With the global economy taking a severe downturn, 2009 proved to be a challenging year for many. It paid to be nimble and diversified to navigate the waves of budget cuts, project delays and slower payments. The localization industry, had to deal with the slowing economy, shrinking budgets and the erosion of localization rates along with the natural evolution of tools and technology used in the process.
Most companies reduced their localization/translation budgets, some by necessity, others by choice. The industries that hurt the most cut back significantly creating a ripple effect in many industries associated with them including IT and business services.
For instance, when automotive companies cut back their budgets, they impacted all their suppliers, like the CAD/CAM/PLM industries, creating budget reductions and freezes. Even companies that were not doing badly took their precautions and limited their spending or negotiated better terms.
Some industries however continued to be healthy. GlobalVision services also the Medical Devices market. Many medical device manufacturers grew their spending in 2009. There was also accelerated spending in Government related projects.
As always, being diversified in the serviced markets and retaining low overhead helps vendors hedge their bets. The vendors that focused only on automotive or IT, or that depended largely on in-house resources suffered the most.
Technology and Process
As predicted in our blog in 2008, all the rave and clamor made about changing paradigms with the advent of crowdsourcing, open source solutions and machine translation did not translate into major forces enabling or disrupting the industry. Yes, LinkedIn considered the use of crowdsourcing, and Google and others continue to improve their machine translation engines and translation tools, but we see these changes as a natural evolution in the state of technology and processes and not a revolution in our industry.
The move to XML authoring continued in 09 and single sourcing trends in authoring. Translation Management Systems also continued to evolve streamlining the translation management process.
The real gains are however in streamlining the translation process, but so far, translation memory tools dominate. Experienced translators and quality professionals are and will be the driving forces behind the localization industry for much time to come.
We feel that in 2010, with the economy hopefully recovering, companies will re-engage their vendors with the projects they froze or delayed and will re-establish their global release plans and strategies. Global trends will continue onward revitalizing the industry and re-establishing the positive growth that we experienced in the past decade.
Companies on unstable footing are at risk if the economy does not recover.
Technology will continue to improve gradually, improving the productivity of the translator and improving project tasks management and collaboration. With translation rate erosion contained, companies will seek to invest in efficiency building technologies.
XML and SQL trends and online translation management tools and collaboration, will continue to make inroads. Machine translation will improve but not to the point to be used globally like translation memory tools are being used today. Hybrid TM and MT tools will continue to emerge. TM sharing will face copyrights issues.
With the turn of the new decade, 2010 will prove to be an important year for the localization industry. Let us all work to make the best of it.