Intro to Corporate Localization: The Contractor
Part 3 of 3:
In previous sections of this mini series we've discussed the blueprint (part 1) for your localization program, and we also chatted about the materials (part 2) you need to be successful. Now let's talk about vendor selection: The Contractor.
Many of us in the field of localization feel quite isolated in our role, even within the companies we work for. Often, new localization departments are a step towards creating a global content footprint and as a consequence are often thinly resourced.
Compare this with the resources normally dedicated to the source content. It tends to be a different story:
- Marketing - Research market and target audience, create brand guidelines including style, tone and voice, copywriting, editing, and publishing.
- IT - Select, implement and maintain various systems to store, manage and deploy content from/to various media.
- Engineering/Design - Ensure that code and UIs are optimized for content.
Now let’s consider target content. In many organizations just venturing into the world of multilingual content it is the norm to expect one or a few persons to successfully manage the same amount of content into several target languages.
In this scenario it is imperative for a localization professional to look outside the organization to access expertise and resources that can support a new localization program. This is where your Contractor relationship becomes pivotal.
Partnership with your "Contractor"
Your Contractor—or to use industry jargon an LSP (Language Service Provider)—is not merely a provider of language resources, but a close partner that can provide industry standards, guidance, process management, tools and an array of services that go beyond the basic needs of a language program (eg. marketing translation/transcreation, MSEO, social media etc.). Employing an LSP can be seen as hybrid outsourcing.
Localization departments work more closely with LSPs than with internal departments. Nurturing and managing that relationship is in many cases the key to having success with global content.
Your contractor is your ally, but don’t underestimate how hard it can be to find the right ally. Once you start considering your options, you realize that there is a myriad of choices of very qualified LSPs that cover most language combinations in a variety of industries.
Factors to consider when selecting a language partner:
Big Fish/Small Fish – When dealing with a new localization program it is likely that the scope is limited to a certain extent, however the level of support needed is quite high. This necessitates a partner who will dedicate the right time and attention to your needs. An ally who is vested in your development while understanding the restrictions from limited resources and budget. It makes sense to align with vendors with similar structures in terms of size and scope of projects. It is natural that large LSPs will dedicate more resources to larger and more mature programs. On the other hand smaller providers may not have the appropriate tools and processes to sustain a growing program. So, big fish/small fish? Unfortunately the answer usually lies somewhere in the middle. It’s a delicate balance that is mostly perfected over time.
Tools – Technology is a key part of localization in order to increase productivity. In the beginning the counterpart should have a solid enough infrastructure to support the localization program through its initial development. Please refer to the discussion of vendor tools in Step 1 of this mini-blog series.
Process – Alignment of processes is often a key way to reduce time to market of translated content and manage overall transactional costs. Particularly true as companies implement more continuous delivery methods to get content out quickly.
Rates – In my opinion rates rarely factor in vendor selection in a major way. Per word rates as well as specialized service fees are quite comparable across the industry. However it is good to ensure clarity with what the service involves, translation and revision or translation only are common variations. One warning is against very low rates, as they raise flags over the capability of delivering good quality service. Project Management (PM) fees can vary quite a bit. It is worth understanding the overall managed service package and what is actually included. Real collaboration and partnership exists in a supply chain when suppliers grow their abilities as your needs grow.
Plan for Growth - In most organizations localization needs increase over time and localization programs mature to become more sophisticated and involve a higher number of activities. The right partner should not simply accommodate existing requirements, but should offer flexibility and the ability to scale as well as service expansion.
In addition, consider the following tips:
- Reaching out to a network of other localization professionals and associations is the best way to compile an initial list of candidate language partners to approach. It helps to ask referrals of organizations in parallel paths (eg. same industry, specific verticals, or work with localization programs at a similar level of development maturity**, etc.)
- The most important factor in the selection process is understanding internal needs. Define requirements for a vendor as with a technical project. What problems should they be able to solve? Having clear requirements will enable you to quickly discard LSPs who cannot address them. It will facilitate the creation of a shortlist of potential partners.
- The relationship built with the Account manager or equivalent during the scouting process will play a key part in the final decision. It is natural as the partnership can only work if the parts work well together especially in times of transition, starting with on-boarding.
- At some point you may have to dive in and see if the "shoe fits." Having a flexible contractual arrangement especially for the first months of the collaboration is a must. It is critical to have enough time to put as many processes as possible to the test in real life scenarios. A good fit partner will normally welcome this approach to ensure the shoe fits snuggly.
Best case scenario, you will find an ally and partner for the medium and long term. In reality, you’ll find a relationship that takes time to evolve and improve.
Worst case, you need to start the process over, temporarily slow down development, and use what you have learned from the process to take another shot at the process and get things right the second time around. This last part is crucial, because no one wants to live in a building built on weak foundations.
I wish you the best of luck as you start your journey in developing a fine-tuned localization team!
** The Localization maturity model (Common Sense Advisory) is a way to assess how advanced an organization is in terms of their localization strategy and approach and a standard in the industry.