Some globalization managers are tempted to hire bilingual translation and editing staff as a translation strategy instead of partnering with a localization vendor. As the theory goes, dedicated in-house translators and editors can be more accessible for urgent projects, or build specialized knowledge of key topics to boost translation quality over time.
Although it's not quite an absolute, partnering with a localization vendor is high among the best practices globalization managers require to ensure cost and time savings, scalability, and high quality — and that's not just my personal bias. Here are five crucial factors to consider before you commit to an insourced translation strategy.
It’s a rare localization program indeed that only translates one type of content, yet no single resource can be a specialist in all types of materials. Do you really want the same person translating all your marketing, user interface, documentation and user support, not to mention legal, financial, scientific or technical content? A localization vendor has access to a large group of linguists covering a large number of languages, and they can choose the linguist(s) that are most appropriate for the job. A localization vendor has resources that specializes in each type of translation you need, ensuring you get great quality across all your content types.
Diversity of Roles
By the same token, translation alone does not cover all the requirements of a localization program. Localization may require cultural assessments, page layout or graphics work, engineering, testing, editing and proofreading by resources who don’t have the same skillsets as translators. One translator simply cannot perform all these functions. Localization vendors engage various linguistic resources who work together to complete the whole project, bringing creativity and focus to assemble the right resources for the best results.
Technology and Process Expertise
Among the myriad skills a translator cannot be expected to supply is current, specialized knowledge of various localization technologies. Localization vendors often have their own workflow technology automations to facilitate tasks like file prep, handoffs, change management, and/or the push/pull of files to and from your system.
In addition, translation workflow needs to change as the requirements do. Partnering with a vendor supports mutually beneficial technology-based joint innovation programs — read: cost-sharing — that would not be possible when shouldering the program in-house.
It’s an exceptional localization program that has such a steady, predictable volume that an in-house employee could handle the work, and even then, what’s the coverage plan for sick leave and vacation? The reality is, most localization program volumes still shift constantly and substantially.
A small group of in-house translators cannot handle large upswings in volume, so you’re likely to pay for short-term support anyhow — but then you’re still paying team salaries and benefits when work is slow and your resources have nothing to do. Outsourcing to a localization vendor ensures you have exactly as many or as few translation resources as the job requires – and you only pay for the work they perform.
Good project management is like the air we breathe: it’s transparent and easy to take for granted, but it’s a bona fide emergency when it’s missing. A strategy built around bilingual in-house resources usually neglects the organizational structure required to manage a localization program.
A translator cannot be expected to translate and capably manage budget, timelines, project data, issues and resolutions, file handoffs. Localization vendors compete for the industry’s most knowledgeable and experienced project managers — plus other program support staff such as vendor managers /recruiters, program managers, and business unit managers who all play their part in managing and delivering the work.
These resources are typically built into an LSP’s total package to clients, so it's a given when you outsource and mission-critical headcount when you insource.
The impulse to hire in-house translators usually belies a fear of losing control of process or resourcing decisions, which is understandable. But engaging a localization vendor does not have to mean letting go. An outsourcing partner should collaborate closely with clients on all points of concern, with the ultimate goal of program innovations that benefit both parties in the form of cost, schedule or quality benefits.
Have you ever grappled with the decision to insource or outsource translation? What factors played a role in your decision, and how did it pan out?