Localization Vendor Selection 101: Best practices for selecting a localization service provider (LSP)
Nicholas McMahon, Jonckers
Buyers of translation and localization services are busy people with more important things to do than search for vendors. Yet they're under a lot of pressure to find top-notch resources that deliver high quality. The challenge will only grow as the demand for localization continues to grow exponentially in the coming years.
|1)||What level of support do you want?|
|2)||What level of flexibility do you want?|
|3)||What level of human interaction does your team need?|
|4)||What is your own maturity level – does it demand in-country project management for the languages or for the process control? A US-based PM provides greater communication for your team but has the same time zone issues you have with the linguistic resources.|
|5)||What is your own cost/ quality/ speed balance?|
|6)||What is your team’s requirements for localization education?|
- How many employees does the company have?
- What is the size of their database containing translation vendor resources?
- Do they have staff in locations that match your project needs and deliver language quality?
- Does the company have offices in strategic global locations?
- Based on the company and project needs, do the attributes of a bigger LSP promise to be better? Or, is smaller better?
- Does the company have project managers that are experienced, qualified, committed (not a lot of turnover) and responsive?
- What are their general capabilities?
- What is their expertise in needed languages?
- Do they have knowledge of your industry niche?
- Are they able to provide other value-added services that support the translation?
- Are they able to provide consulting services? (Especially if the internal team is new to localization or is reaching for new frontiers and needs globalization strategy development.)
- What is the scope and depth of their engineering services?
- What is the scope and depth of their publishing services?
- What are their testing capabilities?
- Are they able to handle certain programs like XML?
- Do they have expertise in additional languages that may be needed in the future?
- Do their subcontracted translators offer high-quality and low turnover? Are your problems are taken seriously, and addressed immediately and effectively?
- Are they third-party certified to have systems and knowledge in place to provide excellent service and results?
- Do they use proprietary or public technology?
- Do their test translations meet standards? Do their processes and service during test translation meet your expectations, style, etc.?
- Do they use effective file management, storage and transmission procedures that are accessible, fast and problem-free?
- Do they have the experience and ability to provide needed formats, including eLearning, file types, etc.?
- Do they offer competitive per-word rates, or value-added services and consulting that warrant higher rates?
- Do they offer extra efficiencies that bring cost savings, such as translation memory and human resources in more economical markets?
- Do they offer an appropriate and effective use of machine translation?
- Do they understand the importance of localization in the global supply chain? Are they focused on providing localization services that support global business goals?
- Do they demonstrate an ability to catch bugs, errors and problems that others wouldn’t be able to?
- Are they fast-growing in terms of staff, capabilities, offices?
- Do they demonstrate strength and quality because other companies are choosing them?
- Does their client list include top-tier companies who are known global leaders, visionaries?
- Are their solutions customized (not one-size-fits-all) and synchronous with your company’s strategy, needs, wishes, culture?
- Do they provide regular information and updates, so you don’t wonder what’s going on?
- Do they answer questions promptly, and without making you feel that it was information that you should have known?
- There’s a tendency to let the vendor own the project assets. Take ownership and responsibility for your assets – even if this is just storing them. Make sure your selected vendor gives you ownership and delivers updated translation assets (TMs, glossaries and style guides, as applicable).
- As you establish a relationship, be cognizant of the difficulty entailed in switching vendors. Have an ongoing policy of ensuring that no financial dependence develops – making service and quality the only ties to your vendor of choice.
- If relationships are not cultivated, they may become stale, limiting the amount of innovation. Is your selected vendor investing in the relationship and supporting innovation?
- Both sides can become blind to price competitiveness. It’s wise to regularly evaluate the real value of the service. What is fair market pricing for comparative quality and delivery?
- Consider the investment you are making in the vendor selection and keeping the ongoing relationship healthy. What training and support is offered? What level of personal meetings takes place? Even the best vendor selection can be meaningless if the relationship is left to wither.
- During a sales cycle it is easy for an LSP sales team to go the extra mile, but are the LSPs actual team members personally committed to putting in the extra mile during the hard stretches of a project? What evidence does the vendor show of this outside of the sales selection process? Does the salesperson or the project manager tell you they are committed?
- What strategic commitment does the vendor provide? Is there anyone at a strategic level making promises or supporting the opportunity? Big companies often forget the interests of small ones, but the strategic investment and intent is no less important. Is this represented or addressed in the sales cycle or the early relationship?
Nicholas McMahon is vice president, US, for Jonckers Translation and Engineering. A 2007 Microsoft Service Vendor of the Year as part of localization group LCJ, Jonckers delivers software, eLearning and multimedia localization services to the world’s leading companies. Jonckers achieves cost-competitive localization excellence through an ERP-controlled global network of wholly owned offices worldwide. For info visit: www.jonckers.com.