How to Avoid Getting Lost in Translation

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1 How to Avoid Getting Lost in Translation Buying and Managing Language Services for Global and Multicultural Business By Donald A. DePalma and Renato Beninatto

2 How to Avoid Getting Lost in Translation By Donald A. DePalma and Renato Beninatto ISBN: ISBN: Copyright 2003 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. Chelmsford, Massachusetts, United States of America. Published by: Common Sense Advisory, Inc. 100 Merrimack Street Suite 301 Lowell, MA USA No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without the prior written permission of the Publisher. Permission requests should be addressed to the Permissions Department, Common Sense Advisory, Inc., 8 Minuteman Drive, Chelmsford, MA , , See for usage guidelines. Trademarks: Common Sense Advisory, Global DataSet, DataPoint, Globa Vista, Quick Take, and Technical Take are trademarks of Common Sense Advisory, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Information is based on the best available resources at the time of analysis. Opinions reflect the best judgment of Common Sense Advisory s analysts at the time, and are subject to change.

3 How to Avoid Getting Lost in Translation i Table of Contents Translation Buyers and Sellers Behaving Badly... 1 Who Should Read This Report?... 1 Globalizing Companies Outsource Most Translation Work... 3 First the Bad News: Spending Trends Down... 4 Few Companies Translate In-House... 5 Suppliers Earn Good Grades from Buyers... 8 Would It Be a Surprise to Hear That Price Dominates the Decision Matrix?... 9 Most Companies Buy Translation Services by the Drink Conclusions from Our Surveys with Translation and Localization Managers Who s Who in Language Services Managing the Vendor Life Cycle Phase 1: Finding Good Candidates for Language Services Phase 2: Conducting a Translation Agency Review Phase 3: Negotiating the Best but Fairest Deal Phase 4: Setting Expectations with Vendors Phase 5: Managing Language Service Suppliers When the Relationship Sours: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do Where Language Services Are Going and How Buyers Should React About Common Sense Advisory Future Research Figures Figure 1: More Companies Are Spending Less on Translation This Year than Last... 4 Figure 2: Economic Conditions Dictate Same or Lower Budgets at Many Accounts... 6 Figure 3: International Growth Drives Higher Budgets... 6 Figure 4: The Majority of Companies Outsource All Translation Work... 7 Figure 5: Translation/Localization Teams Tend to Be Intimate Groups... 8 Figure 6: Most Teams Have Translation Oversight at Business or Corporate Level... 9 Figure 7: The Lion s Share of Companies Like the Quality of their Translations Figure 8: Satisfaction High on Operational Aspects of Dealing with Vendors Figure 9: Few Companies Would Pay More to Protect Relationship with Vendors Figure 10: Price Displaces Quality as the Main Criterion for Vendor Selection Figure 11: Fewer Companies Centralize Buying than Purchase by the Project Figure 12: Companies Tend to Buy Translation Services by the Drink Figure 13: Your Buying Leverage Increases with the Size of Your Deal... 22

4 ii How to Avoid Getting Lost in Translation Tables Table 1: Language Service Provider Ecosystem Table 2: Information that Every LSP Will Need to Serve You Better Table 3: Basic Reference Material for Language Service Providers Copyright 2003 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. Unauthorized Reproduction & Distribution Prohibited

5 How to Avoid Getting Lost in Translation 1 Topic Translation Buyers and Sellers Behaving Badly How buyers buy and sellers sell language services seems broken. Buyers ache for cheap translation at low prices with no long-term commitment, while sellers chafe at bidding processes that chip away at already slim margins. Our interest in how these two groups interrelate springs from a year of conferences, consultations, and conversations in which we ve heard the two parties repeatedly grouse that they don t understand the other s needs, motivations, and practices. When they gather, the debate gets mired down in the same old issues. Quality versus price. Both buyers and sellers chant the mantra of translation quality, timeliness, and price, but they disagree on the priority. Buyers insist that quality is paramount, while suppliers all too often feel beaten down on price. The advent of corporate professional sourcers in buying business services will guarantee more emphasis on the financial side of the equation. Best practices. It s hard to buy smart. Neither formal nor ad hoc industry associations have succeeded in developing generally accepted vendor certification metrics, quality assurance standards, generic requests for proposals (RFP), or even standard practices. Every association aspires to do so, but none boasts buyer demand or ISO mandate. For example, a group that includes the International Federation of Translators (FIT) has undertaken a grand initiative to set quality standards under the aegis of the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN). However, it is doing so in camera with a limited set of translator association partners, hiding its proposals from public scrutiny and planning on taking another half-year or more before unveiling its masterpiece. Who Should Read This Report? Consequently, buyers and sellers face off across the negotiating table for each project, hammering out tactical agreements and never understanding why the other side behaves as it does. Rather than just speculate on the root causes of this impasse, we quizzed practitioners on their supplier relationships along with a Copyright 2003 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. Unauthorized Reproduction & Distribution Prohibited

6 2 How to Avoid Getting Lost in Translation wide variety of issues related to their careers, staffing, process, and practices (we will analyze other aspects of this sample in upcoming reports). Based on the answers of their fellow practitioners, buyers can benchmark the methods by which they acquire services, while language service suppliers (LSPs) can compare their selling experience with buyers expectations. Finally, after a discussion of the survey results, we suggest best practices in each of the major phases of working with vendors, from finding the right supplier, through negotiating, to managing, and if necessary, to firing. This report is not meant to be an Idiot s Guide to Buying Translation. Instead, its goal is to help buyers see what motivates their suppliers and to suggest good practices for working with external vendors. It does not address the question of whether you should create and manage an in-house translation department. That is a different discussion, which we will address in other research. Copyright 2003 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. Unauthorized Reproduction & Distribution Prohibited

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