When choosing a vendor to manage your localization, there are several aspects you need to consider. Below are six key considerations:
- Type of partner
- Quality process
- Technology options
- Cost and schedule
- Contract terms
Type of Partner
The type of partner you choose may fall into one of the five following categories:
- Multi-Language Localization Vendor (MLV) - Larger, worldwide companies that focus on a large numbers of different languages. These types of partners have larger capacity to handle multiple projects at once, but also can be pricey.
- Single-Language Localization Vendor (SLV) - Smaller companies located in one target country that is focused on one single language. SLVs are generally less expensive than MLVs and are very focused on the linguistics of their target language. However, if you wish to target multiple languages, you would need to work with multiple SLVs.
- Freelance translators - Individual translators who are not necessarily associated with a specific company. Translators tend to be less expensive and are fairly flexible in meeting deadlines. Yet, if you want to translate into multiple languages, you will need to build a team. Also, even when translating into one language, you will want to have more than one translator focused on that language to ensure your translations are correct.
- Distributors - Distributors who target a particular market generally don’t have much upfront cost as they tend to benefit from selling your translated product into the market they’ve build an expertise in. When working with a distributor however, you don’t have much control over the output as you aren’t paying them and are relying on them to translate your product correctly. Also, a distributor’s main focus is not translation, so there could be inconsistencies between translations.
- Internal employees - This would be an employee of your company who speak the target language. Be sure these employees speak the language in a native way so the translation is authentic.
When choosing your localization partner, you want to consider their location as well.
Are they close to you? The closer the proximity of your partner allows you to have better and easier communication. It also affords you the opportunity to meet with them in person.
Are they in your target country? If you are looking to expand into a Japanese market, you want to ensure your localization partner either fully understands the Japanese language or is located in the country. A native familiarity with the target language ensures a proper translation.
What quality process will your partner follow?
In the beginning, look at how well the company is certified:
- ISO 9001 – general quality certification that covers company in many industries
- EN 15038 – certification that focuses on the translation process
- Translator qualifications – professional/full time, language skills, native speakers of the target languages?
Also, you’ll want to take a look at the process that is followed before the translation begins. Will the company train the translators on your product? Will your translation partner review the source files prior to the translation to identify any problems that may occur (e.g. does your code create a pluralized word that won’t translate across the globe?).
Lastly, what processes take place after the translation has been completed? Is there a thorough technical (e.g. editing) and linguistic (spelling, grammar, etc.) review? Is there a QA round for testing software to ensure nothing was linguistically disturbed during the translating process?
Your localization partner should have all of the tools necessary to meet your requirements. Be sure to focus on the following before making your choice:
- File compatibility – can the partner you choose work with the file types you will provide? You should not need to manually convert your files just so you can have them translated.
- Process – your translation partner should work with you to ensure they follow the processes you are following. For example, do your reviewers work in the target countries in which you are translating for? Your localization partner should work with you to ensure a seamless and the most cost efficient process for review.
- Security – does the tools your translation partner uses ensure the security of your intellectual property and confidential information?
- Portability – your translation partner should use an approach that allows you to take the work you have done for translation and continue to benefit from it.
- Access – how much do you want to be involved in the translation process? Do you want access to the live files? Your partner should allow you as much access to the translation process as you wish.
- Information – the tools you have should provide the information you need (e.g. status reports, roll up reports, quarterly/yearly reports, etc.).
Note – the tools should not hold you hostage to the vendor. The toolset your localization partner uses should allow you the option to work with other companies in the future should the need arise.
Cost and Schedule
As you compare options, you need to determine what the most cost effective choices are for you. It’s important to look at your total cost, or the cost that totals both what your translation partner is charging you plus your internal costs (e.g. internal reviewers, team management, etc.).
Be sure you are comparing comparable service offerings. Does one partner offer you two weeks of user interface testing, but the other doesn’t? This will most definitely affect your cost.
If you build translation memory during the project, think about future costs. Will the translation memory be reusable across your product? If so, this will allow you to save on future localization needs.
Most translation companies should not charge you for use of their tools. A big reason you partner with a localization company is to avoid the cost of buying all the translation tools yourself. Make sure your partner will allow you access to their tools without an additional fee.
A large portion of your total cost is derived from the time it takes to complete your translation project. Ensure your partner has enough available resources to not only reduce completion time, but also to ensure your deadlines are met. A localization partner with enough resources will build contingency plans into their schedules to be sure timelines are met even when schedule slips occur.
Make sure your partner is able to commit to both the required schedule and quality. Will they allow for one round of feedback on the translated items and correct errors at no additional charge?
Ask for a detailed scope-of-work to be sure both parties have the same understanding of the work to be performed. Your partner should also clarify change orders and additional fees. As the project progresses, and you realize you need to add an additional 1,000 words, you want to have a clear understanding of how your partner will handle this. Also, be sure you are the owner of the final translated memory. You should be given the files in a format you can use.
Finally, do not be afraid to ask for an exclusivity or volume discount. Even if this is the first project you are working on together, find out what kind of discount is available if you guarantee to give all of your localization work to that translation partner.
Now that you are ready to choose your localization partner, create a matrix for yourself that includes all of the above criteria and any other points you feel are important. As you speak with each firm, check off where they meet the requirements. Recognize that this partner is someone you will be working closely with, so be sure to choose someone with whom you have a rapport. Just because a localization company meets all of the criteria does not mean it will be the right partner for you. Trust your gut.