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11 Project Management Challenges for Translation Projects, Part 2

Clients who are new to website translation, software translation and document translation projects frequently misunderstand their own role for delivering well-defined content in the correct file format, with specific instructions to their translation agency. Project Management is a critical components for successful translation and localization projects.

Our previous blog, 11 Project Management Challenges for Translation Projects, Part 1, discussed how your translation agency will assign a qualified project manager to lead your translation team efforts. Issues covered in Part 1 included: missing files, neglecting to submit translation memories for file analysis, understanding timeframes, realistic expectations for rush projects and the critical need for glossaries in translation projects. This blog reviews the second half of 11 common translation project management challenges and recommendations for best practices.

7. Inconsistent file naming and directory structure

Occasionally clients submit source files for quotation with file names and a directory structure that vary dramatically from the actual source files used for the paid translation project. Obviously, you should not assume that your project manager and translation team can “guess” which files in the final set are equivalent to those which were analyzed for the quote. When directory structures and files have inconsistent naming conventions, misunderstandings can result throughout the entire “supply chain” of the translation process.

Solution: Establish standard file structure and naming conventions with you internal team, and communicate these standards to your project manager. Another decision that should be made is whether you want the delivered, translated files to have the same names as English source files (e.g. or whether you want files renamed with a language identifier (e.g.

8. Cancelled translation project kick-off meetings

It is not uncommon for last minute scheduling conflicts to emerge that lead a client to cancel their participation in a translation project kick-off meeting. This is truly working against the client’s best interests. The translation project kick-off meeting is your chance to get to know team members and to ask questions. It is also your translation team’s primary opportunity to get clarification on your goals and guidelines before work begins. Many problems can be avoided by establishing mutual understanding on projects milestones up front. If all issues are not covered and misunderstandings ensue, corrective action mid-project can be magnified by the number of target languages involved.

9. Anticipate offshore holidays and vacation schedules

It is likely that the majority of linguists involved in your translation project reside outside of North America and work from other time zones. Your translation project schedule will need to take into account holidays and vacation schedules common to other countries. For instance, many Muslim countries observe their weekend on Friday and Saturday; Sunday is a work day. Most of China closes down for several days during the Chinese New Year, the “Dragon Boat Festival” and other holidays that are not well known in the USA. Most of Europe goes on vacation for the better part of August.

Your project manager will advise you about certain times of the year that may impact your project schedule with a requirement for a few additional business days to complete your translation project. Best practice: Let your project manager know many weeks in advance about any upcoming projects that may coincide with “down time” in other parts of the world.

10. Use relevant subject headings in e-mail communications

Although this advice may seem overly obvious, it is one of the chief causes of communication breakdowns. Even when a translation portal is used to reduce or eliminate e-mails, there is always some point in a project when a “rushed” client may feel impelled to make a request by e-mail. Many people who are in a hurry simply seek the most recent e-mail from their translation project manager, and reply to it, embedding a request in the body of the message completely unrelated to the subject line. This can put project milestones or project scope requests at risk of failure by getting “lost” in an unrelated thread of email.

Rule of thumb: When making any type of additional request via e-mail that is critical to your translation project, always compose a new email with a new, relevant subject line.

11. Changes in project scope

A need for a change in project scope may be discovered by the project manager or the client. The project manager at your translation company may uncover content issues that were not present in the files used for quoting purposes. If a graphic map has text that must be localized, additional time and expense must be added to the project.

If the client detects that additional content will be added to a translation project after it has begun (or guidelines have changed), he or she should let the project manager know as soon as possible. Project scope changes may require additional resources, and will certainly affect project schedules, possibly delaying project completion. The sooner the project manager is informed of any changes, the more tools she will have at her disposal to complete the project in a timely fashion.

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: