It’s immediately evident on social media and websites, as well as in instant messenger services, cloud-based software, smartphone apps and web entertainment: people are working, communicating and consuming online – more often and quicker than ever before. This means larger amounts of digital text, delivered more frequently and often in smaller batches.
The trend is presenting immense challenges for language services providers. What do LSPs need to offer now, and what will the requirements look like in the future? Houman Gieleky, founder and CEO of Toptranslation, started asking this question many years ago, and he came to this conclusion: the response needs to be more than just flawless and expert translation quality. Instead, an adequate response also needs to be found at a technical level.
Gieleky, who founded the translation company in Germany in 2010, has a good reason to call it a technology company with its focus on strong growth. Besides building a strong LSP business and network of highly skilled translators, he and his team of 40 have invested a large proportion of their energy and funds into developing platform technology and software products.
Translation management: neat and simple – just like an online shop
What emerged from these efforts was a digital toolkit that customers use to organise and keep tabs on text quantities, translation options and jobs with just a few clicks, bringing an end to the laborious process of sending emails with file attachments back and forth. These enhancements ease the strain on both sides, for customer and translator alike.
Companies can use the browser-based platform to order translations at any time with the simple push of a button and can easily keep an eye on all processes and costs.
Completed translations are automatically delivered to the right people, in the right system and in the right format. Employees with the right permissions can see which departments have ordered how many translations, and how much the whole thing costs.
“We want the translation platform to make the process of purchasing translation services as simple as possible, just like shopping on Amazon” — Houman Gieleky, founder and CEO, Toptranslation
Focusing on the technological foundation of language services has paid off for the entrepreneur. “We are well on our way to becoming one of Europe’s top ten translation service providers within the next three to five years,” the CEO predicts.
His platform is already one of the biggest of its kind in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and is achieving organic growth of almost 30% per year – far above the market benchmarks.
Monthly revenues are in the mid six-figure range. With offices in both Germany and Spain, Toptranslation, looks after more than 2,000 customers in total, including global market leaders across various industries and blue-chip companies. The Toptranslation platform has become the language software and terminal of choice both for translators and corporate content creators in their roles as marketers and developers. They use the software independently from the actual translation service in order to create, correct and align the content they create.
Success factor 1: automation speeds up order fulfilment by 400 percent
What does Toptranslation’s CEO see as the key to this success? “You need automatic project and vendor management to scale workloads in today’s translation market,” says Gieleky. “This creates happy customers and a substantial lock-in effect.”
After all, while the volume of translations may be growing, the individual projects themselves are getting smaller and smaller. One of the main reasons is the daily updates of digital content such as websites and patches in software solutions. But the task of managing this slew of mini-jobs remains the same nonetheless: “For every project, we still need to prepare quotes, commission translators, check the quality of invoices and suppliers and bill for the services as well.”
“We have gradually automated all of these processes on our platform,” explains Gieleky. Quotes, for instance, are generated automatically based on the number of words. Preselected regular translators are notified of potential jobs on their personal dashboards. A proprietary feedback system collects over 56,000 ratings each year in order to optimise customer satisfaction. The outcome: order fulfilment has risen by 400 percent since the platform went live in 2016.
Success factor 2: proactive data protection – indispensable in Europe
Another characteristic feature of the German-based business is the proactive way in which data protection and security are managed – issues that have been highly relevant to customers, not only since the introduction of the GDPR (EU General Data Protection Regulation) and the recent spate of data scandals. Security-critical projects in particular require alternatives to standard procedures within the industry, in which work documents are often just sent to the freelance translators by email, who then store them in personal folder structures on their local hard drives. This kind of data transfer and storage is by no means protected from unauthorised access. If a freelancer misplaces their laptop, customer data and possibly sensitive documents may be lost as well.
Toptranslation has taken “security to a new level,” as Gieleky puts it: this involves a server solution that makes downloading sensitive documents unnecessary. Everyone involved – from the customer to the project manager and the translator – can access the files directly on the server. “This means that while the translators can see and edit the translation content directly on their dashboard, they can’t download it,” he explains. Negligent management of the data is therefore prevented from the outset.
In addition, the company has subjected its online platform to penetration tests – professionally organised hacker attacks by security firms that are designed to reveal hidden vulnerabilities in order to then fix them. The investment has paid off in this area of technology as well: thanks to their rigorous security standards, Gieleky and his team have managed to acquire two of the five biggest insurance providers in the world as their customers.
Success factor 3: compatibility – proprietary, adaptable tools
Mid-sized and large enterprises run up to 8,000 software applications.* Content that needs to be translated for internal and external purposes is produced in many of them. The Toptranslation platform can be configured, customised and connected to existing software and IT structures to meet the company’s needs. For instance, texts are uploaded and synchronised, translations are then offered if there are any text changes, and the finished versions are migrated back into the source systems with the click of a mouse.
The platform fixes another problem as well: homogeneous communication is often lacking in companies. Employees use technical terms and product names differently, especially if they don’t work in the same department, at the same location or with the same tools in which content is produced. It’s not that they don’t want to solve the issue, it’s just that their existing terminology systems are complicated and incompatible with other software solutions.
“Our solution is a user-friendly and integrable terminology software solution that we will bring to the market in the coming six months,” says CTO Stefan Rohde. What sets the system apart is its ease of use – for student trainees, communication managers and even the CEO.
Summary: language service providers will only survive if they have flexible and secure technologies
To get fit for the future, Gieleky advises translation service providers to take a closer look at the technical side of their work: “You need technically flexible, robust and secure solutions that are tailored to the working needs of customers in order to get ahead in this market. They must be built around automation, handle the speed of modern communication and actually ease the workload for customers.”
Image: Stefan Rohde, CTO (left), Houman Gieleky, founder and CEO (right)
*Source: Peter Lieber, Enterprise Architect at Sparx Services, a company specialised in enterprise architecture management (EAM), and President of the Association of the Austrian Software Industry (VÖSI).