The importance of Translation Project Management

Well, where to start? Not wanting to blow my own trumpet, as a former project manager, but project management is, in my humble opinion, vital to a smooth, problem-free, well-executed translation project!

A recent article handily backs up my opinion, stating that project managers are, in fact “indispensable to the process due to the vast number of project variables, requirements, exceptions to project scope, etc.” Project managers liaise with both clients and translators to see a project through to completion. Their role involves understanding clients’ needs and requirements, ensuring that they can all be met, and then creating a logical sequence of tasks to be carried out to a specific deadline, not to mention assigning the work to suitable translators and proofreaders who specialise in the subject in question.

Text for translation is provided to translation agencies in a range of formats, and these formats, as well as any programmes used, vary from project to project, and play a very important part in how a translation project is managed. Assigning work to a translator often involves communicating with translators to discover which programmes they are able to use, from Word to Dreamweaver to Powerpoint, with everything in between. The text must be provided to the translator in a suitable format, and this step of the process is even more important when taking into account the use of translation tools such as Trados, which enable a Translation Memory to be created and updated every time a project is carried out. Previous translations, glossaries and important stylistic information must be passed from client to translator, purchase orders created, translator invoices received, and queries answered. In addition, project managers must also be aware of budgets and costs throughout the project, ensuring that a profit is made, and are also often involved in the quoting and invoicing processes. This entire process, as well as any final formatting and editing, and adaptations to changes requested along the way, must be carried out to a deadline agreed upon by the client and translation company at the beginning of the project.

Without human project managers to oversee the process, and ensure that every step is executed to cost, deadline, and to a high standard, the number of successful translation projects completed would severely diminish. Whilst I don’t find the comparison to a “smoke detector” the most flattering, I can see the point made that a human project manager, as opposed to a machine, is important in order to catch any “early warning signs of deviations that can affect project budget or delivery date”.

Now, are you convinced? Do you see the project managers you have worked with in a new light? Should companies recognise this vital element of the translation process and understand that they are irreplaceable? In my lowly opinion, yes to all of the above!!