I like to think of a translation project manager (PM) as the conductor who ensures that a project moves harmoniously from start to finish. Being a PM is a job for one with the skill to orchestrate an array of elements at a fast tempo; there’s dealing with the client to understand their project requirements, sourcing suitable translators in multiple languages, setting deadlines, and negotiating pay rates; all this before things really get moving.
Various factors define a quality translation project, from qualified linguists to tailored approaches and assisting technology. Clients new to translation may assume that the management of translation projects is fully automated via specialized software. However, the ‘human factor’ is indispensable to the process, seeing that requirements tend to vary significantly from project to project.
So when exactly does a project manager pick up the baton?
The process usually starts with approaching a translation agency and receiving a quote from the sales team. Once costs and deadlines are confirmed, the project is handed over to a PM who will review its parameters and map out how the work will be executed. To put it in a few words, PMs handle projects in a way that lets others relax.
Project management in translation involves identifying project requirements, putting together a step-by-step execution plan, setting due dates, calculating profit margins, selecting the appropriate collaborators, and making sure everyone is playing to the same tune.
PMs are instrumental in ensuring that projects are completed in a professional and timely fashion. Before launching the project, it is up to them to ask the right questions and obtain relevant input from the client, which will enable them to identify possible glitches that can affect quality, budget, or delivery date. This also helps to determine the most suited providers based on the specific skill set required for the project.
During the execution stage, a skillful PM will monitor progress and communicate effectively with both providers and clients. In case of any issues, the PM will swiftly identify the right people and steps to rectify them on time.
Upon completion of the project, it is up to the PM to meticulously review all deliverables and ensure timely delivery according to clients’ expectations.
It's not so simple though...
As straightforward as the workflow may sound, a PM’s job is not as simple as do, re, mi. On the contrary, it is a high-stress job requiring exceptional multitasking and attention to detail, not to mention excellent communication and negotiation skills. They say you cannot keep everyone happy at all times, but that is precisely every PM’s ultimate goal on a daily basis: juggling with time, cost, and quality and making sure no party is pulling their hair out in the process. Moreover, despite the greatest efforts of translators and the most effective project management, mistakes can happen, as the translation industry is no different to any other. Great PMs think outside the box, deal with challenges in good humor and make solutions rather than excuses.
When approaching a translation agency for your language needs, you should ask to discuss project requirements with your dedicated project manager. This valuable member of the team will be your main point of contact and will assist you from project beginning to end.