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The Importance of a Translation Project Manager

Project management is a large category in terms of skill set, but a good translation project manager will have the skills and knowledge of the industry to complete your translation project in a timely fashion, handling all sorts of nuances behind the scenes to relieve you of any worry with the success of the translation. But what does a translation project manager do?

In this article, we’ll break down the role of the translation project manager (or PMs for short) to help you understand how having a good project manager to coordinate your project can give you peace of mind through exceptional quality in your deliverables. 

Analyze source documents

The first step in a translation project is to reach out to your project manager and send over the files you’d like to have translated. These can range from simple Word documents to complex e-learning courses. Your project manager will analyze the files and ask any relevant questions: What languages and locales do you need? Do the images need to be recreated? Does this video require voice-over and subtitling? They may even ask questions regarding the target audience you’re hoping to reach. Your project manager will know which questions are needed in order to create the project plan you’re looking for.

Create a project plan

After analyzing the source files for your project, your project manager will be able to create a specific project plan, or project scope, that is unique to your project’s needs. They’ll begin reaching out to different resources, calculating timelines, choosing the correct teams in terms of skill set and language pairs, and much more! Once the project plan is created, your project manager will send over a quote and will wait for approval before getting started.

Manage linguists

As a project manager myself, this is one of my favorite parts of the job. A project manager will work with people all over the world to deliver the best final files to their clients. There are quite a few facets that go into this step.

A project manager will need to:

  • Choose the best team for each project. A “team” refers to an independent translator and an editor, unless otherwise requested by the client. This means that each language for a project will have at least two different people working on it.
  • Align team to project specialization. Each piece of content that is being localized in a project will need to be analyzed by the project manager in order to select the right linguistic team for the job. Is the document being translated medical in nature? Then a specific medical team of linguists will need to be used. Is an app being localized going to be used for school-aged children? Then the project manager will need to have the linguistic teams keep that in mind. Does this brochure contain creative, catchy wordsmithing in English? The PM will have to select a team who specializes in marketing texts in the target language.
  • Manage linguist fit. If there are any issues with translations done by a specific team, your project manager will be able to switch linguists and keep notes to not use them on specific projects. 
  • Be a liaison between the client and the linguistic teams as well as between linguists on the same team within a project. This helps to preserve anonymity not only between the client and the team but also between linguists. This helps when disputes arise or when differing professional opinions collide, whether it be between a client reviewer and a linguist or within the teams themselves. A project manager will navigate these situations and preserve professionalism and protect both the client and the linguistic teams.
  • Solve discrepancies and questions from linguists. Linguists are subject matter experts, but from time to time there will be questions regarding source material on which they’ll need clarification. PMs should speak at least one language other than English and oftentimes they’ll be able to answer questions for the linguist teams. They’ll conduct research when needed and if a question cannot be answered by the PM they will compile all questions from the teams working on a project and deliver them to the client, most likely in an Excel file, to easily see all questions and answer them in the same place. This makes the process easier because it usually can be completed with one step instead of the client answering potentially the same question for a number of different teams.

Walk the client through the process and explain industry terminology if needed

Maybe your boss has tasked you with compiling quotes for a new localization project within your company but you’ve never dealt with a translation vendor before. The vendor sales team as well as the project management team should walk you through their quotes and explain differences within terminology (editing vs. proofreading, phrase-sync subtitles vs. UN-style subtitles, what is a translation memory and why is it important to me? etc). Your project manager is like a part of your team!

Proofread final files before delivery

At the completion of every project, your project manager will perform their own quality assurance step before delivering the final files to you. They’ll ensure that the final files you’re receiving will adhere to the scope of the project, and unless otherwise specified they will be a 1:1 comparison of the source files you submitted at the beginning of the project. Oftentimes this is in addition to a review that has already been performed by one of the linguists on the team. A PM will be looking for issues like sentences that are missing punctuation, text that is cut off, or that the right images are on the correct pages according to the source files. A PM may even notice a typo in the source files and they’ll be sure to let you know about it. This is the last step performed before the files are finalized and sent to you.

Final thoughts

Having a dedicated project manager is vital to the success of your translation projects. They are key in every step of the translation process to deliver what is needed for your project. From coordinating teams all over the world to jumping on a call with your team to talk through the scope of a potential project, your project manager is an important resource to help bring your localization projects to fruition.



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