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Has thebigword Managed to Catapult Its Way to the Top 10?
Posted by Hélène Pielmeier on June 2, 2016  in the following blogs: Interpreting
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Thebigword won a £120 million lot in a tender to provide over-the-phone and on-site interpreting to the British Ministry of Justice (MoJ) over the next four years. Josh Gould, its chief commercial officer, expects revenue to jump by 60%, which could boost the company from its current #17 position on CSA Research’s list of largest language service providers to the Top 10 club by 2017. What does this framework contract mean to the industry?

  • Incumbency doesn’t mean anything if you don’t deliver. The current contract holder Capita (#20 on our list) withdrew from the bid early on. It encountered much publicized difficulties meeting the MoJ’s expectations and it may have decided to cut its losses and focus on other opportunities. However, challenging accounts remain appealing to other suppliers that have just the right offering to meet the needs. Besides thebigword, several LSPs – including TransPerfect (#2) – were eager to secure this deal.

  • Services alone aren’t enough to win large complex opportunities. In order to stand out, thebigword went in with a tech-heavy bid that relies on smart software systems to reduce the need for human touches. The solution relies in great part on IMS, its strong technology backbone to automate an estimated 80% of jobs from end to end. The company recently released it as a product under the name IMS Direct to buy-side organizations, but Gould said that thebigword substantially customized and added to the software for this contract.

  • LSPs need capital to invest to create solutions. By the end of the summer, Gould expects to have spent US$3 million to ramp up for the job – some of it speculatively in advance of winning the contract. The investment involves technology development, linguist recruitment and training, additional office space, strengthening of internal teams, and putting in place a deputy CEO in the UK because the company’s top executives are located in New York.

  • As usual, talent will shift affiliations. Human capital in the language sector regularly moves between suppliers. The company anticipates recruiting 100 to 150 employees to support the deal. Under TUPE regulations, Capita employees may have the option to move over to thebigword. The increase in staff led to thebigword adding more office space.

  • Interpreters may see better pay rates. Gould couldn’t share details from the contract, but he did say that the company negotiated prices and rates that are sustainable for both thebigword and its employees and contractors. He told us that thebigword tried to fight the deflation of rates in the industry because it leads to performance and delivery issues. Gould believes the MoJ will not see an increase in overall expenditures citing the costs of interpreter not showing up as a much greater loss than a higher hourly rate. In addition, thebigword is conducting focus groups with linguists to make sure working conditions for interpreters are improved and is beefing up training efforts.
Capita was ill-prepared to handle the contract when it acquired ALS and became by default the new contract holder. Thebigword is better positioned to succeed thanks to its technology, staffing and vendor pool, and ramp up time to prepare for delivering the services.

Just as in the case of the five companies that joined forces to win a sizeable lot in another important British interpreting framework agreement, new suppliers will remain in the spotlight simply because of the magnitude of the contracts. This will put significant pressure on the new incumbents who will need to deliver on their promises to either increase performance or to provide more specialist services.


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