Buying translations

Thinking strategically before buying translations: how a 6D assessment can help you

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It doesn’t just take a fair amount of time to get from deciding to implement a new strategy for buying translations to beginning to work with your new translation provider(s) – there’s plenty of hard work involved for everyone involved too. To make sure you don’t forget anything amid all the upheaval, it’s worth carrying out a 6D assessment of the current situation and the aims behind making the switch.

Large companies which need lots of translations across various departments often have to grapple with slow and cumbersome workflows – and it can take a very long time until a new process is in place. Switching to a structured process of buying translations is no different, so you should think it through carefully making the switch.

The vision and a 6D assessment come first

In order to structure the process of buying translations, it’s crucial to establish the status quo and find out what everyone involved with translations requires, so that further down the line everyone gets what they need. The best way to do this is to carry out a 6D assessment and come up with a vision. The key questions should be: where do we want to go, what is the aim behind this switch, and how can we measure whether we’ve achieved it? Common starting points are using translation memories more effectively (to save more money), automating workflows (using machine translation, interfaces etc.), and getting more control over what you’re paying (reporting). The 6D assessment will give you valuable insights into the following dimensions:

  • D1 Reporting
  • D2 Technology and resources
  • D3 Internal department workflows
  • D4 Translation agency workflows
  • D5 In-house clients
  • D6 Group-wide processes

Scrutinizing your technology and resources

As part of Dimension 1, you should ask what you expect from your reporting and what you want to measure – for instance, where additional costs are being incurred. This involves specifying KPIs which will help you achieve your aims, such as a better overview of costs, ensuring consistent terminology is used, switching to an authoring system together with your translation partner, introducing an interface, or saving money with machine translation. Your reporting and your KPIs should be specified to suit these aims. 

Dimension 2 covers all resources used for translations – i.e. translation memories, term bases and CAT tools. It’s important to establish how many TMs you have, who owns them, how and in which form they can be used in future, and so on. You should also think about terminology management, especially if your aim is to automate more of your workflows and you’re considering using machine translation, because terminology is often an area in need of improvement and “decluttering”. Another question is who’s responsible for entering foreign-language terminology in your term base: will someone in-house do it, will it be your office in the relevant region, or will you ask your agency’s translators to enter terms as they translate? Again, the more familiar everyone involved is with your long-term aims, the better you can configure your translation memories and term bases.

Internal and external workflows

Dimensions 3 and 4 focus on the internal and external (i.e. translation agency) workflows. In addition to establishing the workflows that suit you, plus the option of integrating an intelligent interface, the key points here are knowledge management and regular meetings with your translation partner.


Insider tip 1
No matter how much planning goes into making the switch, when it actually happens there will be problems and unwelcome surprises. A good way to make sure you can react quickly when they occur is to schedule regular meetings with your translation partner – initially, we recommend doing this on a weekly basis.
Insider tip 2
Establish real-time collaboration with your language service provider! A shared space for gathering knowledge and devising suitable measures, which everyone involved can access, will over time develop into a form of handbook.

Throughout this process, it’s important to specify and ensure everyone is familiar with each person’s responsibilities. Depending on the size of your team, you may have several people responsible for technology, innovation etc.

Clarify the situation in-house

Dimension 5 sheds light on your in-house clients, i.e. the departments/staff at your business who need translations. A key issue to clarify here is who’s entitled to order quotes/projects and in which form. Ask your translation partner to help classify the types of texts you need, and develop a workflow for each type which factors in the security and quality risks. Finally, Dimension 6 looks at the group-wide processes, potentially including in-country reviews and feedback from other offices – if you want these sites to be closely involved, you need a clear vision for how the processes should work and which technology you need to implement them.

Successful onboarding

This 6D assessment should be carried out in advance to ensure you don’t forget anything when drawing up the framework agreement with your translation agency. Onboarding is another stage which can be tailored to your needs, so that you can successfully make the switch. It’s better to take things step by step, rather than suddenly sending all your translation projects to your new language service provider: for example, once you’ve classified your texts, you could start by sending them text type A while you develop the workflow for text type B. Regular meetings will ensure you can quickly resolve any problems that occur.


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