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Translation RFP Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

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Conducting a translation request for proposal (RFP) just because it is a mandatory part of company policy is a no-go. The effectiveness of an RFP depends on due diligence preparation. Issuing an RFP “the quick and dirty” way is worse than not conducting one at all. What are the risks?

In the Preparation Phase

  • Valuable lessons learned from past RFPs are not being considered thus buyers do not learn from past mistakes. They miss out on an opportunity to find the perfect supplier. As a result, they potentially make the same mistakes, thus wasting valuable company time correcting errors the second time around.

  • Essential internal stakeholders are not included in the preparation phase: an all-round buyer RFP has many aspects. They represent departments that should be included in the compilation of RFP questions besides just the person(s) responsible for the translation. Their input will make sure that their essential requirements are covered as well. Not taking these key persons into consideration can have multiple consequences, one of them being that they potentially will not accept the outcome of the RFP.

  • Company’s business and operational goals have not been taken into consideration: a company’s mid- to long-term strategy and the operational execution of those goals should be perfectly aligned to reach the desired outcome. Again, once you know your destination, you should set out the best path. You will find bumps along the road: changed company requirements that lead to different processes, new language combinations, more budgetary constraints.

Translation RFP Pitfalls

Other shortcomings that have been noted in RFPs are the following:

  • Lack of openness from buyer about their internal processes. To receive targeted meaningful responses from candidate-suppliers, full disclosure by the buyer of relevant information is pertinent.
  • Lack of approval of a clearly defined translation RFP budget. A costly and time-consuming process is being kicked-off without any idea of the financial implications. For larger RFPs, this can potentially have serious financial budgetary implications.
  • Too many questions without indistinct level of importance or priority. Some answers could be reason for disqualification a priori. Why waste everyone’s time?

In the Execution Phase

  • Lack of transparency in the RFP process is missing: ambiguity in process and in questions makes the RFP exercise time-consuming, cumbersome and foremost expensive.
  • Too many open questions and free-text format: this does not only make it difficult for buyers to compare fairly, but also creates a sensation of uncertainty with the suppliers about whether they are being treated fairly in the RFP process.

Translation RFP Pitfalls

RFP Best Practices

Here is a set of best practices that you can apply when issuing an RFP:

  • Make sure all crucial stakeholders are involved in the process
  • Challenge your current translation RFP process and be innovative and effective
  • Don’t waste anyone’s time by conducting an RFI/RFP for invalid reasons
  • Use a format that allows for fair, unambiguous comparison and evaluation
  • Also use open questions and room for candidates to impress and offer different perspectives
  • (Especially) when you are new to the process: read relevant literature, network with industry peers to hear how the market develops, what the trends are (new technologies, areas of expertise, etc.)
  • Define your non-negotiable criteria and reasons for disqualification up front
  • Avoid asking questions that are easily answered by a company’s website
  • Take calculated well-thought-out risk, when imposed by competitive landscape
  • Align your translation RFP with your mid to long-term strategy and company goals
  • Be aware and avoid ambiguity and lack of transparency in every step of the process
  • As a buyer, be open and willing to provide at least as much information about your own organization

Want to learn more about translation and localization RFPs? Then download our guide on “Writing Effective RFPs for Translation and Localization Services” for free!

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