits to a Service Pack 3 for TMS 2011 and at least one new major release, tentatively called SDL TMS 2013.

Giving priority to WorldServer is in my opinion the correct choice, but this still seems like a non-fully committed announcement, and we could easily see another adjustment by 2013 or later. Having first hand experience using and managing both applications, I want to take this opportunity to share with you what I think are the main strengths and weaknesses of each system, and why my personal preference goes to WorldServer.Designing Workflows in TMS

Designing Workflows

WorldServer is the clear winner in this category. It has a very intuitive, flexible and powerful graphic workflow designer. TMS really only offers lists of entries to pick from, and I find the Workflow/Configuration distinction inefficient.

WorldServer workflows can go back and forth, but also loop and go through parallel Steps. It can skip Steps, or offer multiple transitions in and out of every Step. The transitions are represented as radio buttons when a user completes the Step. In TMS, one can only Submit a Task to the next Stage or Reject it back to the previous one.

You can also add your own custom Human Steps and Automatic Actions (through Java script imports) to WorldServer’s catalog (more about customisations in the next section). Even the Task History shown within projects is much clearer, with a graphic representation of the full workflow, with current Step visually highlighted, as well as a list of past Steps with owners, time stamps and global comments included.

Customising FunctionalitiesCustomisations in WorldServer

This is another of WorldServer’s core strengths, thanks to the immense flexibility of its design. Custom automation can be created using the SDK and is relatively easy to add. Even easier are the “LSP pages”: jsp files dropped into the WorldServer installation folder structure let you add custom dashboards for project overview or even some batch processing (e.g. push all languages within a Project Group from a given Workflow Step through a predetermined transition)

User permissions in WorldServer can seem confusing at first, but once the Administrator gets familiar with them, the possibilities are limitless. Each users’ privileges are defined through a set of parameters. All of these are fully customisable, meaning that you can not only adjust their settings but also create entirely new categories.

  • User Types define the general rights: project view or edit access, TM and TD read or write access, possibility to edit offline, import export etc.
  • Workflow Roles: define who is assigned specific Steps in a Workflow, in conjunction with the Locales. This may be set for specific users or entire Workgroups.
  • Workgroups list users of all types, locales and roles assigned to a Program, Customer or Project Type
  • Project Types are presets used during project creation to automate the linking to TMs, TDs, Filter groups, Workgroups, Cost Models etc.
  • Clients determine access to the Transport Portal for project submission or quote requests by third-party users.

All this potential for customisation can mean time-consuming setup. Thankfully by exporting and importing WorldServer Objects settings can easily be copied from a test to a production environment. Items can be backed up for recovery or roll-back, either in batches (e.g. all settings for a certain customer) or individually. For instance, you could export a whole workflow as an xml file, rename it and reimport it to quickly create a variant of it.

Filters are also much better in WorldServer than TMS. While in TMS Filters are SDLX-based and only some can be customised,  in WorldServer they can be imported from a number of CAT tools (Trados ini, xsd, dtd, raw xml). All Filters can be edited from the WorldServer UI, they can be teamed up in Filter Groups and linked to Project types. WorldServer Projects use the out-of-the-box filters unless the Project Type is linked to a custom filter for the given File Type.

But WorldServer filters are not perfect in every way: I have experienced problems with certain rtf files, json files, even xlsx (in relation to repetitions) in WorldServer 2009. Still few tools can filter xml and resx files as precisely as WorldServer: the content of one tag can be set to be exposed to translation or not depending on the value of another tag’s attribute. There are even desktop CAT tools which can’t do that!

User Interface FeaturesDesigning Workflows in TMS

Here TMS has a few unique features that its users would probably miss if they migrated to WorldServer. For example, Project Managers can impersonate other users to check the content of their Inbox, or even submit Tasks on their behalf if they were unable to do so themselves. This is much faster than logging as those users every time. TMS also lets translators upload multiple deliveries within the same zip file. The version control is smart enough that you do not need to open the project for which you are submitting a delivery. Another interesting out-of-the-box feature of TMS is the QA Check which can be set to run automatically to prevent submission to the next Stage if for example there are untranslated segments or Terminology inconsistencies. The QA Check can be overridden by users if needed, but it is a useful automation.

Overall though, I find the .NET Framework-based UI is a lot more rigid and prone to screen freezes than WorldServer’s Browser-based UI. The latter is more friendly and requires less training and user support because it mostly works like any website. That said, it is also one of the downfalls of WorldServer: the browser support is not always keeping up, particularly with Firefox. Since browsers are often set to auto-update, this is a problem. Browser-specific issues can be difficult to troubleshoot. Getting a hotfix from SDL for them has proved impossible.

For linguists working online WorldServer’s Browser Workbench has an edge over the outdated TMS Translation interface. Again it benefits from being browser-based which makes it more intuitive and versatile. User support is much lighter with WorldServer than TMS.

CAT Tools Compatibility and Offline EditingTM Searches and Maintenance in TMS

Things are a little more complicated when it comes to working offline, which is the most common scenario. Both tools have removed support for TTX (i.e. Trados 2007) in their 2011 releases. This is part of the push for linguists to migrate to Trados Studio. TMS relies on ITD’s for work in SDLX which is also very outdated. Both tools support downloads for Trados Studio. Up until WorldServer 2009, the “free” tool Desktop Workbench was available and quite full-featured. In WorldServer 2011, it is only compatible with projects using legacy (i.e. Idiom) file Filters and not the new Studio File Types, which require Trados Studio. Even worse, Desktop Workbench is about to reach end-of-life. In short, whichever Workflow system you are using, SDL are actively pushing for linguists to use a version of Trados Studio, whether it is the full desktop tool, Studio Online for TMS or Studio Express for WorldServer 2011. None of these are free.

Translation Memory and Terminology ManagementTM Searches and Maintenance in WorldServer

This is an area where I’ve always had concerns about TMS.

WorldServer still benefits from a more CAT Tool-agnostic approach dating from the IDIOM era. It can be used as a full-fledged Translation Memories and Terminology Repository and Portal. Through User Types and Workgroups, access to the Tools tab can be precisely managed. Users can view selected individual or Groups of Linguistic Assets, and the Administrator can easily turn Editing, Exporting, Importing, Purging, on and off for either Linguistic asset types. Term-based workflows can even be created so the Terminology approval process can be managed exactly like any other WorldServer Project.

For offline work, TMS relies on scheduled TM exports. These are usually weekly occurrences; exports are made available through a dedicated page in TMS, which unfortunately is quite difficult to search through when there are several pages of TMs. I observed and heard of several cases where the export stopped working, often after a Service Pack upgrade, so not only is this impractical it is also unreliable. By opposition WorldServer has none of these issues and all the solutions: any user with the right permissions can export and import a TM or TM Group at any time. TMX exports can also be scheduled to process automatically, as often as every 15 minutes if you so wish. I’ve only seen this process fail once, and I must admit it was my own fault…TM Sequencing in TMS

TM sequencing can be setup in both systems. TMS is the only one to allow the updating of multiple TMs. But WorldServer has a more sophisticated leveraging algorithm, cycling through all the TMs in the Groups for each fuzzy band, including ICE (in-context) Matches and reverse leveraging.

IT and infrastructure

TMS earns a few more points here: for example LDAP support makes User ID Management more flexible. It also appears less complicated to install because WorldServer has so many separate components.TM Sequencing in WorldServer

However WorldServer is immensely more scalable. The database architecture is well thought-out and individual components can be separated into clusters, which has advantages for troubleshooting and reliability.

Posted in CAT Tools Comparison, SDL WorldServer, Translation Management Systems | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Offline TM Update Process for SDL TMS

Posted by Nick Peris on July 19, 2011

SDLX Dashboard

While this is as efficient as one could expect, there are cases where “manual” updates of the online TMs must be performed. A Terminology change may have to be implemented globally into legacy TUs. A linguist may be asked to perform an offline clean-up of an overgrown or aging TM, and the resulting file may have to be imported back into the online TM. Audits may be conducted on live content and also require manual edits of the online TMs, etc.

In most cases, these edits will need to be performed by accessing the remote TMs using SDLX rather than SDL TMS 2007.  This is because SDL TMS doesn’t let linguists directly edit TMs, as I previously explained. The present post describes the step-by-step process to update TMs hosted on an SDL TMS 2007 server, using SDLX 2007. It can be used by linguists such as Translators, Reviewers or Language Leads or by Engineers depending on who in the process is in charge of implementing manual edits such as global updates or imports.Adding the SDLX Server Object

Prerequisites:

  1. SDLX 2007 Professional: no access to remote TM Servers is possible for SDLX Light or Freelancer users.
  2. TM Editing rights have to be granted to the users by the SDL TMS Administrator

Process:Opening a TM located on an SDLX Server

  1. Got to Start – All Programs – SDL International – SDL Trados 2007 – SDLX and start SDLX
  2. In the SDLX Dashboard, click Maintain
  3. In SDL Maintain, go to Tools – Options – Advanced – Object Management, click SDLX server and OK. Click OK again to close the SDL Maintain options dialog (this step is only required the first time you connect to an SDLX server)
  4. In SDL Maintain, click TM – Open – SDLX ServerSelecting the SDLX Server
  5. In the Select SDLX Server dialog, click Add and enter your SDL TMS server connection details
  6. Once the connection is established, open the Translation Memories drop down menu and select the TM to edit. Click OK twice to validate your choice and close all dialog boxes.
  7. Once the TM is loaded:
    1. Perform Text Searches by pressing F7 and edit as required (this is faster than using Find)
    2. Or import into the TM by clicking TM- Import
    3. Save and Close the TM when completedAdd SLDX server

Posted in SDL TMS, Translation Management Systems | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

SDL Studio Online 2011: the New Face of TMS

Posted by Nick Peris on July 12, 2011

Hot on the heels of SDL TMS 2011 which was recently reviewed here, SDL Technologies released SDL Studio Online 2011.

In a nutshell, SDL Studio Online 2011 is an optional add-on exclusive to SDL TMS 2011. It is distributed as part of the SDL TMS  2011 Service Pack 1 and upgrades the SDL TMS Translator Interface. While SDL TMS 2011 introduced a new Carbon Theme, its Translator Interface was in fact still a slim version of SDLX 2007. SDL Studio Online 2011 replaces it with an SDL Trados Studio inspired successor.

From a linguist’s point a view this is an important leap forward. Together with the performance improvements promised with the original release of SDL TMS 2011, this could significantly increase the proportion of linguists working online. Translators, and sometimes even Reviewers, have tended to choose to download SDL TMS packages rather than working online. This somewhat defeats the purpose of having an online translation environment with real-time TM and Terminology updates capabilities. Yet it has remained a popular choice mainly for two reasons:

  1. Combined server and user-side performance issues: this should already improve with an upgrade to the original SDL TMS 2011.
  2. Translation Interface too basic compared to desktop CAT tools: this is what this optional SDL TMS 2011 SP1 add-on proposes to address

SDL Studio Online in SDL TMS 2011Studio Online provides a number of tangible improvements over the standard Translation Interface:

  • Improved performance for linguists working online with the more modern interface featuring:
    • Segment-level lookup
    • Concordance lookup
    • Flexible tag display and editing
    • Find and replace functionality across the entire task
    • Integral spell checking with Inline and batch spell checking, multilingual dictionary and correction and user-specific dictionaries.
  • Reduced need for training and support for the growing number of linguists unfamiliar with SDLX
  • Reduced file management overhead thanks to a more attractive online environment
  • Increased proportion of linguists connecting to online linguistic assets rather than working from periodic downloads
  • Licensing and upgrade management owned by the client
  • Support for Microsoft input method editors (IMEs) for typing East Asian characters on non-matching language versions of Office.

Requirements and setup information

Studio Online is a Microsoft Silverlight plug-in. It requires Microsoft Silverlight 4 and the latest available Service Pack for Windows. Its upgrade or installation process is guided in Studio Online.

Other requirements are Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0, 7.0, or 8.0 and Mozilla Firefox 3.5 or 3.6.

Enabling SDL Studio OnlineStudio Online Licenses have to be purchased in addition to the SDL TMS licenses for a specific number of concurrent users. Once installed and licensed, each user may choose to configure SDL Studio Online as their default editor in SDL TMS by going to Home – My Details – User Preferences and checking the option Use SDL Studio Online (see screenshot). This remains optional, so not all users have to make this choice. Task download for offline work also remains available in any case.

One limitation to note is that SDL Studio Online 2011 does not integrate with the QA Models. If you have made use of the online rating function added since SDL TMS 2007 SP4, you will have to make a choice between that and the new online interface. My inclination would be towards allowing the Translators to use Studio Online to make it more acceptable for them to stay online throughout the translation process. On another hand, Reviewers could continue using the old interface so that they use the QA Model, and so that you save on Studio Online licenses.

Posted in News, SDL TMS, Translation Management Systems | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

SDL TMS 2011: Inner Peace

Posted by Nick Peris on June 28, 2011

The pace of release of Enterprise Technology such as Workflow and Translation Management Systems is usually slower than that of end-user applications such as CAT tools.

The reasons for this are easy to understand:

First, the priority for Enterprise Applications is stability, not cutting-edge User Experience. Users, and especially customers, require proven and sturdy environments capable of consistently handling massive traffic. This cannot be compromised in favour of the latest UI bells and whistles, not even the newest linguistic asset formats or features.

Secondly, the licensing and pricing model for these applications is such that customers have to monitor their ROI more carefully. Purchasing decisions would not be influenced with yearly or even bi-yearly releases of brand new product lines. The expectation is that these Applications provide a permanent Solution which can be used for several years to come. For that reason, Support contracts tend to include free Patches and even Service Pack upgrades which take care of the more pressing updates.

Last but not least, the efforts required in deploying these server-based technologies are again prohibitive of frequent upgrades. There are  infrastructure implications like matching SQL server versions or multiple server roll-out workload. The technology also needs to co-exist with a number of desktop applications in use in the supply chain.

From reading the SDL TMS 2011 Release Notes, I think the differences with its predecessor, SDL TMS 2007, are very much inline with these requirements. It seems to deliver relevant compatibility updates as well as promising improvements in usability and performance. If the announced increased reliability delivers, then I think one of the key to its success over SDL TMS 2007, will be whether it succeeds at making linguists more willing to work online, or whether they will continue to prefer to use it for File Transfer only and perform the actual linguistic work in their desktop CAT tools.   SDL TMS 2011 Carbon Theme

Compatibiliy

This is the first major release of SDL TMS since the acquisition of Idiom by SDL back in 2008. Together with the recent release of SDL Worlserver 2011, this confirms that in the short to medium term at least, these two Workflow systems will continue to coexist.

The SDL TMS offering features updated compatibility both in terms of CAT tools and infrastructure:

  • CAT: SDL Trados Studio 2009 SP3, SDL MultiTerm 2009 SP3/SP4, SDL Passolo 2011 (incl. word counts accurracy, new dedicated Workflows) and SDL Trisoft
  • Infrastructure: LDAP enhancements, Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 support

SDL TMS can be upgraded to version 2011, though only from SDL TMS 2007 SP4 or later. SP4 would have to be installed first, before upgrading from any older version.

One piece of good news is that no data migration is required when upgrading, and all Post-SP4 hotfixes are included in the Upgrader. Microsoft .NET Framework 4 is recommended. 

Usability and Performance

The User Interface has reportedly been made more responsive in several areas: Translation Interface, Job Authorisation, Configuration edits and more. The UI has been updated with a new colour theme, but apart from that the navigation appears to be unchanged.SDL TMS 2011 Go to Dialog We will investigate in an upcoming article how this may be changed by the addition of SDL Studio Online. SDL Studio Online is an optional web-based version of SDL Trados Studio 2011, exclusive to SDL TMS 2011 SP1.

The Search feature has also been improved with increased speed for the main Search (results are now limited to 2,000 matches) and a new “Go to” feature lets users directly open specific Jobs or Tasks if they know the ID.

SDL Trados Studio can now access SDL TMS directly for TM Concordance and updates. This is achieved through an SDL Open Exchange plug-in. Once installed, users simply need to login using the SDL TMS Server Name, Username and Password, much like previously in SDLX’s SDL Maintain.

Unfortunately, Tageditor’s TTX files can’t be downloaded from SDL TMS 2011.  SDL recommend downloading Packages, which contain the ITD files for translation in either SDLX 2007 or SDL Trados Studio 2009. Eventhough SDLX is considered a part of SDL Trados 2007, this makes using Tageditor and Workbench more difficult and more-or-less means support for Trados 2007 in SDL TMS has been dropped.

Terminology imports have been enabled through a new functionality similar to the TM import added with SDL TMS 2007 SP4. This works using SDL MultiTerm .xml import files and a matching database definition. Passolo Terminology (sequences and TB updates) is also supported.

Here are a few other bug fixes and new features which caught my attention:

  • Users can reset their own passwords, which should improve the quality of life of many Workflow managers
  • Issues with the second and further pages of the Translation Interface have been fixed (comments, segment history and MultiTerm matches now work)
  • TM attributes can be edited from the Edit TM page
  • Ampersand(&) and quotes(‘) in ITD names are allowed
  • Job-level Project TM availability can be displayed in the Inbox
  • PowerPoint SmartArt is supported

Reliability

SDL claim that over 200 reported issues have been resolved, including a number reported by users through ideas.sdl.com.

Improvements in file format support and exception handling should limit the number of failed Jobs and Tasks.

Importantly, progress seems to have been made with Translation Memories exports. A new incremental method, saves having to use server resources to repeatedly perform full exports. This Incremental TM Export option, which is unchecked by default after installation, functions as follows:

  • Only segments added or modified since the last export are exported.
  • They are added to the latest corresponding TMX export file.
  • All TMX export files can be downloaded at once.
  • Note: segments deleted from the TM are not removed from the export. A full export (by temporarilly unchecking the Incremental Export box) is required to reflect any deletion

Posted in News, SDL TMS, Translation Management Systems | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

SDL TMS 2007 SP4: Some Comments from SDL

Posted by Nick Peris on June 2, 2010

SDL TMS

Here are some interesting comments from Paul Harrap, Product Manager for TMS at SDL, in reply to my article on SDL TMS 2007 SP4. I’ve also included my own response afterwards.

“(…) I’m very pleased to see we’re getting some coverage in the blogosphere. I’d like to thank you for taking the time to write us up and your positive feedback on the product generally and our new SP4 specifically.

I accept that there’s still some work to do in the product with relation to TM maintenance. As your article accurately reflects, the contents of TMs are updated in TMS in very specific places in the workflow- typically after one or two cycles of review – and what content goes into which TM can be carefully controlled. This is very much by design. We see Translation Memory as the crown-jewel of the linguistic assets of the enterprise customer and so contents are tightly regulated by TMS.

However, we have to acknowledge that bad content can creep into TMs over time – there might be an error in review, or some customers might not review translations quite as thoroughly as others. The changes we made in SP4 to allow the import of files directly into TMs is a response to this requirement. The enterprise can now add/replace contents of a TM directly, without reference to a specific translation job or workflow, as an administrator-level function. This can allow people to quickly and painlessly correct known-bad TUs.

We’re considering including the ability to search through, browse and directly edit the TUs in the TMS browser environment in a future release. While I accept that this is a lacking feature, I wouldn’t concur that we should be putting such power in the hands of the vendor or the freelancer. Seeing the TM as a hugely valuable asset for the enterprise, I expect this is the sort of feature and capability that most enterprises would want to keep in-house.

On the integration with SDL MultiTerm, I very much see a distinction at the moment where TMS is a consumer of Terminology and MultiTerm is the owner of it. Over time we will see much tighter integrations between the SDL products, so the lines between TMS and MultiTerm will very much start to blur, and we have plans to introduce workflow capabilities for term lifecycle management.

On the issue of uploads and downloads and working offline, I think a lot of people would very much agree with you. The single largest corporate user of SDL TMS is… SDL! We have dozens of translation offices around the globe, all of whom deal with the upload and download of files to and from TMS servers based in our hosting centre in London on a daily basis. What tends to drive people offline is the featureset available in the desktop tools. SDL Trados Studio, and its predecessors SDL Trados TagEditor and SDLX, are very powerful productivity tools for the translator. Replicating these features in an online translation environment is a monumental task and it’s  something we are investigating.”

First of all, I would like to thank Paul for this input. Since the ramp up of Trados Studio over a year ago, SDL have made a sustained effort to listen to their user base. The TMS section proves here that they are keeping with this policy.

On the topic of TM Maintenance, which is very close to my heart, I think the business model Paul is presenting is either slightly outdated or, more likely, is missing on a part of their customer base.

From my experience, the outsourcing model has developed so much during this recession that at least in some cases, big enterprises (i.e. the TMS customers) no longer employ Translation Memory management experts. These positions are filled by technicians employed by the LSPs.

Another point is that while TMS customers use Review routinely, they also cannot afford to review all the content they output. Most of the big players have either implemented or are looking into models which allow them to reduce their review cost for languages where the quality is considered stable. This means that TMs may be updated in TMS with contents which hasn’t been reviewed, and consequently that linguists must regularly inspect the TMs and fix any inconsistencies in legacy TUs to prevent reoccurring errors.

I maintain that this task must be assigned to a linguist, and the best placed to do so is a senior Reviewer. Not all of these are in-house, by far.

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SDL TMS 2007 Service Pack 4: Love and Hate

Posted by Nick Peris on June 1, 2010

SDL TMS 2007 - Localisation workflow

I always find it challenging to get a fair idea of what Enterprise tools can do before making a purchase decision. There is so much involved in setting them up that even if a trial version is available, the efforts required to perform meaningful testing are prohibitive.

Many such applications do not come ready out-of-the-box and require extensive customisation before they can be tailored to fit a specific business model.

This is why many purchase decisions are executive decisions, based on ROI reports and presentations showing what the software does. A demo might be setup for you on a dedicated server by the sales person, and you’ll be left thinking “hum…surely it’s not that simple”. This is also why 10 times out of 10, these pieces of software come with a Support package which lets you install regular and much needed updates and bug fixes.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

If you have the opportunity, go knock on a few door and try to find a company nearby which uses the software in a production environment. Contact them, ask to visit, get an independent demo. From my experience (not based on TMS that time) most people will be more than happy to tell you how much effort it took to setup, how many features still don’t work, but also how much their productivity has really increased and perhaps even how many of their employees have done a thesis on the subject! Bottom line: get real-life advice!

SDL TMS, or Translation Management System, is one such behemoth application. Trying to find independent information about TMS on the web is a challenge. In fact, even finding official information can prove frustrating. As for Special Interest Groups… those I found were for customers-only. It seems it’s buy first, we’ll talk later.

So what’s the big deal exactly? Well I’ve been working with TMS 2007 for about a year now and I have a few things to report: some good, some not so good.

What it does well

Let’s start with positive thoughts.

TMS is a workflow tool, designed to connect a customer directly to it localisation vendors and all their armies of sub vendors. It handles big volumes and short turnarounds really well, and is reasonably good at supporting your Translation Memory and Terminology Management needs. It also offers the reporting facilities necessary for all members of your localisation ecosystem to invoice each other, and you.

TMS automates part of the role of the middle men, and is ideal for localisation consumers with a constant stream of translation, especially if they come in the shape of numerous small projects.

Multiple alternative workflows can be set up, depending on vendor selection, TMs to leverage against, TMs to update, need for Linguistic Review etc. Once the correct workflow is selected at the job creation stage, you can be sure it will go through all the steps required. There is little or no human error possible, at least not in scheduling and assigning tasks to the right participant.

TM updates are handled automatically, literally seconds after the last human input in the workflow.

Where it lacks

So are all the vendors really gathering orderly around the assembly line and localising thereafter like a happy family?

Not exactly. There are a few snags.

My main grief is around TM Maintenance or the lack of it. Because TMS automatically updates the Translation Memories at whatever stage of your workflow you told it to, manual editing of the TMs has been neglected. A user can perform a Concordance search, but it is impossible to edit the Translation Units found. One cannot use TMS to fix inherited inconsistencies or any error found in legacy TUs.

This makes implementing Global changes a very untidy task: one needs to connect to the TM Server (hosted by SDL in most cases) using SDLX 2007 Professional. This, to me is total non-sense and here is why:

  1. increasingly, the business model in Localisation is outsourcing.
  2. once localisation is outsourced to agencies, these subcontract Single Language Vendors, who themselves might only be sub-contracting to freelancers.
  3. less and less Localisation consumers employ in-house linguists.
  4. their remaining in-country staff is Sales and Marketing, and has much more pressing matters to attend than editing TMs.

Now which version are these freelancers more likely to have? SDLX 2007 Professional (€2,995) or SDLX 2007 Freelance (€760)? I think you probably guessed it. SDL’s licensing model prevents linguists from maintaining TMs in TMS and seemingly forces corporations which bought TMS to support their outsourcing setup, to fix TMs in-house!

There are some workarounds to this, but for a piece of software of this caliber, I think this is a pretty shocking limitation.

The integration with MultiTerm has similar issues: only some of the functionality are available through TMS, the rest including editing Term entries has to be done using MultiTerm Online or Desktop.

Performance issues also tend to drive a lot of linguists offline! Depending on their setup, a lot of them find it more efficient to download jobs, translate offline in SDLX and upload the finished work back into TMS. While there is technically no difference in the end result, this is a disappointing interruption of the workflow.

Service Pack 4: An End to the Suffering?

Squeezing under the gate at the last second, like Bruce Willis in a classic movie, TMS 2007 Service Pack 4 sneaks in before the long-awaited SDL TMS 2010 and comes to the rescue.

With TMS 2010 now possibly slipping into 2011, it is a welcomed addition particularly due to the improvements it brings. Here are the most significant end-user facing features:

Browser support: IE 8 support added (IE 6 removed in future)

TM import: ITD, zipped ITDs, MDB (SDLX TMs). This is a partial solution to the lack of TM Maintenance feature I’ve talked about in this article.

Continued lack of support for TMX is attributed to the fact that this open-source format has too many proprietary specifications.

Reporting formats added: CSV, Excel 2007, PDF, RTF, Word 2007.

Branding and Fonts are customisable (by Professional Services).

TMS 2010 is expected to have end-user customisable reports.

Segment level QA Model for Reviewer grading

QA Models

This all-new feature in SP4 is crucial if your workflow includes Linguistic Review. All changes made by the Reviewers are now recorded, and the Reviewers can tag them using customisable Error Rating and Categories.

  1. Error Ratings and Categories: support for LISA model, SAE J2450, TMS classic out-of-the-box.
  2. User-specific models can be created. Number of points deducted can also be specified in the QA Model.
  3. Records can be retained at segment (for feedback to translators) or project level
  4. Scoring methods: absolute or percentage
  5. To apply a QA Model: add it to a Configuration (i.e workflow), and it will be available to Reviewers working on jobs passed through this config.
  6. Reviewer usage: click Star at segment level to open the QA model window and enter Category and Rating.Pass/Fail status does not prevent reviewer from submitting or rejecting a job.

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