The Translation Project Manager

A translation project manager analyzing a chart on her computer for a translation projectIf you’re an old hand when it comes to working with translation services providers, you have almost certainly worked with a translation project manager. For most clients, the interaction is relatively superficial, and the project manager (PM) is simply the person to whom you send your translation project and then sends back your completed translations.

In fact, the translation project manager plays one of the most important roles in any translation company. While roles and responsibilities may vary slightly from company to company, the following represents some of the typical duties carried about by a translation project manager.

1. Intake & Analysis

When you send your document(s) to for translation, the PM is usually the person responsible for reviewing your files, determining the word count, entering all of the project details into a translation management system (TMS), and providing clients with a quote.

At this stage, the PM also reviews the statement of work (SOW) and submits queries to the client to clarify the project specifications. The PM may also ask if there are any existing translation memory (TM) databases, glossaries, or style guides to facilitate the translation process.

2. Project Scheduling & Assignment

Once a quote is approved, the PM plans the entire project schedule – including translation, editing, formatting, and proofreading – in order to meet the client’s specified deadline.

With anywhere from 3-4 steps involved in the process, the PM carefully plans the time needed for each phase. When time allows, the PM often sets internal deadlines for earlier than necessary. This allows for a “cushion” should any issues crop up that delay one or more of these steps and so that the client’s final deadline will not be affected.

The PM also assembles the translation team that includes (at a minimum) a translator, editor, and proofreader, and often a production specialist to handle formatting requirements. The PM carefully chooses each member of the team based on language, subject matter expertise, experience, and scheduling considerations. The team is often selected from a pre-screened database of linguists that the PM chooses from based on the project-specific criteria.

3. Team Check-In & Quality Control

Throughout the project life cycle, the PM checks in with each team members to make sure they are on schedule and to answer questions. If there are queries for the client, the PM facilitates the process to seek clarification. The PM must also ensure that the quality control process is fully implemented and no steps are missed.

4. Final Delivery

Once the translation is completed, the PM checks the completed translations, ensuring that all files are complete, the translation team has followed the client’s specifications, and if any issues are found, addresses them either with the translation team or the company’s quality control manager. They also may run a variety of automated QC tools at this point.

After delivery, the PM closes out the project in the TMS submits it for invoicing, authorizes payment for the translator(s), archives the project files, and any other post-project administrative tasks that may be required.

Besides the key steps outlined above, the PM is also responsible for risk management and mitigation, managing gross profit margin, and various other tasks that may be assigned, such as assisting with translator recruitment and testing. Not to mention, any single PM often manages dozens of projects and translation teams simultaneously, all with varying requirements and schedules.

In summary, a translation project manager is not just a glorified administrative assistant. In fact, many have advanced degrees in business management, possess a background in linguistics, and are experts in Project Management Institute (PMI) standards. They are also required to possess outstanding customer service and problem-solving skills so that their clients are satisfied with each and every project!