ISO 17100 on the test bench: How the standard ensures the best possible quality of translation services

In September, the translation services standard DIN EN ISO 17100 was confirmed in its current form by the ISO member countries. oneword, as an ISO 17100-certified company itself and, above all, as an active DIN member in the responsible sub-committee, had eagerly awaited the vote, and hoped for the opportunity to incorporate the experience gained and standards developed in-house into a new version of the standard together with other industry representatives.

A standard for high-quality service and transparency

ISO 17100 is an international standard that has been in existence since 2015. It specifically regulates process standards for translation services and aims to ensure a high-quality translation product. As an industry-specific standard, it standardises processes and requirements relating to translation projects. It makes translation processes and services more transparent and comparable while offering clear definitions of terms and concepts. The advantage of this is that the customer’s special quality objectives and the process steps necessary to achieve them can be better communicated and implemented.

oneword has been certified to DIN EN ISO 17100 since 2012. At first, it was certified to the predecessor standard DIN EN 15038 and it lives and breathes the standardisation, not only as a certified company, but also as an active DIN member. Since 2019, oneword has been sending its Quality Officer to the DIN Terminology Standards Committee (NAT), where she is involved in standardisation work together with other industry representatives in the “Translation Services” sub-committee and the “Translation-Oriented Authoring” working group.

Regular reviews should bring improvements

Standards are reviewed on a regular basis every five years. Each member country votes in a ballot either to confirm or revise the standard or to withdraw it – or the country abstains from voting. In September, the ISO member countries agreed to confirm ISO 17100 in its current form for another 5 years.

After five years of process design and service provision in accordance with ISO 17100, oneword believes there’s definitely a need for change. For example, far more attention should be paid to the skills of project managers, because they play a key role alongside translation partners in planning and monitoring translation projects, in mediation and communication, in customer service and problem-solving, and in quality control and approval. For this reason, oneword has developed a catalogue of skills in the form of an information sheet for training project managers at an early stage, covering all important issues and fostering the necessary skills.

Also from the point of view of the sub-committee, which was involved in creating the standards DIN EN 15038, ISO 17100 and ISO 18587 at a European and international level, there are numerous other proposals for improving and adapting to the current state-of-the-art level and the changing requirements for translations. For example, using machine translation systems with subsequent post-editing (MTPE) is currently explicitly excluded in the ISO 17100 standard. In view of the developments and possibilities in this area, this is no longer up to date, even though ISO 18587 now has its own standard for post-editing.

Even though the many productive suggestions made by the DIN sub-committee aren’t being incorporated into a revision of ISO 17100, at least not this year anyway, the sub-committee’s work was of course not in vain. Hope remains that a revision at ISO level will be initiated before the five years until the next regular review have elapsed, and that these proposals will then be taken into account in a new version of ISO 17100, something that would be advantageous both for clients and language service providers.

Learn more about ISO 17100 and about using machine translation systems in the translation process while still conforming to the IEC/IEEE 82079-1 documentation standard in our tekom presentationThe ISO 17100 and ISO 18587 standards – similarities and incompatibilities in practice“.

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