Practically the whole world is "staying at home" and conferences are all postponed (or cancelled). I was recently invited to speak on a panel in a fully virtual conference for the language industry. Meetings had long since moved to online, but this might have been the first large-scale language industry global conference since the beginning of the pandemic. It was called LocFromHome and organized by Smartcat.
The event was a huge success, and congratulations to Smartcat for putting it together so quickly and so successfully. There were 12 hours on continuous presentations, panel discussions, and knowledge sharing from 34 speakers. I've spoken at many conferences before, but this was one of the largest, with 2340 attendees from 97 countries that logged on at some point. Smartcat proved online conferences were possible, and that our community was hungry for gathering, learning, and just feeling more like a community again. Since the event, it has come up in conversation at different industry meetings, Happy Hours, and other Zoom gatherings, always with positive comments and reviews.
I was a part of the panel titled "What comes next? A 360 degree overview of the global language industry" during the North and South America-focused portion of the event. I was lucky enough to be on that panel with Jeff Beatty, the Senior Head of Localization at Mozilla, and Bill Lafferty, Solutions Architect at Acclaro. Our Moderator and host was Bryan Montpetit, Product Marketing Manager at Smartcat.
Speaking on the future of localization as service, Jeff is sure continuous localization is here to stay, and in fact " we're going to see a lot more companies thinking about continuous localization differently, we're going to see different variants". Tech companies have adapted easily and on average have even prospered during the pandemic and citizens being in lockdown. Sales or technology, software and even hardware to some extent, has increased. But the companies developing these already had an infrastructure in place to meet the growing demand by scaling up more easily.
As the panel acknowledged the strange times we are all in, I reminded everyone that we are not simply in a work-from-home era, this is a pandemic work era. Everyone is under extra stress and productivity my drop, even as workload increases for some companies. Bill noted that "finding a rhythm is going to be key for sustainability in your workflow for the long run... so that people don't burn out." Management is 50% psychology. And all owners and managers should watch their people as much as their processes. After all, people keep the processes moving forward.
We're still in the initial drop in the economy, the quick disappearance of most of our normalcy. And we are attempting to very quickly adapt. We are still in a state of economic survivalism right now, trying to maintain the status quo, to keep our businesses running as much like before as we can.
But soon we will all be entering a global state of economic recovery. And that recovery will be very slow, and very unevenly distributed. When you know you will survive, stop trying to rebuild the past, and change your point of view to the future. Let this pandemic be a learning opportunity. Fix the weaknesses in your internal operations that this pandemic shined a light on, but also take the opportunity to look for possible optimizations with other operations or even your tech stack.
This global event will affect the world is so many ways, it is almost overwhelming to think about. So focus on how it will affect your main client groups. Where they are in a year, what they want and need, those things will tell you where your company needs to be. Will they need different services? Or will they change their priorities in which services they need more or less of? Will their expectations change because of this? Will they have the funding or cashflow to even buy from you any more?
Every business had to suddenly make changes. And many are already starting to consider where they will go from here. Your clients had to throw together short term pandemic solutions. And there will be opportunities for language service companies (LSC) to help them come out of survival state and convert those temporary solutions into long term solutions for growth. Keep those relationships going, and study their industries more than you study our own. If they lose cashflow, liquidity, or budget confidence, then that will impact how or if they continue to buy from their language service vendors.
And as we learn to get through these strange times, and strategize to come out stronger on the other side, let's remember Jeff's great perspective:
"This is a great period of time for us to be able to develop on our empathetic skill sets."
After all, our industry is all about bringing people closer together through better communication and understanding.
You can watch our panel here:
You can also watch the entire set of presentations and panels at the LocFromHome website.