Companies are faced with a real challenge when it comes to choosing a translation company. There is no shortage of translation vendors out there, many of which pretend to be “experts” in every imaginable industry. So how do you pick the right Language Service Provider (LSP) and how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
If your company is planning on spending upwards of $75,000 per year in translation, sending out an RFI (Request for Information) and/or an RFP (Request for Proposals) may be the solution. Preparing an RFI/RFP and reviewing responses may be time-consuming but it is an investment that will pay off with time. Again this exercise is recommended for corporations with annual translation budgets of $75,000 per year or more, or with on-going needs.
Request for Information — The RFI will allow you to make a first selection and eliminate a fair amount of translation vendors. The RFI should deal with specific questions that will allow your organization to gage the size, experience, and history of the LSPs. Make sure to include a section regarding revenues over the past three years and current year, as well as number of employees, office location(s), how translators are recruited, and certifications such as ISO certificates. This last point is essential — being compliant with and certified to ISO standards is not the same thing. A third-party, or registrar, will audit those translation companies that are certified to ISO standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 17100, or ISO 13485. The ones that are only compliant do not get audited. When it comes to liability and risk mitigation, there is a huge difference between the two. Ask to see copies of their certificates and make sure they are current.
Then, the RFI should focus on relevant and documented experience in your field and industry. Ask for names of clients in the industry as well as for references. Asking translation companies to list specific examples of projects that were translated, as well as the languages and volume (in pages) per year or per month, is also important. This will allow you to separate translation companies claiming experience in your field because they have translated a three-page brochure two years ago from an LSP that translates hundreds of pages on an ongoing basis in your field. Make sure to also include specific questions about translation tools as well as translation memory technology.
Remember: The Internet is a beautiful thing but verifying what’s “behind the website” is sometimes very difficult. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some translation companies to misrepresent themselves and you need to make sure your RFI is as thorough as possible to make the right selection.
Request for Proposals — The RFI should allow you to make a first cut and retain 3-4 finalists for the RFP, which is the next phase. The RFP should focus on rates and delivery times. We recommend you use specific examples to compare apples to apples. For instance: ask the finalists to bid on a 100-page manual in Adobe InDesign going into French, Italian, German and Spanish (also known as FIGS). Make sure to ask for all-inclusive bids as some translation companies will have hidden costs and fine print on their proposals. Ask the bidders to break down their proposals for translation, desktop publishing (DTP), project management, and any other ancillary costs. Also ask for delivery times. How long will it take each translation company to complete the project used as a benchmark?
Organizations spending less than $500,000 per year are advised to select one translation company only with one back-up should the selected LSP not meet your expectations. Beyond $500,000 per year, you should probably select several translation vendors.
How do I work with several translation companies at the same time?
Clients spending in excess of $500,000 per year in translation typically opt for a network of multiple translation vendors. For risk mitigation reasons, relying just on one sole supplier is usually perceived as too risky.
When working with multiple LSPs, the most important thing to do is to determine who will be in charge of what among the selected translation vendors. Otherwise it can get confusing for everyone and can lead to problems. Successful multi-vendor networks depend on a clear division of labor when possible.
- Division by Product Lines/Types —Translation suppliers are assigned certain products. Translation Supplier 1 handles products XYZ, Translation Supplier 2 handles products ABC, Translation Supplier 3 handles products DEF, etc.
- Division by Geography — Translation companies are assigned geographical offices. Translation Company 1 handles work for North America, Translation Company 2 handles work for the European offices, Translation Company 3 handles products for Asia. Or by city, Translation Supplier 1 handles the Mid-West, Translation Supplier 2 handles the West-Coast, Translation Supplier 3 handles the East Coast, etc.
- Division by Department — Translation companies are assigned departments. Translation Company 1 works with Marketing, Translation Company 2 works with Regulatory, etc.
- Division by Entity — If your organization owns other companies, each LSP is assigned to an entity or to multiple entities in the group.
- Division by Languages — Translation vendors are assigned groups of languages and cover only these languages. Translation Company 1 handles French, Spanish, Italian and German. Translation Company 2 handles Asian languages. Translation Company 3 handles Eastern European languages, etc.
Under the above model, each Translation Company is clearly responsible for a particular scope of work. Each Translation Supplier manages its Translation Memories (TMs). If there is a problem, it is easy to pinpoint who is responsible.
There are also examples of networks where the LSPs are not assigned anything and are randomly assigned projects. In those instances translation memory maintenance and management is paramount. The translation memories need to always be updated, available at any time (shared on the Cloud), centralized and one of the translation vendors in the network needs to be responsible for the centralization of the TMs.
Remember: Translation is not a commodity. Translation is a service. Do not base your decision on price alone.
Here are a few helpful guidelines to help you choose the right translation company:
- The translation company you are considering uses only certified, in-country translators with either a degree or years of proven translation experience in your field. Ask to see sample bios of the translators who will be used for your projects.
- The translation company you are considering has the proper ISO certifications. Ask to see copies of these ISO certificates.
- The translation company you are considering accepts your glossaries of commonly used terms to ensure that your terminology is translated consistently and to your preferences.
- The translation company you are considering issues a Certificate of Conformity certifying:
- Each final translation delivered to be substantially true, complete and accurate to the source language original received.
- That the project was managed from a facility certified to all the ISO standards you are requesting or were told this facility holds.
- The translation company you are considering has routine testing and performance reviews for its in-country translators ensuring that translators are rigorously tested regarding their translation proficiency and knowledge of medical industry terminology.
About Excel Translations, Inc.
Excel Translations is the market leader in ISO 9001-, ISO 13485- and ISO 17100-certified translation services. Since 1996, Excel Translations has been serving the globalization needs of businesses and organizations worldwide, including many Fortune 1000 companies.
From our operation centers in North America, Europe, and South America, we provide a wide range of professional translation services in more than one hundred languages, in addition to multilingual typesetting, global content management, and dedicated project management.
Whether you need technical translation services or medical translation services, we take the time to understand the scope and requirements of each client, using our ISO quality processes to fine-tune the process flow to meet the needs of each project.
Our expertise has made us the preferred technical translation company and medical translation company of industry-leading corporations in regulated and non-regulated industries in the US, Asia, and Europe.