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How To Be Strategic About Translation

How to be strategic about translation

When I set up Lingo24 in 2001, I really had no idea. No idea about translation. No idea about Translation Memory. No idea about Machine Translation, and the opportunities that particular tsunami would bring.

It has been a rollercoaster ride. And over the last sixteen years, I’ve learnt a fair amount about our industry, too. And I’ve realised how transactional most of the forecast $40bn spend on translation really is, but also seen first hand the benefits for organisations who take a more strategic approach.

What do I mean by transactional? Lingo24 used to be a very transactional business: our customers would find us on Google; we wouldn’t meet many; and most would deal with us online or over the ‘phone. We didn’t have/take the time to understand their business priorities (KPIs you say?), to understand how our translations impacted on their business nor how content flowed through their organisation, and our understanding of client-side technology was limited to say the least.

This approach worked well, and allowed us to scale our business to a turnover of £6m+ and establish operations around the world. But a few years ago, we realised that transactional business – where we as a company were a distant provider of a service and not supporting our customers to make the most of our technology nor really understanding their business – was underplaying the value we could bring. We wanted to have real impact on our customers – to be a key ally in their drive for global success. We also wanted to make sure some of the technology we’d been developing could help people outwith the Lingoplex (Lingo24’s largest office in Romania) and other Lingo24 offices.

 

Sample Localisation Strategy plan in brief

localisation at scale

 

 

It soon became clear to us that we would need to spend significant amounts of time engaging with all key client stakeholders – from those in marketing, to in-country reviewers, to technology teams and beyond. We would need to understand everyone’s needs, aspirations and ‘red lines’ if we were to become a proper, strategic partner. And so we developed our Localisation Strategy Assessment (LocStrat) consultancy service – a service which involves asking lots of questions of key people and compiling a report to benchmark an organisation’s localisation practices.

Having understood the challenges from a business and operational perspective, we advise on ‘quick wins’ as well as a longer term strategy (see sample process above) to align how an organisation translates with its business objectives (we now know what KPIs are!). We’re now able to introduce our own technology platform – be it Coach (our CAT tool), Ease (our client portal), our integrations, or Machine Translation – where appropriate, or third party technology to help our partners.

Fast forward to September 2017, and we’ve completed four ‘LocStrats’ for very different businesses – from an electronic parts distributor to an academic publisher – , and several ‘mini-LocStrats’. We, and our clients, are delighted – we’re so much better aligned, translation has been transformed from a cost to an investable asset, and the depth of understanding throughout the stakeholder chain is much, much higher.

Some key challenges addressed have been:

  • Faster speed to market globally to outmanoeuvre local competitors
  • Improvement of quality review process for key markets
  • Localisation architecture and tools selection (very techie, I know!)
  • Introduction of bespoke machine translation engines to support growing content demands

We are obviously keen to engage more customers for whom global content is strategically important in this way, so if your organisation sees opportunity in close engagement with us, please do let us know.

*Photo credits: sergign / Shutterstock.com

Christian Arno, Founder and President, Lingo24

Christian Arno is Founder and President of Lingo24. He started the company in 2001 after graduating from Oxford University with a degree in languages. He has won numerous awards including HSBC Business Thinking and International Trade Awards (2010), and TAUS Excellence Award (2012) for innovative technology. He contributes to leading industry publications and has been featured on the BBC, in the Financial Times and other media around the world.

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