Tuesday, August 30, 2016

De Domo Sua – The Rationale for Hiring a Consultant when Working with MT

I have always found Luigi Muzii's aka Il barbaro (The Barbarian) opinions on the "translation industry" interesting and have often felt that his blog never got the attention it deserved. Possibly because he often wrote with frequent references to Roman historical precedence, in what I have been told is an Italian scholarly style, and perhaps because English is not his preferred language to communicate complex thoughts. 
His willingness to state the obvious (to common sense) sometimes makes him unpopular, especially with the MT naysayers e.g. "Moreover, translation data - i.e. project data - has a limited lifespan and, at some point in time, it becomes outdated, possibly inaccurate, and definitely irrelevant." I think that many in the "translation industry" still fail to realize that the bulk of the material that they translate;  i.e. the manuals, documentation and generic business content on websites focused on the wonder and excellence of corporate goods and services, become less relevant, and less valuable with each passing day no matter how well it has been translated. They clearly don't like to hear someone suggest that this might be so. And it is only natural that the buyers of business translation services might ask: "Is there a cheaper way to do this?" since they are acutely aware of the rapidly declining relevance and low value of a lot of the corporate content they produce.

His willingness to raise fundamental questions I think makes his voice worthy of attention, for me at least. Anyway, I am glad that he sent me this brief overview which I am told will be expanded in future, and I hope that he will be back in future on this blog with other observations on the business of translation related to MT or not. 
Judge a man by his questions, not his answersVoltaire


On his house [*]

[*] De domo sua is a famous speech that Marcus Tullius Cicero gave in theRoman Senate in 57 B.C. against tribune Publius Clodius Pulcher, to have his house rebuilt at public cost, after it was destroyed by Clodius' supporters. 

"On his house" is the equivalent of "De domo sua" in English, which we largely use in Italy to label a cause one pleads for his own benefit. In this case, "domus mea" (my home) is the rationale for hiring a consultant. 

Implementing machine translation (MT) effectively is not an easy task for a translation agency, or even for a large translation buyer whose core business is not translation. Still, with 99,9% of translations performed daily by machines, it is more and more perfectly reasonable that businesses are eager to have more and more of their content translated, quickly and cost-effectively using the technology that is available. 

Speed and cost-effectiveness are crucial to attain competitive advantage in global market competition, and we should understand that not all content is equal in terms of how it should and can be properly translated. And not all content deserves the same TEP (Translate>Edit>Proof) consideration and production process. 

Most enterprises, especially SMEs seeking a foothold in international markets, see machine translation as a viable solution, but they do not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to deal with the challenging effort of implementing MT properly. Most logically, then, a SME would seek help from translation agency vendors assuming they would know how to use and implement MT technology. 

Unfortunately, most translation agencies often do not have these skills either. Considering that the translation technology market - which includes MT - is noticeably smaller than the broader linguistic services market, and is somewhat under-served in terms of availability of competent service providers, more and more language service vendors unfortunately have been adding MT consulting to their service offerings as a means to generate new forms of revenue. This can only result in a situation somewhat like that shown below. 

The following very brief tips are intended as basic practical guidelines for enterprises interested in taking advantage of MT. 

Tip #1

Hire an independent consultant. If you are a language service vendor, being supported by an independent advisor will spare you the cost and the hassle of an internal department while offering your customers the peace of mind of an unbiased opinion and professional help. 

Tip #2

Either ask for or run a preliminary analysis. Through interviews with staff and examination of the current modus operandi (MO), an independent consultant can help you objectively assess your processes and facilities in view of the potential implementation and integration of a machine translation platform, as well as provide guidance on the possibility of the provision of any ancillary services. 

Tip #3

Either ask for or draft a report that provides the following:
  • Review of your goals,
  • The outcomes of the preliminary analysis
  • Appraisal of the suitability of current modus operandi (MO) for machine translation, and
  • An outline of an exploratory program.
Use flowcharts and/or sequence diagrams to draw your modus operandi (MO), starting from future MO (FMO), then present MO (PMO) and finally transitional MO (TMO.) By overlapping the three diagrams you should be able to track the differences and be able to make adjustments to streamline the transitional process and ensure a smooth update of the existing processes. 

Tip #4

Write down the requirements that have been collected during the interviews for the preliminary analysis. Prepare a grid with the technical specifications (TS) and the statement of work (SoW) detailing what is to be done. 

Tip #5

Write a clear template for a request for proposals (RFP) including the TS and the SoW and send it out to a group of selected MT vendor candidates, asking them to fill in the grid. 

Tip #6

When hiring the advisor, consider that the advisor should have comprehensive insight and understanding of the general MT market and its players to help identify the best candidates. 

Do not forget 


Discuss the report and the proposals with the advisor and the customer, if you are a translation agency. Provide a program, a configuration plan and a training/recruiting program including all tasks, from benchmarking to data qualification and preparation, from vendor selections to proposal evaluation, from negotiations to implementation, from testing to training. 

Luigi Muzii's profile photo

Luigi Muzii has been in the "translation business" since 1982 and has been a business consultant since 2002, in the translation and localization industry through his firm . He focuses on helping customers choose and implement best-suited technologies and redesign their business processes for the greatest effectiveness of translation and localization related work.

This link provides access to his other blog posts.

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