Little fish, big pond: How do you stand out from your competition?
By: Renato Beninatto (Common Sense Advisory)
16 May 2006
Late last year I asked a standing-room only audience of language service providers (LSPs) at an industry conference, Who says that their main differentiator is quality?" Everybody who was awake raised their hands. Then I asked, If everybody offers excellent quality, what really distinguishes you from your competitors?"
If you think long and hard about it, what is quality? It’s a word that means everything, but at the same time it means absolutely nothing.
In our never-ending quest to find out what makes the language industry tick, we often have to take a step back from the dubious claims of literally thousands of translation agencies. One of the problems we frequently see in this industry is the lack of independent certification – anyone can set up as an interpreter or translator, either freelancing or as a company. Often, the result is that the quality and scope of services vary widely, and have a dramatic affect on market prices. Even if you are ISO certified, there is still a significant missing competent – unbiased and verified references.
Most people see us out and about speaking at industry conferences, participating on plenary committees, or involved in consulting projects. The truth is, our clients ask us to refer vendors all the time. But as independent analysts we are committed to objectivity. Therefore, we cannot (and do not) refer individual companies. What we can do is point buyers to our objective analysis that allows them to compare key elements. To fill this verification gap we have launched an independent LSP certification program, Common Sense Advisory’s 24x7 Online Briefing.
How do we audit LSPs? Like financial auditors, who check one company's compliance to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, our certification program looks for "a" process that is used consistently and constantly throughout an LSP's organization. It can be an ISO process, a client process, an internally developed process, or any combination of these. Our audit techniques will be able to tell – and check frequently – whether the LSP complies to "generally accepted translation and localization processes.” In short, we certify that LSPs deliver what they promise and indeed meet quality requirements.
The verification and certification program surveys individual LSPs for detailed information about their companies and then confirms their operating status. There are four categories in our program, three of which are ready now and free to LSPs:
- The Verified LSP™ is the simplest, fastest step. We just check if the company actually exists and satisfies some detailed requirements for being a language service provide
- The Validated LSP™ is the next step. For that, the translation agency supplies us with at least three references that we check.
- An Industry Expert LSP™, will provide us with at least three references for a particular industry sector, such as automotive, life sciences, or oil and gas.
- Certified LSP™ is the ultimate level, the platinum executive of our plan. It requires an on-site audit of the company’s processes and a review of its operations. This certification looks for documented procedures, usage of technology (if applicable), training records, and other aspects that make an LSP successful. Certifications will be issued for a period of two years. It involves a substantial time and resource commitment on our part, so there is a cost to become certified.
The first three levels are currently available. We are fine-tuning the details of the fourth level, the Certified LSP™.
The benefits of this exercise are multiple. Buyers of language services can find an unbiased repository of data that will allow them to compare apples to apples when looking for the right vendor for their product. In fact, our research has identified twelve differentiation patterns among LSPs, and buyers will be able to sort the information according to those factors, which range from size to technology adoption, and from number of languages to location.
For the LSPs, in addition to having independent verification of their capabilities, they will improve their search engine rankings as the list will be posted at multiple websites. Ah… and unlike other “pay-for-play” catalogs, Common Sense Advisory’s 24x7 Online Briefing service is mostly free for the LSP, but the ultimate level of certification is a paid-for service.
Common Sense Advisory will launch the listing this summer, after we check the references that are provided by the vendors. Once the database has been populated, translation and localization buyers will have access to this online resource.
To add your company to the listing now, go to http://www.commonsenseadvisory.com/online_briefing/vendor_certification.php. And let me know if you have any questions.
Renato Beninatto is Common Sense Advisory's COO and VP, Consulting Practice. He has over 20 years of executive-level experience in the localization industry. Renato specializes in making companies successful in global markets and in starting businesses that span across borders. Renato Beninatto can be reached at [email protected] or by calling +1-866-510-6101.