Organizations looking to maximize the value on their localization projects often find themselves trying to optimize their translation processes. This often entails considering fulfilling translation needs in-house versus outsourcing them.To optimize the translation process and decide whether an in-house or outsourced solution will help the organization save time and money in addition to generating more revenue, they need to consider the ‘other’ costs of translation that are often overlooked. These include:
The time to complete a translation project can potentially have a negative impact on the company’s performance.
For example, a 15-week completion time frame for a translation project could be far too long. If this project is the last stage in a product’s international release, every day matters, as every additional day of translation is a day the company could have been making money. If there is a sales contract in place, there are often penalties for not having the product ready by a specific date.
Resource allocation is another crucial aspect to consider in regards to in-house versus outsourced translation. It’s rare for a company to have dedicated staff for every stage of the translation process. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), who are often tasked with proofreading translation projects, almost always have a variety of other responsibilities to handle, and proofreading translation projects doesn’t jump to the front of the queue. They must handle other duties first, which makes it more difficult to keep the translation project on a set schedule. Considering how much time and work goes into proofreading, this can set a translation project back quite a bit.
Companies also must take quality into account, not just cost and time. Translation agencies have a team of professionals with experience in every stage of the translation process, so their clients can expect a high quality of work. SMEs typically don’t have translator training, and may not even have much proofreading training. Just because they are fluent in the language does not necessarily mean that they have high-level writing skills in that language. They could miss errors that someone with a trained eye would easily spot. There is also the possibility that due to lack of training in proofreading, the SME proofreads at a far slower rate than the 5,000 words per day used in this example, slowing down the entire project and adding to the total cost.
Unfortunately, it’s common for companies that handle their translation projects in-house. They simply have whoever is available perform quality assurance on translated texts. This often leads to multiple people proofreading content at different times, so the final product is inconsistent and unprofessional.
Companies put their credibility and reputation on the line when they translate their business content. Poor quality translations can equal poor content, which can have a negative impact on business. This can result in lost sales and in a decline in company growth in international markets. It pays to translate correctly.
When a company uses whoever is available for translation and proofreading work, it also has to weigh the hidden costs of taking these employees away from their other responsibilities. SMEs may have sales or support duties to handle. Could asking a sales specialist to proofread lead to reduced sales during that time? If the employee is a support specialist, could removing them from that role cause issues with client satisfaction, and even the loss of some clients? These are issues that companies must think about with in-house translation, issues that don’t come up when companies go with outsourced translation.
Another big hidden cost is that there is a risk of not having enough work to keep the translation team busy. It’s obvious that there will be some work for them to do, but is there enough? If part or all of the translation team is only dedicated to translation projects, down-time of each employee will need to be considered, as any time that is not being used towards a translation project will increase the overall costs of translations to the company.
As a word of caution, many companies think they can save money on translation by using bilingual employees to help fulfill their translation needs, though this is far from the truth.
When an employee is pulled off the job he was hired to do in order to fulfill with the company’s translation needs, he is put at a disadvantage as he must split his time between his assigned job responsibilities and the translation project. This can cause problems fulfilling his job responsibilities or can put translation projects on delay. Unless an employee is hired with hours allocated to translation, this is not an ideal situation for the employee or the company.
To reiterate, translation quality can be an issue when using bilingual employees to fulfill translation projects. Translation is a skill like any other. If someone is not a trained expert in translation, the quality is likely to be impacted negatively.
Companies that plan to use in-house translation should make sure to consistently evaluate how much that translation is costing them, including hidden costs that often aren’t considered, to determine if outsourced translation could be a more economical option. They may determine that their in-house translation is an effective solution. However, it’s common that companies who do the math find that outsourced translation is the superior option.
With outsourced translation, companies drastically simplify the translation process. They don’t need to use their own resources and employees on the project. They can agree to a rate and a delivery time frame with the translation company, instead of watching their project cost go up and their delivery get delayed because an SME was needed for a higher-priority project. They can expect a high-quality, professional product instead of one that was checked by several different people and ended up littered with mistakes.