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Poised for continued growth in 2020
The year of our 20th anniversary now lies behind us and it is the ideal time to look back on what was a very successful year for STAR Servicios Lingüísticos.
After two rather arduous years in 2016 and 2017, following 2018, 2019 was the second year in a row whereby we were able to record growth. In fact, we managed to increase sales by around 5%, i.e. outperforming the growth rate of the Spanish GILT market (GILT = Globalisation, Internationalisation, Localisation, Translation).
More satisfied clients
More importantly, we have not only grown in numbers, but also in qualitative terms. We have acquired more than 50 new direct clients, both in Spain (our main market) and internationally. It is particularly gratifying that 18 of them were referred to us by other existing clients. Client acquisition through existing clients brings no extra cost other than delivering quality and providing the required level of service to the existing users of our services. A big thank you to all of our clients and especially to those who recommended us! Some of our new customers found us via the Internet (our digital marketing is therefore reaping rewards), but most of them were acquired through our existing sales processes. I have now reached the conclusion that success in sales doesn't just depend on the innate selling talent of sales staff. The motivation of sales staff is extremely important, but beyond that are factors such as the systematic analysis of (rapidly changing) client needs, reproducible sales processes and a convincing marketing and sales strategy, which all lead to the goal. Last year would appear to confirm this.
More language combinations and services
Broadening our client base has also meant expanding our service offer. We are now able to translate into more language combinations than ever with certified quality. In 2019, this came to 142 language combinations!
We have been offering a whole range of services for some time now. This includes technical authoring, transcreation, interpreting and multilingual DTP services, in addition to our main area of focus: high-quality technical translations for various industrial sectors. In 2019, we also gained more experience in audiovisual translation and are now able to deliver comprehensive audiovisual language services, including audio and video transcriptions, dubbing, subtitling, voice-overs, live interpreting for audiovisual products and audio descriptions.
This was a big challenge for our vendor management team. A large number of new service providers had to be found, selected, tested, certified and continually quality assessed. Now is the time to thank them all! We would not be where we are now without the hard work of hundreds of translators, proofreaders, technical authors, copywriters, voice-over experts, transcribers, sound engineers, DTP specialists, graphic designers, localisation experts and computational linguists. One of the most compelling aspects of our sector is the incredible variety of specialists that work together to deliver multilingual services to our clients. We hope we have managed to make all vendors feel a part of our team.
We have also made great progress in the automation of translation projects. Thanks to our IT department, we have integrated our Translation Management System (TMS) into existing Corporate Language Management (CLM) systems and Web Content Management Systems (WCMS) of our clients. The reception and delivery of work packages (text data and metadata) has been automated, meaning that we are now able to handle a large number of projects in a very short time. Due to ever decreasing manual intervention, automated processes are now even less prone to errors. All of this benefits our clients, as it means that we deliver faster and with higher service quality. The interfaces we have created are platform-independent and allow us to work with companies (large retail companies, hotel chains, etc.) that increasingly sell their products and services via the Internet.
More TMs and MT
Another project that went to the top of our priorities at the start of 2019: the integration of machine translation (MT) into our existing production processes. To achieve this, we first began the necessary learning processes and held training courses for our translators and project managers on the topics of machine translation and post-editing. We implemented interfaces between our Computer-Assisted Translation tool (Transit NXT) and our Translation Management System for several MT engines and tested the different ways of exchanging text data and metadata. Which language combinations best lend themselves to machine translation and post-editing, and which types of text? Can we use our translation memories (TMs) to train neural machine translation engines and improve the results of the automatic translation? How do we measure the quality of raw MT output and thus quantify the work required for light or full post-editing? Which rates can we agree with our vendors? Another issue was the compatibility of machine translation with the processes defined by our Quality Management System and the recommendations set out in the quality standards for which we are certified (ISO 17100 and ISO 9001). Integrating machine translation into our production processes is a challenge for our entire team and will undoubtedly keep us busy for the foreseeable future.
Incorporating MT meant analysing our existing translation memories and the way we store and use them, which led to the creation of our “Best Practices for Translation Memory Management” guidelines, a document we are now using to systematically train our project managers and translators. In addition, the analysis and subsequent improvement regarding the use and storage of our translation memories means that we are now able to tease more out of our translation memories, leading to even more savings for our clients.
What it all boils down to…
There is a lot more to be said, but the most important has been covered, save for one thing. When I look over this summary, I realise that I have left the negative things out. I am aware that we tend to look at the past through rose-tinted glasses, however, what also played a role in our case is the fact that the negative influences were all due to external circumstances or external stakeholders.
On the other hand, as a team, we stuck together, worked together, learned from each other, respected each other and grew together. It all boils down to that, and continuing to nurture that culture is our resolution for 2020.
A happy New Year to all of you from the STAR Servicios Lingüísticos team!