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Karolina Sarul
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May 21, 2019

Things to consider before choosing a translation agency for a big translation project

choice (3)When you have a translation project coming up for your content, there instantly pops up a question: who do we hire for this job? 

So, you start your research, check data and reports on the Internet, chat with fellow business people and industry peers to make sure the team you decide to work with is indeed worthy of your time, money and trust. In this search for your ideal translation partner, there are some important things to consider. Because the main concern is simple:

CAN THEY MAKE IT?

A big project means juggling between many linguists.

That’s true.

That’s why every translation company worth its salt will have proper production management in place, with dedicated project managers and an active vendor management team. They all work for the good of the client. What you should look for on top of it is proven processes, including time management and risk management.

Translation jobs come in many shapes, just as bottlenecks strike when you least expect it – unless you are prepared. Holiday seasons, and not just the summer ones, huge projects, involving, for example, 50 linguists per language pair, or 22 language combinations, and many more scenarios come into play, and they are not exceptions. An experienced language services provider should handle those on the fly. It doesn’t matter if it’s a million words in two months or in a month. You know, there’s a reason why your client knocked at your door and not those other guys.

Having resources for the client’s specific industry, having a project, vendor and language management in place, together with proper processes, tools, solutions and workflows that you are actually able to control, means an LSP is ready for any workloads and turnaround times coming their way. An important factor for you to know is whether this translation agency has production management able to create and implement solutions that enable the whole team to be prepared for any changes or unexpected twists during the project. After all, localization is a process and like in any process, you can stumble upon a surprise or a challenge that may affect the results. Having the right partner at your side will most definitely ensure your project is delivered smooth and secure and that the target content will work just the way you designed it to work in the market conditions.

What’s the big deal about the processes and tools?

Well, it’s a big deal actually as you need to be acquainted with the process in order to know, for instance, whether the translation company you talk to subcontracts the projects to other LSPs (which you may not like, and for a reason, actually) and if they work with linguists in the same time zone. This is crucial for efficient communication, control over the processes, workflows and resources as well as the consistency of deliverables. And believe me, control in the translation industry is a good thing.

Speaking of processes, it’s always good if they are customizable but at the same time based on sound foundations that have proven to deliver the results over many projects. Yes, we know that much too often certificates are overrated, but not in the translation industry. ISO regulations help a lot here and ISO 17100 and ISO 18587 do mean your translation agency knows what to do and how to do it with your best interest in mind.

With processes, there come tools that tie it all together. I am sure you heard of TMS (Translation Management System) and CAT tools. A Translation Management System, for instance, XTRF, and CAT tools, like memoQ Server, together with cool integrations, help to make the translation team’s work smooth, law-compliant and conveying the right message to your audience.

What about terminology management?

If you hear “sorry, this cannot be done” then it’s your cue to run.

In an experienced translation agency, the projects are, as you know already, in the capable hands of project managers and other professionals like production managers or language services managers. They’re the ones that look after the projects every step of the way.

They are there for a reason, in fact. They control the linguists’ work, language leads’ tasks and oversee a smooth workflow among all the providers involved, internal and external.

They also are the Search and Rescue of translation projects. They search for solutions, often create the solutions themselves and they rescue projects from various potentially difficult situations, most often by implementing risk management techniques and forecasting obstacles. After all, you hired them to take much of the burden off your back, so use their translation know-how and experience. 

Such difficult situations happen when a change of a term in the content is needed, while some of the content has already been translated, for instance. The experienced project manager foresees the implications and is prepared to implement the change in cooperation with the providers that work on the project, the client’s team or other client’s providers, if several teams are working on the job at the same time, in order to meet a tight deadline.

They know the processes and procedures and have contingency plans (as Saul Berenson would put it) that have been created for difficult situations. They know how to make sure these changes do not delay the project or cause damage to the quality before any crisis strikes. An experienced production team always knows that difficult does not mean impossible.

Our message has to stay consistent throughout the content.

Of course, it does.

When you author large pieces of content and this is going to be a big translation project, you know your translation agency will have to use a wide pool of linguists to make sure the job gets done on time. It’s normal to be a bit concerned at this stage, whether your message that you want to convey will be conveyed accurately and consistently throughout your whole content. And it is completely justified for you to ask your potential vendor about that.

An experienced translation company should be able to provide consistency in the entire localized content, regardless of the word count and the number of linguists working on it. This is where a skilled and experienced project manager comes in: this person is the mastermind behind the whole project, behind client-teams-client communication. Believe me, if your project is in the hands of such a professional, you’ve got nothing to worry about. You already know about the foreseeing-every-possible-obstacle superpower, the processes created to make sure the control over the linguists’ work is not a myth and the tools they use to properly monitor the process are in place.

It’s also worth mentioning that every serious translation company values time. Not just their time but most importantly, their client’s time. Therefore, any necessary changes and corrections are made simultaneously to the translation process, not to waste any time and to have impeccable quality. This, together with Translation Memory that is updated online (well, sometimes they need some offline work, too), ensures cost and time savings for the client. This also ensures consistency of your content, no matter the length and complexity. 

Do they actually hear us?

A thorough localization services provider will know to ask the right questions, not only to answer yours. For instance, they will ask you about the purpose of your content to make sure SEO aspects are covered, like localized keywords, site structure and so on.

At every stage of the cooperation, communication should be live and active. Even at the client review stage, the project manager will be able to guide you and ask relevant questions as well as answer your questions, to make sure the review process is thoroughly followed and the quality maintained.

Your translation partner needs to be open to conversation at any stage and on any subject that you find important. With huge projects come many tasks and sometimes even cooperation with other translation companies that the client chooses is required.

Communication is the key to every successful cooperation. Everyone knows that. If your language translation partner is open to your questions, suggestions, ideas and needs and at the same time provides you with their advice and insight, then they’re it.

There are also some important questions that you can and you should ask. Why? Usually, it’s this kind of thing: something in your head keeps telling you over and over again that this particular translation company is so sexy but at the same time this voice scares you. Doubts start to pile up. Questions have no clear answers. Well, let me help you:

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