Contrary to the general notion, language service providers offer more than just linguistic services. If it were so, then it would be enough to employ one translator instead of a translation agency. The main function of language service providers is to ensure project management services. Localization specialists manage the workflows throughout their entire cycle, adding value to the translated content.
Do translation project managers all need to be translators?
The thing to remember is that the translation project involves more than just translating. The translation project manager’s tasks include identifying the main project requirements, determining necessary resources and skills, and development and supervision of the project plan. When this plan is created, the next step is to determine and supervise the people involved in the project, allocating specific tasks and deliverables to certain team members, and following their implementation, as well as managing all stages of the project until completion.
Not all good translators can be good translation project managers and not all translation project managers need to be translators. Customer service skills is especially important for the translation project manager to be able to maintain a healthy working relationship between translators and clients. They must be able to make the right decisions at all stages of the translation project. A translation project does not only depend on linguists; clients also play a key role here. If the client does not review source texts or does not provide an answer within the determined time limit, work can be delayed, impacting the schedule and budget. Project managers must know when to approach the parties involved and make sure each of them accomplishes the assigned work. Also, translation project managers have to be creative, think independently and develop patience and empathy to prevent conflicts within the team.
Project managers analyse the translation project and choose the right team for every client. At this stage, negotiation skills mean not only the ability to agree on the budget and set a deadline. It is equally important for the project managers to identify the true wishes and goals of the clients as well as the method and planning process to achieve them. Is there specific terminology that needs to be used? Is SEO optimisation required? What type of audience is the content for? Negotiating is an art requiring attention to detail and the ability to find compromise between the involved parties.
Planning directly impacts the outcome of every project. Project managers must make sure that the team is implementing all stages of the project within the set deadlines and not exceeding the planned budget. Project managers must be able to provide clear and precise directions to the linguists both regarding the deadlines and other nuances of the project. If they will not do so successfully, then translators could work with errors or submit translations below par. Here’s an example of working with an error: a company has indicated that the translator must not use their current website texts as reference material because they are not satisfied with the quality. The project manager forgets to forward this message to the translator. The translator has learnt from their university studies that one needs to use reference texts and checks the website and translates the texts with terms or expressions the client does not like.
The project manager’s communication skills help to balance various elements of the project including possible misunderstandings, caused by cultural differences. Project managers act like a bridge between translators, editors, other specialists, and clients, so they need effective communication skills. Sometimes even very small nuances matter: what should the translator be told, what to keep to yourself, the ability to gain trust, add value and ensure a productive workflow. Also, project managers must solve various problems that occur during the project., They also need to understand that they come from different sides. Sometimes a good translator can have a bad day, or the client has a boss who changes the work task three times or corrects the files already submitted for translation. We are all human, but project managers sometimes need to be superhuman, a project superhero, and avoid different breaches of communication, undelivered information that could project delays and inaccuracies in translations.
Flexible and open to change
Flexibility should also be added to the mix. Translation project managers must be able to acknowledge every incoming change, if not with a smile, then at least with an open mind and accepting attitude. Clients very often make corrections at the last moment and some parts of translations must be rewritten as such the terms of the original agreement have changed. If the project manager is too strict and inflexible, they can create problems both for clients and linguists.
Translation project managers must be able to build long-term relations with clients, overcome language and cultural barriers, create trust when the client already knows what to expect from the specific project manager and the company in general. This also applies to translators. For some project managers who offer a comfortable environment and support, they will have translators who enjoy working with the company, complete all projects on time, and even work better and more productively.
What about technical expertise? Translation projects are greatly connected with various devices, software, and systems; therefore, translation project managers have to be adept in technologies, project management systems, CAT tools and various tools which facilitate the translation processes. Before approaching translators, project managers must be able to prepare the project “portfolio” with the project resources, translation tools, translation memories, dictionaries, CAT tools, translation software and detailed brief. Project managers also have to follow anything new in the industry be an expert in the latest localization solutions and trends, translation tools and methods to recommend the most suitable to clients.
During the last few decades, the translation and localization industry has undergone gigantic changes and continues to transform at a very rapid pace. Also, the role of a translation project manager has changed. Artificial intelligence (AI), automation and more sophisticated translation and project management systems have changed the old habits and work specifics of project managers. However, although their role has changed it has not lost its importance. In the past, many anticipated that machines and AI would substitute human project managers, but the opposite has happened. Good and skilful translation project managers are highly appreciated and in great demand. We at Linearis, are proud of our translation project managers. Contact us and you will have an opportunity to work with some of the best professionals in the industry!