Less is More: Transitioning to a Consolidated Vendor Model

So you’ve already weighed the costs and benefits of vendor consolidation strategy, you’ve decided to consolidate vendor companies and you’ve taken the necessary actions to select the vendor that is best suited to your needs.

As the third installment of our series on vendor consolidation, it is time to transition the work from multiple vendors to a consolidated vendor model. Buckle up: it’s a bumpy road ahead, but these tips will help you avoid the pitfalls in any vendor transition.

Start Consolidating Processes Early

Even before you start the vendor selection process, you can organize a smooth transition. Consolidate teams and standardize processes across your business as much as possible. If each project team has its own processes and tools, then vendor training and onboarding will take exponentially longer: it’s almost like leading dozens of transitions instead of one. Standardization is a localization best practice anyhow, so even if you don’t decide to consolidate vendors, the effort is well worth your time.

Include Exiting Vendors in Planning

It’s natural to fear that current vendors who are losing your business will dig in their heels and cause problems during the transition. True, they will not be as enthusiastic as the new vendor company to transition the work, but they are still professionals who want to leave on good terms. Everyone understands that business is business, so it’s safe to expect their active participation in the transition. In fact, you may be surprised how much cooperation and support you get from them, which will definitely make the transition smoother all around.

That said, don’t expect the previous vendor to own all aspects of training the new vendor, as this may force them to divulge internal processes and other intellectual property to a competitor.

Collect Assets from Exiting Vendors

Any work performed under your localization contract belongs to you, not your vendors. Glossaries, translation memories, bilingual files, and any other assets created as part of the localization process are yours to leverage with your new supplier.

However, it’s unfair to ask the previous vendors to turn over their own intellectual property, such as internal tools or processes. While comprehensive training is off the table, you can certainly expect past vendors to supply any process documentation created and billed at your request during your engagement. Basically, anything provided to you in the past as a deliverable should be unquestionably yours to supply to your new vendor.

Create a Realistic Transition Plan

Work with the vendors when outlining your transition plan, and be reasonable about it. Be sure to cover the transition timeline in contract negotiations so that you can manage expectations on both sides. Reasonable expectations are crucial during the planning phase. Chances are that during the vendor selection process, the winning candidate submitted a suggested schedule for the transition. Since this was submitted as part of a competitive bid, you can confidently hold the vendor accountable to exactly that timeline. Do not, repeat, do not try to cut that in half, or otherwise you are creating a no-win situation where nobody will be happy with the results.

Consciously Manage Team Perceptions

Change is difficult for most people, so expect team members to be very sensitive during this transition. Some will be upset to part with their previous vendor and feel forced to work with somebody new. These team members will drag their heels in the transition to the new vendor and point out every failure in the process. Others may fear their own heads are on the chopping block now that their vendor team members have just been fired.

Needless to say, team morale could be very low, which means you need to focus on relationships during this crucial stage. I’ve seen managers worship The Almighty Process and completely neglect their team, which inevitably leads to failure due to the lack of motivated team members carrying out the new processes.

Give your internal team a voice in the process: a sense of ownership will measurably improve their motivation. Communication is key: transparency, clearly defined goals and regular acknowledgement of team contributions will build trust. Don’t skimp on the time required to do this right.

Keep Your Goal in Sight

As with your team, this will be an exciting and yet extremely frustrating period for all parties involved, including yourself. Take a moment to remember the reasons you are driving this change and what you are trying to accomplish: indeed, what you’ve already accomplished. Regular status updates or quarterly business reviews can help sustain momentum by acknowledging accomplishments to date. Just as you reward your team members for their contributions, reward yourself for the progress you are driving and don’t lose sight of the end goal.

The more work that you perform internally to standardize the way your business is running, the smoother the transition will be. This step can be taken well before you are even sure you would like to pursue a vendor consolidation strategy, since even if your plan changes, this is generally still a best practice to have standardized processes as much as possible.