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People Skills Key to Securing Scale Up Investments

Potentially looking for investors to help your LSP or translation business take a leap to the next level?

Innovate UK, the UK's innovation agency responsible for driving productivity and growth in the economy, has just released a report that makes for insightful reading as to what potential investors are looking for.

Scaling up: the investor perspective’ is the result of research commissioned by Innovate UK and carried out by market research company, Ebiquity.

Ebiquity asked leading British business leaders what they believed to be the characteristics of fast-growth investable UK businesses and the challenges such businesses faced in securing investment for scaling up.

The results highlight disparities between the views of investors and business owners as to what they each believed to be important in such opportunities.

For example, the report reveals that investors often see growth very differently from
businesses owners who are wanting to scale up. Investors are more likely to think in terms of multiples whereas the businesses themselves often think incrementally.

Soft Skills Matter

As well as gaps between investors and businesses, the report also identifies key attributes needed for them to work together.

Interestingly one area that businesses seemed to consistently undervalue was the importance investors place on ‘soft skills’, such as communication, problem solving and team work.

Drive and passion were deemed the important attributes for business leaders, alongside resilience and adaptability which are considered essential in dealing with the topsy-turvy nature of business.
The importance placed on people skills is also reflected in the reasons for investments falling through; the top shortfalls for investors being:

1. communication
2. adaptability
3. resilience
4. chemistry
5. cultural fit

In all cases businesses or business owners underestimate their significance in attracting and securing investment.

The report explains the emphasis on such soft skills, as opposed to technical know-how, as being due to investors’ desire to work with people they can get on with, trust and that can handle the complexities of working in an evolving marketplace.

International Investors Keen on British Scale Ups

For British LSPs and translation agencies looking for investors, there is good news. According to the report, the UK is a favoured hunting ground for foreign investors looking for scale up opportunities.

The advanced innovation ecosystem and a perceived superior management quality are cited as the two main reasons why international investors are keen on British companies. A sound management team with leadership skills was considered the most important factor in guaranteeing scale up success.

With investors currently looking for proprietary technology in artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), data analytics and machine learning, the translation & localization industry sits in very close proximity to this attractive and active part of the UK economy.

In fact, 73% of investors cited the ability to trade, do business and expand globally as one of the main reasons for investing in a scale up. This makes translation and localization companies doubly-investable as, not only do they offer future growth in themselves, but they are also vital in creating growth for others through their very much in-demand services. 

People Power

So, for those looking at future growth and expansion plans, investors are out there, and the industry is ideally positioned.

However, as the report clearly illustrates, it’s important not to get hung up on business plans, projects and profits when it comes to enticing an investor, for them it’s very much your people that will give you power.


Neil Payne started his career as an English teacher in the Middle East before becoming a freelance Turkish translator. Realising he preferred translation management to translation itself, he set up a successful translation agency which he had for 12 years. He now runs Accensus, a niche training company for the translation & localisation industry, and occasionally finds time to watch Crystal Palace...mainly lose.

Image from Flickr.

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Connectivity: 4 ways LSPs can help their customers overcome the quality challenge

In our most recent industry research, we explored the current and future challenges faced by global organizations related to their management of translation.

As an overriding trend, it is no surprise to see that quality of translations is the dominating concern of most people and how it can be maintained at scale with increasing demand. With over 500 respondents we received feedback from those involved in content generation and localization of content from public and private companies across Europe, Asia Pacific, North America and other regions.

89% of those surveyed agree that translation quality is much more important than cost

What is interesting is that the research, although casting a spotlight on corporations, uncovers a host of opportunities for LSPs to help their clients address the quality challenge.

With increasing content, organizations are finding it harder and harder to address the task of maintaining quality at scale. According to our research, maintaining quality is the top challenge for companies now, and they also anticipate it being the top challenge 5 years from now.

So where exactly can the LSPs help? It may seem obvious: as a service provider, you are there to take on the translation work that companies are unable to handle. 89% of our research participants already outsource work, of which 30% expect to send increasing amounts to LSPs over the next couple of years.

But of course, it’s not as simple as that. Corporations want to be confident that the quality they seek from in-house translations can also be maintained by working with external partners, and working with new people means new processes which can take time and patience to get used to.

Overcoming the challenge

To meet the large-scale demand for translations whilst maintaining high quality, we think that connections matter. The connections between the individuals working together, between the systems and processes of two companies, between humans and technology.

Collaboration is key, and here are four ways that LSPs can work with their customers to achieve their common goals:

1. Build trust to confidently share resources

40% of those outsourcing translation work are not sharing their resources (translation memories, terminology databases etc.) with those they outsource to, a scenario which most likely has a negative effect on the quality of the translations and increases time spent on reviewing and editing. This is often likely due to concerns about security, so it is vital that the relationship between client and the LSP should be seen as a partnership to build that trust level.

We know that LSPs are generally used to working with different clients and being flexible according to the needs of each one, so the next step is to develop stronger connections with each customer and understand their expectations relating to quality.

2. Manage consistency and quality effectively

Terminology is hugely important for most corporate companies and needs to be kept consistent; 57% of those surveyed are already using terminology management tools. However, there is still an opportunity as an LSP to provide additional guidance to their clients on the importance of sharing the terminology resources that have already been created, ensuring that you and your customers are agreed on how terminology should be managed for each project.

The sharing of terminology and other assets needs to be facilitated by the workflows put in place between the two partners, so that each person working on a project can benefit from the relevant resources. It is also advisable to spend some time working together to define how the quality of the translations will be assessed. A surprisingly large percentage (53%) of companies don’t have a formalized process for this, so perhaps some collaboration or even advice on how to handle this stage of the translation process would be beneficial to them.

3. Embrace technology for greater collaboration

Our research revealed that 94% agree that translation technology is vital to meeting the high demand for translations and clearly the industry is already using more technology than ever. Integrations that enable different systems to work together to the self-learning adaptive machine translation engines learning from an individual translator’s post-edits are already being embraced, but for corporations, maintaining quality in the face of increasing demand is not just about individual translation productivity, but as much about ensuring consistency across projects, translators, and the wider business.

Interestingly only 51% of those Corporates who took part in our research are using collaboration tools to share assets that could improve this consistency. Conversely as an LSP, project management tools that allow greater collaboration and automation to free up your project manager's time from everyday admin so they can spend more time talking with clients are essential.

Thus LSPs and their clients should discuss the different types of technology that can enable efficient, productive ways of working together and look for new solutions for problems that are no longer being solved by current technology.

4. Keep up the communication

Finally, don’t stop talking to each other. Build your connections, define your processes and try to work with each customer as one large team rather than two different teams, so that any issues can be resolved quickly. It always comes back to connections: to achieve the highest standards in what we do, we need to know how to work together. Achieving high-quality output is more than just each individual’s input; each part of the process needs to fit together so that the sum is greater than its parts.

Download research results >>




Anya Deane


Anya started out in the translation industry as a project manager for a translation agency and is now Product Marketing Executive at SDL.

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What makes a good working relationship?

In this blog, Mark Cheetham, COO of a Swiss translation agency called SwissGlobal Language Services AG and Marie-Odile Domzalski, a freelance translator that specialises in working for the Swiss market, discuss how they work together and what makes a successful business relationship. Fiona Merwood, Senior Marketing Executive from SDL, asks the questions.

If you’re an LSP interested in more content to help improve your business, take a look at our ‘Let’s Talk Business’ hub. 

FIONA: How long have you been working together?

MARIE-ODILE: Five years now. It was kind of a birthday yesterday! We started to work together in March 2012.

MARK: We both started off, in fact, as trainees at a former employer.

FIONA: Have you got examples of when you have to work together to overcome a challenge?

MARK: Oh, yes! I think that’s one of the reasons why we have such a good working relationship.

MARIE-ODILE: I think we’re thinking about the same client! Many years in a row, we had this annual report to translate for a very demanding client, and I remember that I spoke to Mark a few times a day about this project. How do you recall it, Mark?

MARK: Yes, exactly. It was an annual report that came every year; it was a demanding project for us, as we had to coordinate a large amount of work across many languages and tight deadlines. You’ve got multiple parties, problems with terminology and consistency, the agency doing the graphics, external providers and the various departments that have to go over the translations to make sure the financials add up in the end.

Marie-Odile worked on the translation into French and if I remember correctly did some proofreading of other French translations. It wasn’t just the work she was doing for us that was great, it also was her flexibility and creativity when we had to shorten certain paragraphs, for example, because it was too long and the layout didn’t fit anymore. So, she was extremely flexible and responsive in those terms.

However, what I felt was the most helpful in overcoming these challenges was just to have someone to speak to. You know, sometimes it’s almost more important to have a shoulder to cry on! It’s definitely a team effort and the team spirit that helps you to get work done.

MARIE-ODILE: For me, it was really important that I knew Mark was there for me because it was pretty hard on both sides. I think the most beautiful gift was that the client was happy in the end. It was teamwork and it was great.

FIONA: Tell us more about this project and how it worked…

MARK: There was another aspect. I think if you’ve got those kinds of challenges, you also have to use all the possibilities of modern technology that you have to hand. So, it could be that you have to retranslate something whilst you’re translating; then you’ve got your TMs which you can then use and you have to attach them to a new project so you don’t have to retranslate everything again. At SwissGlobal we, for example, use SDL Trados GroupShare and with GroupShare you can easily split up your documents, so you can then have multiple translators working on a file, and they’ve got the same resources in the background. And obviously, there’s other technology out there which can help.

FIONA: What do you need to help maintain a good working relationship?

MARIE-ODILE: I would say transparency is very important. If the PM is under stress, I appreciate it when the PM tells me. Respect – respect is also very important. I would say mostly no fake communication; real communication, a real relationship, as we’re dealing with humans.

MARK: I’ve got similar points. I’m entirely pro-transparency. I can’t trust or respect a translator who’s not transparent. For example, issues concerning the text, or perhaps, an issue with the timeframe, they need to contact me, the earlier the better. If they don’t do that and just disrespect the deadline without mentioning anything, it’s difficult for me to trust this external provider in the future. So, it’s like you said “fake communication” is a no go; I would say honest communication is a “must have” condition for any good relationship.

I would also say that it’s important you realize that there are real people involved in the whole translation process. In every relationship, it’s communication that counts the most. You have to respect that perhaps they’re under stress; they’re having a good day or a bad day. I think that’s the best way to go forward; in the end you just treat them like human beings and also treat them like you would like to be treated.

MARIE-ODILE: Yes, exactly.

FIONA: The agencies that you work for or with, do you feel part of the team?

MARIE-ODILE: Unfortunately, not in every translation agency, but in most of them, as I’m rather looking for long-term relationships. And with the ones I’ve been working for, for many years, I really feel part of the team; maybe not as if I were in-house, but almost. We say good morning every day; when I ask for a job, I say, “Oh, how was your weekend?” So, yes, I would say I do.

FIONA: When you receive a project how much do you ask for more information for clarification, versus making decisions to get things done quickly?

MARIE-ODILE: I would say that I am the kind of translator asking questions. When I’m not sure of something or if something is not clear also in the subtext, I prefer to ask rather than translating or understanding something wrong.

Also, if an instruction is not clear, I’d rather ask than having to correct everything in the end. I don’t want the PM to have extra work because of me.

FIONA: Is there anything else you’d like to add from the point of view of successful business relationships? For example using different tools, is that important?

MARK: Totally. Nowadays it’s crucial. I mean, if you only have private clients, it’s no problem; you don’t need to use a CAT tool. But if you’ve only got corporate clients like SwissGlobal has, with huge translation memories (TM) and termbases (TB) in the background, with high expectations, you have to be consistent. If you want to deliver the quality the client is demanding and paying for, you simply have to use the technology available.

Generally, I think there was a huge shift a couple of years ago – I would say perhaps five, six years ago, I’m not sure – where originally a lot of translators, said, “No, I’ll never ever use a CAT tool. My brain is the best central database for TM/TB.” Those people have then come to realize that there’s a huge upside from the productivity and quality aspect and there is no need to be defensive towards the use of CAT tools. All the more since client expectations have grown considerably.

With a CAT tool, you can simply translate more to a higher and more consistent quality. I never quite understood why some translators didn’t embrace technology. They were afraid of the price falling, because they obviously have this whole context and perfect match discussions with PMs and vendor managers. But it’s also a huge advantage in productivity and quality terms.

It goes further. In CAT tools, you’ve got for instance the possibility to integrate InDesign or other XML formats without having to have the actual software. If you can translate within InDesign and the whole DTP (desktop publishing) work afterwards is a piece of cake. I firmly believe a good translator should be good with technology, because nowadays, it’s really the backbone of every translator.

MARIE-ODILE: Well, I see the future, as you say, using CAT tools. For me, it’s compulsory; you have to know those kinds of things. If you want to survive in this field and make the difference, you need to adapt.

Thanks to Mark and Marie-Odile for taking the time to take part in this interview and for sharing their experiences with us.

Discover more content like this with our ‘Let’s Talk Business’ hub, an area for LSPs to find helpful business advice and tips. Click here to find out more.



Fiona Merwood


Fiona Merwood is a Senior Marketing Executive at SDL in the UK. She is a working single mum and when not learning about the technology she enjoys travelling, practices yoga and makes good fudge.

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ISO 18587 on MT post-editing gaining traction

Newly published ISO standard 18587, on post-editing machine translation, is already attracting interest among LSPs and clients alike.

Within a couple of weeks of the standard’s publication, the ATC received enquiries from LSPs as far away as the US, a fact not lost on ATC’s lead on standards, Raisa McNab.

‘’It seems that clients are also already aware of it, which just goes to show how much of an impact machine translation has within the translation industry today, and how welcome an ISO standard on MT post-editing is to many,” she said.

ISO 18587 regulates the post-editing of content processed by machine translation systems and establishes competences and qualifications that post-editors must have. The standard is intended for use by post-editors, translation service providers and their clients.

Livia Florensa, CEO of Barcelona-based translation company, CPSL, was the original architect of 18587. As the standard’s ISO Project Leader at ISO, she was also responsible for coordinating its development, aided by comments from ISO member countries including the ATC’s ISO standards Commenting Group, lead by the Association’s ISO expert Chris Cox.

“It was necessary to create a specific standard for post-editing because it was explicitly left out of the ISO 17100, which provides requirements for translation services, but it was a complicated process, taking four years to reach the stage of final publication,” Livia explained.

Commenting on the standard in its different development stages via the UK’s ISO representation, Livia, who will remain on ISO’s Technical Committee as an expert member working on the standards relating to translation and interpreting, said;

“It’s been a long but interesting process and it has been extremely rewarding to tackle the issue of finding the best process to follow during post-editing, to ensure quality translations that meet the client’s expectations. At the same time, it has allowed me the opportunity to foster the creation of a standard that affects our industry.”

ATC’s Raisa McNab said it was still early days for the 18587, but given the traction it’s gaining, it would be incorporated into the service offering of the ATC’s new ISO certification service being launched at the Language Industry Summit in London, 21-22 September.

‘’We will be offering certification services to ISO 9001 and the translation industry standard ISO 17100, but as there won’t be very many certification bodies offering auditing and certification to ISO 18587, we are very keen on introducing 18587 into the mix as soon as possible,” she said.

Get the standard here.

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Customer Journey Mapping for LSPs: An Essential with Bags of Potential

In a crowded marketplace, LSPs and translation agencies can struggle to create a USP that will generate leads, convert sales and help the brand evolve.

Adopting a customer-centric approach for your business can offer invaluable insights into your customers, helping to highlight your USP and securing future growth.

Understanding how a customer interacts with your company, the brand, staff, newsletters, etc and how they feel about it, every step of the way, is something taught by proponents of the Customer Experience school of thought (or CX as its more commonly known).

Through examining every possible and potential interaction with a customer, (whether new or established), CX teaches proactivity in trying to connect with people on an emotional level, to organically drive their decision to buy with you. It is an approach very much favoured by some of the big players in the world of commerce including Adobe, who believe it is helping them stay relevant and prepared for the future.

Not every LSP of course is able to adopt a CX approach similar to the likes of Adobe due to obvious factors such as lack of time, knowledge and/or resources. However, one thing that every single LSP should try to do is Customer Journey Mapping (CJM).

CJM is a powerful tool with the potential to transform your business.

Customer Journey Mapping. How Does It Work?

In essence, CJM is a team exercise, a tool and a visual aid that illustrates and captures each and every ‘touchpoint’ a customer has with your company.

It brings a team and all stakeholders together in one place to cover what, where, how, why and when customers come into touch with the company. What do they do at each point? What are their motivations, reservations and options at each point? What are the range of possible emotions and where are the gaps that exist in the current journey or experience? This helps identify opportunities to improve that experience, improve certain touchpoints or innovate functions.

Working as a company to explore your customers’ journeys helps you take a step back, assess what you are doing in a joined-up manner and address opportunities across all functions. 

There are different ways and formats when it comes to running a CJM workshop or exercise. There is plenty of guidance available online; however a lot of it is very basic and offers only simple tips.  Save yourself the time and start with the CX Toolkit from Oracle which also comes with free materials and instructions on how to run your own workshop [which of course you can adapt].

What’s Essential in Customer Journey Mapping?

Firstly, identify what you are hoping to accomplish. Are you looking to fix current issues and challenges within the business? Or are you looking to embellish and improve upon them? Identify a gap in the translation market? Or fixing a block in your sales pipeline?

Secondly, make sure everyone in the company is involved – no matter how little you believe the impact of their role to be. Even employees behind the scenes impact the customers’ journey. Bringing everyone together is good for teamwork, morale and illustrating to certain parts of the company how they impact the customer experience.

Thirdly, be specific when examining a journey. If you sell more than one product, don’t try and approach all of them in one go. It is important to look at each service or department or product in its own light. Your customers will surely have differing needs, no matter how slight, which should be identified and capitalised upon.

Fourthly, decide on certain customer types you want to explore. Are they new customers? Old clients? Are you hoping to win some back? Consider focusing on your top 20 or so clients initially before broadening the scope as this will really solidify a shared understanding of your company’s USP, goals and values.

Fifthly, validate your findings. Remember it is going to be hard to think like the customer so many of your conclusions may be based on assumptions. Involving clients and having their input will really help avoid making poor decisions based on limited points of view.

What’s the Potential of Customer Journey Mapping?

In terms of the potential offer by CJM, there are many benefits it has to offer, from improving intra-team communication to shaping marketing campaigns. Each company will experience different benefits dependent on their intentions.

Here are some of the key benefits most experience:

New Ideas

Exploring and understanding your customers, their experiences, feelings and motivations will help generate new ideas about your brand, services or products. Getting everyone together to talk about creating the best experience possible for your customers will lead to innovation across the board in terms of how to present the company, engage with clients and improve services.

Streamlined Procedures

If anything comes from CJM at the very least it is helping to identify snags and issues for your customers in terms of the procedures they have to go through to get a translation. From filling in forms on your website, to receiving quotes, to how they get their translations, all are scrutinised in one process as opposed to independently which helps identify where and how to save time, reduce burdens or simply make it a better experience.

Customer Loyalty

Providing a great customer experience organically results in customer loyalty and longer-term relationships. Think about the tea or coffee brand you always drink – why? There is something about that experience that takes you back again and again. Through CJM you learn how to make happy customers who will want to stay loyal to your brand.


Neil Payne started his career as an English teacher in the Middle East before attempting and failing to become a freelance Turkish to English translator. The failure led to him setting up a successful translation agency which he ran for 12 years before leaving the industry. He now runs a cross-cultural training company and spends far too much time in the greenhouse.

Image from Flickr.

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