28 Apr /15

A Guide to Translation Project Management

In this 3-part series, we’ll look at project management in the translation industry. Once you’ve read the articles, you should be clearer on the scope of a translation project manager’s work and why they are a fundamental part of the translation process. You’ll also understand how to work with your project manager to ensure the best results on your project and along the way we’ll meet one of our project managers at EVS Translations who’ll tell us a bit about their role.

I. Why project managers are fundamental to translation

II. How to work successfully with your translation project manager

III. Interview: A day in the life of our UK project manager, Beata Kowalczyk


Part I: Why project managers are fundamental to translation

Translation is a multistage process of preproduction, production and post production (described in more detail below) with one translator and one proofreader needed, as a minimum, to complete the translation work. Project managers oversee the entire process from creation of an initial quote and assessment of project specifications to final delivery of the translation. They act as a link between the client and translation team steering the project towards final delivery to the client.

As more businesses seek to enter new overseas markets, communicate with their international stakeholders or comply with international regulations, translation service providers are experiencing a demand for larger and more complex projects. Such projects may require translation into multiple languages, the use of specialised software for terminology management and even desktop publishing expertise. An expert project manager is essential then to oversee what is not only a multistage process, but one which involves a large team of linguistic and I.T. experts.

Let’s take a product brochure as an example of a more complex project. What might the requirements for this look like?

  • Client provides company-specific terminology which must be adhered to (for the purpose of maintaining brand identity).

  • The file format is InDesign.

  • Translation from English into 8 languages. Software will be used to aid terminology management (in a 20,000 word translation, this software will tell the translators they translated a specific term that appeared 7,000 words earlier, therefore ensuring consistency of terminology).

  • Proofreaders to check translated text against original (“bi-lingual proofreading”).

With 8 translators working on this project (perhaps a mix of in-house translators and in-house teams from external suppliers), plus another 8 proof-readers, and IT staff (or more specifically, “file engineers”) working on pre-formatting and post-formatting, there at least 20 people working on this job. Throw in a tight deadline and various client specifications that need to be communicated to the team it is clear that the process would benefit from a project manager.

The three-stage production process and the project manager’s role within it

The translation of this brochure, like any other translation, fits into the multistage translation process which can be broken down into the three stages of pre-production, production and post-production. During this process it is critical that a project manager can properly coordinate and control the workflow according to clearly-defined company and certified processes. This requires an ability to effectively allocate resources, communicate clearly and anticipate potential problems to successfully meet a deadline. At EVS Translations, project managers use the business management software to track the status of a project and record all information relating to it in accordance with with the requirements of DIN EN 15038 and ISO 9001:2000.

Pre-production – The project manager liaises with the client to assess project requirements. He/she assembles a team allocating the most appropriate translators and proofreaders according to the specific needs of the project. The client’s specifications are communicated to the team. The file formatting team prepares the file and imports it into translation software, incorporating links and fonts, so that the file format is compatible with the translator’s software environment.

Production – Translation, proofreading, and post-formatting (the file is converted to its original format or the format specified by the client). The project manager ensures translators have access to any applicable translation memory, client style-guides, glossaries or reference materials and monitors movement of the project from each of the three teams. After the translation, the formatting team goes through the process of ensuring that the content is displayed correctly.

Post-production – The project manager delivers the final translation to the client and discusses feedback where applicable. Translation memories may be updated.

A quality translation delivered on time cannot be guaranteed by the efforts of separate individuals alone. There still exists a huge potential for a project such as the one described above to go wrong, regardless of the skill of the linguist team, if its management is poorly handled. A successful outcome requires the effective execution of each stage within specified time-frames all of which is overseen by the project manager.