Category Archives: Project Management

Project Management: Our experience – our treasure

by Dina Kessaniotou, Project Coordinator at Commit

Far from trying to create a step by step guide to project management, with this article I want to give you some valuable insight, gained over my 20 years of PM experience. Even if the topics I am touching are relatively common, my perspective on some details could probably make a difference in the knowledge you have already acquired.

Let’s start with an important part of a project manager’s mission, budget management. When a new project arrives, it is really important that you set a comprehensive plan of the budget. Write down all possible costs and anticipate hidden costs. Don’t try to make approximate estimations as they can lead to unexpected deviations. Keep track of the budget whenever additional costs arise, even if they seem to be too tiny. We tend to get excited with big volumes, but sometimes there is more than meets the eye. The good news is the available project management tools provide powerful features for financial analysis. Your feedback at the end of a big project will help your company understand if a specific account is really profitable or even viable. But the reason I insist on the financial part is not just money. In the long term, you should ideally work in projects that meet your company’s expectations, not only in terms of profit but also in terms of development. It is one of your main duties to evaluate the profitability and real value of each client as to where your company would like to go in the future. Your useful insight on this will help your company understand which accounts are really aligned with their goals.

Just to avoid misunderstandings at this point: I don’t mean it is not worth working for smaller clients/projects. On the contrary, you should treat all clients equally. After all, you never know, the “smallest” client may one day evolve into the biggest opportunity. What I want to stress here is the importance of value for money and development.

Now let’s take a look on things we can easily do better for our clients

How would you define responsiveness?

You have surely read articles titled “Responsiveness is the key to success” or “Ten Ways to Respond Quickly” etc. However, would it just be enough to reply quickly to client requests in a fast-paced globalization world without borders? What about your faraway clients? How would you eliminate the time difference? It may seem challenging to set up teams to cover all time zones. However, it seems that in most cases the client is already happy if you get back to them within their same working day so they won’t have to wait for the next day to confirm the request. In most cases, you can manage to eliminate any geographical obstacles even if you don’t intend to provide linguistic support beyond your working hours.

What about quality?

Normally, this is something that should never be questioned. Our commitment should always be to provide top quality, regardless of profitability, time pressure or any other “pitfalls” that may arise. I am just touching this topic because sometimes clients disregard quality for a lower cost. It is up to you to help them realize that in the long term, such practices can cost them much more. Your excellent communication skills, holistic knowledge and vast experience will play their part here. As the manager of a specific project, you are responsible for the final outcome and you should never accept to compromise its quality. Apart from the fact that this is a matter of principle, don’t forget that one and only… unfortunate situation can considerably affect your team’s reputation – and it is among your basic responsibilities to protect the team’s reputation and image. On the other hand, quality is one of the keystones that build the loyalty of our clients, and this is also a step towards…

Reliability

Being reliable means much more than delivering high quality. It means that you deliver on time, that you are consistent in your processes and keep your promises, that you don’t seek to change your quote in the middle of the project. In short, reliability means that your clients assign their localization projects to you and are confident that you won’t disappoint them. A precious advice I remember from my first steps: don’t make your client worry and feel the need to check for the status of their project. And this brings us to…

Communication

The whole business management process is based on your good communication skills and on how effectively you interact with all stakeholders. I don’t have much to add here, however, I have this one valuable piece of advice: get used to interacting with people from different countries and cultures , people that might be less fluent in English than you are – remember, English may not even be a prerequisite in their field of activity! Try to be patient and put yourself into their shoes.

What if you want to go a step further? 

Localization follows the rapid evolution of technology, which also affects the client-side evolution. Companies change the products and services they offer, the way they promote them and much more. The evolution in their translation/localization needs is inevitable. If you want to stay up to date, never stop searching and evaluating new specialized resources, when time permits. Work closely with the HR team of your agency, let them know about your current and potential needs and expand your teams. With a vast pool of valuable resources, you will never lose business just because you don’t have the right people to do the job.

Now, do you think you have too many things to care about? Well, you will have even more, as the nature of your job is, most of all, multitasking! What you don’t know yet if you are new to the industry, is that your life at work will never be boring!

This article was part of the 2nd edition of “The Elia Handbook for Smart PMs” published by the European Language Industry Association.

What to keep in mind when assigning your first post-editing task

by Dimitra Kalantzi , Linguist at Commit

Maybe your business or translation agency is toying with the idea of experimenting with Machine Translation (MT) and post-editing. Or maybe, after careful thought and planning, you’ve developed your own in-house MT system or built a custom engine with the help of an MT provider and are now ready to assign your first post-editing tasks. However simple or daunting that endeavor might seem, here are some things you should bear in mind:

  1. Make sure the translators/post-editors you involve are already specialized in the particular field, familiar with your business or your end-client’s business and its texts, and willing to work on post-editing tasks. Involving people with no specialization in the specific field and no familiarity with your/your client’s texts, language style and terminology is bound to adversely affect your post-editing efforts. Ideally, the post-editors you rely on will be the same people you already work with, trust and appreciate for their good work.
  1. Forget any assumptions you might have about the suitability of texts for MT post-editing. For example, IT and consumer electronics are often among the verticals for which custom MT engines are built, and it’s usually taken for granted that software texts are suitable for post-editing purposes. However, this might not hold true for all your software texts or even for none at all, and should be judged on a case-by-case basis. For instance, some software texts contain many user interface (UI) strings that consist of a limited number of words (in some cases only 1 word) and are notoriously difficult to translate even for professional translators, especially when the target language is morphologically richer than the source language and there’s no context as is often the case, leading to a multitude of queries. It would seem that such texts are hardly suitable for post-editing or should, at the very least, be not prioritized for post-editing purposes.
  1. Define your MT and post-editing strategy. If your overall goal is to get the gist of your texts and you’re not concerned with style and grammar, then light post-editing might be right for you (but you’ll always need to clearly specify what constitutes an error to be post-edited and what falls outside the scope of post-editing, which might be tricky). If, on the other hand, you’re after high-quality translation and/or the output of your MT system is (still) poor, then full post-editing might be best for you. Also bear in mind that post-editing the MT output is not your only choice. In fact, instead of giving translators/post-editors the machine translated text, you can provide the source text as usual in the CAT tool of your choice and set the MT system to show a suggestion each time the translator opens a new segment for translation.
  1. Offer fair prices for post-editing. As a matter of fact, the issue of fair compensation and how post-editors should be remunerated for their work is still hotly debated. Some argue for a per-hour rate, others for a per-word rate. Some believe that post-editing always involves a reduced rate, for others it means a normal, or even increased translation rate. It all depends on the type of post-editing used (light vs full, normal post-editing vs translation suggestions), the quality of the MT output and its post-editability, the suitability of a particular text for post-editing, the language pair involved, etc. And, of course, translators/post-editors should be paid extra for providing further services, such as giving detailed feedback for a post-editing task.
  1. Last but not least, if you’re a translation agency, you should always have the approval of your end-client before using MT and post-editing to translate their texts. It also goes without saying that if you’ve signed an agreement with a client which forbids the use of any kind of MT or if the use of MT is expressly forbidden in the purchase order accompanying a job you receive from a client, you should comply with the terms and conditions you’ve accepted and should not make use of MT.

Post-editing MT output is by no means a straightforward endeavor and this post has barely touched the tip of the iceberg. Let go of our assumptions, find out as much as you can, involve everyone in the new workflow and ask for their honest feedback, be ready to experiment and change your plans accordingly, and let the adventure begin!

Translation memory: blessing in disguise?

by Tasos Tzounis, Assistant Project Manager at Commit 

First things first! It would be wise to clarify right from the start that when we are talking about a translation memory (commonly known as TM), we are not talking about machine translation. Quite the contrary! The translation memory is “man-made” and very much in the spotlight of the translators’ community.

A TM is also not a dictionary, even though they both serve the same purpose, i.e. to help translators around the world deal with the obstacles they encounter in their professional everyday lives like searching, finding and documenting terminology.

But what exactly is a TM?

It is a database which is created, updated and maintained by a translator. During the translation, each piece of text, or segment in CAT tools terms, is saved in a memory file together with its translation, creating a translation unit.

The TM is not just a glossary for terminology search, but it may include from one translation unit up to whole corpora, allowing the translator to search entire sentences as well as individual words.

Furthermore, it is not only created during a new translation project. Luckily for linguists, there are translation memory programs that allow the user to create memories from large-scale documents that have been previously translated. This function is called alignment and, basically, it is a process in which the source text and its respective target text are aligned to segment level inside a brand-new TM. These aligned segments will be used for new searches and will be updated with new content in the future.

But what is all this fuss about TMs and what are the benefits for translators?

First of all, TMs speed up the translation process, saving extra time for the translator and significantly increase their productivity especially when it comes to extensive texts containing jargon. However, this requires that the translator keeps TMs for each client, for every language combination they use as well as for any kind of technical documents they delve into. Their efficiency depends primarily on the linguist who creates and maintains them as they must be updated with all the recent changes and all content should be thoroughly checked for correctness. Moreover, TMs ensure high quality, consistency and homogeneity, especially in the case of ongoing major projects involving many translators and/or reviewers with partial deliveries or individual projects that relate to the same language combination and client.

What are the benefits for the client?

Benefit No. 1: TMs reduce cost. As long as a TM is well maintained, we are up for some savings! The TM can detect previously translated content, and depending on the new text’s similarity with that content, it can be charged at a reduced rate and sometimes not even charged at all. Also, by analyzing the translation project with a TM, we get a pretty good analysis of the content to be translated i.e. new content, repetitions, fully and partially translated content etc. This way, the project manager who is responsible for the planning and execution of a translation project can accurately determine the delivery time, organize and coordinate their team and ensure a quality translation that is also consistent with previous translations for the same client.

For many translators, the creation, update and especially the maintenance of TMs seems like a demanding process. Some might see it as “necessary evil” but without any doubt, its use facilitates the life of the linguist, ensures consistency, increases productivity and cuts down costs for the clients. It’s truly a blessing in disguise!

 

The 6 Laws of Translation Project Management*

by Effie Salourou , Customer Operations Manager at Commit  

  1. Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will

First of all, you need to embrace the fact that this risk is real. Be proactive at the early stages of project planning and try to accurately interpret project requirements. Adopt a risk management methodology and try to spot any future problems, needs and setbacks. Whether that is poor scope stability, time consuming processes or insufficient project prep time, you need to identify and eliminate all major shortcomings. Setting clear goals from the start will help you avoid extra work and possible delays.

  1. Lakein’s Law: Failing to plan is planning to fail

Quite often, when project managers receive tight-turnaround projects they rush into execution without doing the proper preparation and planning first. But it is exactly in those cases when we lack time to plan, that we should take the time to plan. Very often, at the early stages of a project, when no one is doing actual project work, rather they are engaged in project preparation, analysis and planning, this is often wrongly interpreted as doing nothing. Yet when it comes to project planning, you should take the time you need. Do not give the go-ahead unless you are certain that you have gathered all the necessary information and covered all aspects of the project.

  1. Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available

You have a week to finish a proposal, and yet you wait until Friday afternoon to finalize it. You have two months to work on a localization project and you make the last QA checks 2 hours before delivery. Do those scenarios ring a bell?

Another example of Parkinson’s Law is cases when you have a whole week to complete a 2-hour task. When you have all this time on your hands, there is a good chance that this task will creep up in complexity and become more intimidating so as to fill a whole week. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s extra work that will fill up all the extra time, it might just be the stress and tension about having to get it done. These situations can be nerve-racking and mentally challenging. To avoid them, set clear deadlines for all project stages, from vendor hand-off to QA, DTP, LSO and final delivery to client. Impose strict but reasonable time constraints for every project step and make the whole team stick to them.

  1. Cohn’s Law: The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything

Avoid long, unproductive discussions and meetings. A successful meeting should be all about sharing ideas, asking the right questions and finding the right answers and should only be held if it adds value to the project. Pick the right team members to attend the meeting, assign responsibilities, focus on solutions and end the meeting with action items.

The same goes for written reports. Avoid long, extremely detailed reports. Nobody has the time (or actually wants) to read a 10-page report on the progress of a project. Make sure it’s accurate and contains all the right information but keep it short and simple!

  1. Constantine’s Law: A fool with a tool is still a fool

Software tools are meant to make our work (and life) easier. But with the vast range of translation management programs, CRM software and CAT tools that are offered in the translation market, sometimes we get so overwhelmed that our work ends up being more complicated than it should. Primarily, try to leverage the software you already have at your disposal and make sure you are using all the features it has to offer. If you are experimenting with new tools, do your homework first, then choose the ones that fit your business and make sure you get a proper and thorough training.

  1. Kinser’s Law: About the time you finish doing something, you know enough to start

Do a post-mortem after every major project or in defined intervals for ongoing projects. Sometimes that would be a simple “What have we learnt doing this?” and other times it will be a complete report on time, cost and performance.

Part of it is also measuring the success of your project. A project constitutes as successful if it results in profit, if it brings new knowledge to the organization, if it helps the business expand to new markets or if it improves the existing processes.

Also, try to have your post-mortem directly after a project concludes, while the details are still fresh in your mind. After a while, we tend to forget the things that went wrong in a well-executed project and vice versa. If a project doesn’t go that well, we lose sight of successes as we try to figure out what the problems were.

*This article was part of the 1st edition of “The Elia Handbook for Smart PMs” published by the European Language Industry Association