Canada’s Housing Agency Plans to Outsource 95% of Translations and Buy a New TMS

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is a government agency that partners with private sector, non-profits, government and community organizations to help Canadians in need of housing. The agency also acts in an advisory capacity to government, individuals, and the housing industry.

As with many of Canada’s agencies and institutions, the demand for language services at CMHC centers around French and English, the two official languages of Canada. Occasionally, the CMHC also requires translation from English and French into other languages.

CMHC is now looking for feedback from the language industry on its current language services model in order to improve on existing practices, and is also asking for input on language technology solutions for project and workflow automation. In short, the CMHC wants to shake up the way its internal language service operates and is looking to implement a new translation management system (TMS).

To achieve this, the CMHC issued the Request for Information (RFI) on February 26, 2019, and the deadline for responses is March 22, 2019.

According to the RFI, most translations are handled in-house at the CMHC, while around 15% —  or 1.5 million words annually — is outsourced. As part of its transformation, CMHC is now looking to dramatically increase the use of external language providers, aiming to outsource 95% of translation work by September 2019.

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CMHC’s Linguistic Services group, the internal language team, currently houses 26 translators and editors, some employees and contractors, and six production staff.

Slator contacted CMHC for comment on the planned shift in outsourcing model. Charles Sauriol, Manager, Media Relations at CMHC, said that “CMHC has used, and continues to use, a mix of internal and external linguistic services. Under our new service model, we are looking to industry to do more of our translations and for technical workflow solutions.”

“15 internal positions will ensure our official language and quality needs are met” — Charles Sauriol, Manager, Media Relations, CMHC

Sauriol also commented that “15 internal positions will ensure our official language and quality needs are met. Our current complement of language professionals has valuable corporate knowledge and skills, and our goal is to retain as many of these employees as possible – even in different roles,” the implication being that the current number of team members could be reduced by about half.

The RFI also outlines CMHC’s current translation process in detail. Translation requests come from CMHC’s internal customers and are managed through Lotus Notes, IBM-owned enterprise software, which is due to be phased out in 2019 as part of the refresh.

The team uses LogiTerm, a translation productivity (CAT) tool, which the RFI says “is working well,” although CMHC is open to suggestions for “feasible and cost-effective” solutions to contribute to its goal of being able to “automate tedious and repetitive tasks (word count, renaming documents, alignment of documents, etc.) where possible.”

The “high level challenges” faced by CMHC include reducing overheads and costs, streamlining job allocation and workflow, and reducing manual administrative tasks. Open questions for CMHC include whether translation services should be separate from the technology solution or whether full solutions exist, and how machine translation could be used to “provide high-quality self-service options for employees.”

Some 45,000 words are processed by the Linguistic Services group daily in Canadian French and English, so scalability and productivity are also key considerations for the CMHC.

The RFI is the first step in a four-stage procurement process in which CMHC also intends to issue a Notice of Planned Procurement (NPP) and then a Request for Proposals (RFP) before negotiating and ratifying an agreement. During the NPP stage, companies will be invited to submit their interest in responding to a potential RFP. From there, CMHC may ask respondents to submit full proposals.

Open questions for CMHC include whether translation services should be separate from the technology solution or whether full solutions exist

In this initial stage, CMHC aims to find companies capable of providing translation management solutions: from terminology, workflow and quality management to reporting, security, and auditing. Companies are asked to provide feedback on “requirements, solutions, technologies and trends” relating to aspects of the operating model identified by the CMHC. Companies are permitted to submit responses of no more than 15 pages in French or English.

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