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Evaluating Language Services Providers: How Procurement Can Effectively Manage the RFP Process and Find the Most Suitable Partner

Seek input from a trusted Language Services Provider early on to establish effective RFP evaluation criteria, get the best value, and meet your company’s needs

It’s challenging for any buyer to choose a Language Services Provider (LSP); it can be even more difficult for procurement professionals to select the right vendor, particularly if these pros lack localization expertise, which is often the case.

Our Buyer’s Guide to Localization Services outlines 10 steps to the perfect partnership. It’s a great place to start as you begin the process. Procurement departments will need to take a detailed approach when evaluating LSPs, as they will be responsible for creating a highly effective Request for Proposal (RFP).

It is easy to underestimate the complexity involved in managing the RFP process for localization vendors. Procurement departments must put forth a lot of effort and consider many factors when establishing evaluation criteria that will lead to a successful partnership. But the process of assessing LSP vendors needn’t be arduous.

Want to simplify RFP development? Want to ensure you are selecting the most suitable LSP for your worldwide employees? Read on for tips to achieve these goals.

When Are RFPs Most Commonly Initiated for Language Services?

Procurement pros often initiate an RFP to reduce costs or secure a more qualified vendor.

An RFP can help a company reduce the number of vendor engagements, which can lead to cost savings. The procurement department often consolidates vendors following mergers and acquisitions. Alternatively, procurement pros may issue an RFP when a department is no longer satisfied with the existing vendor and desires a new partner who can provide better service.

Either way, the execution of language services is both a science and an art. Localization is complex. Translators must put more effort into translating some languages than others; they must also address cultural differences. These factors make it challenging to assess a vendor’s ability to deliver quality work.

Procurement pros must identify trends and effectively pinpoint their business’s needs to write a good RFP and accurately evaluate vendors’ capabilities.

 

How Can I Write an Effective RFP?

It may seem like a daunting process to write an RFP, but you can lessen the burden by getting support. Some LSPs — like Lionbridge — offer expert advice early in the process. They draw on their vast experience to help you execute surveys that identify business challenges, assess internal needs, and help you identify the services best suited to meet the local requirements of all your departments.

The procurement department would find it hard — if not impossible — to gain insight into every departmental need and align those needs with all the possible localization services. An experienced LSP will have the expertise to do it.

The LSP can help assess the specific needs of legal, HR, or marketing departments and identify the needs of product teams to determine how to best execute language services. These services may include localization of marketing content, localization to support compliance efforts, localization of video and audio, or real-time interpretation, including over-the-phone interpretation, among other services.

The LSP will help you identify what to include in the RFP to help you compare and discern differences among the LSPs under consideration.

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What Evaluation Criteria Should I Include in My RFP?

There’s no standard way to write an RFP. It’s beyond the scope of this piece to provide every element since the questionnaire will be highly specific to an enterprise’s goals.

However, consider including the following evaluation criteria in your RFP as you assess vendors: ability to deliver quality work in a cost-effective manner, MT expertise, data security and privacy policies, and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts.

Value

Value and cost savings are critical criteria for procurement departments to investigate. Procurement departments routinely devote a keen eye to the bottom-line cost of services. But this measure doesn’t provide a complete picture when evaluating an LSP. Imagine retaining the services of an LSP that offers attractive rates but cannot keep your company’s data secure or produce the right quality level. Will your company be satisfied? It’s unlikely. If one vendor is significantly less expensive than the others, find out why. And look beyond cost when assessing the value of services.

Machine Translation Expertise

Increasingly, procurement departments will be required to assess Machine Translation (MT) services and understand the differences between vendor offerings.

The use of MT is exploding as companies try to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for localization. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation, which intensified the need to create more content and translation.

While MT is highly cost-effective and enables companies to localize more content than they may have ever thought possible, it will not entirely replace the services performed by people.

Be wary of the risks associated with overly relying on MT and assess the LSP’s solution accordingly.

A good approach will involve customization and consist of a combination of MT and human translation. A reputable and experienced LSP, like Lionbridge, can guide you to find the right balance to fully exploit the cost savings associated with MT while achieving the quality levels that are just right for each use case.

When you consider MT, investigate whether the LSP offers a best-of-breed MT approach, which allows you to select the best engine based on the content type and language pair. This is the most flexible deployment strategy. It increases MT quality and reduces MT costs.

Finally, find out if the LSP can train machines using your data, which will enable you to achieve a consistent brand voice across channels.

An experienced LSP will enable you to be agile and responsive to new technologies as it helps you create a winning MT strategy.

Data Security and Privacy

Explore how your prospective LSP partner will protect your company’s data and confidentiality. While you may not initially think about data security and privacy when writing your RFP, don’t neglect these factors. If your LSP partner has a data breach or fails to adhere to privacy laws, your company could experience devastating consequences.

It's standard to have a Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA) in place. Delve deeper and investigate measures the LSP is taking to protect data from cyber criminals and how it will ensure privacy.

Ask the following questions:

  • Will my company’s data be encrypted at transit and at rest?
  • Does the LSP have a documented, approved, and communicated security policy?
  • What security certifications does the LSP have?
  • What mechanism is in place for the LSP to lawfully transfer information from the EU to a third country, such as the U.S.?
  • Does the LSP have a privacy program?
  • Does the LSP have a Data Protection Officer (DPO) or similar position within the organization?

The answers will demonstrate whether the LSP has a commitment to data protection and privacy and help you decide whether you want to partner with that vendor.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Does your company value Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? If so, is the LSP taking action to promote social well-being?

Procurement departments are increasingly asking LSPs to provide information about their efforts to promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and sustainability initiatives through third-party channels, such as an EcoVadis rating.

At Lionbridge, our DEI and sustainability strategies are an expression of our commitment to live and operate by our core values in all aspects of our business. We strive to be a supplier of choice for companies seeking partners who are eager to help them meet their own social, environmental, and governance goals.

As companies increasingly take steps to be good corporate citizens, LSPs are becoming instrumental in helping them to disseminate information about these efforts — both inside and outside of the organization.

Learn how Lionbridge translated sustainability reports into several global languages for two of its customers. This type of communication is essential as it can help businesses form stronger connections with their global customers and secure investment, all while doing the right thing.

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Why Count on Lionbridge To Help You Navigate the RFP Process and Meet Your Localization Needs?

Some of the biggest brands in the world rely on Lionbridge as their trusted localization partner.

Having provided translation and localization services for 25+ years, we have the expertise to support your RFP discovery phase and enable you to better understand your company’s challenges per department, so you can tailor your RFP accordingly and ultimately secure the right LSP partner.

We credit our staying power and massive growth with our ability to become an expert in — and capitalize on — technological advancements. For instance, our AI-powered localization platform, the Lionbridge Language Cloud™, automates the content journey so our customers can localize more, better, faster, and in even more languages. And we have the longest-standing Machine Translation Tracker, which measures the quality of the major engines. We are a highly knowledgeable resource for companies that want to develop an MT strategy that drives cost savings.

We’re ready to help your company implement the latest technology to reduce localization costs while addressing security and privacy and prioritizing CSR for the well-being of future generations.

 

Get in Touch

If you’d like to learn more about how Lionbridge can help you develop an effective RFP to assess LSPs, or you need expert language services, contact us today.

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AUTHOR AND/OR CONTRIBUTOR
Olivier Onfray with Janette Mandell
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