Intimate Outsourcing: Creating In-House Intimacy with an Outsource Partner

Localization_OutsourcingGrowth and change are the inherent byproducts of successful localization. A trickle of global revenues quickly queues up interest in controling the spigot, and that means localizing for more markets, more languages, more volume, and more content types.

Most localization program owners eventually find the in-house infrastructure that gave rise to early successes can no longer support the demands of a larger, more complex program. But outgrowing your in-house model doesn’t have to mean abandoning the intimacy, convenience, and control that propelled your program to success. 

As the second half of our series on intimate outsourcing, here are five attributes of in-house models that you probably love — and how to preserve them once you shift to localization outsourcing.

Collaboration

It took great teamwork for your localization program to succeed and grow, and that’s not going to change when you start outsourcing. Let the vendor selection process be the phase when your vendor establishes credibility and earns your trust. Then, treat vendor personnel like an extension of your team. It’s on you to create an environment where your vendor personnel can participate as equal contributors whose questions and insights are as welcome as those of your full-time employees.

Accessibility

If your in-house localization program has relied upon onsite, face-to-face communication, it will be difficult for your entire organization to adapt overnight to communication via conference calls and email. But vendors usually have remote, virtual teams working from near-shore or offshore locations for maximum cost-efficiency.

Look for an outsource partner with multiple points of contact based near your team, such as a project manager and an engagement manager who will remain closely connected to your account. Keeping these roles near your team will make it easy for your vendor to participate in face-to-face meetings and preserve the communication flow with your in-house team and localization stakeholders.

Transparency

Visibility into every aspect of your in-house localization program has fed your sense of control — and losing visibility may well feed your anxieties about outsourcing. Make sure your vendor selection process includes plenty of discussion around your visibility into the vendor’s operations.

Will you have real-time access to detailed project status data? Program-wide views of linguistic quality error patterns? Communication logs and tracking of asset updates? If you have daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports in your in-house program, make sure you set clear expectations so your vendor can continue that rhythm moving forward.

Security

Protecting intellectual property is a big deal. Running your own program in-house gives you tight control over security, but when localization work leaves your facility, data security can easily become a huge risk. How will your vendor keep localization testers from walking offsite with your device prototype? How can you be sure your vendor won’t leak pre-release screenshots of your new interface?

Vendor selection is an excellent time to ask a lot of questions about how your partner will protect your intellectual property. What security protocols do they have in place? Do they maintain any high-security production sites? Do they have case studies or references describing experience protecting valuable client assets? Can they perform certain high-risk tasks from your secure headquarters or other global sites?

RFP responses can be quite boring and generic, but if you highlight security as a key concern and ask lots of pointed questions, your prospective vendors ought to take the hint and provide the details you’re looking for.

Responsiveness

When you personally hire and manage your in-house team, you’re keenly aware of which team members are engaged and excited about your program. But outsourcing means it’s the vendor’s job to staff key roles that will make or break your objectives.

Tempting though it may be to weed out candidates based on black-and-white responses in your stack of vendor proposals, make sure you reserve some time to get to know each vendor’s personnel in person or via conference calls. Do their people have passion for your goals? Do they have experience and longevity with the company? Do they connect with your team and deliver to the same standards?

Ultimately, it’s not the vendor but the vendor’s people who determine the success of your mission. A few pennies’ difference in your per-word translation rates may boost your ROI tenfold if the people are happier, more committed, and more engaged in your success.

The Pinnacle of Intimate Outsourcing: True Partnership

When you lay the groundwork for intimate outsourcing, you may discover a compelling benefit that’s unavailable in an in-house model: co-investment.

Aggressive goals often require innovation, and every in-house localization program owner knows how challenging it can be to secure extra budget to pursue some big, new, unproven idea — especially if you have to educate your executives about the intricacies of localization in the process.

A well-chosen outsource partner should be the one bringing you the big idea for innovation — and, if you’ve invested in creating an atmosphere of intimate outsourcing, your partner has a business interest in helping you achieve it. Coinvestment from your partner will help you seize a market opportunity quickly, which will benefit both you and your vendor. (Pro tip: add financial stability to your partner selection checklist if this is something you’re interested in, since a vendor can’t dig deep to help you if they’re already overextended.)

True partnership is the pinnacle of intimate outsourcing, but even if you never get there, these tips should help you recreate the spirit, convenience, and control of your successful in-house model with an outsource partner. What other advice do you have for preserving the qualities of your in-house model when you shift to outsourcing?