Starting to work with a new translation provider has some risks. A translation pilot project is a great way to reduce the risk and validate your project upfront.
Your procurement department might be wary when you propose using a new translation provider… and with good reason!
Onboarding a new translation provider can involve a significant amount of work for your company. Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) need to be signed, the provider's information security protocols
need to be matched against your company's policies, and your procurement team needs to vet the provider against various requirements.
Many global companies have first-hand experience of the nightmares that can arise when a translation provider isn't up to standard. Your procurement department doesn't want to go through all this work only to find that the provider isn't suitable.
How can you reduce the potential risk of working with a new translation provider?
You can propose a pilot project…
What is a pilot project for translation?
A pilot project is a small-scale, short-term project that you use to test the viability of a particular strategic plan. With translation, this means getting a provider to translate a single piece of content that is representative of the type of content you generally translate.
Note: A pilot project isn't the same as a one-off translation
You might be thinking that a pilot project just sounds like a simple, one-off translation project. However, there is an important distinction to remember…
A pilot project should be an experiment to vet a provider for ongoing work. Sourcing a provider for a standalone, one-off translation is a completely different process from sourcing a long-term provider.
Here are some differences:
Sourcing a one-off translation job — Most small translation agencies can easily handle a small, single job. Even a capable freelance translator can do this. For your first job, most small providers will be trying to impress you by getting the job done quickly. This can give you a distorted view of their limited capabilities, which will become overloaded extremely quickly when you try to scale the translation.
Sourcing a pilot project for a longer-term supplier — A good translation provider that can handle large ongoing projects will have a completely different approach. You should be looking for evidence that they can scale production quickly and that they have the processes in place to deliver efficiently on many types of content. They should clearly care about developing a lasting relationship with you and shouldn't just focus on this one job.
The Association for Project Management
, the governing body of our project managers at Rubric, also distinguishes between a pilot project (a small test implementation) and a trial (where the provider starts working on a large project but with a trial time limit).
7 reasons procurement will love your translation pilot project
There are many good reasons to choose a pilot project as your first project with any new translation provider.
Here are 7 good reasons your procurement department should appreciate the approach:
1. It's low risk
With a pilot project, you can set the boundaries of the project. You don't need to "reveal all your secrets" to the translation provider or give them as much access to your systems and processes as you would for ongoing work.
As a result, a pilot project reduces the upfront work required from your procurement department and reduces the risk.
2. Reduces the potential for mistakes
A lot of global companies make mistakes when they are sourcing translation providers. The process of finding a good provider is hard and can require a lot of knowledge of how translation works at scale.
3. Lets you see how a provider works
You will have ways that you like to work with suppliers. Maybe you prefer to work with a single point of contact. Maybe you like your provider to be involved in your weekly internal planning meetings. Both of these things, for example, are possible if you work with Rubric but aren't available from many other providers.
A pilot project lets you get a feel for the provider, how they work, and whether they will complement how you work.
4. Has a short, defined timeline and clear outcomes
Large translation projects can take months to complete. This time is where a lot of the risk comes when you are assessing a potential new provider.
With a pilot project, you can set a defined timeline. You have clear, measurable outcomes and deliverables, and a clear endpoint.
5. You're not tied into a provider
A clear advantage of running a pilot project is that you aren't tied into using the translation provider forever. If they can't meet your needs during the pilot project, you don't need to keep working with them after it.
One benefit of working with a long-term provider is that each translation builds your company's Translation Memory (TM) — a database of all past translations that can be reused and reduce the cost of future translations. You can arrange upfront that the provider will give you the TM after the pilot project if you choose not to continue working with them.
6. Identifies potential roadblocks upfront
With any large-scale or ongoing translation work, there will be roadblocks along the way. You can't know what those roadblocks will be upfront. However, a pilot project can help you to identify potential roadblocks that you might encounter later.
Having identified roadblocks during your pilot project, you and your translation provider can set systems in place to mitigate the problems before they arise.
7. You test the viability of translation while getting work done
If you or your company hasn't done much translation in the past, you might still be unsure if it is going to be a good strategic approach for your company. A pilot project will help you to answer the question: Should we translate our content at all?
Rather than sitting around in meetings trying to find an answer to this question, a pilot project allows you to run an experiment to find the answer, whilst also getting work done to build content for your international markets.
This ability to experiment is also why we often use pilot projects with our clients at Rubric when they want to introduce a new process or tool.
What's your first step for running a pilot project with a translation provider
How do you get started running a pilot project for your translation work?
First, decide on your requirements. It can be a good idea to talk to your procurement department to identify requirements that are important for them.
Pick a representative piece of content that you can get translated as a test. Clarify your timescales and your goals for the translated content.
Then, get in contact with the translation provider you are interested in working with. Talk to one of their team
and align with them for the pilot project.