You’re a procurement manager sending out a Request for Information (RFI) to gain insights from various localization vendors. You’re looking to understand their service offerings, their pricing, and what it’s like to work with them.
As a solutions architect, I have a lot of experience responding to RFIs, which are often the first step in a larger conversation with a prospective client. I can see how valuable RFI responses could be in summarizing key details that help you narrow down the field of partner candidates.
However, many RFIs are so generic that they’re a waste of everyone’s time. Some RFIs have hundreds of questions requiring days of effort from multiple people to complete. (And don’t get me started on the typical Excel file format which is hard to edit and format).
I often wonder whether anyone will actually read the whole response package from each and every vendor responding, and how such a broad slew of questions will ever allow a single vendor to rise to the top. In fact, I suspect most people flip to the pricing tab and disregard much of the rest.
The Wrong Questions
Many RFI questions will generate the same answer from vendor to vendor, or the vendor will always say “yes” or “all of them” no matter what. In these cases, the question adds zero value to your process. For example:
- What are the qualifications of your linguists? (They are bilingual linguists!)
- In which DTP tools does your team have expertise? (All of them, of course!)
- What is your localization workflow? (It’s pretty much the same as anyone else’s!)
- What are your core services? (Isn’t this apparent from their websites?)
I bet if a procurement manager reviewed all the questions with this guideline in mind, more than half could be deleted – which would shrink each RFI response by at least 1500 words. Wouldn’t that be a relief for everyone?
The Right Questions
Consider questions that will show you a company’s philosophy and approach. Go for questions that tell you not WHAT they do, but HOW they will work and what you can expect from the partnership.
Ask things like:
- How do you define linguistic quality? How do you measure it? This question requires a vendor to put a stake in the sand and show you how serious they are about quality.
- What is an “error” and how do you fix it? This question will show a potential client where the vendor thinks ownership lies.
- What collaboration do you expect from your clients? This question will show whether they work in a vacuum or take the time to treat your work like a program rather than as a transaction.
- What other services would you offer to meet our business issues, as you understand them? How would you bring value? This question will show you if they have creativity and depth of service. You do have to tell them your business needs, though.
- How do you manage customer satisfaction? How do you figure out service level agreements? The answer to this question will show you how much they value feedback and how they are able to adjust a program once feedback is given.
- What tools do you always use on your localization projects? What do you charge for this? This will show you their command of industry technology, as well as their view for whether it’s just included, or if a client needs to pay for it.
Other Tips for Crafting Meaningful RFIs
- Give the candidate the chance to ask questions. Provide every potential vendor with all questions and answers. It’s easy to think that all the information you give a vendor is clear, but misunderstandings can cause you to not get the information you really wanted, or you will get responses that you can’t compare very well.
- Have vendors quote a sample project. This will help you understand the total cost of all activities on a specific project, rather than a per word or per hour price point. (They can provide you those as well, but often they alone do not give a full picture).
- And then, please see how I feel about test translations here. Don’t torture your vendors with these at this stage!
- Lastly, avoid sending out your RFI to more than 5 companies. You cannot possibly want to read all those responses. Narrow down your potential vendors to 5 or less by reviewing their website to see if their services are a fit for your organization and by getting recommendations.
What other RFI questions can add value? Which should you never need to ask?