What to Include in a Translation Services Contract
In previous posts, I covered how to choose a translation vendor, along with guidance for per-word translation rates. This article provides information on possible categories to include in a contract for translation services. It can be used as a handy reference guide when working with your purchasing and legal departments.
The goal of any translation services contract is to define your company’s relationship with the provider: communication channels, services to be delivered, performance tracking, and so on. It should also cover how you will deal with conflicts, security, possible delays, and other business and operational issues.
1. Assigned Representatives
List the primary contacts for each party and the preferred communication method, such as email, phone, or web portal. Since assignments may change over time, it’s a good idea to include secondary contacts as well.
2. Scope of Work
List and describe the various language services for which you are contracting. This could be, for example, “translation, editing, and testing of your website in Chinese, German, and Spanish for Latin America.” Document your expectations on how, where, and when the services will be delivered.
3. Quality Specifications
If you have any special requirements related to quality management processes and systems, linguistic quality measurement, or certifications, document them in this section. For example, your company may require ISO 9000 certification (a quality management standard), or there may be specific guidelines that vendors must follow when providing content for your website.
4. Tracking and Reporting
Regularly scheduled meetings and phone calls with translation vendors are critical to implementing and maintaining a successful relationship. This includes periodic reports on project deliverables, on-demand inquiries into status, and post-mortem discussions of completed projects. If you want an hourly text message with a status update during business hours, state this in the contract. If your accounts payable or purchasing department needs spending reports, make sure you specify accordingly.
5. Performance Measurement
Lay out your expectations for linguistic quality, overall performance, and service quality. Consider tracking your vendors consistently through key performance indicators, scorecards, and dashboards that are referred to in the body of the contract and outlined clearly in an appendix. If you do this, make sure that you periodically share this performance data with your translation vendor(s) to clarify your expectations and to point out opportunities for improvement.
6. Intellectual Property and Knowledge Transfer
Specify in the contract the terms of non-disclosure requirements and intellectual property ownership. If you expect to own your translation memories, glossaries, style guides, and so on, then your contract must contain these specific requirements. Consider including a provision for knowledge transfer as well. This can be as simple as a periodic meeting between project managers that is documented, or a members-only discussion group maintained under Yahoo! or Google Groups.
7. Data Security
You need to be reasonably assured that whatever you hand over to a supplier will not be lost or compromised. Make sure that you clarify how and where your data is worked on and stored before disaster strikes. Do this by including specific requirements for archiving, backup and recovery, and data protection in the contract.
8. Conflict Resolution
Establish a clear process for what to do when problems arise — such as disagreement over how to translate a specific term or phrase — and how they will be addressed.
9. Appendix: Project-Specific Requirements
Create an appendix to describe the current project(s) in detail, including the specific services being contracted, deliverable specifications, pricing, and schedules.
10. Appendix: Price Lists
In the event that project requirements change, include a negotiated price list for various services in an appendix. For example, halfway into the Chinese translation of your website, your local marketing team may decide that it makes more sense to create local content, rather than to translate all of the corporate text provided. If your translation supplier has the expertise to do that, you won’t lose time in negotiating a rate if it’s already included in the contract.