If you want to export, learn their language!
A new study by Professor James Foreman-Peck and Dr Peng Zhou launched last week in the House of Commons in partnership with the Association of Translation Companies (ATC), shows in stark detail the impact of in-house language capabilities on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that export.
The report, Firm-level evidence for the language investment effect on SME exporters, shows that SMEs utilising language assets and skills achieved far higher export to turnover ratios than others. These assets and skills included hiring staff with specific language expertise for export needs, employing native language speakers and training staff in languages
Roy Allkin, Chaiman of the ATC, says: “The government has repeatedly emphasised that expanding the country’s exports is a key strand of its broader strategy to rebalance the economy. Despite this, the UK has long struggled to improve its trade deficit. An earlier report by Professor Foreman-Peck clearly shows that poor language skills is costing UK plc £48 billion a year in lost exports. British businesses must take notice of this latest report, which emphasises that one of the secrets of export success is to have a language strategy in place to effectively communicate with target markets.”
As well as showing an increase in export to turnover ratio, the findings highlight that companies with in-house language capabilities are much more likely to appreciate the benefits of engaging external professional language services when exporting. Rather than one form of language provision replacing the other, SMEs with in-house language capabilities tend to adopt a twin-track approach to support their global business activities.
Professor Foreman-Peck, who is Professor of Economics at Cardiff University, says: “The results from this study point to the significance of languages for the bottom line of exporting small and medium size enterprises. While there are many factors that can influence export performance, the research was able to isolate many of the factors and give an accurate picture of the impact of language skills on SMEs when selling abroad. Having a strong language strategy by no means guarantees success, but it does increase the likelihood of it quite significantly.”
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”