Project Managers are heroes

Why Localization Project Managers Are Heroes

Throughout the next few weeks, we’re putting the spotlight on the unsung heroes of the translation world – project managers. We’ve put together a collection of useful translation project management resources such as how to videos, eGuides, webinars and more, all created to help project managers tackle the typical challenges they face. Visit our new Project Manager Hub to find them all.
To gain a real-world view of why project managers really are heroes, I asked a variety of people working in different roles of the translation supply chain why project managers are important to them, what qualities make someone a good project manager, and what advice they would give to those they work with.

Jeremy Young – Technical Localization Process Consultant (TLPC)

In Technical Localization Process Consulting we work closely with project managers, supporting them in carrying out new client onboardings, test translations, RFPs and account optimizations. We rely greatly on the project managers to feedback key client and account information to us, so that we are in a position to make informed decisions about the tools, technology and methodology to use when considering a client engagement.

A good project manager will not only bring all the elements of a project team together, but will also gain a clear understanding of the role every individual plays within that team.

A typical project may involve a diverse range of translators, consultants and technical services, and it is important for the project managers to understand properly when these teams relay information which may be complex or technical in nature. Unless our own project manager has a good grasp of technical issues and can discuss them effectively, it can be a challenge to support the client and meet their needs!

Neeltje Stuurman – Language Process Consultant (LPC)

Project managers are the linchpin in any localization project, forming the link not only between client and translators, but also all other teams involved in localization. To make this juggling act even more complicated they need to ensure all departments involved can perform their job profitably.

In order to achieve this, good project managers should take full ownership of their projects. It’s crucial that they don’t just give clients what they want or ask for, but rather what they need.

This is where project managers can greatly support the LPC team: our job is to define and optimize end-to-end best practices for our customers. This is something that is a lot easier and more effective to do, the more proactively you do it, whether it is advising a client on how to optimize their source or manage their terminology, or helping project managers determine the best processes, procedures and settings to meet the client’s requirements. 

My advice for project managers is first of all, make sure you have a good 360 overview of your projects.

This will help you identify potential issues before they become a problem. And secondly, don’t try to do everything yourself. You’re likely to have other experienced and knowledgeable people in your company/agency, make sure to make use of them and ask them for advice. And being asked for advice helps people feel part of a team working towards a joint same goal and such teams perform best and achieve the best results.

Helga Petzel – Lead Translator

Project managers are the link between the client and the translators. They transfer files, information, queries and answers back and forth to make sure the client and the translators understand each other, and the projects flow smoothly. When issues arise they should support the translators against unreasonable demands from the clients – but of course they need to keep the clients happy, as well. It’s a fine balancing act that requires considerable diplomacy skills.

Good project managers are well organized and keep track of all projects at their different stages.

They are aware of what information is required at the start of a project and when to send delivery reminders. They know all tools and processes inside out and use them efficiently. Above all, they always stay cheerful under almost constant pressure!

Without project managers, translators would have to deal with clients directly and take care of all those time-consuming admin jobs that project managers are so good at saving the translators from.

With project managers, translators can concentrate on what they do best – translating!

Among all their practical skills, project managers also need a bit of sensitivity towards their translators. They need to know when to leave them alone to do their job, rather than sending yet another “friendly reminder”, and they need to hit the right tone. Too many smileys at the wrong moment can be annoying too!

Michelle Chen – Subject Matter Expert (internal reviewer)

As a subject matter expert and reviewer, the project manager helps me to keep track of my progress whilst managing the whole process from handover to delivery.

A good project manager should have a deep knowledge and big picture of the project.

My advice to a new project manager would be that simply managing a project up to completion is not enough. Project managers really need to summarize all the lessons and experiences learnt after each project (in a project post-mortem), whether there are positive or negative takeaways (e.g. how to avoid making the same mistake again, how to tackle an issue if it happens again etc.) in order to continuously improve future projects.

Yanjun Yu – Desktop Publishing (DTP) Lead

In addition to the translators and reviewers, DTP are another department who work with project managers to deliver high-quality localizations to the end client. While the translators focus on translating the content, DTP are responsible for ensuring the translation fits the original content’s layout. Together we work to deliver the best quality file to the client. The project manager is central to this, acting as the hub for the client, translators and DTP. They help us to understand the needs of the client as well as communicate our recommendations to them, in order to make the whole process go smoothly.

My advice to project managers when working on multilingual projects would be to try and send all the translated files in each language to DTP together rather than one-by-one (if possible).

This helps to reduce our overall workload for the project and allows us to work more efficiently.

Silvio Scozzari – Localization Director/Client

The project manager is critical in servicing my requirements as a localization buyer. They are responsible for coordinating and managing all aspects of any given project I request, from initial receipt of assets, analysis, quotation and ultimately to successful delivery.  

Without a single point of contact project manager to liaise with, it would be impossible to coordinate all the different functions within a vendor who are responsible for delivering my localization projects, i.e. translators, engineering and desktop publishing teams. Project managers are responsible not only for managing projects and deliverables, but also finances, people and the technology implemented to streamline processes and workflows. 

In terms of advice, my recommendation to project managers is to always question and challenge when someone asks you to localize a project which goes against localization best practice.

You are the experts, not necessarily the client and you need to impart your knowledge and experience in order to deliver high quality and linguistically accurate localized projects. 

Thank you so much to everyone who took part in this blog. I hope those of you who have read this blog have seen first-hand why project managers are so important to the translation process. 

Looking for more project manager related content? Visit our Project Management Hub.