Translation: to Outsource or not to Outsource?
One of the challenges facing companies managing multilingual content is whether to use the services of a Language Service Provider (LSP) or to ask an internal resource to perform the translation. This issue is particularly relevant for companies with offices around the world with employees who are willing or able to take on this task.
So what are the benefits to using an LSP? Here, we look at some of the factors companies consider when deciding on this issue.
This is seemingly a ‘no brainer’. There is often no tangible cost associated with using an internal resource, whereas invoices from LSPs can soon mount up with regular work. It can be argued, however, that the cost of these internal resources not doing their ‘proper’ job needs to be taken into account when calculating the benefits. If your sales are suffering because your best rep is busy translating, then your cost saving can be completely wiped out. However, if the impact of completing the translation has little effect on the employee’s role, then it is hard to argue with the cost benefit of using an internal resource.
This is where the debate gets interesting. Which is preferable? A professional translator who has studied long and hard and has years of experience, but who doesn’t know your company’s culture, or someone who knows your products inside out but who isn’t a professional linguist? Many companies find that combining the respective skills of these resources is often the best way forward. Setting up a dialogue between the product specialist and the translation agency to define terminology and preferred style before the translation starts and then letting the translator use this information to create the foreign language version can tick both quality boxes.
In our experience, there are different benefits to using both internal and external resources, according to whether you have a very small requirement needed very quickly or so or a much bigger body of work that is needed within a few days. In-house employees are often better placed to respond to very short and urgent requests (assuming they are available) as LSPs will generally have to complete paperwork and find a suitable linguist before they can start. However, due to the resources they have at their disposal, LSPs can often be better placed to respond to larger requirements that may need a team of translators working full time to turn them round on schedule. In addition, as we will see in the next section, LSPs often have technology that can increase productivity and turn the project round more quickly.
This, it would seem, is the LSP’s trump card: Translation Memories, Termbases and even Machine Translation with Post Editing can improve turnaround times and increase quality by ensuring terms are translated in a consistent manner. In addition, many LSPs offer content management system integration tools to facilitate the translation management process and can often edit non-standard file formats.
Whilst it is true that this technology has long been the reserve of LSPs, many companies with large, ongoing translation requirements have simply invested in the technology themselves and either appoint internal resources to do the work within their framework or even request that LSPs do the same. However, this remains out of reach for many companies who rely on an LSP to access the cutting edge technology used in the industry.
There is no definite answer to the debate about internal vs external resources. Much depends on the quality and availability of both the internal and external resources, but wherever you decide to place your translation budget, keep in mind that a joint effort can be the best way forward. No professional LSP will begrudge you using internal resources where it works better for you in terms of costs or deadlines, but consider sharing this content with your LSP so they can include that translation in your Translation Memory, allowing you to achieve future benefits from it.
Likewise, if you are asking an LSP to complete a piece of work that has hitherto been completed successfully by an internal resource, it would be remiss not to pass on the previous translations for reference. The internal resource could even be involved in the planning of the project so coherent style and terminology can be adapted by the LSP. Translation buyers shouldn’t feel they have to pick one solution over the other, but should rather consider how the resources can best work together. LSPs must also realise that there are situations where it suits their clients better to source work internally. They should embrace this situation and work with their clients to ensure that they can still benefit from the advantages that their technology and service can offer.