After delivering over 25 million words, the translation center used by TWB is now being offered for use by ProZ.com corporate members in their own work
“ProZ.com built and maintains the ‘translation center’ platform for the humanitarian organization Translators without Borders.”
Created as a Humanitarian Tool, then Improved Organically
In the days following the Haiti earthquake of 2010, we at ProZ.com, together with many others in the industry, tried to help in any way we could. The Paris-based organization Translators without Borders had been overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of volunteers (many of them ProZ.com members). TwB requested that we create something to help them process applications. In response we built a screening tool, and it proved useful enough that TwB decided to standardize on it.
That screening center helped right away, but it began to be clear that the manual approach to project management that the organization had been using (i.e. email) was going to limit its ability to scale. We were asked (and inspired!) to do more to streamline operations. One-by-one, in response to requests from Translators without Borders, we added features that enabled them to automate all aspects of their processes: translator sourcing, client communications, and so on were improved.
Now, five years later, the platform that we built — what Translators without Borders calls their “Translation Center” — is somewhat mature. A single Translators without Borders project manager can now handle about ten times as much work as was possible before.
The “Translation Center” is Now Available for Use by ProZ.com Corporate Members
While the objectives of Translators without Borders may differ in some ways from those of translation companies, operational procedures may in some cases be quite similar. Basically, like TwB, a translation company receives work from clients, passes that work along to translators or translator teams, they do the job, and the work gets delivered. There is some form of quality control and ideally, feedback, and the various parties — clients, project managers and translators — are able to communicate as necessary and appropriate at each stage of the workflow.
Given that, it occurred to use that the translation center platform might be useful to others.
Since we built the translation center from scratch for Translators without Borders, and now we have it, we are able to allow others to use it. Given that it is fairly mature, we felt we would be able to do that without incurring a great deal of additional expense. We decided to make the platform available to corporate members of ProZ.com at no charge.
This translation center is not a comprehensive TMS system, but a tool that enables companies to efficiently route work to translators with whom they already have a relationship. One person described it as a “messaging bus”. It does a bit more than that (files can be moved, for example), but that is the basic idea. It has a nice interface and good communications features, project managers and translators, and optionally clients, can all be in one place, and all the information around a given job is centralized. The platform also integrates with ProZ.com profiles. And with the help of some beta testers, we have added some of the accounting features, etc., that companies require (but TwB never needed.)
This platform can save time and hassle for companies that are doing a lot of emailing back and forth with clients and translators. It can be even more useful for translation companies that put clients and translators into direct contact and communication. To describe more about it…
A “White Label” Design
A key concern in the design was that, even though the translation center was powered by ProZ.com, Translators without Borders is the real force behind the whole operation and the organization’s identity had to be carefully preserved.
To this end, a “white label” philosophy was followed in the design of the platform in such a way that all players or visitors to any instance of the translation center will see the name, logo and colors of the organization managing it, thus preserving their corporate image. White labeling means that the whole operation will be perceived by all actors as an integral part of the managing organization.
Management of Translators
The managing organization will invite their trusted translators to the translation center, where individual information can be stored on language pairs, fields of expertise, rates and any other data, in the form of administrative messages. Files can be attached to such messages (for example a signed NDA).
Messages can be exchanged with the translator through the platform, and they will be stored and associated with the translator’s profile, thus avoiding the hassle of sending and tracking emails.
The translation center can support the operation with in-house or freelance translators, or with a mixture of both categories.
Job posters can provide feedback to each task when a job is completed, entering a comment and selecting among the following options:
- Excellent: Surpassed expectations
- Good: In line with expectations
- Satisfactory: Below expectations but usable
- Unacceptable: Not usable
Average and detailed feedback for each translator is visible to the administrators, and a notification is sent to the support email each time a feedback is posted in any of the two lower levels above.
Work Orders and Jobs
The translation from one source into many target languages is supported by a work order / job / task structure, where
- A work order (W.O.) is the common section, including source and reference files, deadline, field of expertise required, notes and special instructions, etc.
- A job is the application of a work order to a defined target language, so a W.O. can include several jobs into different target languages.
- A task is an individual file offered to the volunteers for translation. A job can include several tasks, both independently added by the client and as the result of the splitting by the PM of larger source files.
Jobs can be posted directly by clients, as is the case with Translators without Borders. This could be useful also for large agencies that need a way of effectively handling many small document that can’t be refused because they come from large clients, but that are processed at a loss because of the heavy overhead of their complex workflow.
An agency will most probably have their own PMs posting jobs on behalf of clients. Client identity and associated documents will still be present in the translation center, but the isolation between clients and translators will be preserved.
A project manager from the translation company will post a work order with at least one job. Reference files such as glossaries, translation memories or style guides can be added as reference to a job, or to all jobs of a given client.
Release of notifications to translators can be automatic, or manually handled by the PM. With automatic operation the notifications are sent out in batches, inviting translators to a job posting page, where they can evaluate the tasks offered and eventually accept one or more of them. The first notified translator who accepts a task will receive the assignment. Once all tasks have been accepted or manually assigned by the PM, a job is no longer available to other interested translators.
In a job page the translators with tasks assigned, the PM and the client (if given access to the page) will be able to communicate and to exchange files. All information stored in a single page, no need to send emails or keep track of files.
Translators will upload their translations to the same job page. Once all tasks in a job have been delivered, the job is complete and deliverables can be downloaded by the client or by a PM acting on their behalf.
Editing tasks can be added in the same page once the translations have been delivered, and they are assigned and delivered just like a translation task.
Automatic notifications are sent to the translator and the PM when a task is behind schedule. PMs are also notified when a task has not been accepted 48 hours after being offered to translators.
You are Kindly Invited to Try this Tool
If you routinely outsource translation work, we invite you to experiment with this platform, and to use it within your company if it suits your business. If after trying it out you find you have questions or feature requests, we would be happy to hear from you. You can contact me at enrique at proz dot com.