SDL to Launch SLATE: Frictionless, Self-Serve, Translation on Demand

SDL SLATE: Frictionless, Self-Serve, Translation on Demand

The past quarter has forced companies to rethink and reshape their business continuity plans. Central to these plans is, of course, technology. Enterprises that were proactive in deploying new technology did better, and were able to focus sooner on business recovery.

As Christophe Djaouani, Executive Vice President at SDL, recently blogged, “Past economic downturns have shown that digital natives did better in the aftermath. That is because they embraced technology and were able to realize efficiencies through automation that their non-digital counterparts ignored.”

The types of solutions that worked well pre-pandemic, however, may no longer be applicable to the enterprise without a few changes. Take for example the process of translating documents. While companies had any number of translation resources at their disposal on any given day if they wanted to send or receive documents in a foreign language pre-Covid, not all enterprises had those resources available to them while containment measures were in place.

As Djaouani pointed out in the same blog post, the task of translation had to transform into something self-sufficient, accurate, fast, and it needed to be online. This is the rationale behind SDL’s latest offering, SLATE, which stands for Smart Language Translation for the Enterprise. Scheduled release date for SLATE is the week of June 22, 2020. 

Christophe Djaouani
Christophe Djaouani, EVP, SDL

SLATE is an automated translation platform built on SDL’s Language Cloud platform and combines SDL Machine Translation with SDL’s in-house professional translators. It is self-serve, subscription-based, easy to use, and quickly delivers translations in a highly secure environment. “It’s the perfect blend of technology innovation and human expertise,” Djaouani told Slator.

SDL’s depth of experience in providing intelligent language services and content to 90 of the world’s top 100 global brands informed the way SLATE was built. Moreover, via SDL Linguistic AI™, SLATE taps into nearly three decades of R&D in artificial intelligence, natural language processing (NLP), neural machine translation (NMT), and much more.

“We built SLATE with the business user in mind” — Franziska Hardmeier, Director of SLATE, SDL

As Franziska Hardmeier, Director of SLATE at SDL, put it, “We built SLATE with the business user in mind. It is effectively an intuitive, self-service platform with simple access and a fast service behind it.”

Typical Use Cases

Users who most benefit from SLATE will most likely be found in Marketing, Operations, Communications, Finance or Legal, to name just a few, according to Hardmeier. “In short, users that need ad-hoc, quick translations that can come in at any time of day; and they need really easy access to a proven solution.”

Hardmeier told Slator that one early user of SLATE was an executive assistant to the legal counsel for a major European company who used SLATE to quickly translate documents for the global legal team.

SDL Slate logo

This early user said she appreciated being able “to mix and match the different service levels” offered through the platform, according to Hardmeier. SLATE offers three service levels: (1) Automatic (Machine Translation only) and two levels of post-editing; that is, (2) Review, which solely focuses on double-checking MT output and ensuring 100% accuracy; (3) Revision, a service that improves accuracy but also gives the document a little more polish through stylistic improvements.

The same client also liked the fact that, when using SLATE on various document formats, the translated output came back looking like the original, Hardmeier added.

Why a Subscription Model Makes Sense

SLATE runs on an easy-to-understand subscription model; no tedious counting of words involved. “What we have put in place are subscription plans built around document usage, where a subscriber gets an allowance to use for different services. They get allowances for Automatic, Review, and Revision that can be used throughout the month,” Hardmeier said.

Franziska Hardmeier
Franziska Hardmeier, Director of SLATE, SDL

The first plans offered on SLATE are monthly rolling plans. Each use will be deducted from a subscriber’s allowance, which renews at the end of each month.

“It comes down to simplification for the user,” Hardmeier explained. She points out that whilst a user who is very experienced in localization will think based on per-word pricing, occasional users of translation may not be used to thinking along these parameters and are best served via a subscription model. 

The subscription model may evolve over time, she said. “For example, if we were to plug into native translation management systems at some point, then maybe we would change these parameters. But, for now, we plan to build out the subscription plans based on customer feedback as we grow the service.” 

Early User Feedback

SDL followed an outside-in approach throughout the SLATE build process, using focus groups of customers to understand their business challenges. They took things a step further recently by launching into closed beta, inviting customers to test drive the platform and provide early feedback based on the service.

“Most of the time the MT output was perfectly good enough, because what SLATE delivers is content that has gone through MT trained on business content,” Hardmeier said. In the case of the user from the law firm, the MT was “good enough for her legal team, and she had it within minutes. For those few cases where she needed a bit of additional polishing, she had the other service options available within SLATE.”

A number of customers said they appreciated the subscription model, and that they could easily sign up and pay.

Some feedback revolved around how SLATE compares to free translation platforms. According to SDL EVP Djaouani, while free translation tools “may address one part of the market, SLATE aims to cover other sectors that require more oversight and stringent security on top of ease-of-use, speed to market, and a certain level of translation quality.”

“SLATE aims to cover other sectors that require more oversight and stringent security on top of ease-of-use, speed to market, and a certain level of translation quality” — Christophe Djaouani, Executive Vice President, SDL

Djaouani added that, given SDL’s extensive internal resources — coupled with SLATE’s fully automated, machine-first approach — they are able to hit all the right buttons (ease, speed, quality), while working at all times in a fully secure environment.

Meanwhile, Hardmeier highlighted SLATE’s frictionless approach to the task of translation. “SLATE’s overall process relies on full automation. There will be very little communication and the platform will be very low-touch. If the customer does require support, there is an in-app chat facility or they can reach out via email. There’s always someone available on hand, even without the provision of a dedicated project manager.”

“SLATE’s overall process relies on full automation. There will be very little communication and the platform will be very low-touch” — Franziska Hardmeier, Director of SLATE, SDL

She further disclosed that they are currently working on more intelligent features to add to SLATE, “We already have some of the ‘smart’ built in; some of the content analysis, NMT, and automation behind the scenes. Users will soon be able to benefit from some of these intelligent features at the point of submitting content. For example, SLATE will analyze the type of content the user uploads and make recommendations on which service can be applied.”

SLATE will include a free trial period during which users will be able to experience all of the translation levels for themselves. Click here to register your interest.