The consumerisation of technology has levelled the playing field. Technologies that were once prohibitively expensive and therefore out of reach for all except the largest and most established corporate businesses are now widely available to everyone, including many of the freelancers we work with.
The result is that we’re seeing a lot of self-employed and small businesses benefit from embracing new technologies such as social media and mobile, all of which enable them to work more flexibly wherever in the world they choose.
Over the last three years we’ve seen a seen a significant increase in demand for our translation services – a good sign that the economy is on the up again. Particularly strong interest has come from tourism clients, for whom Chinese and Japanese are most in demand; and eCommerce clients, whose main focus is on Europe. We’ve also seen an increase in companies looking outside the EU to Russia, Scandinavia and Asia for growth. Communications are at the heart of our business here at Web-Translations. In addition to email, we also use VOIP technology for phone calls, video calls and teleconferences, as well as instant messaging to reduce the volume of internal emails we send.
As part of the Vodafone Perspective series, Daniel Rajkumar, MD of Web-Translations shares his insights on the role of technology in building a global business
One of the benefits we find is that holding virtual meetings means we can resolve queries or update clients on the progress of their projects frequently and efficiently, which is what clients now expect. It also means we can hold internal meetings with all our staff in multiple, geographically dispersed locations, and project discussions with translators and other freelance workers at the click of a mouse.
Translators who live in-country are able to keep their native language more current, and are in touch with their culture on a day-to-day basis. We choose specialist translators to suit the needs of each individual project, meaning we work with between 50-100 translators a month. So it wouldn’t be practical, let alone cost-effective, to bring them all to work in our office! What’s more, we find that translators often prefer to work remotely as they need a quiet and uninterrupted environment in which to concentrate. The technology we use also enables our staff to work anywhere, which helps us make good use of time, e.g. accessing email and reading/editing documents while travelling. Our database is cloud-based, so can be accessed securely by any member of the team at any time – using any device they have to hand.
We operate a bring your own device policy and the whole team can access files, emails and calendars, etc. from anywhere using Microsoft Office 365. I personally like to keep an eye on our performance by using an iPhone app to access our database when I’m on the move.
In our experience of international digital strategy, there are specific considerations for each overseas market, in addition to language. Do people shop online, how do they prefer to pay, what social networks do they use, do they engage with brands online, and if so – how? A comprehensive eMarketing strategy that encompasses blogging, email marketing and social media will deliver a strong return on investment.
Customers are four times more likely to buy from a website in their own language, so localisation is paramount. Providing even one or two pages in a foreign language will welcome visitors who speak it to your website, and show that you are interested in their business. Monitoring traffic to each website gives valuable insight into the main demands in each market. Companies can then exploit opportunities by making further investment in the most popular areas.
One thing I’ve learnt is that there’s no shortcut around a language barrier. Online translation tools have their place as a quick reference tool, but won’t replace having a fluent linguist on your side when it comes to negotiations or resolving issues. For meetings, it’s worth engaging an interpreter or employing staff who speak the language of the country you want to target. An experienced international trade consultant will be able to help you navigate the minefield of potential cultural pitfalls in your target market, so even if you can’t communicate in the local language yourself, you can avoid unwittingly causing offence. Having documents professionally translated will also help avoid misunderstandings.
Face-to-face contact still has an important part to play in building client relationships, and is fundamental to building trust in many cultures but it isn’t always practical or cost-effective. Combine video conferencing and sharing your desktop and you’ve got the next best thing to actually being in the room with someone.
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