Even though translating is a creative activity and translation quality may seem difficult to measure, attempts have been made to assess what makes a translation service good. After the old EN 15038 was recently replaced by ISO 17100, Peschel Communications decided to apply for an audit. In my role as an interpreter, I have quite a lot of experience with audits, albeit in other industries, so I thought I was ready for my own company to be taken under the microscope. The experience ended up being both exciting and surprisingly emotional.
So, what is ISO 17100 all about?
The ISO 17100:2015 Translation Services standard lays down requirements for the core processes, resources and other aspects necessary for providing a high-quality translation service. This includes the qualifications, training and skills of in-house staff as well as the selection of freelance translators. Processes for project management, data protection, translation and quality assurance must also be documented and followed to a T.
Preparing for the big day
The first step towards achieving certification was undergoing a pre-audit, where questions were asked about the selection process for freelancers and the relevant documentation was reviewed.
The auditor was also interested the technical aspects of our work – our IT equipment, our data backup system and our order management software. There were no complaints here, mainly because we already work with leading industry software, which makes compliance with the standard a breeze.
Project management and customer relationship management are important aspects of our work, but the core business is, of course, translation. The auditor was impressed with the fact that we maintain a dedicated style guide and terminology database for each of our clients, which help us ensure consistency across all of their translations. Every translation is revised by a second linguist – one of the main pillars of quality assurance under ISO 17100 and an intrinsic part of the translation production process at Peschel Communications.
Having interviewed me for an hour about these and several other aspects, the auditor was able to pronounce Peschel Communications ready for the actual audit.
The day of the audit
On the 3rd of July – the day of the audit – the team assembled at 9 a.m. for an introductory meeting with the auditor. Any initial nervousness was soon dissipated by the auditor’s friendly and clearly pragmatic approach.
The first interview of the day took place with the management team, exploring the selection, onboarding and training of in-house staff. The auditor was impressed with our strong focus on training and merely suggested more structured documentation in the form of a training and development plan.
Our compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the measures we take to protect confidential information received top marks. After all the work that we had put into GDPR compliance last year, it was most gratifying to hear that our efforts have paid off and the level of data protection at Peschel Communication is outstanding.
The feedback we received for the translation production process, ranging from project preparation to final quality control, was also excellent. The auditor also underscored the value of our company’s internal wiki, which we really do use for documenting anything and everything, from checklists to software handbooks to invoicing procedures.
Flying colours and unexpected praise
Having spent all day interviewing team members and asking what felt like 10,000 questions, the team reassembled for a debriefing in the late afternoon, where the auditor was able to confirm that Peschel Communications fully meets the ISO 17100 requirements. What’s more, he described our company culture as extremely customer-oriented and noted how highly we value both internal and external staff. These qualities are very close to my heart, and the fact that they stood out to someone after just a few hours spent with the team was an unexpectedly emotional moment for me. And a great end to an exciting day.