The Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) is a global, non-profit trade association supporting the language services and technology industry. We often hear from professionals seeking advice on selecting a translation provider from among the many vendor companies in the global marketplace. Even companies with dedicated and experienced procurement staff face challenges in understanding the complexities of supplier types, services, subcontracting relationships, and specializations.
To help sort through the various considerations, GALA gathered a group of experts from the language industry to research criteria for vendor selection and management. Under the auspices of its standards initiative program, this working group — comprised of volunteers from various sectors, roles, and companies within the industry — carried out research to determine the fundamental parameters by which service providers can be measured and compared.
After starting out with quite a large list, over the course of many months and numerous meetings the group narrowed and consolidated the various aspects down to 10 main dimensions that should be analyzed during the vendor assessment and selection process. These are particularly key when large, multilingual projects are at stake.
Naturally, not all criteria are applicable to all projects or organizations, but they serve as a “menu” of potential questions that translation and localization managers should ask.
- History, Reputation, and Key Personnel: How long has the vendor been in business? What is the background of senior management and key personnel? Which industry organizations or initiatives does the vendor belong to or participate in? Are they highly recommended by references?
- Service Level: What services does the vendor provide? Do they provide special resources to clients with unique demands? What technology platforms does the vendor support? What kind of project reporting will the customer receive? How is progress agreed on and reported?
- Capacity of Vendor Resources: Is the vendor too big, too small, or just right for your organization and your project(s)? What is their average annual revenue compared to your expected yearly spend with them? What is the vendor’s allocation of in-house resources compared to outsourced resources? Does this fluctuate widely?
- Translation Supply Chain: What is the global scope of the vendor’s supply chain? How do they select and qualify their resources and subcontractors? Is the supply chain transparent? Is “chain subcontracting” permitted? How does the vendor’s capacity vary among languages, peak seasons, and holidays?
- Vendor Management Services: Does the vendor have a dedicated vendor management team? Do they collect project-related feedback and performance data on their subcontractors? Are rates negotiated with suppliers in multiple currencies? How stable and consistent is the vendor’s team of subcontractors?
- Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable Services: What is the general “health” of the vendor’s AR/AP policies, procedures, and performance (a key indicator of a stable supply chain)? What options does the vendor provide to subcontractors for invoicing and payments? What subcontractor payment methods does the vendor support? How does the vendor handle payment disputes?
- Automation Solutions: What is the general level of automation in the vendor’s management of projects, subcontractors, and finances? Which technology solution does the vendor use to track POs, invoices, and payments? Does the vendor offer live project tracking? How do their systems improve productivity, quality, turnaround time, etc.?
- Translation Processes: How are projects and deliverables handed off? What linguistic and technical checks are done on the source material before the translation commences? Does the vendor engage subject matter experts? Is the client involved in reviews? Which technologies are used to support the translation process?
- Linguistic and Technical Quality Assurance Services: Does the vendor offer linguistic QA? What about technical QA? Is QA independent from production? What type of quality model or standards does the vendor use? Are quality assurance results available to the client?
- Terminology and Language Moderation Services: Does the vendor offer terminology creation and maintenance services? What is their process for it? How does the vendor maintain multilingual terminology? Can they handle new term development?
The sample questions included here represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to assessing and selecting a language services vendor, and they are by no means universal. What is critical to one organization may be less important to another.
When a good match is made, a language service provider will become your language solutions partner. This is a mutually beneficial relationship that leads to optimal business results.
Interested in knowing more? Feel free to check out the whitepaper on the topic, where you can also see a list of contributors to the research project. GALA also plans to develop some “derivatives” from this project, including a vendor RFP checklist and an instrument for rating and comparing vendors side by side.
The Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) is a global, non-profit trade association for the language industry. As a membership organization, we support our member companies and the language sector by creating communities, championing standards, sharing knowledge, and advancing technology. More information at www.gala-global.org.