ISO Norm 9001:2008 | The Road to SME Growth
Given the financial and human risks that translation errors pose, businesses are advised to choose a certified language service provider (LSP).
Attention to detail and systematic definition of processes have a considerable impact on a translation’s final quality. But what can you do to ensure this level of quality?
ISO 9001:2008 certification is no longer a competitive advantage for LSPs. It has become an absolute necessity. In our team's experience, it is a must for anyone who plans to compete on the international market.
We’re not going to talk about all the things you have to do to obtain and maintain ISO 9001:2008 certification (the list would be endless). Rather, we’re going to take a look at the experience of implementing that norm, and what it means for the day-to-day operations of a certified language business.
The time and effort invested in setting up and maintaining the necessary processes is not an expense, but an investment. Getting a Quality Management System (QMS) up and running is an arduous, sometimes tedious task, but every minute is earned back with interest.
Before discussing the what and the how of implementing this norm, it is essential that a business convinces its partners—if it has any—that getting certified is the right choice. It should be clear that it is a step on the road to growth for SMEs.
We recommend that businesses and organizations that want to implement a QMS do so in dialog with a specialized, well-reputed consultant, whose support is of the utmost importance for the initial certification.
Trying to get certified without help can take twice as long and get in the way of the business’s daily activity. It could also lead to frustration for everyone involved, and may even push them to abandon the undertaking entirely.
At Ocean Translations, hiring an outside consultant was essential, as it streamlined the certification and startup process. The reason why is simple: the consultant is familiar with the norm and possesses the know-how necessary to adapt it to your organization.
Once the norm is in place, at least one obstacle will arise. This is normal.
Often people are used to working without rules or guidelines, and find the newly imposed procedures and instructions cumbersome.
But once the cultural barrier has been overcome, this rejection will slowly wear away, commensurate with the commitment of the person in charge of implementation and of the management. With time, the processes will begin to feel natural and become a normal part of the workflow.
It is crucial that all individuals involved believe in the norm and respect the processes it stipulates, and that they are on the alert for possible deviations and non-conformities. In other words, first they must know how to apply it, then they must know how to improve it.
For this to take place, one team member should be designated the person in charge of the norm’s implementation, startup, and maintenance. This individual must have a detailed knowledge of the procedures and instructions, and be a fervent advocate for the norm. This ensure that the procedures don’t fall into disuse—a major temptation during the initial phase. Their mission is to make sure enthusiasm for the norm spreads throughout the organization. This is the only way to ensure its success.
It is essential that the entire organization is on-board with the project, from the most highly trained employee down to the intern taking their first steps in professional life. This is fundamental in the initial phase, but even more important later on, as the entire team must safeguard the system’s effectiveness and proper operation.
The norm does not dictate how to take processes further or what information should be included in instructions.
Rather, it compels us to “write down what we do and do what we write down.” In a nutshell, this means making the leap from an oral to a written culture, with all of the advantages that this entails for a business’s development.
These advantages certainly aren’t easy to identify at the outset; they only become clear once the QMS is in operation.
These advantages include:
- Less induction time for PMs and freelance translators: sharing know-how is much easier when procedures are written down and easy to find.
- Traceability: information is carefully stored and labeled until it is needed. This preserve its functionality and ensures that it remains accessible.
- Predictability: standardization guarantees that tasks are consistently carried out in the same way and that the same result is always obtained.
- Root cause analysis: a central QMS tool. It allows the PM and linguist team to determine the reason an error or problem occurred or why a certain process was not followed, and enables them to make corrections and take preventive measures.
For any business, getting the entire team to work the same way and speak the same language is invaluable but even more so in our industry with a smaller team in-house and a large number of freelancers.
It is also enormously valuable for the introduction of new resources or new tools: there is already a well-trodden path. All you have to do is either teach new arrivals to walk it or teach how to use it.
And the customer? Well, there’s total transparency in all processes. The norm leads to a transcendental change: abandonment of the “hermetically sealed box” model, in which the task is carried out in a carefully guarded fashion until the finished product is ready.
Under the auspices of this norm, a product or service can be identified and traced from the moment an order is placed up through delivery. This enables the company (and the customer) to know exactly which stage a project is at and who is handling it.
Having a QMS in place is no guarantee of success. Having a certification and deliberately defined processes is not enough for any translation agency, in Argentina or anywhere else in the world. More is required.
The struggle for excellence must be a common, everyday practice. Every member of the team, starting with management, must set an example, motivate, encourage, and safeguard quality.
Curiously enough, this isn't something that a QMS can measure or monitor.
Symbolically, best practices must be strengthened as solid columns that reinforce and ensure success in all projects, large and small.
In the words of Betty Galiano, CEO of Ocean Translations: “A QMS isn’t synonymous with guaranteed success, but it does proffer the strength and motivation necessary to achieve it.”