SDL and DLS – Celebrating a Year Together. A Q&A with Christophe Djaouani, SDL

Just over a year ago SDL and Donnelley Language Solutions (DLS) joined forces, bringing together two complementary companies to establish a leading player in content and language solutions. Back then, media reports suggested that “integrating two language service providers of the size and complexity of SDL and DLS would be a challenging undertaking.”

“Of course, it was never going to be easy,” explains Christophe Djaouani, formerly SVP and MD of Donnelley Language Solutions, who recently spoke to us about his experiences over the past year. “Given the size and focus of both companies, it was always going to be an extraordinary task. And although we still have work to do, looking back – it’s been a resounding success.”

Christophe, now SVP of Regulated Industries at SDL, took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his experiences over the past year, how customers have responded and how the partnership has given SDL a formidable lead in regulated industries.

It’s been a whirlwind year – what was your focus from the outset, and how have you worked towards that throughout the year?

It has! But it’s been fantastic to see everything come together. Looking back at our priorities, firstly we needed to ensure that customers were happy with the combination of both companies, and that there was no disruption to services. There’s no point going through all this if customers are nervous about how we can fulfill their needs. Secondly, making sure that our employees were feeling comfortable with the ongoing change, ensuring they had a career framework in place to support their continued success. And thirdly, looking to the future and the next three years, and how we can combine everything – from both companies – together in a way that adds value to our customers and employees. 

We had many different business partners across SDL, and a roadmap for all stakeholders made it clear what we needed to achieve over the coming months and years ahead. Clear roles and responsibilities were defined, and we made sure that everyone across the organization was kept informed of any changes. Transparency was key, and so was the need for two-way communication. And applying common sense when needed, helps keep a transformation project like this on track.

How have customers responded over the past year?

I’m proud to say the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive! Customers have a clear product roadmap, access to the best technology and services, and a vision of where we are heading as a company.

Our customer retention was a major success factor from the outset, and we’re extremely proud to have a 100% retention rate. In fact, we’re adding to existing customers with new products and services, growing our business in new industries and across different departments. We also recently completed an NPS survey, which proved to be our most positive to date. Very encouraging signs that we are on the right track.

By bringing together the strengths of both companies, where does SDL now sit within the market?

The combination of SDL and DLS brings together two of the leading technology and services organizations. This powerful combination enables us to build highly personalized solutions for our customers.

Another edge we have is our language offices across the globe. Some banks for instance require locally approved translators, and our 55 offices give customers a broad range of options when it comes to international expansion. It is a unique value proposition in the marketplace. None of the top language service providers can offer this localized experience and expertise.

The combination of our global offices, experience – both in technology and services – is a powerful proposition for any globally ambitious brand. We are able to demonstrate global support, and this approach is already gaining traction with our customers.

How has DLS effectively bolstered SDL’s offerings, particularly in regulated industries?

Our combined offering gives customers the customization they need. Take a machine translation platform – which some competitors offer. But what they offer is standardized on generic language pairs and little else in terms of deep industry configuration. Our platforms are standardized to around 70%, which then our customers can fine-tune the rest to their own workflows and business needs. This is something that really makes us stand out and is key for specific industries such as asset management, life sciences, legal, and more.

What have been your biggest challenges over the year, how have you tackled them?

It’s fair to say that we shared many of the same set of customers, target audiences – and that opened the door to perhaps the most difficult challenges. Working out how to really collaborate across teams and departments, and combine our technologies to ensure we’re giving customers the best service possible has been our driving force. Disruption was simply not an option. And our collective (and well-structured) approach ensured that all customers remained confident in their SDL and DLS investments.

Is there anything you would’ve done differently over the past year?

Ha! The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing. In all honesty, I always believe that what we can accomplish as a team can always be better – particularly when you’re aiming for excellence. But I truly believe in all honesty that we’ve achieved that over the past year.