A start, a finish, and some of the bits in the middle
INTRODUCTION MADE BY ROB ETCHES, TEXTMINDED, PRIOR TO KEYNOTE SPEECH, MONDAY, 26 MARCH, AT 09:45 ON MONDAY, 26 MARCH
Good morning everyone and welcome to GALA’s 10th anniversary conference here in Monaco.
Looking out over this sea of freshly scrubbed, expectant faces, I feel like a headmaster on the first day of a new term. Well, albeit the headmaster of a school with a lot of mature pupils!
But I suppose that’s what we are, more or less, for the next three days – pupils, here to learn, to share know-how, to network like crazy, and to be inspired to take some new ideas home with us.
The tone of a good conference is often set by the content of the keynote address, and this year we are very pleased to be able to have enticed Rob Salkowitz to Monaco to get us off to a great start. Author of Young World Rising; Generation Blend, Rob is going to help us take a look at where we are and, more importantly, where we’re going. Change is the name of the game, and there’s a new generation of entrepreneurs breathing down our necks demanding and creating a new business world.
So, please give a warm welcome to our keynote speaker: Rob Salkowitz!
SUMMARY COMMENTS GIVEN BY WAYNE BOURLAND, DELL INC., AND ROB ETCHES, TEXTMINDED™, AT THE CLOSING SESSION, AT 12:00 ON WEDNESDAY, 28 MARCH
Summing up a conference in two minutes can be tricky – and one always forgets something! But we’re going to take a shot at it anyway.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of social media, but … if you have kept your eye on the tweets coming up on the Twitter screen in the foyer these last three days, you will most probably be able to take home a one pager of the essentials of this conference. For those of you who didn’t read them, Wayne and I are going to supply you with the facet list:
- The times they are a changin’ – grab the opportunities it brings with it and you’ll do just fine!
- Today’s upcoming generation were born digital – communication and technology will change the way business in this industry is done. Plan and innovate for it now
- It’s all about the people Part 1 – the GALA atmosphere encourages an incredibly high level of frankness and networking
- It’s all about the people Part 2 – use the most valuable resource we have (people) there where they can make a difference. Automate everything else
- Time saved from automation should be assigned to talking with clients
- Integration is king – if you have any stand-alone systems left, go home and do something about it!
- Three years ago F-secure used three days to prepare files for translation. Now they prepare three times as much in three minutes. Go home and automate everything you possibly can!
- Continuous and on-demand is here to stay and is shifting further downstream to the user
- LSP is not an acronym for Language Service Provider, but Language Solutions Partner. Today’s clients want a dialogue with a proactive partner
- It’s important to involve more clients in these industry discussions; you can’t innovate for clients if you haven’t heard them
- MT without TM and TM without MT doesn’t make sense. Go home and integrate!
- If your strategic model doesn’t include MT it should focus on specialising your services
- Who says you can’t hold a successful localisation conference in Monte Carlo?! Life is too short for business without pleasure. And we’re worth it!
- Do what you do with passion or don’t do it at all. That is why GALA is a successful organisation.
And bits from the middle
Well, if you have digested the messages in the Twitter facet list above then there’s no need to read this section. But if you’re interested in the gory details, here goes nothing!
To cut to the chase, the consensus immediately after the microphones were switched off after the closing session, was that this was the most successful GALA conference. Ever.
There was good activity at the conference hotel already from Sunday morning as several of us saw the benefits of linking other, related business to the GALA event. Tilde’s (LetsMT!) and the TextMinded™ Group’s seminars were the two obvious examples, joining Arturo Quintero’s CEO Forum to ensure that something like 40-50 people were already at work before the conference proper started at the 18:00 reception. I look forward to others utilising this window of opportunity, e.g. the way SDL holds its partner forum the day before Tekom in November. Generally speaking, it would be good to see more initiatives from the software vendors to drag them from behind their tables and into the conference proper.
I don’t know what it is about GALA, but the buzz is instantaneous, and already Sunday evening we were a group of 18 colleagues having a hard time finding a restaurant with a table long enough to match our numbers (and noisy networking). But when we did it was worth it: fantastic food and service at La Piazza, 9 Rue du Portier.
Monday morning, after 30 minutes of 10th anniversary nostalgia, participants were catapulted into a vision of now and the future. Rob Salkowitz’s keynote speech was upbeat, uplifting, and looking in the right direction: ahead. As such it served as a metaphor for the organisation. No resting on its laurels, but rather putting one’s foot on the gas (as our American friends would say) and racing ahead with new projects. Certainly the wealth of initiatives outlined during the AGM after the conference was enough to take the last remnants of my breath away.
As Fabiano Cid (@fabcid) tweeted, it was an amazingly inspiring start to the conference. Concepts and ideas mentioned in the keynote included the democratisation of access to technology; getting the right information to the right people; ‘ideas without borders’; demographic problems on the horizon for China; Africa as tomorrow’s entrepreneurial locomotive; and linguistic minorities (in India) comprising +100 million people! Rob’s presentation reminded me of one of my own favourite quotes: “Any time there is change, there is an opportunity” – Bill Gates, from back in the early 1990s. I used it again in my own M&A presentation with Jiri Stejskal (@cetrainc). More of this later. But the good news was that I was not alone with my optimism. GALA 2012 simply refused to bow down to the media’s doom and gloom!
Many of the presentations followed up on the joie de vivre and optimism that oozed out of the keynote. For example, Andrew Bredenkamp, Acrolinx: “The world is changing, but people who ‘get’ global will be in more demand than ever.”
Machine Translation still (!) refuses to go away, despite the fact that the show of hands viz who is already using it was depressingly small. It seems the mindset among LSPs remains reluctant, or perhaps just panic-stricken as to where to start. One thing is preaching “Embrace technology and win!” another is taking the good advice.
Whatever, undeterred, we tried pretty much every way and format possible to convince participants that the choice was a simple one: downsize and specialize or start using MT as part of standard workflows, integrated with TM technology. First up we had Jörgen Danielsen & Co. enacting a real-life scenario; then Tuesday morning we went with an academic approach – Hans Uszkoreit was wonderfully upbeat and entertaining in his introduction, but it was difficult maintaining the Geist in his panel and out in the auditorium over a full 75 minutes. In fact the questions at the end held the most dynamite and with hindsight we should have opened up earlier for these. As mentioned previously in several media, GALA attracts a huge preponderance of decision-makers and, given half a chance, they can’t but get involved. This perhaps explains why the agile conferencing relay Tuesday afternoon (Gaining Benefits from Machine Translation) proved to be the most successful forum for MT discussions. The feedback was that (literally) roundtable discussions between peers (whether they be MT nerds or newbies) spawned the best results. This bodes well for the concept of agile conferencing, which we hope to fine-tune and develop still further for GALA 2013 in Miami.
Agile was also on the menu after lunch Monday, where Wayne Bourland, Dell, had assembled three Agile Managers to discuss software localisation. Perhaps far from the most exhilarating of topics and assigned to one of the smaller rooms, this session nevertheless spawned some of the more exciting comments, many of which came from Mika Pehkonen, F-Secure, who explained that their budget has remained unchanged for seven years, but that they now handle three times as many products in three times as many languages. And that, thanks to automation processes, file preparation time has fallen from three days to three minutes and – here’s the rub: time saved is spent talking with their clients.
If there was a bone of contention thrown up in Monaco, it was the lack of dialogue between those with the need and those who think they know what they need (if you know what I mean!). It was interesting, for example, to hear Matt Ogden, the LEGO Group, explaining that the absolutely most important thing he looked for in a localisation partner was a common mindset. Clients at GALA 2012 were literally crying out to be heard and too many in the audience appeared to be turning a deaf ear. It prompted a Twitter debate, led by Bob Donaldson (@BobD_Austin), which resulted in our agreeing that “LSP” should not be an acronym for Language Service Provider, but rather for Language Solutions Partner.
That’s what our clients are looking for: proactive partners, not passive providers; and solutions to problems, as opposed to rigid systems and services. The industry is still fixated on word counts, ‘quality’ and deadlines, but the intelligent client is looking for a partner who can add value to her company and its products by telling a good (multilingual) story.
Back to success stories: this year’s speed networking went like a dream. The cacophony of Cascais was replaced by soft murmurings in Monaco. The noise and stress of last year left many participants looking for a lobotomy in Lisbon, whereas, thanks to the new roundtable format in 2012, the only complaints were that we stopped too early! TextMinded™ ended the session with a roll of the dice, which led to those sat at an odd numbered table at the outset receiving a cool loudspeaker for their smartphones/tablet computers. Several of the other participants swore to get even …
I promised to get back to the Mergers & Acquisition session on Wednesday morning. A full room was blown away by the frankness with which Jiri Stejskal (@cetrainc) retold the story of his recent acquisition in Virginia, USA. If anyone present doesn’t now know how to go about acquiring a company with annual sales of approx. €500,000, then it is certainly not because of the lack of details provided in Monaco. It was a great example of how the GALA family shares know-how. I was genuinely impressed, and it completely overshadowed all my own merger hyperbole viz passion and opportunity backed by music videos and lots of flashy slides!
One end (conclusion) to the middle
There’s one nagging doubt amongst all the Geist and back-clapping after a job well done, a conference well run. Something significant is manifesting itself amidst all that know-how and experience on the one hand, and the challenges of a new generation on the other. The trouble is paradigm shifts have that frustrating characteristic of remaining undetected until they are over. Then everyone’s talking (and writing!) about them.
Automation, integration, and efficiency might well be the mantras of our time – but what they are not is ‘the missing link’. Perhaps because those of us that have been in the localisation industry for so many years (that means five or more …) are still attempting to solve digital challenges with an analogue mindset. We need to think new thoughts and, more importantly, in new ways.
Not that we should despair! And to end with the note of optimism that characterised GALA 2012: “The truth always turns out to be simpler than you thought.” Richard Feynman.