Effective Translation Project Management

by Nicholas Strozza

Translation project management is often an underrated, overlooked component to the intricate and complicated process of translation and localization initiatives. Translation project managers work behind the scenes to ensure that each and every aspect of a client's project is completed efficiently according to the specific parameters of the project, and with high precision and accuracy.

Interpro would like to recognize these hard working individuals in this article by giving some insight into the world of a translation project manager and by demonstrating how their dedication and organizational skills are critical to the success of each and every translation project.

According to the Project Management Institute: "Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently. It's a strategic competency for organizations, enabling them to tie project results to business goals — and thus, better compete in their markets."

Behind the scenes with translation project management

Possibly a translation project manager's biggest challenge is to never lose sight of the entire process of the translation and localization project to which he or she is assigned. The actual content translation is but one of the vital components of the overall process that a translation project manager is responsible for in order to ensure proper execution, coordination, management, and delivery of the final product. 

At Interpro, all of our translation project managers have had years of training and hands-on experience as professional translators in their native languages. This experience gives them an invaluable comprehension of the various phases and issues that occur during translation and localization projects. More importantly translation project managers must anticipate and resolve those issues to not put a negative impact on the execution of the project.

The attributes of an effective translation project manager, embodied by our team here at Interpro, include being client service-oriented, detail-minded, highly organized, conscientious of the dynamics affecting project profitability, possessing excellent verbal and written communication skills in multiple languages, and being deadline-driven and proactive. The final and perhaps most important skill is the dedication and willingness of a translation project manager to go above and beyond his or her duties, oblivious of the number of hours required, in order to ensure the successful completion of any project.

Managing translation and localization

Interpro has encountered numerous organizations that choose to manage and handle translation in-house. For these organizations, we caution not to overlook the amount of work and resources that successful management of a translation and localization project entails. Depending on the number of languages being translated, translation project management can be a logistical nightmare for organizations. If there are multiple languages involved, and assuming each language is translated by a different vendor, some of the issues the client needs to address may include:

  • Working not only with multiple vendors, potentially with multiple contacts per vendor (i.e. a sales contact, a Project Manager contact, possibly a DTP contact, an engineering contact, etc.)
  • Multiple sets of pricing data to manage
  • Multiple administrative details to manage
  • Changes to project scope and milestones, the dissemination of critical information all needing to be communicated multiple times.
  • Multiple delivery dates to manage
  • Multiple delivery platforms (FTP for some, portals for others, e-mail for still others, etc.)
  • Multiple invoices to process

Efficient, effective translation project management gives the client a single point-of-contact throughout the entire process, ensuring that all of the above-listed issues are appropriately addressed. Relationship building, familiarity, and continuity are very important in earning a client's trust and continued business. Initial introductions and agreement on project details are very important steps in successful project execution.

At Interpro, every project that we launch starts with a kick-off meeting to introduce the team to the new client and to establish project protocols. At this meeting, the translation project manager and the account executive discuss project scope, milestones, deliverables, and all other questions or concerns raised by either party, thus ensuring that everyone is on the same page and has the same expectations before any work begins.

Open and productive communication is a cornerstone of successful translation project management. The translation project manager needs to communicate with the account executive, the production team (engineering, DTP, Administration (accounting), and management) as well as the client on an on-going basis. Additionally, the translation project manager needs to communicate and coordinate projects with our in-country linguistic teams, answering questions and providing support and feedback so that the translation, editing, and proofreading are completed flawlessly and on time.

It is this communication that helps to nurture the relationship between the client and the translation project manager. 

 

I like that moment when you know you've established a rapport with the client, when they start including emoticons in their emails and wishing you a fabulous weekend, or telling you that they're having a lousy day. That is when I know the client trusts us enough to relax and banter. At this point I feel that the client wants to work with us and if we deliver a good solution, they will continue to trust in us.

 

-Quote from one of Interpro's translation project managers

 

To track communication, keep the project on target, and provide an ongoing history of project details, Interpro's translation project managers provide (via email) Weekly Status Reports (WSR) to our clients. The WSR gives a week-by-week synopsis of the project's progress and provides assurance to the clients that the translation project manager is on top of things, preventing any unforeseen derailments. It also aids in addressing any issues that may require intervention by the client.

Now that we have shed a little light on the inner workings of translation and localization project management, it is easy to see just how important these individuals are and how much value they add for our clients. Without our Project Managers, Interpro would not be able to provide the level of service that we are known for.

Spotlight on Zebra Technologies

Zebra Technologies Corporation's long-standing relationship with Interpro began in 2003 and has continued to grow over the years, resulting in countless successful translation and localization projects. Zebra is a global leader in helping companies identify, locate and track assets, transactions, and people with on-demand specialty digital printing and automatic identification solutions in more than 100 countries around the world.

Prior to turning to Interpro, all translation projects at Zebra were managed internally by a single Zebra employee in addition to that person's editing duties. The internal translation process was the cause of many headaches and frustrations for Zebra due to inconsistencies among the linguists working on the translation projects as a result of using multiple resources, which included different freelance translators for the same language. To complicate matters further, the freelance resources were not using translation memory technology. As a result of these issues, Zebra was unable to provide translations prior to product launches.

Not using translation memory software presented Zebra with several notable issues:

  1. Lack of consistency in terminology and style (sometimes within the same publication)
  2. There was no central repository of terminology shared among the translators
  3. All translations were essentially done from scratch, despite a high-level of repetition from document to document across product lines
  4. Being done from scratch, translations took longer with very little productivity gain from project to project
  5. Without the concept of fuzzy matching, all words were charged at the same unique price rate, making translation more expensive
  6. Since translators (as a general rule) do not work in desktop publishing applications such as FrameMaker, they only provided the translated text, which required desktop publishing to have to be done for every language and project by a third party.

Soon after Carla Martinek was hired as Zebra's new Translation Coordinator, she selected Interpro to head up all localization initiatives for Zebra Technologies. Interpro paired Carla with a dedicated and highly skilled project manager to manage all translation and localization projects. Effective translation project management allowed Interpro to build a bond of trust and familiarity with the client and with Zebra's products. Our translation project manager oversees and coordinates each step in the translation process for Zebra utilizing Interpro's in-country translation teams, as well as our in-house desktop publishing and engineering departments.

Interpro's detail-oriented project management allows for responsive and organized service and on-time deliveries which are critical to Zebra's product launch successes. Translation projects have quicker turnaround times while terminology and glossaries remain consistent for every language.

With Zebra's aggressive introduction of new products, it is clear there is a significant positive revenue impact. While revenues have increased, localization costs have been shrinking due to Interpro's translation memory tool management. Translation costs per Zebra user manual have been reduced up to 70%, resulting in more documents being localized in more languages.

Interpro's localization and translation skills and capabilities, combined with a high level of service quality and value-add have contributed to Zebra's ability to provide user documentation in over 30 languages simultaneously at product release. This expertise and quality are provided by Interpro to every client.

 

While there are many translation and localization companies calling me and looking for our business, Interpro consistently provides top-notch service at highly competitive rates. We've been satisfied customers for almost a decade, with no plans to look elsewhere. I've recommended them to countless other individuals and companies when they ask me for a localization provider recommendation.

 

Carla Martinek, Senior Translation Coordinator/ Editor

To track communication, keep the project on target, and provide an on-going history of project details, Interpro Project Managers provide (via e-mail) Weekly Status Reports (WSR) to our clients, and copying appropriate Interpro team members as well. The WSR gives a week-by-week synopsis of the project's progress and provides assurance to the clients that the Project Manager is on top of things, preventing any unforeseen derailments. It also aids in addressing any issues that may require intervention by the client.

Now that we have shed a little light on the inner workings of translation project management, it is easy to see just how important these individuals are and how much value they add for our clients. Without our Project Managers, Interpro would not be able to provide the level of service that we are known for, the first time, on time, every time.

Nick Strozza

"Working at Interpro allows me to be part of a talented team where we are collaborating together to exceed our client’s expectations for each project."