The future of the localisation industry?
Really disruptive technology has not taken shape (yet)

Impressions of the TAUS “Reinventing the Translation Industry” online event

Our company’s mission has always been to focus on forward-thinking, modern, flexible, customer-centric solutions while keeping up our values of honesty, reliability and stability. Our journey from LSP to global content provider started some time ago but the recent COVID-19 outbreak shook things up – and we are curious to find out where this might lead us.

With the world currently changing at an accelerated pace, we were pleased to hear the call from TAUS to host a whole online event dedicated to finding out what industry stakeholders believe the future might hold.

TAUS’s founder and visionary Jaap van der Meer stayed true to his calling, encouraging the attendees to step up and find ways to make their services and products “ready for the world”. His vision encompasses a complete reinvention of the whole industry within the coming months. While some of their ideas and models seemed appealing, the forward thinkers were unable to develop any really disruptive innovations during this event. Maybe the time has not yet come for this giant leap towards an even greater digitalisation of our industry. Maybe the pain is not strong enough for a really innovative transformation to take place (yet).

However, almost all speakers pointed out that, as other industries show, the adaptation of existing technologies has sped up immensely. Specifically, in the field of interpreting (i.e. remote simultaneous interpreting) and speech to speech, a spike in demand and acceptance can be observed. Without COVID-19 and the need to handle communication with the help of digital solutions, such approaches would have been used less frequently.

Quality Frameworks vs. modern translation pipeline

A shift that went almost unnoticed but struck me after reflecting on the event was that an all-time favourite topic, namely quality evaluation and quality frameworks, received less coverage and made way for more holistic approaches. These were focused on optimising the modern translation pipeline and trying to combine various perspectives of the localisation process. This confirms once more: translation as a singular service is a piece of a bigger puzzle which in itself cannot drive future sales. It needs to be embedded in a bouquet of services or, if you will, a holistic process, catering content and globalisation needs on many levels with the help of technological solutions. However, as fragmented as our industry is – the approaches to tackle these challenges are just as diverse. Among those challenges, interoperability is still a massive cause of pain that some newer players are currently trying to tackle and solve. Whether their solutions will prevail and will then be adapted is to be seen, since the list of requirements is longer than my weekly family grocery shopping list.

Humans in the Loop is here to stay

Buzzwords went flying around during the discussions emphasising the scalability, agility and flexibility of future business models. Another common denominator among most attendees was that the key to success might just lie in the right dosage of “humans in the loop”. This special ingredient adds the little extra to the respective services and products to make them better and more attractive. They increase acceptance among end consumers because those processes usually result in higher quality and are perceived more positively.

The fragmented industry

Historically grown and in part very complex processes on the customer/buyer side result in the fact that the usage of technology cannot be easily adapted. It remains to be seen which influences will result in sustainable changes. The heterogenic character of the localisation business makes it very hard to predict effects exactly, but we can closely watch and monitor them nonetheless. So, what are some additional effects that should catch our attention?
M&A might be a major driving force of change in the industry over the coming 12 months – it could turn out to be a more powerful factor in terms of transition than all the other innovative changes. Another factor that should be taken into consideration is the shift from global to local supply chains among the manufacturing industries. This will trigger effects in the localisation industry. Overall, innovation is present, but its course is still very unclear and vague.