How to do Linguistic sign-off with DITA
Amanda Etheridge, WhP
Originally published with permission from WhP at https://www.whp.net/en/linguistic-sign-off-dita/
When your company sets up a DITA process, you achieve most of the operational targets as far as content re-use is concerned. Two aspects can fall short of expectations: Localization costs remain the same, and time to market increases.
The problem stems from the in-country review, or linguistic sign-off (LSO). It feels like the piece doesn’t fit in the puzzle. What is going wrong and what are your solutions?
The Old Process is no Longer Adapted
You may have maintained your previous LSO process: the In Country Reviewers (ICRs), also named Local Subject Matter Experts, review, edit and publish the translated documents.
It turns out this option tends to increase time-to-market:
- There are now far more deliverables, with mostly identical content; it results in an explosion of the ICR’s workload.
- The ICR always reviews the entire document, even when only 10% was updated. He or she will quickly lose their motivation, as there have plenty of other duties.
- The content is no longer editable because it is in XML format. Editing is transferred to a technical writer who often does not speak the language. So you need a second round of review.
- When conditional content is used to increase content re-use, some translated content may be considered as approved; however, it was not reviewed because it was not published in the reviewed document.
- Content published in a series of documents will be reviewed by different reviewers, who may not agree and keep changing each other’s corrections.
- Very often the recommended changes are not reflected in the Translation Memories, and the same mistakes are repeated over and over in the translations. The ICR loses confidence in the review process.
- The delay in reviewing large documents may also paralyze the whole documentation process, depending on the set-up of the CMS. Some topics originating from large documents are locked in translation, preventing urgent documents to be published since they share topics.
So for a translation that takes one to two weeks, very often the LSO stage takes three to four months.
Option 1: Review the DITA Topics, not the published docs
To reduce the time your ICRs spend reviewing, you can let them work on the translated content of the source topics and not the published documents, same as for the Technical writers. This option doesn’t suit the ICRs’ priorities:
- It requires learning an expert translation tool and basic XML encoding skills—is it compatible with the many other tasks they have to perform?
- The review is conducted entirely out of context.
- The ICRs may claim the need to review the final output -> back to square one.
This review phase only results in additional cost and time.
Option 2: Transfer the review to a second Linguistic Partner
Since the ICRs are not comfortable using expert translation tools, it makes sense to outsource the review to linguists. Not your current translation partner, a second one who will be impartial. Their linguists naturally use translation tools every day to review on behalf of the country operations. That works for some time:
- The linguists are available and can review the content using expert translation tools
- The linguists are often skilled enough on XML syntax to ensure the content structure is not altered.
- However, the linguists are not Subject Matter Experts and their concern drifts sooner or later to purely linguistic matters.
- Since translation is not an exact science, the linguists start disagreeing with the translators, and you have to look for a third party to arbitrate.
- Meanwhile, the lack of Subject Matter Expertise and out-of-context review result in lower quality content and either higher liabilities or additional review steps in the countries—back to square one.
This option generates additional cost and a lot of frustration.
Option 3: Hire and train Linguists to acquire Subject Matter Expertise
If the volume of translation and review is high, you may decide to hire linguists and train them on the company’s offering.
- The linguists are expected to review content from multiple flows. DITA content being the most difficult to review, it will always come last.
- Content review is never a perfect steady flow and comes in waves, in particular for a new product launch or new releases. Additional delays arise in these critical phases.
- Acquiring the Subject Matter Expertise requires high involvement and time, usually over six months, before a linguist is up-to-speed.
- A linguist is often a specific resource whose career path is not properly managed and who works under high pressure; turn¬over is extremely high. So you may end up hiring and training new linguists on a regular basis, who never deliver the expected value.
This solution, considering its cost and uncertain outcome, is not often implemented.
Option 4: the ICR can review content samples
At this stage, you’ve gone full circle. The best option to check final documents remains the ICRs: If availability is an issue they can work on:
- High value-added tasks such as Terminology.
- Selected documents. The benefits of the review can be optimized by updating Translation memories, Term bases and style guides.
Besides, you can follow linguistic quality indicators and increase sampling and corrective actions if they diverge too much.
This option happens to be a wise option provided that the industry is not a highly regulated industry with high liabilities at stake and that this process is maintained in the long run.
Unfortunately what usually happens is:
- Since the ICRs do not enjoy reviewing (as we saw at the beginning of the article), it gets done less and less.
- Linguistic indicators are not managed.
- The translation company lets the quality decrease slowly but regularly under cost and time pressure
- Eventually, a major problem occurs, such as customer complaints or worse.
This option is a wise one. However, it can become extremely risky if not properly sustained, which often happens.
Option 5: Choose a dedicated DITA Review tool
The ICRs can rely on a tool that requires no software skills and whose sole purpose is to facilitate review and collaboration. Here’s how it works:
- The ICR reviews the content in full context with the source and translated versions side-by-side.
- No need to master DITA or XML. The tool is intuitive: the ICR navigates in the document using the table of contents; he/she edits the text by clicking on the text string, entering the corrections in the edit window, and clicking “save changes”.
- The ICR reviews all the content, including translated Metadata and conditional content
- The ICR can differentiate between the new and the re-used content
- The editions and comments are transferred to the translation tool, so the translator can view them and integrate them in his future translations, leading to better translating over time.
Reviewing goes faster and is an integral part of the translation process. You can feel confident about being on track for the market launch date.
If you want to find out more about the tool, contact WhP and ask for the Augmented Review. We will carry out a free Proof Of Concept to show you how it works on your content.