How to Manage Tiny Repetitive Projects Effectively

Many translation agencies nowadays face the necessity of translating smaller and smaller amounts of text, submitted regularly by their (often strategic) clients. Those can be, e.g., small changes to some regularly updated technical documentation, new software strings for an application continuously developed in short sprints, blog posts or other marketing content constantly shared with readers using different languages, etc. Such projects not only tend to get smaller in terms of the volume, but are also ordered with shorter deadlines.

From the Project Manager’s point of view, the fact that a project is “just 50 words” does not really mean that it requires less effort from them than a bigger job. On the contrary, small projects with short turnaround times can be real killers, especially when they also require some non-linguistic activities, like file preparation or logging in to a client’s system or FTP server to download the work files or upload deliverables in the right place.

Yet another difficulty is the financial aspect. Clients submitting tens of tiny projects every month are usually not eager to pay minimum fees for each one of them. They prefer to be charged monthly for the total wordcount instead. The vendors, on the other hand, are rarely willing to drop their minimum charges for a single job, even if promised to be exclusive providers for all projects of a given type. Keeping the margins at a decent level can become quite a challenge. Not to mention the costs of in-house resources and project management costs.

There are several tips that can help you manage such projects and make them less painful. Following those tips will help you reduce internal costs by saving the most valuable resource these days – TIME.

  • Keep Projects Simple and Standardized

    This sounds obvious, but very often it’s not the actual approach of many translation agencies. Modern Translation Management Systems (TMS) come with a solution to this, allowing the saving and reuse of workflow templates. Customize your templates to suit the needs of your project, but make sure to keep the process itself simple and manageable at the same time.

  • Use Regular Vendors and Improve Communication

    Certain types of projects are usually done by the same pool of translators. And if you use the same vendors all the time, they probably know what to do. Reduce the communication to a minimum. Keep the hand-off messages short. Use email templates, instead of writing repetitive messages. If needed, prepare standard client-specific instructions and make them part of every project.

  • Improve File Management

    Pushing various files back and forth between vendors at different phases of a project is one of the most time-consuming responsibilities of a Project Manager. Instead of shuffling the files yourself, make use of online portals, where your vendors can download and upload them for you. State-of-the-art management systems handle file-sharing between the vendors for Project Managers too. The files delivered by a translator automatically become work files for a proofreader. The reference files are shared with all or just selected vendors in the process. The only task of the Project Manager becomes monitoring the correct file flow. This comes in handy particularly in multilingual projects.

  • Automate Processes Where You Can

    Every project has a number of repetitive actions that need to be performed: project set-up, confirming the deadline with the client, checking vendors’ availability, scheduling dates for tasks, calculating fees based on CAT analyses, issuing POs… Automate this where you can and save time!

  • Consider Integrations

    Top solutions on the market offer integration with CAT tools, pushing the level of automation even further. Within such integration you can: create projects in CAT tools, convert source files to a bilingual format, analyse the wordcount, prepare project packages for translators, generate clean target documents or update Translation Memories. All this is either automated or managed solely from the interface of the TMS.

    A slightly different option is integration with your client’s system. If it’s another agency, this may be their own TMS or CAT tool. If it’s an end client, this may be a Content Management System (CMS). Such integration would probably mean a bigger investment, but the resulting savings should be well worth it.

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Bogusław Reich
Implementation Project Manager at XTRF and former Project Manager at Argos Multilingual - a major Polish translation agency. Boguslaw has been in the localization industry for nearly 10 years.
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