Good translation project management

Few people are surprised these days when they hear about “project management”. We have become accustomed to this task forming a part of our daily work, and we are aware of its importance as a vehicular instrument between departments.

However, there might be some who would be surprised to hear about project management in relation to translation projects. If a text simply has to be translated, why would the process have to be managed? Well, as in many other areas, management is also a key element in translation. In the end, there are several different jobs involved in the translation of a text, each one ensuring that every aspect gets the attention it deserves (subject, content, specialisation, format, etc.). And the project manager is the person in charge of facilitating communication and establishing a common ground between those aspects.

So what are the specific tasks that a good project manager must perform in the world of translation? First let’s go over the phases in a project of this type:

1.       Translation request

2.       Project preparation

3.       Translation

4.       Layout or DTP

5.       Translation revision

6.       Quality control

To the surprise of many people, a project manager is not merely in charge of step number 2, rather they are present and perform tasks in each one of the six phases. In the end, their objective is to ensure that the process as a whole is completed successfully.

How a good project manager works and the tasks they perform

To begin with, when a project is received the project manager will analyse the files: they must determine the content, the subject and the specialisation, and they must do a word count (including repetitions, new words and fuzzy matches).

Second, the project manager must determine the characteristics of the source files to facilitate the translation task: What type of layout will be needed? What translation tools can be used to work on these files? Do we need to do any preparation before the translation?

Third, the project manager will search for reference materials that could help the translator, either by consulting the client (style guides, glossaries, similar parallel texts, etc.) or by searching among the company’s own resources (translation memories and useful databases for the project in question).

Fourth, the person in charge must always be clear about the objective of the text and the client’s needs. Communication with the client is essential for transmitting information to the translator.

Moreover, a good manager will able to foresee possible difficulties that could arise during the project (problems of terminological consistency, doubts about certain parts of the text that are not clear, errors in the source text, etc.) and will act accordingly. This step is very important with respect to avoiding delivery delays and ensuring the final quality.

Once these steps have been performed, the project manager will calculate the translation, revision and layout time so that a timeline can be set up, and then they will prepare a quote.

They will compile all the preceding information and choose the most appropriate translator for that text. To do so, the project manager will consider not only the linguistic combination but also the translator’s field of specialisation and their experience. This is where the management expertise of the manager plays an important role, in addition to their knowledge of the translation team: in the end, the client-translator relationship is based on mutual learning and continuous growth, so it is essential to choose the right translator from the beginning.

In this regard, the manager also acts as a bridge between the client and the translator, thereby facilitating communication at all times.

During all the phases of a project, the project manager will follow up on the translation, revision and layout to ensure that everything goes smoothly and according to plan.

Finally, once all the phases of a project have been completed, the manager will perform quality control checks of the translation to ensure that it meets the client’s needs, which were determined in the first step.

In summary, translation project management is a vehicular function that links all the phases of the process and ensures that there is good cohesion, consistency and meaning. As we commented at the beginning of this text, project management plays a vital part in the field of translation and will always be necessary to ensure both quality and optimisation of the process.