Digitise or Die – Technology is the Key to Success for LSPs.

24translate (https://www.24translate.de/en/) is a Hamburg-based Language Service Provider that has been described recently in an industry report as "a medium-size player to watch". In the wake of the Language Technology Industry Summit 2018, Philippe Wacker spoke with Arthur Wetzel, Group CSO, about the future of the language industry.

Philippe Wacker, Secretary General, LT-Innovate: Could you describe briefly the history of your company, its milestones and how it defines itself today in terms of strengths and weaknesses?

Arthur Wetzel: Thank you for inviting me. 24translate was founded in 1999 and was always highly innovative – in fact, we were the first award-winning online translation agency with real time offers in those days. Bear in mind this was many years before the smartphone was launched - a totally different era! However, we kept this innovative mindset. As the market kept growing, the 24translate group grew and concentrated on optimising the internal workflows with its Translation Distribution System (TDS), a software that enabled the group to deliver better quality faster. We deliver more than 100,000 orders p.a. and work with more than 7,000 translators worldwide… Growing organically to become one of the largest translation networks in the Germany / Austria / Switzerland (GAS) market within the last twenty years, we developed a strong customer base and worked on innovations in technology and services. Today, we have considerable expertise in banking, finance, insurance and telecommunications, due to more than 15 years of partnerships with major European companies in these fields. Talking about strenghts, we are still a family business, totally independent financially and technologically. Our next step will be to enter the corporate translation workflow systems market. We intend to change this market completely within the next few years with new products and tools, responding to our clients’ needs and exceeding market expectations in terms of technology performance. At the LTI18 Summit, we will present a preview of our newest software suite - 24|contenthub.

Philippe Wacker: How do you differentiate yourself in a marketplace that has been maturing and consolidating over the last few years? What are your main goals for the years to come? Where would you like to be as a company in 5 years?

Arthur Wetzel: Within the next five years, we intend to grow by 100% and are heading to be number one in Germany. We will probably acquire firms with complementary technology or enter other European markets and join forces with other players. As we all know, the market will consolidate; though technology-wise, the LSP market is more or less in a fledgling state. Our key strategy is to grow organically through innovative products and our product pipeline is geared to this, as are all our resources.

Philippe Wacker: What is your perception of and relationship with technology?

Arthur Wetzel: I really love technology. I have spent my entire career on marketing innovation and developing companies to do likewise – starting quick and scaling fast. The language technology industry is still underdeveloped and facing immense problems - my major ambition is to help change this industry for the better. Within this field the 24translate group is able to achieve more growth through its digital setup and innovation power – this is probably why one should watch us.

Philippe Wacker: Do you see it as a threat to your business model or do you see it as a lever enabling you to offer value-added services? Anf if so, how?

Arthur Wetzel: In order to be successful, you always need to have an innovative mindset, embrace technology and react smartly and quickly in amazingly fast-changing environments. As in real life, if you stop moving you die. Today, we give our clients tools allowing them to manage their translation workflows and communications seamlessly – we enable connectivity to all their digital content systems and platforms. Thus, we empower many LSPs or freelancers to be more productive for their clients. We do not limit users or seats and follow the new market rules. We are enabling our customers to reduce time spent on the administration and management of their translation orders by more than 80%. For example, whereas it currently takes 20 minutes to place an order in your old-world setup (copy, paste, send an email or copy the file into an order portal, download after completion etc., etc.), with our solution, this takes no more than 4 minutes. Now, imagine you are a company that processes 20,000 orders per year. I'll let you do the maths… This is only one reason why our solution is serving our customers’ needs. These days, productivity, automation, and efficiency are the name of the game. We share our expertise in order to enhance our focus, establish a vital relationship with our clients and grow our business together with them.

Philippe Wacker: To what extent do you use machine translation? How? Where do you see its weaknesses? How do you see it evolving?

Arthur Wetzel: Most of our large clients wish to reduce costs and we help them do so as we are implementing MT in our systems. The problem with MT today is that most services do not have a framework for any kind of secure workflow management. We see that web-based services such as DeepL or Google, which are used more or less in a private mode, do not serve standardised connectivity or have access to large clients – so far. That will change as MT will be integrated into the translation workflows and will be one of the growth drivers… humans powered by machines.

Philippe Wacker: Do you anticipate that AI-driven, cloud-based machine translation services will take over a large part of the translation and localisation business in the years to come?

Arthur Wetzel: Definitely. In our industry, we have amazing brains working on MT and we are eager to see the next big thing emerge. Major language pairs will soon be served effectively by MT and will be used initially for second-tier quality content.Many larger LSPs are currently preparing to transition their business model partially towards post-editing services. This makes sense, but it is only one possible reaction. I believe that LSPs should also expand their technology expertise and sell technology to help their clients add value and stick closely with them.

Philippe Wacker: Which options do you see for LSPs to re-engineer themselves? How will they need to evolve in order not to die?

Arthur Wetzel: Small LSPs that have so far failed to optimise their business with technology or specialise in a sustainable market niche, will disappear. Translation has become a commodity and every LSP needs to rethink their business and redesign their strategy. At the end of the day, LSPs will have to grow rapidly, or join forces with their former competitors and develop their collective strength. This industry is undergoing fast, radical change, blown by a strong wind on a rough sea. If you don’t have a good boat or an expert skipper, then you should at least be an excellent swimmer and look out for another boat.

Join Arthur Wetzel at LTI18!