As a buyer of language services, there are so many things you need to address when reviewing pricing from your translation provider. What are the per word rates? What does it mean when I see a project management fee? As many buyers have experienced, estimates and pricing can vary from provider to provider, and comparing two estimates is like comparing apples and oranges.

It’s not surprising a cost of translation often largely goes undefined, but it can impact a business just as much as, if not sometimes more than a poor estimate from a provider. This is what I call the hidden cost of translation. It’s the costs you’re already incurring in the translation process before you even translate a word. Here are some key areas to think about:

Who manages translation in your business? Do you have a dedicated resource or is it a task that moves around depending on the content origin and the department?

As many translation buyers know, procuring language services is as not as simple as sending a document over the wall and receiving it back. There are questions, clarifications, content changes, and review cycles along the way. While some of this is unavoidable and even necessary, it is still a cost to your business.

Is the person managing your translations the ideal resource? What’s their lost productivity based on their role?

I have seen IT managers run their website localization. Most would say, “Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?” Without question, the IT manager needs to be informed and monitor the project, but are they really the project manager for it? What business objectives are getting missed because you have a high-level manager handling translation and not focused on other items? These are all critical questions to keep in mind.

My last example is not unheard of either. Marketing team members tend to be very involved in the translation process, and this is an area that can hit you where it really hurts, the wallet. Marketing team members are closely tied to the revenue health of most business units. Translation is important of course, because it is critical to driving revenue in global markets, but is the marketing manager the right person to manage translation? Assume your marketing manager is part of a business that is tasked with growing by $1,000,000 in the fiscal year.

Now assume that this marketing manager works 2,080 hours per year. That means for every hour he/she puts in, it should help drive an additional $480 per hour. Now assume that the same manager is engaged in the translation process for 200 hours over the course of the year, this would equate to potentially $96,000 dollars of lost revenue. That would signify a 10% miss at your target revenue line and some unhappy team members in January.

So now that you know you have hidden costs, there are a variety of approaches to help reduce this cost. Centralized resources who manage the process, outsourced support, and standardization of processes are just a few. A translation provider will help you reduce your per word costs, a language services partner will work with you reduce your total spend. Work with your partner, so that at end of the year those hidden costs have not hindered your business from meeting its key objectives. The translation process should help you grow, not make you shrink.

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