While in Rome early last month, I had an interesting discussion with Valeria Cannavina about standards and I thought it would useful to have her provide her perspective, which is a blend of theory and observations from an actual case study on the value of standards-in-use and implementation at Arrex Le Cucine. I thought that her view of standards driving ongoing improvements in quality, in addition to making other interaction processes smoother, was interesting and worth sharing with the broader standards discussion going on in the community. The following posting is a detailed response from Valeria on the discussion started in previous posts on standards related issues.
Can you control what you can't measure?
Following the discussion started on this blog posting, I would like to make some comments and hopefully present some new perspectives on this subject, based on my personal experience with standards.
I believe that standards should be a means to assess both the quality of products and processes. All LSPs, ranging from multi-language vendors to individual freelance translators, should have a common reference framework to pursue quality.
In 2008, for my final dissertation titled: ‘The adoption of the CMMI: perspective and benefits for LSPs’, I investigated a maturity model for LSPs to measure processes, starting from a few preliminary considerations:
- measuring a process will improve it and enable clients and suppliers to create a reference standard to assess any process;
- the measurement of a business process should not be an absolute end in itself (as in ISO 9000 or EN15038), but rather an ultimate goal in a path to continuous improvement;
- data must be interpreted and linked to overall project goals that are pivotal in understanding and assessing the value added to a product;
- process measurement and improvement actions should be conducted by all the parties that contribute to a transaction, i.e. customer(s) and supplier(s);
- customers and suppliers should adopt the same model and/or the same best practices, to provide assessment parameters.
Why should an LSP choose CMMI?
When I started my research, no standard was available yet in the localization industry, for continuous improvement of processes; in fact, the LMM (Localization Maturity Model) described by Common Sense Advisory was applicable for clients only. A major obstacle to adopting a common standard in the translation industry is the information asymmetry between clients and suppliers: a standard like EN 15038 allows the stronger contractor/vendor to impose its own metrics, making it sometimes difficult to ensure full customer satisfaction. The lack of guidelines to regulate the customer-LSP relationship also does not take the freelancer into account. These freelancers are appointed only as third parties, and are responsible for the performance of a very small part of the project. EN 15038 provides also for the possible establishment of a service agreement between the customer and the TSP. Although it is important for an industry standard to regulate this aspect, it is also true that this would pose a hazard because of a lack in detail. Indeed, the major limitation of EN 15038 is the lack of specific and accurate metrics that can help regulate processes and tasks. This may limit the efficiency of processes and the ability to create value.
CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) is a suite of standards focusing to asset development and maintenance in a product’s complete life cycle from initial conception to sales, from maintenance to withdrawal and end of life. CMMI is divided into process areas, with their own goals and tasks, and is based on task repeatability. CMMI consists of five maturity levels; to ascend from one level to another, each task of the process area of the lower level must be accomplished. The continuous improvement model is best suited for innovation processes, and it is no coincidence that CMMI companies operate in very different fields (Nokia, Siemens, Motorola, Reuters, Deloitte, BMW, General Motors, TATA, Canon, Light Pharma, and many others).
Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CMMI
The goals of my investigation were to demonstrate that freelancers and LSPs can both adopt CMMI, and illustrate how LSPs can benefit from a model aiming at the continuous improvement of processes, improving efficiency and containing costs while increasing profits and increasing the quality of finished products. At this point in time, CMMI has been adopted mostly by manufacturers, but this does not mean that it cannot be adopted by service companies. In fact the key process areas taken into consideration (i.e. organization, process, technology and finance) can be also be applied to the GILT industry, since translation is also an economic activity/product: not surprisingly, CSA used it as a reference to develop its own maturity model for the localization industry and we can see that there is value in using these constructs to understand and drive continued improvements in processes.
The way ahead?
Four years have passed since I completed my research, but I still see the same landscape: LSPs and their clients still look at translation industry standards with the same “traditional approach,” considering only the basic tasks (analysis, translation, review, delivery) of the typical TEP model. In my humble opinion, translation industry standards lack a larger perspective, since standards should be used internally and externally, and should be very flexible to address different roles, skills and processes. A larger standards perspective will include many related tasks, ranging from content creation to translation and raw/post-edited machine translation.
Deeper and tighter collaboration is needed between vendors and clients, involving all departments of a company, especially export/international sales and global customer support managers, who will be key in leading the information flow between external and internal resources in translation processes.
The flexibility of a process definition based on concurrent tasks is a key differentiator in an industry whose clients are increasingly averse to improvisation and disorganization. Adapting CMMI to MT processes could be a way to assemble and link translation processes and new market trends into a single solution. The tasks involved in a typical MT process, from training resources and terminology work to support, audit and editing are also run accordingly to a model based on continuous improvement.
By implementing a process-oriented model, classic-flavored translation with a touch of MT can also be performed as a process based on client-specific best practices. The implementation of a process-oriented model allows for breaking down translation in discrete tasks.What I suggest, for a company wishing to adopt a standard and learn how to take advantage of certification is:
- document all activities involved in the production cycle
- highlight implicit and explicit tasks
- identify all tasks that can generate/add value and those that are redundant and that can be reduced or deleted
- make a list of best practices that can be repeated
- make a list of any possible improvements (i.e. investments in training and linguistic data preparation technology) that can help increase the overall efficiency of a process.
At present, I am working on a pilot project for Arrex Le Cucine (a leading Italian kitchen furniture manufacturer with a top 5 home market standing that also exports to 35 countries all over the world) to create a controlled language to boost machine translation.
My previous research on CMMI helped my colleague Anna Fellet and me to analyze the translation process for Arrex by:
- breaking down the documentation process in tasks;
- documenting every stage of the process;
- suggesting ways to improve the documentation process;
- customizing the translation workflow;
- creating a repeatable methodology.
For ARREX, we made things as simple as possible - yet no simpler, and we are now analyzing results and working on a business case with practical examples, which we look forward to presenting in the next few weeks.
Valeria holds a degree in language and culture mediation, and a master's degree in technical and scientific translation from LUSPIO in Rome. Her final dissertation was titled "Adoption of CMMI to the GILT industry: benefits and prospects for the language service providers." She collaborated with Renato Beninatto and Don DePalma of Common Sense Advisory in a research project. After two years as Project Manager at ILT Group, she now works on a pilot project on Italian Controlled Language and Machine Translation with Asia Online, Synthema and ARREX Le Cucine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org