Last week I spoke with a translation company managing director who asked me how best to organize their production team. Specifically, should they have a small team of technology experts to support Project Managers in operating CAT tool projects, or should each PM become an expert in all the CAT tools they use?
Well, it would be great if every project manager could be at least an advanced user of each of the CAT tools in use. It is quite common though, that one company uses different tools (MemoQ, SDL Trados, Memsource, XTM, etc.) depending on the client or project type.
I remember, from the time when I was managing a translation company, that for each of the CAT tools we would come across different unexpected issues during a project. And while our Project Managers were very quick and efficient in preparing and running the project in different CAT tools, we regularly faced issues with file analysis, importing files into the project, cleaning files or exporting files to the original format at the end of the project. And I do not want to say it is a CAT tool problem – there are just so many different file formats and so many tags and other elements that can be contained in different files, that these types of issues may occur quite regularly. And they do.
At the same time, Project Managers usually have a waiting list of emails to respond to and actions to take. Spending even only half an hour on solving an unexpected technical problem within a project may ruin their day.
Therefore, it would be great to have a person in smaller companies, or a team in bigger ones, that could provide technical assistance to Project Managers, and that would build strong CAT and file-format related expertise, to provide help quickly and solve issues efficiently. There is one risk though that should be addressed – this person or team should not replace the Project Managers in operating regular CAT projects. One could say that of course it will never happen. Why would PMs go to other people to talk about easy projects? OK! but as time goes by, one might get tempted to refer to the expert team with ever shorter and easier questions or issues, gradually sending more regular jobs for processing within the technology experts team, and lowering the level of CAT knowledge within the regular Project Management team as a result.
What seems to be the most efficient, is a mixture of technically skilled Project Managers and a small Technology Experts team. Additionally, using a project management system like XTRF we can help Project Managers effectively manage all the projects that do not generate unusual technical problems.
The first thing a Project Management System integrated with MemoQ, SDL Trados, Memsource, XTM, etc. can do is read the project statistics with fuzzy matches and repetitions. This allows for an instant calculation of project value (Receivables) and individual translation or proofreading costs (Payables). At this stage we are not really yet talking about proper systems integration, but only about using analysis logs from various CAT tools to fill the financial part of a project within the project management system.
Real integration can help Project Managers with much more. In fact, it should allow a Project Manager to run the whole project from the interface of the project management system (like XTRF) without any manual operations in a CAT tool. The two connected systems can automatically exchange project files and information based on project or filter settings. A dedicated workflow can also hold information about the Translation Memory and glossary to be used. At the end of the project, the systems will automatically generate the final output files in the original file format and the Translation Memory will be updated with the new translation.
All of the above will not only speed up a Project Manager’s work, it will also guide the Project Manager during the project, allowing for a steeper learning curve for each new Project Manager. In case of an unexpected absence of a PM, the replacing person can easily take over all the projects, because the whole process is harmonized and operations are stored in the form of a digitized Workflow.
In this way, with the support of a proper project management system, we can achieve the right production team structure (PMs plus Technology Experts) and ensure the optimum division of tasks and best efficiency of work.
He has been building his translation industry expertise since 1996 as a business development manager and as a Managing Director for a leading Central European translation company LIDO-LANG Technical Translations which was eventually sold to Sepro Group from Spain.