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CEOs in every kind of company often observe that they have the loneliest job. Shared experiences with people who work for them are limited because of internal politics and because they must deal with issues that no one else in their organizations face. CEOs periodically meet with their boards of directors or management, but those sessions often reinforce the singular position that the CEO occupies. In esoteric sectors like language services, CEOs must manage an array of process, technology, and cultural issues that their peers in other industries won’t recognize or understand. 

These realities are the driving force behind the Leadership Council for CEOs of language service and technology providers. What we have found among this who’s who of leaders from the largest LSPs is a willingness to openly and even eagerly share their experiences and concerns on a range of business topics. 

  • In the Council’s summit last June in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the discussion revolved around how enterprise buyers’ digital transformation is affecting language businesses and how changing demands will require new approaches as LSPs transform themselves into global content service providers (GCSPs). 
     
  • The CEOs met again at an online forum in November to discuss interoperability. Preceded by CSA Research’s findings on waste in the process, CEOs openly discussed friction and inefficiencies in their own operations.
     
  • And on February 21-22 in Paris, the leadership Council members met to share their thoughts about the impact of machine learning on their businesses. 

The CEOs’ wide-ranging discussions of topics like interoperability and machine learning centered around the double-edged nature of both of these issues. 

  • Exchanging content and data within internal systems and with client-side content systems – in multiple languages – is one of the biggest value-add propositions that LSPs bring to the market. On the flip side, it also raises enormous challenges as providers may have dozens – or even hundreds – of systems to integrate with hundreds of workflow permutations.
     
  • When it comes to machine learning, the CEOS see the value of using AI to enhance their own project management and translation output, but clearly see the existential threat posed by their clients use of the same technologies in process automation and machine translation. Looking ahead to their emerging role in supporting global content initiatives, they worry about the declining number of language specialists around the world even as technologies like MT seem ready to fundamentally change the need for and profile of linguists. 

Do these issues matter to CEOs of smaller LSPs? Absolutely. Even if they face additional growth- and sales-related challenges, the same problems inhibit their growth and strategic potential. The challenges that concern the CEOs of the largest companies echoed findings from our January and December 2018 business confidence reports. We are in the process of analyzing the responses about business and technology concerns in the survey for our 15th Global Market Study. If you haven’t done so yet, take the survey to help us develop the representative sample that will inform the discussion about future business and technology challenges faced by the industry – and generate reliable sizing and metrics.

About the Author

Donald A. DePalma

Donald A. DePalma

Chief Research Officer

Focuses on market trends, business models, and business strategy

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