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11 Project Management Challenges for Translation Projects, Part 1

One of the key components of successful translation and localization projects is Project Management. Your translation agency will assign a qualified project manager to lead translation team efforts, to direct traffic and communication in order to reach critical project milestones and successful project delivery.

Clients who are new to website translation, software translation and document translation projects frequently misunderstand their own responsibilities for delivering well-defined content in the correct file format, with reasonable instructions to their translation company. This blog reviews the first half of 11 common translation project management challenges and recommendations for best practices. You may view the second and final blog in this series, 11 Project Management Challenges for Translation Projects, Part 2.

1. Incomplete source file submission for translation analysis and project quotation

The first step for most translation projects is the cost estimate (quote), which entails a full analysis to obtain an accurate word count for translation. This not only requires a complete set of source files with text content, but also a complete set of graphics files (screen captures and/or illustrations). Many clients who are in a hurry, or unfamiliar with their own legacy projects, submit incomplete source files to their translation agency. Missing files may range from an appendix in a documentation project to screen captures that require translation and localization. Clients have even requested quotes for voice over (VO) projects without submitting timed and coded scripts.

Clients are often under the false impression that an accurate quote can be generated after the translation agency visually examines PDF output of the source files. While it is possible to generate a “ballpark” estimate with only PDF files, source files in native file format will be required for the actual translation project and a final, accurate quote.

If you are submitting files for the first time, have an internal subject matter expert (e.g. staff who is knowledgeable about your authoring or web creation platform or technology) confirm that you have located all source content files necessary. This will enable your language service provider to determine exactly how much content needs to be translated and localized.

2. Submitting files for analysis that do not need translation

Clients who are “in a hurry” frequently submit directory structure with files that do not need translation to their language service provider. This not only occurs when the client is pressed for time, but also when a client must request a translation quote and is not familiar with the project. Obviously, submitting unnecessary files to a translation company can increase the word count, inflating projected costs. The inclusion of unused files will also slow down communication and delay a quote or increase time in a project schedule.

Solution: If you request a translation quote and you don’t personally use the authoring or content creation software involved, have an internal expert on your team scan the files you have gathered to validate whether any unnecessary files should be removed from the directory before submitting them to your translation vendor. This will avoid a great deal of confusion and unnecessary project time.

3. Not providing available translation memory (TM) for file analysis

Clients sometimes forget that they have existing translation memory (TM) created during the translation of an earlier version of the project. It is critical to submit your TMs with source files to your translation company for analysis to obtain accurate word counts and optimum leverage. Any credible translation agency will ask you if you have TMs for a project quote. But be aware that there are a small number of language service providers who would be more than happy to charge you higher rates for a higher “new word” count, if you neglect to include TMs.

4. Underestimating time required for thorough file analysis for an accurate translation quote

Some clients are under internal pressure to obtain a cost estimate and turn a multilingual project around “now”. This is more common with creative advertising agencies that have short page-count, graphically rich multilingual projects. Reducing the amount of time that your translation agency has available for source file analysis will only produce inaccurate results and ill-advised expectations for project time and costs.

5. Unrealistic expectations for “rush” translation projects

Nearly any client can require an occasional “rush” translation project. Unexpected delays in product development may push out the schedule for translation and localization and reduce the number of days available to complete a multilingual project. Typically rush projects have a premium price of up to 35% added to cover the costs of additional resources. Be aware that your translation partner cannot always pull together extra team members to turn around your project with little or no notice.

Take-away message: If you are aware that the internal milestones for your project are slipping and that a rush translation project may be necessary, let your translation partner know with as much advance notice as possible. This will allow your translation project manager to revise resource planning to account for additional head count on your project before it is too late.

6. Overlooking need for a glossary

Glossary development is an essential first step in multilingual projects to ensure consistent translation and that your intent is conveyed to audiences in all target languages. If you do not already have a glossary, a reputable translation agency will include glossary development in your quote. Once a glossary is developed, updates for future iterations of your content will be relatively modest in terms of time and cost.

glossary development

Translation Portals

Many translation companies offer a translation portal to manage file transfers, schedule updates and communications to reduce or eliminate e-mail threads. Globalization Partners International (GPI) has a robust, online translation portal that is a fully customizable, internet-based communication and collaboration portal designed to give companies immediate, secure and global access to all of their translation, localization and internationalization project and team information.


Useful Resources on Translation Industry Definitions

Globalization Partners International (GPI) has created a series of blogs and website resource pages to help you understand key concepts and vocabulary used in the translation and localization process: