Speed, quality, or cost – what’s most important to buyers?

Taking on the responsibility for translations is a daunting prospect, especially since most translation buyers don’t have a background in linguistics. Outsourcing to an agency is a great way to transfer responsibility, but, it is important for all parties involved to set expectations in terms of the relationship and the outcome of each project. Let’s take a closer look.

There is a trade-off between quality, cost, and speed

A human translator can translate only a certain amount of words in a working day – typically around 2,000 – 3,000 words per day. This is a metric that needs to be taken into account when setting deadline expectations. It’s certainly a handy point of reference, but there are other factors that can affect how speedily, or not, a translator can get through a translation. These include:

Facrtors that influence speed

A source document that has been poorly drafted will be tough to translate into a high standard. It’s worth ensuring that the source text is professionally edited before translation.

Complexity of the Text

A complex source text will take longer to translate, and a little research may be needed to ensure that the translator understands the nature of the copy. They’ll also need to take some time checking their work carefully.

Reference Material

Providing as much as possible in terms of glossaries, style guides, and other references up front helps translates to do their work to a higher standard, and speeds up the process.

But, what happens if a significantly large document has to be translated in a short timespan? According to the Common Sense Advisory report, some of the large users of translation services take turnaround time very seriously – more so than cost or the quality of the final product. This is because, for some companies, time to market is an important consideration for staying ahead of the competition.

What the CSA report discovered

According to the CSA, implementing translation performance metrics is an important path to maturity for language service teams. In 2011, it asked 226 buyers who manage language services what metric would help them benchmark performance against other teams. The buyers used words such as:

Performance metrics

In terms of quality, buyers would like:

  • Number of bugs fixed
  • Metrics for measuring the standard of service from a customer’s perspective
  • Quality targets for every target market
  • A resolution timeframe for escalations
  • Metrics for the number of corrections at QA stage

As for speed, buyers want metrics for:

  • Number of handoffs per year
  • Turnaround time per 10,000 words
  • Average number of words put through QA per hour

Finally, for cost, buyers would like metrics for:

  • Per-word cost for linguistic review
  • Percentage of project cost spent on QA
  • Industry cost per word/per page
  • Percentage of outsourcing budget per FTE
  • Number of acceptance cycles per project per vendor

Sadly, as the number of required languages continues to soar, and budgets don’t, language service managers are struggling to find the right amount of linguistic review. But, to move the quality dial, often requires the translation team to collaborate with content created and engage with the customer.



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