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Though there are more pressing localisation-related topics to be addressed, I think it’s important to first call out my friend and CEO, Miss Shunee Yee, on her unabashed support for the Boston Celtics.

Yes, yes, yes—the NBA Finals are all fine and dandy. But we are a civilized bunch here at CSOFT International, and as a civilized bunch we know that, first of all, the Lakers are going to win. And secondly, nobody cares about the NBA anyway. It’s all about the FIFA World Cup. So I’d appreciate it if we all cut down a bit on the American fluff and focused on a real sport: football.

That said, if I still have a job, I’d like to move on to the point of this post, which is to share with you a brief and belated recap of this year’s GALA Conference in Prague. Interestingly enough, pricing proved to be a hot topic at this year’s convention. An increasing number of vendors are feeling the squeeze as client organizations engage in more elaborate vendor selection processes.

I felt this was worth talking about because we’ve been experiencing quite the influx of new opportunities at CSOFT over the past few months. Specifically, after Common Sense Advisory’s report that announced CSOFT’s ranking among the top 35 localisation vendors worldwide, we’ve had to keep up with rising expectations as a leading language service provider, and this is certainly an issue that we, as well as our peers in the industry, have to face on a daily basis.

GALA 2010 – Highlights and Trends

One trend that attendees of GALA 2010 were keen to discuss (read: moan about despondently) was the overwhelming incidence of pricing coups performed by client-side purchasing departments. That is, there has been an apparent switch in strategy that changed the game from good old-fashioned vendor selection to pure, maniacal price-pressing. This sort of phenomenon is completely understandable, given the current economic climate around the globe, but in order for both vendors and their clients to maintain their localisation efforts within profitable margins, there needs to be a solution.

So how do you, as a vendor, tackle fixed pricing? How do you address a prospect who encourages you, for example, to complete a project using Machine Translation, because it’s cheaper?  There were many ideas from the attending localisation vendors around the ethics of these tactics, as well as how to work with and through them.

Dealing with “The Talk” at GALA 2010

Representing CSOFT on the pricing panel, I raised the point that, when dealing with the price squeeze, you should dare to be an expert. In other words, don’t be afraid to talk about quality and other tangible values that you know are relevant to the client’s business growth and brand, as opposed to haggling exclusively over cents-per-word.

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Many in the audience agreed that one of the most serious pitfalls inherent in “the pricing talk” is the risk that significant cuts to translation budgets may lead to quality issues in the long term—namely, quality issues that will incur significant costs for both parties involved. Whether owing to regulatory adverse events in the Life Sciences industry, or poor product usability born of inconsistent terminology, the quality of translation, terminology management, and localisation as a whole are directly affected by price, as are the deliverables in any industry.

Following the lively panel session, I was pleased to see the corridors of the InterContinental Hotel stimulated with offshoot conversations about auctioning, online RFPs, and re-occurring fixed pricing scenarios. Joining in, I suggested that any vendor facing these situations should first revisit their sales strategy.

Localisation vendors facing “The Talk” should ask themselves:

1) Which business did we set out to do and what is our strategy to achieve it?

2) What is the business model and goal toward which this strategy is geared?

Based on these factors, you should enter into dialogues with customers only after having clearly defined the opportunity itself and what both sides are looking to achieve. To be specific, you need to understand that, at a certain point, it’s OK to walk away from what is no longer an economically viable opportunity.

As regards online RFPs, I believe the right solution is to maintain a good overall strategy for getting to know your prospects and clients. As a localisation provider, understanding your client’s business is key to delivering consistent translation work with an eye on both brand perception and recognition. This will go a long way in focusing the point of departure for the online RFP submission process, and giving a face to an otherwise impersonal process.

Crowdsourcing, Cloudsourcing, and Collaboration—oh, and CSOFT

Beyond talking about price, there were a variety of other hot topics being discussed at GALA this year. Each day began with a public debate led by opposing experts on the panel. In one of these morning redeye sessions (specifically designed, I suspect, to ensure that no one got a complete night’s) focused on the case for and against crowdsourcing. Panelists on both sides were passionate in their arguments about the quality of linguistic material borne of lay communal efforts.

A particularly compelling argument in support of crowdsourcing in localisation came from one panelist whose company embraced a strategy of forming a community within the crowd. She methodically presented the steps of qualification, ranking, and engagement of public candidates who were accepted into the regulated community. I thought it was a well-founded approach that clearly sought qualitative results. On reflection though, communities are still crowds, despite the happy-sounding, I-will-help-you-mow-your-lawn-when-you’re-sick spin, and anyone in a crowd can leave at will, without notice.

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So how do you sustain continuity? Aside from threatening people with guns or keeping them put with really big staples, it’s difficult to encourage ongoing participation in a collaborative project without delivering a clear benefit to those involved—à la Wikipedia, wherein contributors can also benefit from the expertise, as it were, of other contributors.

When applied to multilingual content management in the localisation industry, getting a paycheck is what usually encourages professional linguists to stay actively involved in collaborative efforts. But with the ever-growing popularity of more “open source” language projects, whether it be localising Facebook, feeding Google’s translation engines or the like, there needs to be a standard way of bringing mutual benefit to the table when there is no money exchanging hands. This is where information sharing comes into play.

As CSOFT has been expending a lot of effort recently in promoting the many benefits of terminology management, we have worked hard to make the collaborative nature of some translation work a more mutually beneficial undertaking within the broader localisation community. The result of these efforts is, the Community Edition of our terminology management system that enables users to efficiently develop, manage and translate terminology in a structured collaborative environment.

The Community Edition of TermWiki is an online application that supports all popular internet browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and others. From anywhere in the world, users can orchestrate complete uniformity of voice in every step of their global product development chain, breeding a new level of linguistic consistency across source documents and their translations.

What’s special about, however, is that it not only gives linguists a platform in which they can collaboratively perfect their multilingual glossaries, but it also enables them to significantly expand their own termbases in the process. To wit, for every term a user enters into, he or she can then turn around and export three other terms in a file format that best integrates with his/her current translation memory system.

This enables linguists to effectively triple the size of their glossaries just by sharing their own content with other peers in the industry. Not only does this increase individual production, but it makes their clients happy as well, because a better managed glossary begets better translation quality, etc.

So that’s about it for GALA 2010

I am already curious about which subjects will top the agenda of GALA 2011 in Lisbon. Heading into that conference, it will also be interesting to reflect on the issues that were top of mind this year—to review the solutions we agreed upon, as well as agreed to disagree upon, and how the localisation industry continues to shape itself year after year.