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RFPs for Translation Services can take up quite a lot of investment of time and effort to put together, select vendors and evaluate for a final decision. Here are some areas where many RFPs for Translation Services could use improvement in the writing of the criteria:

Triangle showing word Scope in the middle surrounded by terms, cost, time and quality - all criteria in RFPs for Translation Services1. State your Method for Evaluation in RFPs for Translation Services

Many organizations just starting with professional translation services are unsure how to evaluate translation services beyond price. If price is the main factor, then how do other aspects factor in your evaluation, such as time frame and quality? Perhaps you have not really thought about the evaluation criteria or you simply do not wish to share, but consider the evaluation method a way to standardize your RFP across all vendors. If you are truly honest about what matters to you most (and second and third), you may find that vendors can provide you with valuable insight on the expectations of the RFP during the Q&A section before they decide to bid on the RFP. Q&A sessions are essential in RFPs; it’s going to be your most valuable insight into understanding your true needs and whether or not your budget will support that.

2. Determine the Scope of Work in RFPs for Translation Services

Many RFPs come with a list of languages that are required for translation, but no other information about their market needs. Say, you have stakeholders in both Argentina and Mexico, do you want to translate your materials once in Spanish or have it translated into Spanish for Mexico and Spanish for Argentina? What specific documents can you provide to get estimates? What problems are you looking to get resolved? What industry expertise do you need from your vendor? What’s your history with translation services and what’s your goal with this RFP? Examples could be to grow market share, dissatisfaction with another vendor or better planning and organization of translation activities. These could all be taken into account and gives the vendor opportunities to stand out.

3. Defining Value in RFPs for Translation Services

value-proposition-1Vendors understand the need for competitive pricing and being asked to provide for price lists is not uncommon in RFPs. But providing price lists can make a vendor feel uneasy about what conclusions clients may draw when they start to use it to compare services. Why? Because there is no such thing as a standard price list that translation vendors use in the industry (Read more on how to compare apples to apples in “buying translation services“).

How do you rate customer service, responsiveness, consistency of management, effective organization, archival and retrieval of documents, version control, quality of Translation Memory management, standardized quality control into these price factors? Another question is vendor management. Does the vendor pay their translators fair wages? What retention rates do you have for the translators the vendor hires and how satisfied are they working with you? Keeping high quality translators takes an investment into the relationship with the translators, as well as a fair wage. Some vendors will bid out translation work to the lowest bidder or regularly “pool” translators for  jobs, while others hand-pick translators to fit the client’s needs. All these processes can affect quality.

Consider that the vendor will use their expertise to find the best translation process for your needs at the right costs. The fear is that price lists often get a first pass with vendors being pushed out on the low and higher range, without careful consideration what the total costs of doing business would be (Read an example of such a case).

4. Understanding Quality Standards in RFPs for Translation Services

Everyone has different opinions on how to measure quality in translation and what requirements are needed. Translation quality can be a black box. When faced with defining quality, we clients come up with interesting standards or requirements that often relate to their own industry, rather than the translation industry. Here are some standards and some thoughts on what to expect around translation.

Translation Error Rate – Strictly spoken, a translation error rate is an arbitrary measure. The error rate depends on what you measure and how you weigh those measures. We recently received an RFP asking for <2% Translation Error rate. On a job of 5,000 words, a 2% non-weighted error rate allows for up to 100 errors. In the translation world, sometimes even just one error can make all the difference. Translation Error Rates is standardized in various models. We use the J4250 metric used in the industry to calculate the accuracy rate where we provide a weighted score based on 7 error types. Based on that score, a 2% error rate could still allow for an error rate of 20 or less Wrong Terms.

Right First Time – This means that a process is carried out correctly the first time and every time after that. In Six Sigma, this measure is approached through the commitment to achieve stable and predictable process results with an accepted level of variance, whereas with Lean principles you aim to reduce waste in the process as a way to optimize. What it means for the translation process is that you focus on the quality inputs rather than the quality outputs.

On-Time Delivery  – On-Time Delivery is important and if projects do not meet go-live dates, printer dates or any other specific deadline that needs to be met, that’s a problem. But what if the client and vendor disagree over what is a realistic time frame and how to manage this? There are a lot of concessions to be made on this aspect, from taking out processes to meet deadlines or trying to optimize the client’s processes to get an early start on translation. The definition of on-time should be “a mutually agreed upon time frame before the job starts”. Then, and only if then, can we really measure on-time delivery. Understanding deadline requirements therefore requires some insight into the process and what drives time frame delays.

5. Be prepared for the future with RFPs for Translation Services

How does your decision on choosing a vendor prepare you for future needs? One thing an RFP should address is how vendors will plan to manage your company terminology and translation memory and what their policy is around sharing this information with the company. Think about coming up with a contingency plan if the current vendor does not meet your needs anymore, or if you decide you need different specializations and diversify vendors in the future.  If you have learned anything from your RFP process,  it is that every translation vendor has unique qualities that you may need to tap into in the future.