Developer Translates Workflow Expertise Into Opportunity
By integrating a workflow engine with software vendor GlobalSight Inc.'s existing translation software, developer Second Foundation, Inc. created a solution GlobalSight now shares with its customers.
Wouldn't it be great if your software development team was so good that other software developers called you for help? With a number of software developers on its customer list, Second Foundation, Inc. (Menlo Park, CA) finds itself in that enviable position. One of these customers is GlobalSight Inc. (Santa Clara, CA), which provides software and services for intelligent automated translation. Global-Sight's System4 software is used by organizations such as news agencies that have to quickly offer the same text in a variety of languages. For customers who don't have enough volume to justify the software purchase, GlobalSight offers outsourced translation services incorporating System4.
"Because of the nuances of language, GlobalSight's application needs a great deal of workflow," comments Sriram Iyer, managing partner at Second Foundation. "Various parts have to go to translators and checkers at various levels. Successful translation doesn't just focus on the language and grammar, but it also has to check to make sure the original meaning is retained." As part of its outsourced translation service, GlobalSight routes assignments through various experts after the software performs a basic translation. An article translated from English to Mandarin Chinese, for example, may be sent to one person for grammatical review, another to make sure the idioms and colloquialisms are correct, and yet another to ensure the presentation is clear to a reader of Mandarin Chinese.
In the past, GlobalSight manually routed jobs through various levels. Three employees shared the task of juggling oversight of this process in addition to their regular duties. "When they had to reassign tasks and move them along the queue, it affected accuracy and distracted them from their normal responsibilities," says Iyer. "The manual labor costs stretched their budget and affected their ability to be competitive." To cut the labor involved and make the process more efficient, GlobalSight needed an automated workflow/BPM (business process management) solution.
Java-Based Components Fit Existing Environment, Speed Implementation
Though GlobalSight investigated other products, a previous relationship prompted the company to choose Fujitsu Software Corp.'s (San Jose, CA) i-Flow, a Java-based BPM engine. Designed to integrate into existing environments, i-Flow is browser-based, making it readily accessible to remote workers across GlobalSight's operations. Fujitsu Software recommended integrator and software developer Second Foundation to oversee the integration of i-Flow and System4.
Among GlobalSight's initial concerns was how i-Flow would integrate in the existing application, both from a technical standpoint and an aesthetic standpoint. Not only did Second Foundation integrate BPM functionality into System4, the BPM engine was also integrated with a BEA WebLogic application server and GlobalSight's existing database. GlobalSight also wanted to maintain the look and feel of the System4 application. Second Foundation wrote custom code that would create an interface mirroring the existing one.
Despite the complexity of the integration, Second Foundation completed the project within 30 days. Training, most of which was for product administration, required about a week. Now when a job comes in to GlobalSight's translation service, it is automatically routed via the Web through the various levels from word-for-word translation to grammatical correctness to proper idiom and connotation usage. Employees can be notified when an assignment is sent via e-mail and can access their assignments through an inbox or HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) request. Though i-Flow supports a number of firewall transport protocols, GlobalSight wanted to use HTTP, which isn't included. Second Foundation wrote the customized code to support that firewall transport protocol.
The integrated BPM solution worked so well for GlobalSight's in-house services organization that it is now also included in the software GlobalSight provides its customers. As a technology company, GlobalSight chose to oversee the maintenance of the integrated system itself, though Second Foundation routinely provides such services for other customers, including other software developers.
Horizontal Workflow Technology Fits Many Verticals
Iyer sees broad implications for BPM technology. One area in which Second Foundation plans to concentrate is healthcare. Says Iyers: "We established a designated healthcare practice in our company because there are so many healthcare applications that can benefit from workflow. Claims processing, patient management, and hospital bed management are just a few of the applications in that market that have to be oriented around workflow." Second Foundation is also working on a solution to provide "straight-through" processing for brokerage houses, which would link the currently disparate set of processes required of brokers when a stock purchase is made.