Outsourcing began as a cheaper option for businesses to get work done. As the globe shrinks, outsourcing becomes a more and more practical option for LSPs looking to lower their operating costs. However, is the financial benefit of outsourcing worth the potential risks? For example, different cultures to authority in different ways. Misunderstanding of authority can cause serious problems in communication, which can affect deadlines and product delivery.
For example. A project manager could ask a worker if a project will be completed by a certain date. In some cultures, the question would be interpreted as needing a straight, clear answer, to which the worker will be held accountable (such as is expected in the United States). However, in other cultures the question might be interpreted as NOT needing a straight answer or presenting any accountability, and the worker could respond with “Yes, it might be ready,” and then not deliver by that date. And that would be acceptable to them, and unacceptable to the PM – resulting in time loss, confusion, and potentially damaged relationships.
For language-related work, clearly a type of outsourcing is required, (if you count hiring a translator or agency in a foreign country as outsourcing). A linguist living in the country whose language they work with almost always produces higher-quality work than those living outside of that country. However, even language outsourcing must be done with care, because cultural differences still apply and miscommunications can still occur. In my own experience working with an LSP that was attempting to set up a successful full-scale outsourcing operation for their translation module, I’ve seen firsthand a little bit of the challenges that outsourcing can present. The problems ranged from simple communication errors to misquoted prices and incorrect representation of the workflow, resulting in completely erroneous projects and costing a great deal of time, effort, and resources to the company. After a decent amount of time, work, and resources (much more than they had planned on, I might add) the relationship was functioning, at least on a tentative basis. However, from what I’ve seen, it usually takes a great deal of work and back-and-forth communication to set up a successful and efficient inter-agency outsourcing operation.
What do you think? Is outsourcing worth it, or should LSPs stick to running their own business and accept the economic consequences of that decision? Is there a happy medium?
A version of this post also appeared at http://samedaytranslations.com/blog/.