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My minimalist Localization thoughts: one vendor or multiple vendors

My minimalist Localization thoughts: one vendor or multiple vendors

Game Over! Holidays over … Here I am, at the airport waiting for my Barcelona flight. During these days I focused my time, my energy to be with my family. We had a lot of fun! Swimming at the sea with my kids, playing “footvolley”-beach, and many other relaxing activities such as reading a good book with a nice mojito!

I read a couple of books, and although one I already read it last year I wanted to re-read as I found it quite inspirational the first time I took a look.

Around November 2015, accidentally, I discovered minimalism, not applicable to architecture or art/deco, but as a life style. And during 2016 and 2017, I’ve been doing some efforts to understand minimalism better. 

Minimalism as life style is different for every person, I’m using it as a tool to live a simpler life, getting rid of superfluous stuff to make room for what’s truly important for me (my family, my friends/work colleagues and my passions)


I think the first time I heard about minimalism was in a TED Talk by the Minimalist. I’ve been following their blog and podcast since then and by following them I also discovered Joshua Becker. 


Joshua runs a beautiful blog, Becoming Minimalist and he’s the author of The More of Less, my favorite book about this topic since then.

While I was re-reading this book over the last days my brain kept doing connections between the main topic of this book and …. Localization, what else!


In the book, we are presented concepts such as:

  • Is it alway better more?
  • Shouldn’t we prioritize quality over quantity?
  • Are we making a smart use of our resources? (budget, time, focus, energy)


And I thought if those ideas presented as life style principles could be somehow applied to Localization industry; and I was specifically thinking about the equation buyer-language provider.

While reading the pages of this very inspiring book I wondered, is it possible to take a minimalist approach in our relationship with vendors? Or maybe this might be one of those cases where more is better? 

In the next paragraphs, I’ll dig into some advantages/disadvantages of working with just one vendor vs working with multiple vendors based on my personal experiences over the last few years ….

More is better!! Let’s have multiple vendors!

Among the main advantages of avoiding a minimalism approach towards working with vendors the most important ones are in my opinion:

  1. All eggs in the same basket do not sound like a very safe approach. Oooops! What if the vendor is missing some key deliveries, what if they decide to increase their rates or even worst what if they go out of the business … for whatever reason? These scenario are not science fiction situations, so, if any of these scenarios turn out to be real while working with a single vendor, our product, our clients, “our-selves” might get into troubles
  2. A couple of years ago I was working localizing a game where our main Czech localizers had a car accident and he was away for 3 weeks. The vendor I was using did not have any backup translator, hopefully, I was working with other vendors at the same time and I was able to hand over some work. On boarding was a little bit a headache the first few days, but ultimately we managed to make it work. Having several vendors is good for unexpected unavailabilities or a when we see a drop in the localization quality received 
  3. Unfrequent language matrix, finding a localization solution for “easy” languages such as FIGS is quite feasible even with short deadlines, but what if suddenly we want to get our product localized into Norwegian or Croatian? In these situations working just with one vendor might reduce dramatically our capacity to enter new markets due to a lack of capacity to meet market demands 
  4. Time zone coverage. Last year I was on a business trip in Seattle, talking to a European vendor in Spain, and another one in Asian for CJK. It was a very effective approach to get the most of everyone in different time zones. Getting a 24x7 coverage is not a utopia when working with multiple vendors 
  5. Who judges the police? Cross reference vendor is a very healthy localization best practice. It helps to ensure a vendor is not getting too comfortable and dropping down the quality level. Also, I have seen that in different projects when I use one vendor to LQA the other vendor quite often a friendly, healthy and ongoing innovation spirit is taken. And somehow the performance of a vendor keeps motivating and keeping fresh the other. It’s a little bit like the competition of Real Madrid and Barcelona, or Leo Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo using a football simile, the need each other to keep the competitive adrenaline levels high. This helps them to improve every day. Vendors need each other to stay competitive and innovative. 


Based on the points mentioned above we might think that the localization strategy to follow is quite clear and pretty straight forward, as working with different vendors minimises risk, maximise capacities and even might improve quality by introducing a healthy evaluation competition; but the reality is that once again in our industry one size does not fit all, and I have been working on some projects where the results I got by working just with one vendor were quite favourable. 


Embracing the loneliness!! When less is more:


  • When I was working providing Localization services for Habbo Hotel I was alone managing a language portfolio of 13 languages. In this situation what I needed it was to reduce as much as possible my coordination overhead. For this reason working with one single vendor for all languages worked pretty well for me. I did not have time to sync with multiple vendors, on board different vendors, answer questions about game mechanics to different vendors or take care of the various (and boring!) tasks required when working with several vendors (NDA, rates negotiations, PO management etc etc). One single vendor is a great approach when working in small internal localization team
  • Working with a single vendor helps specialization. For complex localization programs working with a solo provider will bring (eventually) a great accuracy in term of terminology, style and flavour. The more the single vendor is involved, the better the local copy will be.
  • Volume negotiation and price agreement might be also easier than we think when working just with a single vendor. There’s a tendency to think that working with multiple vendors facilitates discussion around discounts, however, I found that these agreements have been easier for me when working with a single vendor where I can “promise” a certain volume of words per year. This allows the single vendor to get a profit on a yearly basis and also it helps to secure the best translators by guaranteeing one year of work. For mid size projects or several small projects, the single vendor approach is quite effective!


In summary, I don’t personally favor one model over the other, I have used personally both approaches and I cannot say that always working with several vendors is better or the other way around. What about you? What value do you see in using multiple vendors versus single vendor approach? Do you see value taking a minimalist approach here? 

Leave your comment! Looking forward to reading your thoughts! 

Have a great w-end! 😃



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