Part 2 of the article series Translation: Are You Costing Your Company Money? looks at project management in translation and localization.
Sound project management is crucial to taking possession of a quality, error free project.
If you've undertaken a translation or localization project, even a small project, without the aid of a project management system, you may be guilty of contributing to translation errors that have cost your company in lost revenue.
Read the real world example that follows, and see how failure to implement a project management system leads to translation errors.
Real World Example
My company, a Japanese translation service company based in Tokyo (Japan), was approached to handle the Japanese translation and localization of a global marketing brochure for a world renowned marketing firm some years back. We were approached because of our expertise in Japanese marketing translations, copywriting, graphic and web design, and print media. We viewed this project as a great opportunity to show case our Integrated Japanese Translation Solution approach to marketing translation projects, and naturally grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of those projects you wish you'd never heard about. Here's what happened.
Pretty soon after the project was initialized, we discovered that the material provided us was a draft copy, despite notifying the client upfront that we only work with finalized materials (because it saves everyone, not least of all the client, money). From there, the situation snowballed:
- Already translated text needed to be retranslated as new revisions constantly kept rolling in.
- The English materials contained text from other language versions of the brochure.
- The text contained historically inaccurate facts which the client was not even aware of.
- Regional branch managers from around the world were phoning us asking for specific revisions, which were then being over ridden by other regional managers, and then again by the head office.
- Our role morphed from that of a translation/localization service provider to consulting as the person steering the project had no clue how to implement and manage a global translation project.
Eventually, the situation deteriorated such that we were forced to create a purpose built change track application to refute accusations of unauthorized changes to materials. Of course, once confronted with the evidence (who requested what changes which were then overridden by which regional office), the client was put in the awkward position of not only having to apologize, but also compensate us for the additional work we were doing.
The project had a 14 day deliver requirement; it was finally completed 5 months 27 days later! Right from the go get it became apparent this project was sorely lacking project management.
Read on and find out how project management cuts down on translation errors.
Effective Project Management
Translation errors can, and do, creep into translated and localized materials at every step of the process. And, yes, translators are not the only source of errors -- Anyone involved in the project is a potential source of errors.
However, one of the major causes of translation errors is invariably lack of, or poor, translation project management. Going back to that Real World Example, this project could well have been delivered within the 2 week delivery requirement, since it was not a particularly large project -- Instead, the project became bogged down with endless, and in my opinion, completely unnecessary, revisions.
Implementation of a translation project management system would have:
- Ensured adequate planning
In an undertaking as complex as translation and localization (especially on a global level), adequate planning is essential for achieving successful project completion. (Surprised? That’s right -- Without trying to aggrandize my profession, translation and localization is NOT a trivial matter, or an after thought to more “important” processes if you will.)
- Ensured appropriate resources
While “resources” can apply to just about anything required for successful project completion, here I specifically refer to personnel. Qualified personnel are the linchpin in any project because they can keep, or even bring back, a project on track. A project management system is essential to assign the right personnel to the right task.
- Ensured accurate communication
Tracking communications with a project management system would have eliminated miscommunications and the resulting problems of mistrust between the various project stakeholders that ensued.
- Ensured quality control
This was essentially the root cause of all problems in this project. Applying in-house quality controls via a project management system would have ensured that service providers received the finalized copy of materials for translation, thus completely eliminating the need for endless revisions that eventually lead to project melt down.
- Minimized project costs
No matter how you rationalize it, a 2 week project that runs for nearly 6 months is going to cost a whole lot more than budgeted for. More importantly, and what is often not recognized, are the hidden costs of a project that runs off track. For example, since your staff is tied up with the current project, they are unable to continue with other pressing projects -- A contagion effect of slipped deadlines develops leading to costs piling up.
Not enough can be said about the importance of project management in reducing and eliminating translation errors.
Reduce and eliminate translation errors -- Project management doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg
If you've been operating without a project management system apply the lessons you take away from this article, and ensure your company never again loses revenue through avoidable translation errors.
What project management system do you use? Depending on the project requirements, it can be as simply as a spreadsheet application (for small projects) or it can be a top-of-the-line project management application for larger and more complicated projects.
You are probably thinking that’s fine for someone with deep pockets, right? However, consider this: The cost as measured by lost revenue due to translation errors of NOT implementing a project management solution is far, far greater than implementing even a basic solution…
About the Author
Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, experts in Certified Translation Japanese to English based in Japan, Tokyo. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services
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