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Our Analysts' Insights

02Dec

Where Is Your Translation Technology?

Long gone are the days when only the biggest enterprises or language service providers had their own translation management system (TMS) hidden away in a private datacenter. The cloud has made TMSes and machine translation (MT) accessible to all. Technology costs have gone from prohibitive for smaller LSPs to within reach for everyone, including newcomers to the industry. Some commercial solutions even have innovative pricing models that make the technology affordable – or even free – rather than requiring a capital investment for their users.

Based on that, how is technology adoption evolving? CSA Research regularly assesses the state of technology adoption at LSPs. The 2020 survey is underway. Preliminary results already show some surprising results.

  • Remote simultaneous interpreting is breaking records. COVID-19 put RSI platforms on the map because they enable LSPs to provide simultaneous interpreting for virtual events. In 2018, only 23% of LSPs offering interpreting services had an RSI platform. 2020 preliminary data already shows a 38% boost with 61% of respondents now claiming that capability. See “Remote Simultaneous Interpreting Platforms” for our in-depth analysis of 18 platforms out of the 30 we now track.
     
  • Machine translation is becoming mainstream. Not that long ago, we still had to spend time to convince LSPs they should add machine translation capabilities. Now, nearly three-quarters of LSPs that offer translation services (73%) have the capability. That’s a 22% increase in adoption rate in just two years. This attests to their investment in testing solutions and establishing new processes. However, many providers tell us they still struggle to find the best way to market and sell such an offering.
     
  • Translation management systems reach the second highest adoption level. Only translation memory has more LSP users. Two years ago, TMSes were already deployed at 80% of LSPs providing translation services. The preliminary survey data shows yet another increase of 4% adoption in that time period, meaning that only 16% of translation providers don’t have one. The number of providers still managing projects with Excel or other basic tools is dwindling. Even startups now typically operate with a tool right from the beginning.


All in all, only one in five LSPs report in survey responses to date that they are truly tech-savvy. That still leaves a lot of LSPs scrambling to apply automation to its maximum potential. However, technology still plays a significant role for them. Here again, preliminary data shows interesting patterns.
 

  • Technology now plays a significant role in client relationships. A little more than two-thirds (76%) of respondents report that the solution they deployed for their top three accounts is closely tied to technology – whether it’s a commercial or proprietary solution. These top three accounts represent a sizeable chunk of the revenue for most LSPs.
     
  • Technology has risen in priority when landing clients. That’s why 84% of the survey-takers state that it’s very or extremely important that they are aware of technology solutions available on the market when they try to win new business. The percentage remains high (78%) for account retention as well.


Technology has become a sales tool. But let’s face it, we’re not just talking about translation memory anymore. Even machine translation is old news. What we are talking about are the trickier bits – connectors, APIs – anything to make the work more efficient. Eighty-six percent of survey participants use automation in one form or another (AI, machine learning, or rules-based) to achieve higher efficiency in project management. That is bound to increase with 42% planning to significantly increase their use of automation in the next two years.

Note: The technology survey for LSPs is still open. If you are responsible for technology at a language service provider, we invite you to participate.

Our preliminary data paints a picture of end-to-end processes changing due to automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning. It’s a snapshot in time, but what happens next? How does anyone (enterprise or LSP) choose the “right” place – at the LSP, in the enterprise, or a combination of both – for the technology, especially for systems such as TMS and MT? As with many business or personal relationships, it’s complicated! 

Like the consumers of your services, your own business needs drive the decision in which technology to invest. Are you promoting all-inclusive offerings, with clients that prefer you to provide all services, technology included? Do you use automation to make your own processes more efficient and to reduce costs? Or do you deliver most of your work through your customers’ own systems? Do you provide most services direct to buyers, or is much of your income from subcontracting for other LSPs? A combination of these variables will help you decide which technology best fits your company’s needs, but these two guidelines are essential:

  • Keep it simple. Can one system handle everything? Every time you must move data from one tool or database to another, it adds work – and risk – to the process. Is there a way to connect all your – and your clients’ – technologies, to enable the metrics and data you need? There might not be a way to do everything with one tool, but analyze all needs for commonalities and uniqueness to keep the toolset small.
     
  • Don’t over- or under-invest. The most comprehensive technology may promise big benefits, but does it justify the cost? Before committing to a major purchase or development project, be sure that there is a return on investment and that your company will use all the shiny functions. If you’re likely to benefit from only 20% of the features, you might want to spend less and focus on your most important requirements. Conversely, be sure that your choice will grow with your business – it should enable, and not hinder, your development.


The language industry is in a period of change – technology is enabling a revolution in how to purchase and/or deliver services. Exponential content growth is accelerating or even forcing a drive for ever-increasing efficiency. It’s not the time to be complacent: Everyone needs to keep up to date on advances to be able to make timely choices. Watch for the upcoming reports based on survey data from CSA Research, and remember – we are here to help.

About the Author

Alison Toon

Alison Toon

Senior Analyst

Focuses on translation management systems, plus helping CSA Research’s clients gain insights into the technologies, pricing, and business processes key to executive buy-in

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