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Auditing a vendor to partner with can be a vital step for finding adherence to particular processes and standards. When it comes to the quality of your translations, this is especially important.

Auditing your translation vendor can give you a better understanding of the daily tasks and processes being implemented to ensure your translations are of high quality and that your company’s content is safe in your vendor’s possession. The last thing you want to do is enter into a contract with a translation vendor and later find out their courses of action are not adequate.

Preparing to conduct an audit

Going into a translation vendor audit, you should have a solid understanding of what your company is looking to achieve or learn about a translation vendor. The scope and complexity of the translation vendor audit can vary depending on the nature of your company’s business and the criticality of your translations. In other words, the extent of your translation vendor audit is up to you, not your vendor.

Likewise, if your translation vendor needs to adhere to certain quality standards, such as ISO 9001, there are certain processes and documents that can be validated through auditing. To be sure you’re capturing these and other quality influencers, go back to the quality plan you created and recap some of the areas that may be worth focusing on within an audit.

Types of translation vendor audits

Some companies choose to send questionnaires to their translation vendor to qualify and document their vendor’s processes. Questionnaires tend to be more cost-effective, since they require no travel or other large up-front costs. However, be sure that by sending questionnaires you can obtain the right amount of information from your translation vendor to accurately qualify their quality management system.

Alternatively, some clients choose to visit their translation vendor for an on-site audit. While this may be more costly if you are not in close proximity to your translation vendor, it can be valuable if certain questions or processes need to be addressed face-to-face. Auditing on-site also allows you an inside view to see how things are actually getting done and verify that proper processes are in place to ensure high-quality translations.

Normally an on-site visit consists of reviewing your vendor’s translation processes and their quality management system. Interviews are set up with people such as the quality assurance managers, assigned project managers or other internal staff members that will be working directly or indirectly with your company’s translations, as well as the vendor’s support staff who maintain their technical systems.

What to look for within the audit

As we discussed before, ultimately you need to decide what is important for your company to measure within a translation vendor questionnaire or on-site audit. However, common themes often emerge in the evaluations we have with clients.

Typically questions relate to the evaluation of a vendor’s quality systems, such as the organizational chart, availability of quality policies or manuals, primary contact for quality concerns, certain quality certifications or techniques they adhere to and the percentage of translation quality complaints seen over a certain period of time. These, along with other quality system-based questions, are often asked to determine a translation vendor’s level of dedication to quality.

Similarly, audits usually evaluate a translation vendor’s document control. Since a vendor will be working directly with your company’s translations, you need to be sure they are able to properly handle, store and retrieve client-sensitive content. This may include an assessment of IT capabilities and functions that can affect the security of your translation management systems, such as protection of files, authentication of passwords, data backup testing and off-site storage, translation memory storage and firewall configurations. These are just a few of the ways you can be sure your translation vendor has the ability to keep your translations secure from corruption or loss in the case of system failures as well.

It is also common to ask about the design control of translations, in particular the procedures, review steps, personnel and other resources that will be assigned to the design and creation of your translations. This will help you determine who will be reviewing, verifying and recording any changes in your translations, while also making sure your translation layouts, images and other file type requirements will be met. Design control is an important quality influencer that can be managed not only by your project team, but by an advanced translation management system.

Again, the scope and type of questions asked within an audit are for you to decide. Remember, your translation vendor should be willing to give you visibility into their inner workings, whether through questionnaires or an on-site audit. If they are opposed to having you scrutinize every step in the process, they likely do not have a sufficient quality system in place to serve your translation needs. And at worst, they may have something to hide.

Next up in our quality translation blog series is part 9, where we’ll discuss how you can help translation vendors improve the overall quality of translations.

Still not sure how to audit your translation vendor? Have other suggestions on how to audit translation processes? Leave your comments with us below.

For more on monitoring your translation quality, check out the rest of the blog series: 10 crucial ways to ensure high quality translations