10 Questions to Test Your Translation Process Transparency

The single most influential variable in any translation strategy is trust. If business stakeholders, project managers, and linguistic partners don’t believe in each other’s ideas, motives, and abilities, no amount of clever coding or wondrous wording will rescue your plans.

In today’s hyperconnected but highly distributed work environments, transparency has emerged as the key to quickly building that trust. Its characteristic commitment to proactively sharing information eliminates suspicion, clarifies confusion, increases accountability, and improves agility.    

This new reality may not be disrupting the localization industry as quickly as some others, but make no mistake, a wave is clearly cresting on the horizon. To see if you’re in position to embrace the change, test the transparency of your translation process using our quick quiz below.

1) Can stakeholders see exactly when their content will be ready?

Companies count on localized content to open markets, engage audiences, and deliver results. So while business stakeholders may well care about how that content is created, the one thing they need to know above all else is when it will arrive.

Chasing localization managers for answers, whether across offices or inboxes, is not an efficient approach for either side. And the longer the pursuit, the less pleasant those conversations tend to be.

The more effective path would be to proactively share progress in real-time dashboards with varying levels of detail. That way stakeholders can quietly track the outcomes they care about without disrupting the team trying to make it all happen.

2) Can you forecast how long similar content might take to translate?

Letting stakeholders know when completed translations will be ready is really just common courtesy. Giving them reliable delivery estimates before they even submit source content is a more worthy goal.

When your translation processes are truly transparent, that means they are ripe for benchmarking as well. Once you have a critical mass of completed translations, you’ll also have a significant enough sample of data to determine how long it typically takes various jobs to travel through your translation workflows.

With that kind of visibility, you can even start proposing different workflow sequences to accommodate especially tight business deadlines (See #4).

3) Can you see where each job is within its respective workflow?

Some stakeholders prefer to see translation progress in binary terms: ready or not ready. But if those are the only two status reports your localization managers are capable of providing, your strategy will have some serious limitations.

Instead of anxiously refreshing their email, hoping today is the day their translation vendor sends a fresh batch of completed content, true localization leaders centralize activity in a space that everyone can see. Cloud-based translation management platforms encourage accountability by making it abundantly clear where a job is currently stalled within its workflow and who is responsible for pushing it forward.

Not coincidentally, this level of transparency has a funny way of inspiring agencies and translators to quickly take action or request clarification. It also generates the kind of granular feedback you’ll need to shape deeper process improvements.

4) Do you know which workflow steps take the longest to complete?

If you can benchmark the speed of a certain translation workflow, and monitor its component parts, then the next logical layer of analysis is to ask how each step influences the overall pace.

An exceedingly slow translation step, for example, may suggest you haven’t given translators clear enough context and instructions. Alternatively, the glacial proofreading pace of your subject matter experts could be unnecessarily delaying content launches by weeks.

However you ultimately choose to apply these translation insights, they represent an informational advantage few teams currently possess.

Smartling Translation Velocity

5) Do you know your translators by name?

Translation talent has traditionally been sourced in a black-box environment. Customers submit their content to a translation services agency, receive the completed translations several weeks later, and have no idea who actually handled the linguistic work in between.

There’s nothing inherently devious about this business model. Agencies exist to offer customers easy access to a desired output and remove the burden of managing human resources.

But with translators effectively serving as international ambassadors for your brand, wouldn’t you feel better at least seeing whose hands pull the strings behind the scenes?

Welcoming all business stakeholders and linguistic partners onto the same collaboration platform is an excellent first step. It creates a space for the personal interactions that clarify confusion and cultivate trust. But beyond that, you may ultimately consider turning to an agency that provides customers with a transparent view into its translator community from the start.  

6) Is their work any good?

Knowing your Uber driver’s name is nice, but seeing data-based proof of their ability to provide a safe and pleasant passenger experience seems much more important. We feel similarly about translators.

You shouldn’t have to wonder about your translator’s credentials, and you shouldn’t have to defer to a bilingual colleague (or learn a new language) to tell whether your translator did a good job. Translation quality assessments can and should be informed by universal data.

Has the translator processed a significant number of words in the target language?
What is their average turnaround time?
How frequently do their editors have to fix linguistic errors?

These historical indicators can quickly paint a picture of a translator’s professional competency. And when it comes time to determine the quality of a current project, factors like the depth of visual context and duration of proofreading can be similarly instructive.

For good measure, we continuously monitor more than 80 other data points to form the Quality Confidence Score™ that stands behind all Smartling translators.

7) Do they have access to key branding info?

Transparency only works when it flows both ways. It’s not fair to ask translators for everything but their passport numbers if you’re still guarding your localization strategy like a government secret.

Translators need to know how your business works and how your team thinks before they can produce quality localized content. The best way to codify your customs is to create style guides and brand glossaries. And when you do, be sure to actually share these linguistic assets in a place that’s easily accessible to your translators.

Otherwise, you can expect a steady stream of messages asking you to define and translate your company’s tribal terminology.

8) Do they have access to any visual context?

Another powerful way to make translators feel like strategic partners is to show them exactly how your business plans to apply their work. Translating in-context rescues them from the boredom of stale spreadsheets and challenges them to consider user experience alongside linguistic accuracy.

At the same time, visual context proactively prevents all kinds of downstream errors by presenting translators with the bigger picture and giving them a better chance to get strings right the first time.  

9) Do they have a direct line of communication to your team?

Linguistic assets and visual context empower translators to answer many of their own questions, but they still need a clear path for resolving more complex issues.

Forcing translators to filter their inquiries through a project manager’s inbox only reinforces the notion that their concerns are lesser priorities. And if they see several days pass before receiving a satisfactory response, they might be more inclined to keep good questions to themselves and start submitting “best guess” translations for efficiency’s sake.

By opening up dialogue between translators and the full localization team, you can squash the seeds of resentment and avoid the costly errors that often follow. Oftentimes all it takes is the technical innovation of an easy-to-use chat function.  

10) Do you know how much all of this is going to cost?  

It’s rarely a good sign when the figure that follows the dollar sign in your vendor’s invoice is a complete surprise. Unfortunately, that’s the way a majority of translation strategies are still financed.

Agencies only present a single subtotal — with no distinction drawn between productive investments and profit-padding fees. As a result, most localization leaders stare at their monthly bills, silently wonder what caused the latest variance, and reluctantly build a big margin of error into their budgetary projections.

Technology is forcing transparency into the industry, however. Translation management software with intelligent forecasting features can now provide upfront estimates before projects are even authorized. Additionally, integrated translation memory tools can even put a number on how much you can save by reducing redundant work.

Smartling Cost Estimate

Learn More

Eager to improve your test score? Get in touch with our experts today to see how Smartling’s translators and technologies could bring welcome transparency to your process.