You’re adding more languages all the time and the volume of your content is exploding. There’s an urgency to release more products, faster, and in more markets. If you’re a global business feeling this pain, you’ve likely added more vendors to handle these growth challenges.
But things can quickly get complicated. Spreading out the work raises important concerns. For example, LSPs don’t always use the same processes and technology (some may not use technology at all). They often don’t share Translation Memories (TMs). Their quality outputs don’t jive with one another. They don’t charge you the same thing, and you can’t get volume discounts.
Don’t panic. There are ways to make a multiple-LSP model work well for you. Try these four strategies:
I worked with a client who once had over 100 vendors. Each division added more and more over time to cover their growing needs. They used their favorites often, and some got no work at all—they just sat on the books. Not efficient.
But chances are, now you know exactly what you need in a vendor. Capacity. Language breadth. Capabilities. Toolsets. A specific project management style. Document these needs, and assess all of your current vendors against this list. You’ll see the top candidates immediately. Then, consider choosing 2-3 primary LSPs who meet all your criteria.
When you reduce vendors, you will have fewer negotiations and contracts to manage, fewer invoices to process, and fewer vendors to train and keep apprised of program updates. And because each vendor is getting more of the work, you can negotiate volume discounts.
If you really get kickback from a division who loves their existing vendor, and can’t whittle down as far as you’d like, keep giving work to those who have proven themselves for a specific language set and/or other capabilities. Maybe they can even be employed as translation subcontractors with primary LSPs.
2. Split work purposefully
Say you have 25 languages for a specific product. It might be tempting to manage that program by giving single or regional languages to individual vendors. (Some LSPs specialize in specific language sets—which can make it appear to be logical to manage by language.) But if you do this, the number of points of contact may quickly get overwhelming. Lots of phone calls and planning meetings, lots of status reports. All those invoices just for one project.
Consider splitting work between LSPs based on product line instead of by language. (Your PM will thank you.) Not only will the management headache disappear, but you’ll save costs by eliminating the work that should be done one time and applied cross-language, such as file processing. With one vendor per product, instructions and project references will be applied in the same way across all languages, giving you consistency. All communications go out once. And lastly, cross-language updates can be managed easily.
3. Centralize processes
You need one central body to guide and control the tools, technology, and process that will be used across the board. It’s very typical for varying vendors to use different Translation Memory and terminology tools, not all of which are compatible. There can be differences in file formats, segmentation, and other technical stuff that I won’t get into here.
And with different workflows in place, one language vendor might be completing work more quickly and at less cost than another. One may be skipping steps that are not optional. Don’t you want them all to work in the same way?
In addition, centralize your quality guidelines and process. Leaving this up to each individual vendor is risky and bound to cause inconsistent results across languages and products. Plus, this is a good way to weed out vendors who struggle to comply with your quality standards.
The development of technology and process can even be handed off to a qualified vendor, who would train other vendors if necessary.
4. Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Your vendors can’t be expected to produce the same outputs unless you give them all the same set of KPIs. Working with your key stakeholders, you should carefully define quality, turnaround time, project management expectations, productivity gains, and budget adherence. You’d then use those to evaluate the performance of each LSP.
An established LSP can guide you on developing KPIs in any area. Also, one of your primary LSPs may already have good KPIs in place—for example, within their quality management system—so it’s worth collaborating to avoid inventing anything from scratch.
It’s typical for a global business to use more than one LSP to handle growing volumes and languages. After all, “putting all of your eggs in one basket” may be a potential risk to your business if not managed well—there’s no room for things to fall through the cracks when your mandate is more, better, cheaper, faster. But working with multiple LSPs does not have to be messy—simply create a structure that your business benefits from.