Translation Process Management: Best Practices


Keep your brand at the pinnacle of the market and leave no room for misinterpretation.

By Scott Carothers

Your franchise has a formula for success, which is based on consistency. The formula was built from the ground up and is repeated for each new location, new region and new country. When your franchise expands beyond the United States, a new set of growing pains will accompany it. Finding a way to navigate through the different steps of the global growth process is no easy task. Each step requires expert support, and a great deal of trial and error. Language translations, like many other crucial franchise processes, play a critical role in securing the brand and achieving revenue goals in a given market. Your franchise’s legal, marketing, training and human resources documents require top-tier translation to keep your brand messaging precise. Many franchisors allow their global franchisees to do their own translations at the local level. If you are just one or two franchisees into this process, it can be a helpful negotiating vehicle for the contract agreement. Costs that would typically be spent on translation can be deferred back to them. However, eventually your franchisees may come to a point where they would rather not offer their translations to another “competitive” franchisee within the same market. In some circumstances, the original franchisee may own the copyright to the materials that it translated in that country. Translations are your intellectual property, yet they are seldom seen as a line-item expense, and the scale of translation expenses is often immensely underestimated. These numbers could shock you, but because they are tucked away as associated costs within each project and spread out in every business unit, they aren’t easy to pinpoint. Even the largest global franchises have struggles with the management of the ongoing translation process. No franchise, small or large, is immune to this. Consider the following tips when your franchise approaches the global growth stage, or if your franchise is having trouble managing the arduous translation process.

Tip No. 1 – Centralize Your Translation Process

Centralizing the process in its entirety has numerous benefits. First, you keep everyone involved on the same page, regardless of location. By avoiding the typical communications hurdles, time is saved, and productivity rises. There are many translation process tools on the market that can assist your franchise and franchisees in achieving this, and by centralizing the process, you stay in complete control. Staying in control is all in the data, and process analytics will assist your franchise in streamlining the workflow, which keeps your processes flowing smoothly and ensures optimal time-to-market. It is this game-changing business intelligence that gives you a peek behind the vendor’s curtain, whereas a typical translation vendor provides nothing more than a word count and the amount due on the invoice. Establishing a centralized workflow will allow your franchise to continually improve the process and avoid repeated mistakes.

Tip No. 2 − Centralize Your Translation Memory

Translation memory is the part of the process where your franchise has the most opportunity for savings. For those who aren’t familiar with TM, it is a database that stores your previously-approved translations of word pairs in a centralized repository. Picture a database with numerous pairs of words, one in the source language, and one in the target language. Each time you translate a new word, it is stored in this database, and kept for future reuse. This will ensure that you never pay to translate the same word twice. Additionally, it will keep all of your translations consistent. Every word, common and complex alike, needs only to be translated once (for each language) when a TM is properly implemented. Savings on your translations will rise with each project, and two or three years later, you will be paying only for a fraction of the costs since the majority of the words will already be translated. Most translation companies will offer to do this for you, but by keeping it in-house, you can positively assess each invoice for translation services. As noted earlier, each word your franchise pays to translate is your intellectual property. Keep every word centralized and internal to stay in control of your intellectual property.

Tip No. 3 − Vendor Independence

Staying vendor-independent is critical to ensuring the highest-quality translation work at the best available price. It is highly beneficial to have more than one translation vendor working for your franchise because some vendors are better with certain languages than others. There are more than 28,000 vendors with market-specific expertise in the translation industry; you have solid options to analyze to find the best fit for your business.

Tip No. 4 − Vendor Performance Ratings

Keeping track of your translation vendors’ performances is critical to finding the right fit for each project. As discussed earlier, the majority of translation vendors provide little or no information on the projects other than an invoice with the word count, and the amount due. When you track each vendor by word count, word matches, cost-competitiveness and time to market, you gain a clear understanding of how the project is completed behind the scenes. When you have detailed analytics on the life cycle of each translation project, you can fine-tune your process to make it a more efficient formula for success. When you use the old method of “Here is my project, send me an invoice,” you are simply putting the power in the hands of the vendors. Keep a running database of how well each vendor has performed on past projects to ensure that your next project is sent to the best possible vendor, leaving less room for error.

Tip No. 5 − Bid System

Bid systems are a bold idea in translation management. Just as you would bid out printing, packaging and supplies, your translation vendors should bid for the projects. Why not make them work harder for the business like your other vendors have to? You’ll see where one vendor may give you a better quote for the translations, while another might give you a better quote for the in-country review, and another might give you a better quote for the desktop publishing. Choose the best fit for your budget, your timeframe and your specific needs. Bid systems work best when paired with vendor performance ratings, because you see how well each bidding vendor has done for each past project before you give them the green light to complete all or part of your next project. When you centralize your translation process and your translation memory, be sure to remain vendor-independent, keep vendor-performance ratings, and send your projects out to bid among approved vendors.  In this way, franchise headquarters stays in complete control, while franchisees and customers in each global market receive clear, concise and consistent messaging, keeping your brand at the pinnacle of the market and leaving no room for misinterpretation.

Scott Carothers is senior globalization executive of Kinetic theTechnologyAgency, a translation process management system.  Find him at