Paramedic helping patient on a street

thebigword Group is saving lives by translating words into action

“Give us money or we will kill you.” Two business travellers in Central America are kidnapped and held at gunpoint, the criminals demanding a ransom from their overseas company. The rest of the travellers’ group are about to walk into the same trap.

The next few minutes could mean the difference between life and death. The company contacts its security consultants, who send an urgent message to its translation service that it needs to send to the rest of the group travelling in the area. The note is accurately translated in seconds and sent back to the group, who change their course and avoid the kidnappers.

The hostages were freed unharmed, but the outcome could have been tragically different. The quick actions of thebigword Group’s translation service undoubtedly saved lives.

The global company works with a network of more than 16,000 linguists, who can work on 250 combinations of languages. Their services are used by, among others, the emergency services and governments, handling up to 50,000 assignments across the world every day.

thebigword Group wants to continue its expansion across the globe, cementing its place as one of the top language companies in the world. A big step on that journey was moving away from its on-prem servers and embracing Microsoft’s cloud.

One of thebigword Group's offices

One of thebigword Group’s offices

“We change people’s lives, providing services that are really valuable at the point of emergency for paramedics and police officers, among others,” Mark Rice, Chief Information Officer at thebigword Group, said. “A police force wanted to access video interpreting and phone interpreting services in the field, so we built the WordSynk app. Now, officers have interpreting tools available 24/7 on handheld terminals. They show the handset to a person who needs help but doesn’t speak English, that person presses a flag on the screen and they are connected to a person who can help in their language.”

Working in the regulated market and financial services meant security was a key consideration when the company was looking to digitally transform. Rice said Microsoft’s multi-layered approach to security in Azure and team of 3,500 cybersecurity experts across the world was important in the decision.

“One of Microsoft’s key differentiators is security,” he said. “That creates peace of mind for our clients, customers and interpreters that security is at the forefront of everything we do. We are able to access everything from Windows Defender to Azure Portal securely. When we are dealing with huge multinational corporations, Government or even the military, it’s paramount that data is kept secure at all times. Our old-fashioned on-prem system was extremely secure but did not provide us with the agility to scale securely, but now we are in a secure cloud with Azure with infinite scalability.”

thebigword Group is also using Sharepoint, so staff can work on documents at the same time, Dynamics 365 and the entire Microsoft 365 suite of programs, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Another useful tool is Teams, which has “transformed” the company and offered staff the ability to collaborate with clients more efficiently and dramatically reduce the turnaround time of significant government tenders from around the world, utilising experts from thebigword’s global office in real time.

A row of colourful chairs in thebigword's office

Staff can design their own desks and flexible working is encouraged

“Our digital journey is well under way,” Rice said. “All our operations are going into the cloud, and everything we do is linked to Microsoft. We even use Surface devices in our 13 global offices.

Bosses have ensured that the working environment matches the collaboration and freedom that the Surface devices inspire. That means that staff can design their own desks, flexible working is encouraged, and a wellness garden offers a respite from calls and emails.

“Companies need to move away from seeing their staff as employees, they’re not, they are a family. We all have the same goal,” Rice said.

“We wanted to create an environment that staff could make their own. We want our staff to come in and out when they want, it’s not nine to five here. We want them to want to be here, to boast about our company.

“Everything just breathes collaboration and innovation.”