Localization Strategy: Pros and Cons of Outsourcing

Developing a successful localization strategy depends on finding a delicate balance between control, cost, and scalability.
Rodrigo Demetrio
8 min
Table of Contents

Localization Strategy: Pros and Cons of Outsourcing

Developing a successful localization strategy depends on finding a delicate balance between control, cost, and scalability.

Some companies rely entirely on in-house talent—which offers you the most control and the lowest cost. There’s a lot of strength in building a translation team with linguists you know directly. However, you’ll run into significant difficulty when it comes time to scale up.

Other companies rely on 100% outsourced talent and technology in order to achieve faster, smoother, large-scale localization. With this strategy, what you give up in control and cost you gain in scalability and sustainable long-term success.

Companies localize successfully with both of these strategies, as well as by operating somewhere in the middle between fully outsourced and fully in-house work. To find your perfect balance, take a look at how the pros and cons of localization strategies stack up. By comparing the details of the seven most common solutions, you’ll be prepared to implement a localization process that lets you stay in control, keeps costs low, and empowers your global vision.

Comparing the Top 7 Localization Strategies

We’re comparing localization strategies based on the following criteria:

COST — How much you’ll pay in fees, salaries, and administrative overhead. And how much time you’ll end up spending for the payoff.

AGILITY — How quickly you can shift priorities. And how easily you can scale up.

QUALITY — How much transparency and oversight you have over translations. And how prepared translators are for success.

TECHNOLOGY — How much effort you need to spend wrangling localization technology. And how comprehensive and robust the technology is in the first place.

Internal Employee Who Speaks the Language:

Cost - $

Zero cost in additional dollars. Big time expense for the employee you’re leveraging.

Agility - F

Employees rarely have time for translation when it’s not their primary job.

Quality - F

Being a native speaker doesn’t necessarily make you a good translator.

Technology - F

Getting  non-professionals into a CAT tool can be a nightmare.

In-House Translation Team

Cost - $$$

Despite a low per-word cost, salaries and benefits add up quickly for translators and managers.

Agility - C

You may have the luxury of changing priorities up until a point, but it’s very common for in-house teams to get jammed up.

Quality - A

Your team really gets your product and produces high-quality results.

Technology - C

Someone will need to do the work of setting up a basic system to begin with. And you’ll be paying for the core technology.

External Freelancers Only

Cost - $$

Per-word rates are low, but project management costs are high.

Agility - D

Direct management of freelancers is not scalable for big projects.

Quality - B

The quality of your freelancers depends on how well you guide them.

Technology - D

You need your own  in-house CAT tools and freelancers willing to use this tech.

In-House Editors with Outsourced Services

Cost - $$$$

This approach costs extra but keeps your internal team reliably busy.

Agility - B

Your team can navigate between immediate needs and larger projects.

Quality - A

You can control transcreation, adaptation, and writing work.

Technology - C

Excellent workflow management is crucial for long-term success.

In-External SLVs

Cost - $$$

More expensive than freelancers but less than a multi-language vendor.

Agility - B

Easy to scale for the one language you need but not on a global level.

Quality - C

Some SLVs hook you with premium quality that deteriorates later.

Technology - D

The SLV won’t build a localization tech infrastructure for you.

Big-Box LSPs

Cost - $$$$$

Highest cost option, but you get a lot for your money.

Agility - A

This approach takes the headache out of scaling up to global markets.

Quality - B

As with SLVs, most enterprise LSPs won’t let you see who is doing the work.

Technology - B

Some LSPs try to trap you, requiring you use their tech. This makes it hard to leave or to adapt.mum.

Integrated Platform with Managed Services

Cost - $$$$

This price tag is more competitive than an MLV—with added value.

Agility - A

Integrations make content movement extremely agile and scalable.

Quality - A

Great platform tools and transparency enhance the quality of your content.

Technology - A+

User-friendly centralized tools and seamless automation are a perfect combo.

The Harley-Davidson Solution

Like most enterprise brands, Harley-Davidson needed to maintain  style specifications  across international borders.

Without a centralized system for structuring guidelines and getting sign-off from in-country reviewers, translators struggled to consistently achieve the precise style each market was trying to achieve. Project work was slowed down as a result of multiple rounds of back-and-forth between linguists and H-D reviewers. With help from Bureau Works and our Style Guide tools, the H-D localization strategy team implemented a comprehensive translation style guide with visual references. Market approval of all guidelines was documented in the platform and the team was off and running. The Bureau Works style guide solution codified standards, streamlined the lengthy review process and eliminated significant time and costs.

"For a partnership to succeed, credibility, communication, quality work, and accountability are key ingredients. What I like the most about Bureau Works is their consistency across these ingredients. They commit to quality, they’re responsive, and you can have open and solution-driven conversations without having to worry about a sales pitch or diversions. In a highly complex localization world with providers of all shapes and sizes, Bureau Works truly stand out as a trusted partner"

Wada'a Fahel Localization Manager, Harley-Davidson

Liberate your team from constantly shifting content standards. With BWX, localization flows in only one direction:

Build integrations that actually save time fully-functional integrations

It's a ridiculously competitive landscape and every bit of advantage counts. Our live preview allows you to understand how your sentences will look when published. This is particularly powerful for websites, code, or other visually contextualized content. It's not just about what words say, it's about how they look and where they are placed.Constant political maneuvering may be a hallmark of the localization manager’s job, but that doesn’t mean it always has to be that difficult to get various teams on board with systems integration. At Bureau Works, we work swiftly to take the load off your systems engineers and get integrations up and running within a reasonable timeframe. With BWX, you’ll have a much easier time getting everyone to the table to build integrations that work. As an industry-leading corporate translation service, we’re proud to offer API integrations to major content systems, including Zendesk, Drupal, Survey Gizmo, GitHub, Blaise-Cognitran, and Adobe AEM.

Shift the paradigms of standard localization management

Dig into thought leadership from the BWX team on topics that localization managers will find particularly interesting:

Rodrigo Demetrio
Steering the marketing ship at Bureau Works with 17+ years of MarTech under my belt, I transform mere ideas into tangible realities. Passionate about languages and their power to build bridges, let's build a new one?
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