Renato S. Beninatto 30 October 2006
Filed under (Business Globalization)
2 pepper rating

With over 160,000 translators registered and 30,000 jobs posted in the last 12 months by 10,200 “work givers” (what Proz calls buyers of services), Proz.com leads its major competitors — Aquarius, GoTranslators, Trally, Babelport, and TranslatorsCafe — in two major metrics, volume of activity and registered users.

Traditionally, the companies doling out work — LSPs, direct buyers, or other translators — use these sites to post jobs to the translator community. Interested translators bid for the postings on a first-come, first-served basis.

For years, Common Sense Advisory has flagged vendor management as the weakest link in language services. The universe of translators is limited, so all LSPs draw on the same pool of professionals. In many cases, they manage their own internal databases using a Rolodex, Excel, Access, or — more recently — systems like LTC Organizer or Beetext. Translators, on the other hand, want to distinguish themselves from the faceless masses at those translator portals and vendor databases, so they send their résumés to hundreds of LSPs (and to us) in the hope that they will be considered for projects. All in all, this labor exchange is an inherently inefficient process.

Our current research into translation management and workflow systems has shown us that software suppliers are starting to pay attention to this problem. Meanwhile, to grease the wheels of language commerce and open up its database of translators, ex-Tradosian Mike Kidd at Proz launched a hosted service to match demand to supply. Buyers will pay US$1,750-20,000 per year to source translators based on language, specialization, price, location, use of tools, etc. Once they specify the criteria, Proz for Enterprise buying managers can send requests only to the translators who match the job requirements rather than having their posts lost among thousands of offers.

We think that this marketplace has the potential to eliminate some of the friction in the currently flawed employment system. How well does it work? It’s a patent-pending, first-version offering, so expect some teething problems and weak integration with translation and business management systems. However, given the fact that there are no real sales volume leaders in software for translation project management, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Proz skip integration efforts in favor of its own project management interface for LSPs. Such a hosted service would let them issue purchase orders, assign translators, and track jobs through the portal.

Until the acquisition of Trados by SDL the translation technology market had been dormant. Proz for Employers is one of the novel solutions in a heated space that is still trying to find an end-to-end solution to manage its processes. Proz for Employers costs a lot less than hiring a person to identify and qualify vendors, but we believe that this will eventually become a feature of the next generation of translation management systems.

And it needs a better name.