Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Concept of MT Maturity

I would like to introduce a series of posts that looks at and discusses the concept of MT Maturity. I hope to illustrate that getting real business advantage from MT requires alignment with a variety of other related business processes. I also plan to look at how the MT technology continues to evolve, especially as related to use in professional translation and corporate use to make large amounts of content multilingual. 

To facilitate the discussion I have created my own very rough evaluation and analysis model, which is an adaptation of the CSA Localization Maturity Model which is an adaptation of the software industry’s capability maturity model (CMM). Basically, it is a way of assessing if the technology user understands the technology, and is also using it in an efficient and effective manner by properly linking it to other organizational processes. 

Thus, companies that are at a higher stage of the CSA LMM model referenced above, will tend to have much more responsive and adaptive localization practices, that enable them to be much more nimble and efficient and effective in international market initiatives. These maturity models define very specific “stages” to characterize the efficiency and effectiveness of the business process as shown below. Thus an LSP at a higher stage is probably much better to work with, and an Enterprise at a higher level is also much more nimble and international market savvy and superior localization practices.

While this is interesting, it is somewhat theoretical, and I am going to attempt to make it less so in my own analysis of MT technology. This will make my comments less academically robust, but since all I do here is just speak my opinions on things it does not really matter. I do NOT represent any corporate opinion here, and these comments are purely personal observations though hopefully still valid professional assessments. My intention is to highlight best practices and point out what I think are interesting trends.

MT (machine translation) or Automated Language Translation (ALT) or Machine Pseudo Translation (MpT) use can also be described to some extent using these maturity model stages, however, I am going to try and simplify this further, as I only use the maturity model perspective to better structure my comments and analysis, of how this might apply to the business use of MT technology to further international initiatives.

So while there are still many naysayers who will never see any value to professional business use of MT, there is a growing community of users that are working through the vagaries and complexity of MT with varying degrees of success. The Gartner Hype Cycle curve below provides a useful graphic to describe the stages from a very common expectations cycle, that so many, if not most users of this technology seem to go through. I will describe the various maturity stages in more detail in upcoming posts though my analysis may not be quite as tightly defined as the CSA analysis.

It may be useful at the outset, to list some of the most common pitfalls, which are the opposite of best practices, as the continual recurrence of these factors seem to plague many business use cases of MT technology. They are:
  • Looking for cheap, fast and “easy” approaches like Moses and Instant Do-it-yourself solutions.
  • Expecting to do better than the really decent generic engines provided by Microsoft and Google without investments in time and core skill building.
  • Looking to use MT as a wholesale replacement for human translation.
  • Using MT for one-off projects and/or for small volume requirements (LT 500,000 words). MT makes most sense for very large projects that involve millions of words, especially those that would not make sense to do using only human translators for time and cost reasons.
It is worth re-stating that MT technology in the right hands and right use cases can generate long-term sustainable competitive efficiencies, but this generally needs a strategic focus, and a long term commitment to the technology deployment to achieve this.

Emerging MT Trends

While the “translation industry” only focuses on the older SMT approaches most often based around Moses, we are seeing an increasing and building momentum around newer approaches to building MT engines. These involve techniques like deep learning, neural nets and artificial intelligence to improve on the results of the current approaches. These new approaches are apparently yielding much better results than ideas like morpho-syntactic approaches to SMT which have also had small imporvements.

The presentation here presents some of the new perspectives in AI and Neural MT versus the traditional SMT NLP views in a relatively understandable way.

I have also noted that Microsoft appears to have seriously stepped up their MT technology of late. They are attempting to solve the most difficult automated translation challenges in the world today, specifically:
  • Facebook comments (so I now understand what Clio Schils, Renato and my Russian Facebook friends are talking about)
  • Skype based multilingual voice conferences
  • Customization with limited sets of training data using AI and allowing four levels of customization.
Also of interest, a new kind of interactive MT solution that I think holds great promise, especially for individual translators, are adaptive MT solutions like Lilt that take real time corrective feedback and improve dynamically while also leveraging TM in multiple ways. They are also built on post-Moses technology, so provide much better foundation engine quality which means less post-editing. While only available for a limited set of languages, I think it is one of the few MT technology initiatives that actually generate enthusiasm from translators. For an individual translator, I think that using something like Lilt is a much better approach than trying to build your own Moses engine since you have real expertise building your foundations. This article provides a good overview of what adaptive MT looks like and tries to do. 

I found out that Prince died today and while I was never a real fan, I think his guitar solo here is quite exceptional, and should leave no doubt to his amazing musical ability. Theatrics aside, it is the notes and varied textures that he plays that make it so special, and wins the respect and admiration of the other band members.  It is worth a listen. May he rest in peace.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Translator Perspectives on MT & Technology In General

I found an interesting series of blog posts by Christelle Maignon that I thought articulated translator perspectives on MT and the increasing use of technology in translation work very well. She herself was driven away from translation work towards coaching because PEMT was just not her cup of tea from what I could gather. Anyway I thought it would be good to highlight her work in case you are not aware of her blog.

Some posts that readers of this blog may also find interesting are listed below:

Why machine translation creates so much anger and how to deal with it

This post references Dr K├╝bler-Ross study of grief. She describes the five stages of emotions which are experienced by people who are approaching death or dealing with the death of a loved one. Her model was widely accepted and it was found to be valid for other forms of losses, as well as situations relating to change (for instance, the loss of a job or of a familiar way of doing things). Her model has been used as a change management tool by businesses across the world.

I have written about this as well in the past referencing this link  but it is good to get a real translators perspective which interestingly uses the death and grief cycle as a reference.

Disruptive Change graphic

Another post describes the widespread use of MT based on presentation by Stefan Gentz and is one the most popular posts on her blog.

What Does The Future Hold For Translators?

I find the reaction and interpretation by a translator interesting though I don’t really see how MT is taking work away from translators or the professional translation industry. MT mostly translates stuff that would never get translated were it not possible to do it with MT.

Another that I found interesting is:

Riding The Wave Of Technological Change As A Translator

Or Future Proofing Your Career As A Translator

I think there is lots of useful information for translators on her site, and while I am regularly reminded that I am not a translator and should not be telling translators how to do what they do, I will dare to say that many will find useful information here.

I truly hope that my highlighting her blog here raises her profile and does not have a negative reaction from some who might see this as an endorsement from MT advocates.

I have not been very active in the last few months but I have a new series of ideas that I will start writing on again shortly.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving vacation for those of you who celebrate this.

Let what comes come.
Let what goes go.
Find out what remains.

—  Ramana Maharshi

Himalayan view

Four Steps to Uncover New Business Opportunities (as a Translation Project Manager!)

 This is a guest post by Romina Kohei. She is the co-founder of GliderPath, a SaaS product that helps translation companies owners run and grow their business, and of GliderPath Academy, an online learning platform for translation & localization professionals. She is the founder of Cool Project Management, a website where I aim to give information to help people get started in project management, excel in leadership and venture into entrepreneurship.
Romina is originally from Rosario, Argentina and has lived in Czech Republic for the past six years. Romina has more than 10 years of experience in the translation and localization industry, having worked in various project management and sales positions prior to starting her own endeavor with GliderPath.
Romina Kohei
All opinions and statements are hers and I have not edited or changed them in any way. Her Twitter handle is @GliderPath
For many years I believed project managers did not need sales skills. I was not very fond of the image of the car salesman that appeared in my head every time someone mentioned “sales skills” to me and, because of that; I was not very interested in developing sales skills as a project manager. I thought my focus was to deliver my project according the triple constraint, good quality, on time, on budget. I was trained that way, after all. My view of Sales has evolved from those early beginnings… and later on I was able to see it as a more collaborative and mutually beneficial process.

Why sales in project management?

You may have noted, however, that throughout PM training we may never come across any mention on sales or improving our sales skills. This is a shame. Now I can tell you: as project manager, it has to be part of your game. In fact, selling should be part of our project management strategy. Why is that? I’ll get to it in a minute.

First, let me tell you about the realization I had as soon as I moved from production to sales. I realized that a big part of the sales process is in the hand of the project manager! That’s right. As project managers we spend more time with the client when we manage a project than the sales people will ever spend. Most importantly, we are responsible for the customer experience they will have.

Having realized that, I looked back and noticed I was not aware I was selling all the time when I managed projects in organizations. I was selling myself and my experience as a brand, I was selling when consulting with the client, I was selling when delivering a project.

So, since it’s going to happen anyway, the best you can do it so make a conscious effort and incorporate a few techniques that will assist you, not only in your everyday work, but also in working with the sales people of your company to help them close deals. To help your company bring in new business by uncovering opportunities with existing clients you don’t have to become a sales person.

You just need to know how to have a sales conversation and follow a process that facilitates relationship-building with clients. So let me give you...

An easily reproducible 4-step process

There is a really easy to follow 4-step process to have a natural sales conversation using these skills.
When it comes to structuring your conversations, I suggest using the approach developed by Neil Rackham as outlined in his book SPIN selling. It is a four-part question framework to use when talking to clients. It goes like this:
1. Situation questions
These questions help you learn about the client’s current situation. For example: what’s your current budget for translation/localization? What are your plans for the year? (Only ask one or two of this questions, it’s likely that the sales person in your company has already asked tons of these. If you have the info, you can bring it up in conversations with your client to learn more.)
2. Problem questions
These are questions that will clarify your client’s pain points. Here is where you will shine. As project manager, and being in constant contact with the client and working on their projects, have and ongoing relationship with the client and you are uniquely qualified to know exactly what ask, to get information on needs, desires and new requirements from your everyday conversations or your post-projects reviews. You can ask questions like: what is currently not working with the current solutions you have in place? What problems are you facing when outsourcing your translation/localization projects?

With these questions, you want to define the problem they are facing so you can focus on the implications of this problem and how you can help.

With these first two steps, you have already tons of valuable information you can share with your sales team. This will definitely help them move forward doing what they do best, but you don’t have to stop there, you can go on to the following two steps.
3. Implication questions
These are meant to make your client aware of the implications that stem from the problem they are facing. These questions are based on information you uncovered on your previous steps. Some examples could be: How does this issue affect your budget? What is the impact this has on the productivity of your team? What’s the impact this problem has on the quality of your own internal deliverables in your company? The purpose of these questions is to help your clients to gain some perspective and frame the problem that they are facing in their minds. You help them get a sense of urgency for it.

For example: Your client’s content writers are not taking into account localization and are generating content that is difficult to understand and takes longer to translate. This has an impact on budget, time, probably some management issues internally. You can help them, through questions, to understand the real impact this is having. You can then, move on to the final set of questions.
4. Need-payoff questions
These questions focus attention on your solution and get the clients to think about the benefits of addressing this problem with you. These questions should stem from the implication questions you asked earlier, and can include: How do you feel this solution can help you? What type of impact would this have on your budget/team productivity/internal deliverables if we were to implement this within the next X months?

The SPIN question model is a natural progression. You can safely use it in your regular conversations with your clients, in your weekly or monthly meetings or in your post-project review meetings.

The best part? Your clients will love you for it because you are helping them solve problems… and, so will your sales team, because you are helping them close sales. That’s a lot of love for you there, while you are incorporating invaluable skills for you.

So going back to our initial question, then:

Why selling should be part of our project management strategy?

Well, because one of the best - and easiest - ways to increase revenue and profitability is to sell more to existing clients.

Let me repeat that: one of the best - and easiest - ways to increase revenue and profitability is to sell more to existing clients. And you, as project manager, know the existing client the best.

It’s your turn now. Go out there and start having awesome conversations with your clients!

If you would like to know more about this topic, check our latest video here.