Rick White - Director of Client Services
When You ‘Send It Out For Translation’, Who Are You Sending It To?
And what exactly are you sending?
Translation companies come in a wide range of flavors, and not all are a good match for your content. The industry is dominated by a few larger companies primarily serving large enterprise customers, followed by small to mid-sized firms employing from 10-100 people. The long tail of the translation world consists of thousands of 1-2 person operations, typically specializing in one language, and getting their work from the larger language service providers (LSPs) as subcontractors. These individuals likely not only specialize in one language; they also are typically subject matter experts in a specific type of content like tech docs, surveys, marketing materials, or highly regulated life sciences translation.
Large companies serving large customers
The big players have the scale to take on work from businesses with constant high volume needs. Think about a company like General Electric with hundreds of business units and thousands of products, serving hundreds of markets. In some cases business divisions of behemoths like this use specialized LSPs as their outsourced replacement for an in-house translation department, a replacement that knows their requirements, technologies, and workflows, along with their subject matter. This is the sweet spot for the second tier of translation companies and it works because very few large customers are capable of supporting inhouse teams doing dozens of languages, not do they want to.
The second tier: Supporting small to mid-sized companies and businesses with highly specialized translation requirements
The second tier companies generally fall into two categories: Those with very specific skill sets like translating feature films, games, or highly technical content, and the fully integrated mid-size LSPs (like Language Intelligence) who provide sophisticated project management services as an end to end experience. Our specialty is media integration. We take your content in its finished state, translate and format it, and return it in the same finished state. We do a wide range of project types including eLearning and training, documentation, market research surveys, and software localization with a lot of hybrid jobs in between. We view ourselves as the translation and localization extension to our clients’ businesses.
A marriage of automation and customer service
On the very small end of the scale where you may be dealing with an individual translator, it is likely for ‘one-off’ projects or the less intensive recurring need for smaller translations in a single language. They simply don’t have the bandwidth to offer much beyond that. The very large companies make extensive use of automation to support the high volumes they manage. This often requires their customers to have sophisticated content management and product management systems that can talk to the large LSP’s technology stack via APIs. These can represent high six figure or more investments on the customer’s part. These workflows get the job done but the high degree of automation can mean lock-in for the customer and diminished personal support from the enterprise LSP.
As an integrated mid-size LSP, we can offer a marriage of technical agility and personal service to small and mid-sized companies or divisional parts of large enterprises, without compromising quality. We have our own internal software development and project engineering teams that work hand in hand with skilled linguist/project managers. The project managers manage hundreds of outsourced translators and specialized service providers for things like multilingual video voiceovers and editing. And they serve as your liaison during the process. We believe this integrated approach hits a happy medium between monolithic, but sometimes impersonal, large providers and the universe of translators with very limited capacity. It’s our sweet spot.
Can’t you just get several quotes and choose the cheap one? Yes, but…
The reality of our business is that differences in pricing are small. We build value by treating our customers as partners. We learn your business requirements, get to know your people, and work with you to anticipate project workflow and optimize content for localization. This, in turn, helps us manage fast turnarounds and offer competitive pricing, while maintaining quality. We don’t have to start over with every project. We have translators and reviewers with subject matter expertise and experience working on your projects on an ongoing basis.
Content is changing and our processes for creating, translating, and distributing it have to change with it
We are constantly looking ahead to try and prepare ourselves for the inevitable changes coming down the road. One change we’re seeing is a fundamental difference in the way we consume information. Increasingly, there is a need for constant updates of content, whether it is documentation or training materials. Because digital distribution is so instantaneous, changes can take place in days, not weeks, and translation will be an important component in that process. We picture a day where you send us a translation directly from your systems and it gets translated, reviewed, and automatically delivered to all your distribution channels including mobile, web, internet of things devices, and other places where your global audiences can access it.
These scenarios are already in place in more enlightened enterprises that generate a lot of content. But, like all technology, the cost of entry for these processes and technologies is rapidly becoming accessible to smaller businesses and organizations. We are incorporating connections to our customer’s systems as they come online. It’s the future, in our view.