Selecting and onboarding a translation partner

E-learning translations, translation service provider

The process of selecting and onboarding a translation partner – a translation service provider (TSP) – can be a little daunting. Let’s face it, we all say the same things about our services so it can be hard to tell us apart!

Identifying what you need from a translation partner and benchmarking different providers against each other, is not always easy. Then, when you’ve made your choice, you need to know how to get started. Translations generally involve a lot of processes. Do you need to align your existing processes with the TSP or will they align their processes with you? What is the onboarding process and how can you get value from it?

To help you, I thought it would be really useful to share the selection and onboarding process one of our clients developed when they put their translation requirements out to tender last year.

Insights is a leading learning and development company headquartered in Scotland and with offices around the globe. Paul Kearns is the Translations Coordinator responsible for managing all of Insights translation requirements – such as marketing and website content, learning tools and accreditation training material – into several different languages. Below, I outline the journey Paul and his colleagues embarked on which resulted in Comtec’s appointment – and a very successful relationship so far. Many thanks to Paul for taking the time to help with this article.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

Insights has previous experience of outsourcing translations to a TSP and also resourcing translations internally by working with Insights offices worldwide. Of Insights relationship with their previous TSP, Paul says, “We were looking for a translations partner who could deliver a high-quality service on a consistent basis.”

Insights wanted a more collaborative approach, to partner with a provider that wanted to understand the business and help them align translations with their objectives. Paul and the translation team therefore put out a Request For Proposal (RFP), selecting 16 translation companies. Some of these they knew, including their current provider, and others they found on the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) website. We were fortunate to be included.

Having an RFP enabled us, Comtec, to structure our response and proposal in a way that was most logical and useful to the team at Insights who would be reviewing the responses. It also helped us to quickly understand what was most important to Insights about a new translation partner so that we could focus in on these important factors.

Out of the 16 approached, 9 TSPs responded, and three were shortlisted and invited to an interview in Dundee.

Benchmarking different translation service providers

To shortlist providers, Insights devised a marking system to rank them against each other. Criteria included a collaborative approach, quality, e-learning expertise, language capability and price. Paul says, “While we were conscious of cost, our main focus was finding a provider with the right expertise.”

Face-to-face meetings are really important

Comtec were delighted that the tender process involved an interview and the opportunity to meet the people we would potentially be working with. The interview was a chance to get to know each other and find out if all parties could work together. This included meeting members of Insights digital media, creative services and product teams, all of whom had input into the selection process.

Being able to meet people from the different teams gave us the opportunity to ask about the different services they needed (e.g. website localisation, voiceover, Desktop Publishing and e-learning translation) and talk about their current pain points. With this information we were then able to better showcase the services we offer and tailor our service to suit their needs. Insights absolutely live its values and everyone we met at Insights was so welcoming and engaging.

Shared company values were also important to Insights. Paul says, “We didn’t just want a provider, we wanted a partner – a company that shared our values and people-focus and could deliver a personal service. Comtec had the edge – a less corporate, more people-centric approach and really nice people.”

From very early on, we could see that this would be a great partnership as our values are so closely matched. We both help our customers achieve their goals, we value teamwork and build open and honest relationships with our clients and our suppliers. And we enjoy the journey, being passionate about the service we deliver and establishing enjoyable working relationships.

Following the meeting in Dundee, each TSP was invited to submit a proposal and we were delighted to be selected as Insights’ new translation partner.

On boarding your chosen translation service provider

The next stage of the process was to align our systems and processes with Insights, identify areas that could be improved to give Insights more value from the translation process, and establish a great working relationship.

Insights had their own on boarding process, which we welcomed. It was clear early on that Insights wanted to move away from a transactional relationship, which is also a relationship we aim to avoid. Partnerships in which both customer and supplier are engaged, committed and communicative are the ones that drive successful outcomes.

Calls were arranged with Comtec’s project management team and Insights to provide us with more background on the business, and to help Comtec get to know the business model and product. Insights also held a webinar where they provided further insight into their Insights Discovery Personal Profile and gave key members of Comtec’s team first hand experience of this self-development tool.

Paul says, “We were impressed by Comtec’s desire to understand our models and products to ensure they could deliver a quality translations service. This commitment to getting it right helped them stand out from other providers.”

When our account management team and the translation teams were invited to complete their own personal profiles it enabled the team to get a much deeper insight into the Insights brand and what they deliver. It also built a great deal of enthusiasm and passion for achieving the best possible results and really brought the team together.

Reviewing existing translation processes and tools

Insights also provided Comtec with their linguistic resources including Translation Memories, style guides and glossaries. We reviewed these and worked with the Insights translation team and European offices to improve and update them. We also provided Insights with advice about translation technology that could help their processes and improve the quality of translations, such as online revision tools, translation management etc.

Paul says, “It was refreshing that Comtec were proactive in communicating with Insights, wanted to understand Insights processes and offer feedback and support in refining those processes. One of the key things that Comtec did during the onboarding process was to develop reviewer guidelines and nail down the translation glossaries.”

Top tips for working with a translation service provider

I asked Paul for his advice, based on his experience coordinating the procurement and onboarding process with Comtec, for other companies looking to appoint a translation partner. Here’s a summary of his key points:

Take your time. This gives you a chance to think about what you really want and need from a translation partner. Also factor in where the business is going in the next few years and how that will impact on your translation requirements.

Request for Proposal. Using a structured procurement process allows you to assess not only the services each provider offers but also how willing the TSP is to tailor their services to your company.

Company values. Alignment between your company’s values and the TSP’s is very important.

Avoid transactional relationships. Appoint a TSP that is interested in your business, wants to understand what you do and the processes involved.

Invest time in establishing the relationship. Face-to-face meetings and telephone calls with the project management team will help to ensure everyone is on the same page and strengthen the relationship.

We wholeheartedly endorse these points. From my initial phone call with Paul, I knew Insights was an organisation I wanted to work with. Our values were so well aligned and I just knew that we could deliver the service they needed. I was excited to start building a long-term partnership and I think the onboarding process initiated by Paul has been invaluable.

Finally, I wanted to know whether Comtec has lived up to expectations and whether he would recommend us to other companies! He said:

“We had a good feeling from the start and Comtec has met all our expectations. If anything, we’re now more conscious that we’ve made the right decision and have noticed improvements in quality and a smoother process. Our network of offices offices are also happier.

“We see Comtec as a big part of our business and we’re really happy to recommend Comtec!”

For further information about Insights visit their website here.

If you would like to speak to me about your translation requirements and how to select and onboard a translation partner, please get in touch. You may also find our Service in Focus: E-Learning Translation guide useful. This free download shares how to handle e-learning and training material translations. Click on the link below to get your copy.

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