students play the game twister

As part of our global content strategy practice, we are often asked how customers can streamline the translation workflow. By translation workflow, I do not mean the steps that a translation company follows during the translation process. Instead, we focus on the workflow that surrounds the translation process.

It includes all of those nitty-gritty things we have to do to manage the content as it moves through the entire process. This workflow covers everything but the work that the translation company does. They have their own workflow (and haven’t asked me to streamline it yet).


If you want to tackle streamlining your translation workflow, I recommend that you consider five distinct stages:

  1. Before content goes to translation
  2. Sending content to translation
  3. During translation
  4. How content returns from translation
  5. After content returns from translation

Phase 1: Before Content Goes to Translation

Long before you send any content to your Language Services Provider (LSP), you need to set up how the relationship is going to work. What are your expectations for the way the relationship will operate? What are the expectations of the LSP? Over the years, I have found that most problems occur when our expectations are misaligned with the expectations of the other party. It doesn’t matter if you are the customer or the vendor, we all have expectations.

It is best to put everyone’s needs and expectations on the table before you send your first piece of information to your LSP. Alignment is key to a successful relationship and successful translations.

Phase 2: Sending Content to Translation

There is an entire workflow that needs to be created and followed for the process of sending content to the translation company. You might be thinking, “How hard can it be? I take the files and get them to the LSP.” It’s the words “get them” that you need to determine and there are a variety of ways to do it. You need to have a well-planned workflow created before you send a file. Otherwise, among other potential disasters, your authors might continue to make changes to content after it has already been sent out for translation.

Phase 3: During Translation

This part of the workflow covers the interaction that takes place during the translation process. It does not cover the workflow of how content moves through your LSP. That’s the LSP’s responsibility to manage and maintain. Most of your interaction with the LSP that happens during translation falls into one of two categories:

  • The LSP asks you for clarification on source content (presumably you respond right away!)
  • Reviewing the translations

Phase 4: Content Returns from Translation

The workflow for the return of your translations is another area that needs to be clearly spelled out. This is similar to creating the workflow for content as it is going to translation, only backwards. If you have multiple LSPs working on the content, it is very important to know how each translation will be returned, by who, when, and where. The more languages you have, the more complicated this part of the workflow can become.

Phase 5: After Translation

Last, but not least, you need to figure out what you are going to do with the content after it has been translated. It might seem like a silly question – “Now that you have the translation, what are you going to do with it?” However, there are times when a company translates content into a language “just because,” or as a second thought, without clearly thinking through what is going to happen to that content next.

What’s Next?

In future posts, I’ll provide questions for you to ask during each phase of the translation workflow. Some questions you will ask yourself. Others you will ask your LSP. And still others you will ask other people. In all cases, answering the questions in advance will save you time and money, and help improve the quality of your content in all languages.

This post is part of the “Five Phases of Translation Workflow” series. You can download the free ebook all about the translation workflow here or check out the links to the entire series of blog posts below.

Five Phases of Translation Workflow eBook Cover

For more information about global content strategy, see my book Global Content Strategy: A Primer, available in a bundle of eBook formats (PDF, Kindle, ePub) from XML Press and in print or Kindle from Amazon.