Breaking Expectations! – the ATC gathers at Old Trafford this year

Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium has hosted the greats of football like Cristiano Ronaldo, Bobby Charlton and George Best. Last week the stars of the translation world took to the field at the conference centre there which hosted the Language Industry Summit of the UK Association of Translation Companies I attended last week. This year a Mundial gathering of over 200 delegates from 25 countries enjoyed presentations on the fancy footwork of the translation and localisation industry, tackling topics such as technology defining and driving change, business and management, quality and standards, and how to navigate the uncertain road ahead.

Alex Ferguson, now a management guru was not presenting but Geoffrey Bowden was there to provide excellent stewardship for the event The first day’s keynote speech was delivered by Paula Shannon, Senior Vice President at Lionbridge, and looked at how technological “big bang” disruption is impacting our industry. She discussed the Technology S curve, which assumes a migration of states where services start from being proprietary and move to becoming tools and finally utilities as inbuilt features of an tech platform. Mobile and cloud services are driving these changes, enabling machine translation to be delivered free as a utility via smartphones and other mobile technologies, as well as being embedded in your e-commerce platform, providing clients with a “push-button” approach to translation. These technologies and continual improvement in statistical machine translation technology are helping shorten time to market, reduce costs and optimize content delivery in local markets worldwide.

The message to smaller LSPs was to listen to your clients and what they need in this changing landscape, look at your intangible assets and how those might be monetised, use tools to create optimum leverage, and consider digital marketing services, or natural language processing to diversify the range of your services.

The attack on the second day of the conference was skippered by Richard Brooks who delivered the day’s keynote speech. A successful entrepreneur behind K-International plc, a translation and consulting services business, Richard examined the business side of running an LSP. This consisted of a highly-engaging presentation of questions such as hiring consultants to help your business, the myriad of pricing strategies, client segmentation, channels to market and delivery mechanisms, tools to help you analyse your business and its performance, the value in your services, and the advantages of building a strong brand. Richard’s presentation was met enthusiastically by the audience and he refereed an interesting Q&A session that followed.

There were numerous opportunities for networking, and participation in panel discussions on topics such as the new ISO 17100 quality standard, using your website to drive sales, the pros and cons of In-country review, and embedding high-speed and agile machine translation into your e-commerce workflows.
The conference was drawn to a close by a riveting presentation by Konstantin Dranch, a translation markets’ pundit, who presented the results of a two-year comprehensive survey into the UK translation market. The UK is now the second largest market globally for translation services, with demand for multiple language content outstripping any other market. The principle buyers of translation services in the UK are the public sector, re-sellers, advertising and marketing agencies, the legal and pharmaceutical sectors. Growth remains robust, with the premier league of LSPs grossing a total of GBP 670 million in sales in 2014. Whilst technology may be shaping and changing our industry it’s far from destroying it, as the demand for translation services is estimated to be growing at a rate of around 15 per cent annually. The gap, however, between larger tech-savvy LSPs willing to innovate and come up with new value propositions, and traditional smaller translation providers is growing, with the latter perhaps facing relegation in the years to come.

After the full-time whistle at Old Trafford, I was able to enjoy some of the many attractions that the Northern powerhouse of Manchester has to offer, from its world-class ethnic cuisine, to its arts, music and cultural scene. The Lowry Collection at the Lowry gallery at Salford Quays was the stand out draw for me. The permanent exhibition houses the largest public collection of L S Lowry’s work anywhere in the world. For those of you who don’t know the artist or his work, you can learn and see more here
Lawrence Fahrenholz

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