There was a time when there was practically one, powerful, language industry organization. It was known as LISA. There was a time when membership was de rigeur for almost any serious LSP. LISA advanced a lot of the work in translation standards, pioneering many of them, as well as metrics.
However, defections from LISA, lack of interest and the birth of many other initiatives, sometimes with a more clear focus, have undermined its reign. To the point that it has become insolvent and it has closed.
The last official words from LISA come from its Managing Director, Michael Anobile in the last event he has attended, in Boston. Right after the event, a letter was sent to members and to the industry in general:
“It is with sincere regret I inform you that the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) is insolvent and will close its operations effective 28 February 2011. The Supervisory committee is presently investigating other means of meeting the association’s obligations to staff, members and the industry. […] In spite of our efforts to restructure the operation, the association’s insolvency is the result of LISA’s and the Supervisory committee’s inability to find alternative funding sources. This decision was taken due to the recommendations of the LISA’s attorneys as well as a fiduciary expert’s report commissioned by the Supervisory Committee. ”
At one time, LISA’s authority came from the fact that was able to have large organizations such as Cisco, HP, IBM, and others among its members. However, the advent of global “vendor” associations such as Gala, “European” associations such as Elia, conferences like Localization World, American Associations such as ATA and other focused ventures such as TAUS have watered down LSP interest in LISA.
The organization has not helped itself by losing its focus. Initially, LISA was conceived as an organization which would set standards to help the industry and disseminate knowledge. It did so, but only partly and a slow drop in membership began at the turn of the 2000’s. True, the only conferences about translation for decades and for the advancement of our industry were held only by LISA, but it failed its mission to really create standards and above all to put them to work. And the push for open standards in all applications has proved sweeping force. Company after company is creating open standards workflows, translation tools, and even machine-translation workflows.
True, LISA helped to establish TMX, TBX standards, but only initially and with lukewarm effort, until reaching the gold standard in the industry (TMX 1.4). International standards should be the work of neutral organizations such as the W3C, ISO and, in the IT/e-business and localization world, Oasis. The acceptance of XLIFF as an open translation standard, and community-based groups like Okapi, has also contributed to generate a more liberated environment from an organization which has looked too corseted in some ways. A seminal PDF from the Centre for Next Generation Localisation about openness in standards for further information can be downloaded here.
You can read an assessment of the situation by the de facto translation industry news analyzer Don De Palma from Common Sense Advisory here.