How to scale your localisation support

A guide to sourcing and managing appropriate vendors

How to scale your localisation support

1 Overview

The challenge

Once you have reached your audience, you'll need to connect with them. To do this, make sure the translation services you use are sensitive to the technical and cultural nuances of the language used by your export markets. That way, you'll engage with your audience in the way you intended.

Your aim

To identify and manage vendors who will deliver tailored translation services for your website. This will help ensure you speak to your customers in their language and harmonise your brand worldwide.

How to go about it

The guidelines below show a systematic approach to the translation services onboarding and management process.

Before you select a vendor, ask your team what is needed by considering these questions:

Languages

What are your target languages? Do you expect this language list to grow?

Volume

What’s your initial word count? How often will you submit new content?

Services

Which services do you need to match your content types, for example:

  • Non-visible e.g. SEO metadata requiring light post-editing or less experienced resources

  • Specialised e.g. legal, technical, or medical requiring resources with industry expertise

  • Highly visible, creative e.g. homepage images requiring creative resources, transcreation, and offline processing

  • Standard requiring standard resources and potentially a review

Timeline

What is your timeline according to the service you need and your volume of content?

Platform

What system will you use to create and house content, e.g. Wordpress?

2 Identifying appropriate vendors

By completing the programme steps in this guide, you’ll have a broader idea of what kind of vendor is best for you. These steps move from basic vendor sourcing towards more advanced, fully-developed vendor management strategies.

Step 1: Research vendors

Do a Google search for translation services. Check out each vendor’s website, and consider the following:

  • What services do they offer? Do they promote any services over others?
  • Who are their clients? Are they mostly large, small, or both?
  • What experience do they have working with similar companies to yours?
  • What languages does the vendor provide?
  • Where is the company headquartered? Do they have anyone in your timezone?
  • When was the company founded?
  • Who founded the company? Do they have expertise in a certain market?
  • Do they share any pricing information?

Step 2: Identify vendor services and types of vendors

Standard translation vendors usually offer translation, desktop publishing, quality verification, and project management. These vendors come in two main types:

Single-language vendors (SLVs)

These offer services in a small subset of languages, typically one to a few regional languages. SLVs often cost less than multi-language vendors and are a good option if you want to localise content into only one to three regional languages.

Multi-language vendors (MLVs)

These offer global coverage and provide a one-stop shop for all localisation needs. MLVs can handle multiple projects across regions at the same time. They usually use a combination of SLVs, freelancers, and full-time linguists to provide their services.

Step 3: Identify the type of vendor(s) you need

Consider the following to determine the type of vendor you need. Keep in mind that you may need multiple SLVs or even multiple MLVs to complete your localisation work.

Regional expertise

An SLV may be more skilled at translations in certain regions

Service specialisation

Some vendors offer expertise in specialisations e.g. creative marketing, transcreations, health content, legal etc.

Services offered

Certain vendors specialise in review services, content creation, testing, etc.

Quality control

If you want your content quality controlled, you may want to hire a second “review vendor”. Think of quality control like having an editor review a writer’s work.

Scalability and risk mitigation

If you have a large volume with tight timelines, consider working with multiple vendors

Step 4: Create a request for input (RFI)

  • Briefly introduce your needs (content, services, volumes, and languages) to a few vendors
  • Collect information about their linguistic capabilities, such as:
    • Services and languages – a list of linguistic services, including speciality or expert areas
    • References – a list of two to three professional references, including contact information
    • Cost estimate – estimated cost per language and content type. Pricing is typically per word for translation, and per word or hourly for review

Step 5: Shortlist vendors

Determine which vendors best suit your localisation needs. Consider if they offer the services and languages your team requires. Also think about how interested they seem in working with you, for example how responsive they were during your initial scoping.

Step 6: Create a request for proposal (RFP)

Create a request for proposal (RFP) and send it to your shortlisted vendors. Your RFP should:

  • Introduce your project – give an overview of your company, content, and audiences
  • Share your needs – your services, target languages, volume, expertise, timeline, etc
  • Outline the information you need – what exactly are you expecting from your shortlisted vendors in their response?

Information you need from shortlisted vendors

Vendor overview

This could include:

  • Languages
  • Sample clients
  • Areas of expertise
  • Location(s)
  • Number of employees

Quality processes

This could include information about the vendor’s methodology, and the remediation process in case of issues.

Timelines

This could include information about turnaround time needs, and the process in case of timeline slippage missed deadlines.

Resources

This could include:

  • Typical linguists’ background
  • Number of linguists employed or contracted by the vendor
  • Location of linguists
  • Training provided
  • Performance management
  • How they assign their supplier costs

Organisation support

This could include information about your points of contact, including if you’ll have a dedicated project manager and what timezone they are in.

Systems

This could include:

  • What platforms they use
  • File types supported
  • If they provide support for integrating with your platforms
  • If you’ll need to dedicate resources on your end
  • If they charge for integration

Cost estimate

You could:

  • Ask for the cost per word / language / content type
  • Check if they provide discounts for using Translation Memory software
  • Ask if there are any additional costs e.g. in project management, post-processing, review, etc

Tip

Request the vendor gives a sample. Provide sample content and request that a linguist representative of who’ll work on your projects perform the translation. Ensure you have two or more people on your team who can validate the results.

Step 7: Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for contract with selected vendor(s)

You’ll need a contract for any vendor you choose to work with. Include services and KPIs in your contract so you can hold your localisation team accountable to certain standards. Use the following KPIs as a starting point and identify improvements over time.

Linguistic quality KPIs

  • Compliance – follow style guide requirements and project instructions
  • Grammar – use correct grammar for target language
  • Punctuation / spelling – follow language standards and style guide
  • Meaning – convey meaning intended in the original source content
  • Terminology – use preferred translations in glossary, style guide, and translation memory
  • Understanding – write content that native speakers can easily understand
  • Standards – agree on an “error rate” criteria. Standards should be per project, or per word (such as per 1k words)

Note: Use a separate vendor to measure linguistic quality, if you or the translation vendor do not have resources who can objectively evaluate it.

On-time delivery KPIs

  • Standards: Agree “on-time” criteria. Standards should be either per project (if only one project), or per word (if work will be ongoing).

Step 8: Establish effective communication to maximise vendor support

The way you communicate with localisation vendors should match your work scope. Use the following guidance for initial communication through to post-project communication.

Initial

  • Ask the vendor to track and share key details about your project: start date, status, due date, etc.

  • Establish an initial meeting. Use syncs to share updates, and identify and address concerns

  • Manage quality expectations. Discuss your needs and expectations with vendors. Update established standards as needed

  • Create linguistic references. Provide explicit references to convey your linguistic preferences e.g. screenshots, style guides, glossaries, etc

Ongoing

  • Alert vendor to quality issues immediately. Be sure to highlight issues, clarify quality standards, and follow up on resolution

  • Call out updates. Discuss updates to your style guide, glossary, QA process, etc

  • Identify continuous improvement opportunities. Share best practices. Communicate observations and recommendations

  • Respond to vendor questions in time. Provide clear information and share resources and tools as you see fit

Post-project

  • Provide feedback to vendors. Let them know what worked well and where to improve for next time

The above vendor management guidelines can help you select and manage vendors that deliver the quality translations your audience deserves.