ISO 17100:2015 sets the framework for the translating process. It supersedes EN 15038:2006 and provides requirements for the core processes, resources, and other aspects necessary for the delivery of a quality translation service.

Unlike its fellow standards such as ISO 9001, it can be certified in-house and does not require the intervention of an external auditor.  “Then why bother?” You may ask. If your Translation Services Provider provides written proof that they comply with the standard guidelines, you can hold them accountable. In addition, the standard expresses clearly what to expect as a translation customer. Translation is a service, and just like any service it is nebulous. It can be difficult to know whether you are getting the quality you paid for. Assessing gets trickier if you have no in house proof-readers to verify the target language.

You are entitled to the following services when you hire a TSP (Translation Services Provider) per the ISO 17100 standard :

1. A team of experts, not just one translator

As many as four translation profiles, each playing a specific role, can be involved in your project. ISO 17100:2015 defines their role and qualifications:

At the top, the Project Manager. He is your go-to person and is responsible for meeting your expectations (quality, deadlines, project management). He should understand translation services and have an expertise in project management.

In second position, the translator. The person must master a broad set of skills: translation and writing in both the source and the target languages, integration of the countries’ cultures, information collecting, using software tools, industry expertise.  In terms of qualification, he should meet one of these requirements:

·         A higher education degree in translation

·         A higher education degree in another field plus two years of full-time professional translating

·         Five full-time years as a professional translator

The reviser (also known as the Reviewer in the industry) comes in third position; his profile is identical to the translator. His role is to ensure that the content in the target language matches that of the source language.

The expert reviewer (also known as the Subject Matter Expert in the industry)  comes fourth and is optional in the process. His role is to verify the technical content of the target language. He must hold an industry degree and/or have professional experience.

2. IT tools to support the team

The TSP must possess an infrastructure that ensures the following elements are available:

·         Hardware to process, back up, extract, archive and destroy the data and documents

·         Communication tools

·         Information resources

·         IT translation tools such as translation management software and terminology management tools.

3. A non-disclosure commitment

The TSP must have a process in place to safeguard the information and be able to return and destroy the information given by the customer.

4. A step-by-step process

The translation project must follow the following steps:


ISO 17100 process

Specifics on the pre-production process

The TSP must be able to analyze customer requests, determine feasibility (i.e. ensure he has the resources to carry out the project), generate a quote along with its terms and conditions, and come upon an agreement with his customer.

The TSP must review with the customer the application of existing style guides, terminology bases and content adaptation for a specific region. The TSP can include in his service to research additional terminology.

Does ISO 17100 always apply?

ISO 17100:2015 is not one-size-fits-all. TSPs can customize the process to meet customer requirements and steer away from the standard, thus making it irrelevant. If a project integrates Machine Translation, for example, the standard cannot apply as it does not address how to deploy it, post-edit and which expertise it requires.When it makes sense TSPs will set up ISO 17100 compliant processes and can testify their processes match the ISO standard.