Gambro BCT takes the GMS cure
How a global medical technology leader transformed its localization process with help from Idiom Technologies and Cross Language
When management in two different geographies is breathing down your neck to speed up a critical new product launch across multiple languages, and you are still using spreadsheets and scribbling dozens of emails a day to track localization projects, you know it is time to change. Not your translation vendor perhaps, who may be doing a great job, but it may be time to transform the entire process around that vendor. You may, for example, be able to automate much of the hard labor in localization management, and enable the end users of your localized content, such as sales managers, to do their job better out in the field.
This has been the experience of Gambro BCT’s EMEA Localization Project Manager Sigrid Steegen, at her Brussels base over the past year. Gambro BCT is a global leader in automated blood collection and therapeutic aphaeresis, and has sales in more than 90 countries and sales subsidiaries in more than 30 countries.
With new product launches on the table that would in one shot double the volume of translation and localization, Sigrid knew she could no longer work with her manual micro-managing approach. Prompted by overseas localization colleagues and management, and inspired by talks with other people in the localization business at trade fairs, she was given a remit to explore the feasibility of upgrading her entire process by introducing a Globalization Management System (GMS), sometimes called a Translation Management System (TMS).”
On the surface, her current single translation vendor was doing a good job. Yet Sigrid came to realize she had absolutely no access to the growing volume of translation memories being developed and maintained on the vendor’s premises. And the continuing expansion of language pairs, including Eastern European and Baltic language localization, almost certainly required the services of a second and possibly third vendor.
GMS SUPPLIER ? VENDOR
In addition to adding capacity, a second translation vendor would also offset the business risk of depending on a single vendor. But if Sigrid didn’t own her language resources, how could she kick-start an effective resource-driven localization process with a second or third vendor? The business risk also raised the specter of losing Gambro BCT’s entire localization assets.
After working with a single translation vendor for some years, Sigrid also realized that bringing in a second vendor would allow her to compare services. The resulting competition would therefore encourage her primary supplier to be on its toes, and this pleased management.
Overall, then, Gambro BCT began to realize that it was time to bring the corporate assets back home and run things from central command using a globalization management system.
As it happened, Gambro BCT’s current translation vendor offered a GMS solution. But they figured that implementing this would not solve the problem of gaining ownership of assets and sharing them smoothly with other competing vendors. Sigrid saw the risk of being locked into a triple version - technology system, process, and a translation vendor – of her original problem. The right choice therefore was to go for an independent GMS, where the roles of translation vendor and technology supplier were kept completely separate.
On the basis of a checklist of desired features, Gambro BCT eventually narrowed down the choice to a GMS solution that came with a translation vendor attached, and was therefore to be excluded, and one that was a technology pure play – Idiom Technologies’ WorldServer. And along with this choice, Gambro BCT opted for a hosted solution, contracting the Ghent-based translation automation facilitator Cross Language to develop the required package.
“We needed to have all our IT resources available for the development and launch of the new products. Taking on board an entire GMS solution in-house would have required too much training and ramp-up time for our people,” explains Sigrid.
Why WorldServer and Cross Language? First, because the proposal was particularly tailored to Gambro BCT’s needs. “They had read our RFQ very carefully and made the right decisions. We did not get the feeling we were getting a once-size-fits-all or a copy-and-paste type solution. This made a good impression.”
Second, the methodology used for implementing the GMS worked very successfully. “We were given a full process audit, which looked at every step and every person in our workflow, and this proved particularly helpful to us in making sure we covered all bases up front.”
Third, neither Idiom nor Cross Language was related to a translation vendor. “Since we went for the hosted solution, we knew that any user company would be able to see the prices applied by the current translation vendor. If the hosting provider or technology vendor were in the business of supplying translation too, they would have been able push down vendor prices through unfair commercial practices.”
On top of these primary reasons for choosing the hosted GMS solution, Sigrid also applied a couple of important if subjective metrics. For example, when Gambro BCT’s localization team saw the demonstrations of the new technology, they immediately liked the GUI. One of the original arguments for selecting WorldServer had indeed been the quality of the interface, and this was born out in practice. “Since our internal sales people were going to use the system, it augured well that the GUI seemed intuitively user-friendly right from the start.”
And for Sigrid herself, gut feeling about people also entered into the equation. She knew she had to spend a lot of time with the two companies during the entire set up and implementation process and she immediately felt comfortable about them. “This is a relational thing, and it emerged during the process rather than at the top of our business wish list. This was a major change experience for us, and I had to put a lot of trust in the people providing the technology and the hosting solution. My management wanted to know what it was all about, so I had to ensure I was getting good answers, relevant information, and the right kind of support from the two suppliers.” She was more than satisfied with the result.
Naturally the choice of Cross Language was very much enhanced by the fact that the company was located an hour’s drive away from Brussels, and that both Sigrid and the solutions team at Cross Language could speak Dutch together! But that was icing on the cake: the real criterion was optimum fit with Gambro BCT’s requirements.
By far the hardest part of the switch to the GMS solution and the implementation of the new workflow was internal. Trying to keep people in far-flung departments singing to the same song sheet and agreeing on processes globally was naturally very time-consuming. But thanks to excellent teamwork with localization colleagues in the Technical Documentation and the Software Localization departments in Denver, CO, and the almost immediate optimism of the critical reviewer constituency, the potentially difficult period of corporate learning was “to my great surprise” says Sigrid, much less demanding than anticipated.
RAISING GMS AWARENESS
The company-wide awareness raising process that accompanied the switch to the GMS solution began back in January 2006, when Sigrid gave an introduction to localization at the annual corporate meeting of the EMEA region. The idea was to alert them to nature of translation and localization and its inherent process and quality requirements. A year later in January 2007, she repeated the exercise, this time demonstrating what had been achieved by the introduction of the GMS workflow, and holding a training session for in-country localization reviewers on using the system in their work.
One of the many constituencies to benefit from this was the US-based design team that prepares the marketing materials. Although WorldServer does basic formatting of documents, the designers were shown how localization constraints needed to be factored into their work from the start.
In addition to informing and readying the company, Gambro BCT also had to bring its (still single) translation vendor up to speed on the new workflow. “This was my happiest surprise of all,” says Sigrid. “We did not involve them in the technology implementation at the start, but eventually we called them to a meeting and explained what it was all about. I expected problems about user acceptance but the response was very positive; they wanted to know more about how it worked, and were happy to receive training in our office. Of course, they knew they were our only vendor for now, and presumably wanted to keep our business and maintain a good working relationship with us!”
Working with the translation vendor was still on the long-term agenda, however, and it was important for Gambro BCT to avoid any kind of hiatus or slow down in their localization productivity. Since the GMS solution is customizable, the approach taken was to suggest a six-month “working trial” in which any required changes to the how of the workflow could be suggested and applied, even though there was no question of choice about using the new solution.
One potentially sensitive point for translation vendor relations involved the fact that Gambro BCT could now access the entire legacy of translation memories which were all loaded into WorldServer. This would enable the company to check on the precise quality of the vendor’s production over the past years and the way in which they maintained the database. “We talked this over, and in fact they rather liked the idea that we weren’t going to throw everything away and start from scratch with the new GMS. They didn’t feel we were going to use the assets a way of critiquing their performance. And at the same time, we showed that we were not trying to ease them out.”
When it comes to measuring the concrete results of the new solution, Sigrid acknowledges that her own perception of success factors is somewhat subjective, and that it is hard to calculate ROI in any detail as yet. However, Gambro BCT has looked closely at ROI in terms of overall throughput times, and has found that the time spent by reviewers, who in general are happy with the new interface and workflow, on checking localized versions are systematically shorter than with the previous process. The critical business benefit here is that product launches get the green light in specific countries more quickly than previously.
MAKING TERMINOLOGY MATTER
One of the drivers of this speedier review process has been improved terminology management, itself due to the centralization of assets. Gambro BCT’s sales staff had been experiencing difficulties in managing terminology effectively for their own people, rather than in the translation process.
For example, when a new salesperson came on board, there was no single, up-to-date source of house medical technology terminology they could consult, even in English. Sigrid realized that by pooling assets under her new GMS regime, she would also be able to automate the process of terminology management. Terms could be extracted from the translation memories and eventually made available as a knowledge resource over the corporate intranet.
Management, she found, was prepared to finance this terminology enhancement process because it meant that in-country reviewers would spend less time double checking on terms, and generally streamline the review process. They proved to be right.
A further cost-cutter induced by the GMS solution has been the decision to not hire a second project manager this year, as was originally planned in Gambro BCT’s long range plan for the localization process. Due to the extensive automation of the solution and the fact that all information can be accessed and managed on a single platform, the current team is able to manage the whole process without extra help. “We are very confident that the training investment will pay off and the need for extra training will tail off, making the whole solution a money saver.”
For Sigrid herself, the most remarkable benefit of the GMS solution is that she can go into the system and see at a glance how all ongoing projects are progressing. “Before it was all spreadsheets, manual changes and sending out daily emails.” The automatic email alerts mean that she can now be away from her desktop without holding up the translation communications agenda. She probably deserves a break after the intensive but successful work.
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