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localization project management

Last week, I noticed that one of my suppliers had changed their skype profile status to the words ‘the devil is in the detail’ surrounded by worried looking emotion faces. When I asked them what the significance of this was (typically they have jokes or just a smiley face in their profile status), they explained that they had recently provided a cost for a job, had been accepted and were now finalising the work, however the project had gone horribly wrong and they were now having to get part of the project work done by a 3rd party at a significant cost. The reason it went so badly wrong was because, as they admitted, they had failed to ask the right questions up front and to get the right information from their customer. Messages were mixed and wires crossed. This profile status (along with the dent in profitability for the project) was to act as an aide-mémoire for my supplier to make sure they always get the correct information before they start on a project.

If you’re looking to use an LSP for the first time – how can you make sure you’re giving enough information to the LSP to ensure your project runs smoothly? Every LSP will have their own information gathering process but below are some of the typical question we always try and find out at the start of a new translation project:

1. The basics – to ensure that no assumptions are made ensure you ask the following:

Name, telephone, email and organisation of the person who has requested the translation service.

2. Project specifics– help get a clearer understanding of the requirements:

What type of language services do you require (e.g. direct translation, adapted translation, proofreading, transliteration, transcreation, transcription, a certified translation, language consultation, brand name checking, foreign language typesetting, other…)?
Do you need a combination of the above (e.g. translation, proofreading and typesetting)?
What is the source language?
What is the target language?
What is the nature of the text (i.e. legal, technical, marketing etc)?
What is the medium of the source text (web, print etc)?
How will access be given to the source material (i.e. via a CMS, ftp, email etc)?
What medium will the translation be used in (web, print etc)?
Which countries are you looking to use the translation in?
Desired delivery date?
Date the project is likely to go ahead?
Who else in the organisation (or outside the organisation) is likely to be involved with the project?
How would you like the files delivered back once complete (i.e. via email, ftp, CMS etc)?
Is there a budget for this work?

3. Translation quality related questions– help get a better understanding of the quality procedure that will need to be involved:

Is there a translation memory available?
Is there a glossary available?
Are there any style guides or source material that will be made available?
When the translation is completed how will the work be reviewed?
If files are being reviewed in-house – will access be given to the reviewed files?
Is there a preference for a specific CAT tool to be used?
Do you also require a copy of the translation memory?

4. Fact Finding questions – The LSP can ask these to get a better idea of where potential clients are coming from:

How familiar are you with this type of language service?
Are you working on behalf of a third party (i.e. a marketing agency producing work for their clients)?
Are you currently working with any other LSP?
Have you had translations in the past?
What has been your experience of translation?

Providing answers to the above will not necessarily guarantee a successful project but having this information can be a big help. Although it may seem obvious – often when projects go wrong it’s because these questions have not been asked in the first place. It’s worth remembering that it’s very hard to have consensus on what is needed from a project when it’s unclear from the start what is required.

A quick note on assumptions and LSPs:

Because many LSPs operate on the traditional agency model – (i.e. they provide the service via freelance translators etc) assumptions are sometimes made about the information they are provided with – and this can be disastrous. Projects go wrong and get expensive when assumptions are made. As detailed above asking the right questions up front is critical and can help projects run smoother and better. However just because the above has been stated – it doesn’t mean it’s been confirmed. Never assume anything. Often we have a situation where our client is utilising our services on behalf of their client (i.e. they are a marketing agency who are producing work for their clients – part of which involves language translation). Sometimes we have found ourselves in a situation where our client has confirmed something based on what they have been told by their client, only for us to find that what they had been told wasn’t, in fact, accurate. Sounds confusing? Basically the point I’m trying to get across is to make sure that once you have gathered the information, you ensure that the information is correct and that you can work with the information supplied. From an LSP’s point of view this will involve things like making sure files can be imported and exported directly into your CAT tools and that the correct amount of time is accounted for checking the formatting of files etc.

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Posted by Tom Wilson-Copp

Tom Wilson-Copp is a document design and production consultant who specialises in the project management and delivery of B2B services including design, localisation, off-line production and digital marketing.
With over 12 years experience working within the business services industry, Tom has worked for both large multinationals as well as bespoke service agencies.