Localization is crucial to global corporations. There simply is no doing global business without it. But somehow over the years, our industry has not done a good job at showcasing this relevance and promoting its own value.
For starters the industry was built around the needs of large corporations pressing to go global. They want it to be cheap and they want it to be fast. The market is competitive and the only path towards growth our industry has found so far is to push that pressure downwards. This means pressure on Project Managers, Vendor Managers and Linguists. All of these people get the short-end of the stick in this Localization paradigm we have established.
Rather than beginning by determining what people need to earn and how much people can sustainably produce, the focus is on the market need. And by itself, that is no different pretty much in any other industry, just the makings of modern mass market economy. The challenge is that our industry has done a terrible job over the years at two things: a) promoting the value of the work and b) being ingenious about solutions around market needs.
Our industry shows clear cannibalistic behavior. In RFPs, companies will become price gladiators chopping each other’s legs off in order to ensure victory. Business at all costs. We can let Vendor Managers and Translators deal with the aftermath. Find cheaper talent, willing to work more for less. That’s about as creative as our industry has been over the past 40 years.
So rather than seeing rates evolve over time in parallel with rising costs of living all over the world, the wages of those working in localization has not gone up proportionally to these costs of living over the past few decades. In fact, it becomes less and less attractive from an economic perspective to join the industry as the years go by. Rather than having companies that stand by and defend their rates and methodologies, we have seen an industry drive itself into the ground from a self-appreciation perspective.
When we talk about technology, again the focus has always been on getting more, faster and cheaper, rarely if ever more elegantly. With the rise of Machine Translation, clients began to push more for Machine Translation Post Editing. The concept is logically sound. Translators can make use of the continuously improving Machine Translation feeds in order to shorten the amount of time necessary to get translations out. They can now produce more. This also means that more thought needs to go into every sentence. As you type and entire sentence, your brain has time to process information and figure out the right tone, re-think certain expressions. Without typing the sentence, you still need time to look at it, think about it, and research key terms. Rather than using this technological advance as a way to improve the overall experience for everyone—clients, translators, project managers and company owners—our short sightedness used this technology as an opportunity to further pressure talent into outputting more for less.
Same thing with Project and Account Managers. Rather than using their tremendous education and communication skills in order to show clients what will work and most importantly what will not work, market pressures trample over Project Managers and now the focus is on meeting client needs regardless of feasibility and ramifications.
I want to emphasize that the goal here is not to demonize market needs. The market always will clamor for better, faster cheaper. It is what it is. I am criticizing the lack of creativity, humanity and 360 vision that our industry has had over the years in trying to make these ends meet.
We could be so much more constructive about this, if the we were not so teleological in our actions. The ends justify the means, so everything becomes legitimate in order to win business. If we think more about solution based growth and selling, our focus would be more on driving technological sophistication into localization so that we could naturally evolve into providing better faster, cheaper, without having to squeeze so many people in the process.
Schedule time with our team to learn how to build an elegant localization eco-system that is not founded on squeezing people through Bureau Works.
Written by Gabriel Fairman
Gabriel is the founder and CEO of Bureau Works. He loves change—and eating grass.