Usually, translation does not belong to the core business of industrial enterprises and is therefore often outsourced to language service providers. However, it is not sufficient to merely transmit the translation tasks; it is also important to manage the translation projects. Formerly, translations used to be assigned by appending the document to an e-mail message. Today, the multitude of languages and the outsourcing of translation services generate a much higher organization workload. This includes the setting and monitoring of deadlines, provision of the needed documents and resources, distribution of the tasks to the right persons, and post-calculation and archiving. These are just some of the elements of the administrative workload that grows exponentially with every additional language, every additional document format, and every additional process step. The large number of parties involved and cross-company workflows place high demands on the translation management.
- Who is supposed to deliver which translation, and by when?
- How can projects be distributed to several parties?
- What happens if the source text is changed during the translation?
- How can systematic monitoring and release of target texts be assured?
Project Management vs. Process Management
Basically, distinction must be made between project management and process management. A project is a onetime undertaking with specific time limits. By contrast, processes occur all the time and are part of projects. To ensure successful projects, it is imperative to determine procedures and standards that providers and customers alike will understand, interpret correctly, and apply. Accordingly, the more the processes required in translation projects are standardized and automated, the smaller the project management workload will be. The duties of translation project managers are increasingly shifting toward integrated process management that examines the entire translation supply chain. Virtually all events that are relevant in the context of translation projects can trigger an automated process. Three typical automation steps:
- Alerting of defined parties when deadlines are exceeded. For example, the job can automatically be assigned to another party if it is not confirmed within a specified period.
- Assignment of certain tasks to defined parties. For example, the translation of a particular text type in a specific language direction by a suitable service provider.
- Delivery of final translations to interacting systems, storage to file systems, archiving, etc. upon completion and release of a translation job.
Challenges for Project Managers
As a result of the networked multi-layered work, a large number of translation projects with little text, price pressure, and quality requirements, administrative work consumes an increasing amount of time. The components of project management can be roughly divided into four areas: Order tracking with overviews of incoming/outgoing orders, functions for delegating tasks to internal or external parties, process monitoring and scheduling, and escalation management. Usually, the project manager has the following specific duties:
The selection of translators is the first step to ensure good translations. Translators should have an excellent command of the target language and be capable of expressing themselves well. Moreover, they should also understand the nuances of the source language in order to be able to deliver apt wording. In order to facilitate the selection, the language variants offered by the service provider and the performance ratings are stored in the supplier management.
Pricing for Customer
The price is governed by the scope and complexity of the source text and the target language. Other price-determining factors include the supplied format and the format to be delivered, e.g. Word or InDesign. Apart from the pricing, the project manager prepares the offer, maintains the dialog with the customer or prospect, and confirms the job if it is placed.
Data Transfer in All Directions
Moreover, the project manager is the central figure for the forwarding of data to language service providers, reviewers, internal release stations, and the customer.
Coordination of Metacriteria
The efficient management of a translation project requires coordination with the translator. This, too, is part of the project manager's duties. In particular, he needs to determine deadlines, process steps, any reference documents, quality assurance measures, and terminology
Process Automation & Collaboration
These challenges can be tackled with the help of technical solutions. For example, a translation management system (TMS) that provides all project players with a comprehensive translation environment and a central platform for the maintenance of all language resources and for the project management can be of valuable assistance. The delegation of translation tasks to service providers will only be efficient if it is seamlessly integrated in the process. Project managers should be able to keep track of deadlines, the progress, and the costs. If all parties collaborate on a shared platform and in seamless, closed processes, the contents to be translated and all data relevant to the project can be sent directly to the service provider. In turn, both the translations and all newly created translation memory and terminology entries can be returned automatically and be stored for further use. Thus, writers and translators can access the same consistent data on a central platform, and customers can assign projects more easily and get information on the project status whenever they wish. In some systems, it is possible to automate recurring operations, thereby reducing the coordination overhead for project managers. For example, translation jobs can automatically be assigned to a particular employee or service provider. Meanwhile, many orders are placed via online portals. Based on stored data, quotations can also be created automatically. It is even possible to automate a rule-based, formal quality assurance process. Reporting also plays an important role in the project management. Indicators such as the word throughput, the number of projects per time period, punctuality or further inquiries form an important basis for planning. Ideally, the TMS should feature diverse query options and enable user-specific display of these indicators. Typical queries concern open tasks or upcoming deadlines. If a system offers the needed functions in this area, the project manager's administrative overhead can be reduced significantly.
Ensuring Process and Data Security
Apart from efficient translation management, a TMS also contributes to the process and data security. Translation projects are often marked by a highly distributed structure. Even the translation of a single document into multiple languages requires the involvement of several people such as the following:
- On-site staff (technical writers, translators, project managers)
- Employees in the local subsidiaries (reviewers)
- Freelancers (translators, reviewers)
- Language service providers (project managers, translators, reviewers)
Often, this results in a chain of processing parties who work on the documents at various locations and with different infrastructures – a situation that the customer may be or may not be aware of. Especially in the case of sensitive contents, it is vital to ensure the security of data – despite numerous handovers or complex translation and review processes. For this, a closed system in which all parties cooperate in a seamless supply chain and, if possible, with differentiated access rights can be beneficial. This procedure makes sure that all processes remain transparent and data are not stored or sent out in an uncontrolled manner. This applies not only to the texts to be translated, but also to the translation memory and the terminology database, which could reveal something about the content of sensitive documents.
Increasing the Text Quality
Every translated sentence is saved to the translation memory for reuse in all future projects. In time, the data pool from which the translators can benefit grows. Apart from the reuse of previously translated passages, this translation repository can support authors in the consistent compilation of source texts. Furthermore, it serves as the basis for the quality assurance of source texts and translations. A company's entire specialized vocabulary is defined and maintained in a terminology system. Thus, all parties who work on a text can see which term is correct or preferred in a particular context.
Discovering Optimization Potential
Reporting also plays an important role in project management. The indicators mentioned here – such as the word throughput, the number of projects per time period, punctuality, additional inquiries, complaints, or quality management incidents – form an indispensable basis for the planning and future decisions. Especially if there are numerous different translation projects, a resource utilization overview is an important tool for effectively distributing tasks. Detailed project and language-specific reports on the general workload, the workload of individual users, and the order backlog provide the project manager with a basis for making decisions. In this way, time-critical jobs can be delegated to parties that still have the needed resources. Ideally, the translation management system should feature diverse query options and enable customizable display of these translation and project management-relevant indicators. For example, project managers often want to know which tasks are still open or by when they should be finished. Business intelligence methods enable the extraction of project-specific indicators, e.g. to analyze translation costs over time or the growth of the translation volume in a particular language. In this way, optimization potential can be identified, and cost reduction measures can be derived. Based on the throughput volume, it is possible to see how many texts a language service provider translated over a defined time period. In this way, the project manager can determine by when an expected translation will most likely be ready.
Within the scope of translation projects, project management has grown to become a central pillar that should include the management of all translation processes. Depending on the number, scope, and complexity of the projects and the relevance of data security in the company, it is also advisable to take a look at the features and deployment options of systems that offer more than mere translation support. A central platform as a joint work environment for writers, language service providers, reviewers, and project managers can contribute to the text quality and ensure a closed, transparent supply chain. Moreover, the order placement procedure can be simplified, and recurring operations can be automated.
Shorter and shorter times to market are accompanied by the need for faster updating of marketing documents and technical manuals. What is more, the multitude of languages and the outsourcing of translation services generate an ever-growing translation management overhead. Therefore, state-of-the-art translation management systems (TMS) treat process automation and project management as important pillars alongside the actual translation assistance. This white paper describes how enterprises can efficiently plan, manage, and monitor their translation projects with the help of a TMS.