Project Management in the Field of Translation

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Whether you are a freelance translator, an agency or a commercial company dealing with translations and translation projects, it is important to ensure that proper project management is implemented.

A good project management system is more than just a means of organization, but also a way to ensure a continuously high level of quality, correctness, and timeliness, making sure that proper communication channels are in place in order to guarantee that end customers receive the translation they have ordered according the requirements specified.

The need for translation in today’s globalised world has becomes indispensable. A great deal of people imagine the world of translation as a world full of people merely sitting behind their computers translating a document on a word processor, but that is far from the truth. With such a variety of computer applications and programs, translation encompasses not only the translation of simple text files, but also print files for brochures and marketing material, presentations, websites and even computer applications, not to mention the translation of magazines, books and movies. Along with the great deal of variety revolving around the translation industry and the many languages that exist, there are also new challenges out there in a time where competition is high and efficiency, both with respect to cost and processes, is an absolute must.

Freelance translators, translation agencies, and commercial companies alike are faced with hundreds of different types of documents and translation projects on a continual basis. A good project management system and project management skills when dealing with translation projects are therefore really important.

Let’s take a look at the aspects of organization, communication, quality, cost and timeliness, and in turn, examine how these factors affect translation projects. Communication is the most important factor that binds all these aspects together. Never forget, misunderstandings are the main reason why projects result in being unsuccessful. A project manager communicates 80% of his day. His/her ability to communicate is therefore crucial.

Organization and communication

First of all, when dealing with 2 files that have to be translated into 5 different languages in a small translation project, it is important to know that, in most cases, there are actually at least 12 people involved. For example, there may be five translators, five proofreaders, the customer and the project manager involved in a project translating a document into 5 different languages. In larger companies, there may be even more as there might be entire teams or subject-matter experts responsible for different aspects of your translations.

Therefore, a project management system not only ensures that proper communication takes place between all of these people, but also ensures that a configuration management strategy is used in order to be able to document and retrace every aspect of your translation projects. This includes not only different files in different languages, but also invoices, quotes, delivery files, and much more. For more on configuration management, please see the article on this blog entitled.

The first and foremost person in a translation project is the customer, the person that wants to have the translation done. The customer is always the driving force in any project, because the customer, also known as a user in general terms, is the person who is paying to have the translation done and wants that translation to meet his/her requirements. The customer might even be a project manager himself who is trying to meet the requirements of his own end customer depending on the situation at hand.

The customer communicates with the project manager, who basically acts as a communication hub. The project manager takes a look at the files for translation, analyses them, collects the customer’s requirements, documents these requirements and presents a quote to the customer. Upon confirmation of the translation project, the project manager assigns the translation to qualified translators and communicates the exact requirements of the customer, These requirements include not only aspects concerning when the translations are to be finished and how much the translation should cost, but also the level of quality the translation should have.

Quality and communication

The best definition of quality is meeting the requirements and specifications given in accordance with a customer’s needs. Something can be of the highest quality and if the customer is not happy with it, it is not worth a thing. It is therefore a project manager’s duty to collect these requirements with a great deal of diligence and care. With regard to translation, it is important that the nature and purpose of the translation are clear. For example, if a marketing text is not written in marketing language with the appropriate style, the translation may be correct, but if it is boring, it I not going to be of much worth to a marketer. There are many other aspects with regard to quality. It is important to know that if there are any existing translations that the document at hand is associated with or if there is any specific terminology that has to be upheld throughout the translation, reference lists and terminology lists must be provided to the translator performing the translation. Other requirements involving layout, style and register of the language also have to be taken into account. A project management system not only helps to make sure that quality requirements are met, but also makes sure that they remain constant in light of future projects. There should be a system in place that is based on the principle of continuous improvement. There is always room for improvement in any field. It is therefore important that projects, processes and requirements be continuously scrutinized to ensure continuous improvement with regard to quality as well as efficiency.

It must be expressed that the most important aspect in determining quality is communication. The customer must communicate what he/she wants and these requirements have to be communicated to the translators and proofreaders. Misunderstandings are the main reason that projects are unsuccessful.

Cost and timeliness, and communication again!

One of the most important aspects of a project is ensure that that a project is on time and that costs are kept to the lowest level possible. As in any field full of competition, new ideas should be devised and implemented in order to lower costs and raise quality, while making sure that the translations are delivered on time. A good project manager does this by doing a continuous analysis of his supplier base, reviewing the market and making use of technologies such as translation memories for example. For more on translation memory and the technical aspects of this, please take advantage of the search field on this blog for detailed articles on this topic.

In order to improve levels of cost and ensure that projects are delivered on time, a high level of communication must be continuously upheld. During the course of longer, high-volume projects, it is especially necessary to track the progress of a translation in order to make sure that the delivery date is not affected.

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