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Building Linguistic Communities for Global Brand Success
An interview with Justin Murphy, Vistatec’s Head of Supply Chain
The backbone of any successful localization program is the localization supply chain, which covers various roles, such as linguists, translators, desktop publishers, interpreters, researchers, voice talent, or testers. Scalable and effective resourcing is critical as global businesses face increasing translation volumes, changing customer requirements, and new technologies. Never has it been more vital for language service providers to have an agile and flexible supply chain model to drive global growth for their customers.
Without a qualified, experienced, and available group of multilingual professionals, businesses cannot effectively take their products and content global.
To learn more about the challenges of finding and managing an engaged and highly effective pool of linguistic resources, we spoke with Justin Murphy, the Head of Supply Chain at Vistatec. Justin and his team manage all the processes required to ensure linguistic resourcing meets customer needs.
Justin’s 20-year career in localization started as a freelance English-to-Spanish translator. He has since worked on the language service provider and customer side and formed his own translation business. His experience includes building operations and developing technology plans for companies. He also has an MBA, an MA in translation, and a law degree. At Vistatec, he builds linguistic teams tailored to support customers’ ambitious global growth objectives.
What does a supply chain manager typically do?
Justin: The work involves finding and engaging these skilled people, training them, assigning them to accounts, guiding the quality of their work, and providing feedback. And, importantly, supply chain management also involves building mutually beneficial long-term partnerships with the linguists to provide them with a living and meaningful work.
We often think of supply chains as communities. But there’s an old meaning of community and a new one. How has the term changed?
Justin: The old concept – the less favorable – relates to crowdsourcing. In that setting, the term “linguist” was a very loose term for anybody with linguistic knowledge or skills that wasn’t tested or vetted in the same way as now. Many of these crowd resources received meager rates; the work was shared with the community, and the first person who grabbed it got it. Some people even used bots to capture all the jobs.
A community is about relationships, high expertise, and shared goals and interests. My team is looking for skilled resources with a strong background who we can test, help train, nurture, and build a relationship with to create this more profound sense of ownership and belonging.
Also, a two-way relationship benefits both parties in the new sense of community. For example, besides the commercial aspect, we educate linguists on cutting-edge developments within the industry. In turn, they give us specific information regarding their locales or areas of expertise. When you have this type of connection and flow of information, it becomes a much more meaningful relationship. It’s a partnership based on collaboration and mutual trust, built through the exchange of information and the exchange of values. We get to a position where we’re working as a team.
Can you tell me more about the benefits of this relationship-based approach?
Justin: When you build a dedicated team, keep them engaged with interesting and varied assignments, and offer the appropriate compensation, they will remain long-term partners. Everyone benefits. For linguists, their job satisfaction is much higher over time. For the client, quality and consistency improve. When someone stays with us longer, they develop deep knowledge of the client’s products, brand messaging, and tone of voice and can better and more consistently meet the client’s requirements.
Also, it makes internal coordination and work easier and faster. If a PM has a meaningful and long-term relationship with a linguist, they can rely on that person and know they will do the job well and deliver on schedule. Over time, the relationship becomes more automatic, and communication becomes more fluid.
Strong, relationship-based resourcing is essential to customer satisfaction. It’s challenging and frustrating for stakeholders when resources turn over, and they must undergo training again.
The need for localization activities like translation and testing is increasing daily. Many customers have millions of words to translate. How do you manage resources for customers with vast and growing translation volumes?
Justin: That’s for sure; volumes continue to rise, and requirements constantly evolve, so there’s never a dull moment. We need to be ready to handle all types of scenarios. If a customer wants to add 60 linguistic resources to their existing team of 100 in 6 weeks so that they have round-the-clock coverage to handle 300,000 words per day, we need to make it happen – which is precisely what we did in that case.
It’s all about building and maintaining a flexible pool of resources, allowing for a minimum 25% ramp-up in production at any time to cover commonly unscheduled spikes in workload. At a project level, we provide backup linguists to cover unplanned absences and volume increases. We constantly review and monitor the linguist pool to ensure it covers our resourcing needs and potential volume spikes.
Some may say there is a global talent shortage. Is that impacting you?
Justin: This is a complicated question. There only appears to be a talent shortage. Let me explain: The translation industry has constant downward pricing pressure. Crowdsourcing, in the traditional sense, was probably the leading cause of that. The transition to large-scale machine translation made it worse: this caused many companies to ask for vast volumes of post-editing work to be completed in a very short time frame and for an extremely low rate, putting a lot of pressure on resources. Very few people are willing to lower their rates to accept those terms. There appears to be a talent shortage in this environment because people want something other than that work. But, in reality, there are qualified, talented, available people who want to work and deserve payment that reflects their expertise. Once you set realistic pricing, this perceived problem with talent shortage goes away.
What’s next in supply chain management for the localization industry? What predictions do you have?
Justin: There will continue to be challenges with rare languages. For example, we find that linguists for languages such as Hausa or Yoruba don’t have a steady connection to the internet or, at times, electricity. They don’t have the same training and access to tools that a translator in other countries might have, so they are less likely to have the skill sets we need for MT or AI-related tasks. The industry has to accommodate these limitations. We will also see challenges in pricing these languages, handling throughputs, and ensuring quality.
Next, global businesses are figuring out quality metrics and processes for AI-generated content. Linguistic checks have to be much more automated as volumes increase exponentially. That means more technology investment for companies, LSPs, and for our linguists. As an industry, we have a steep learning and process curve ahead of us with AI, but we’re looking forward to taking on this challenge! My colleague Monika Bugiel spoke about the evolution of the linguist’s role in another blog post in this series.
Do you have any parting thoughts about the recruiting and supply chain function?
Justin: Finding the right linguistic resource for a job takes time, especially if the requirement is new or complex. Best-fit resources are often not immediately available. The selection process is extensive, with more selection criteria than people might think. For example, finding somebody bilingual in Swahili who can translate a legal document by tomorrow might be challenging.
And again, if you’re talking about AI projects, finding a skilled resource interested in working on that may be tricky. It takes time to build relationships and knowledge so that once they are assigned, they’re prepared and can deliver to customers’ quality expectations.
Lastly, we must appreciate the cultural and locale differences that impact staffing. For instance, resourcing people in Asia will have a different dynamic than, say, in Europe or the US.
A good example is India, where candidates care about corporate reputation. They study reviews of the company before they will take a job. If you’re a newly established company in India, candidates may not be interested in working with you. However, people in Ireland or the UK care less about this and look for salary and growth opportunities instead.
The perception is that there is a lack of talent, but that’s not the case in my experience. Instead, it may come down to cultural differences, which we deal with daily.
Bringing Your Brand to Global Markets with Supply Chain Communities
Taking your content and product global requires qualified, capable, and experienced linguistic resources. Underqualified resources, or indeed a lack of resources, will result in poor quality and delays, preventing you from meeting your global goals.
Like any people-centered service, relationships, investment in skill-building, and communication keep the engine running smoothly to generate consistently excellent results. So much of this depends on the strength of the supply chain function.
At Vistatec, our dedicated supply chain team focuses on finding and vetting the best translation, localization, transcreation, and testing resources. We do this through building vetted, trained, and engaged communities of professionals.
If you want to know more about how an engaged supply chain can help you meet your globalization goals, connect with us here.
As part of our Insights Unveiled series, each month we are releasing new perspectives and insights on the current and future landscape of the localization industry. Sign up below to ensure you don’t miss out on more insights, answers, and predictions about the future of localization!