Using Automation to Deal With Small Translation Projects

In an era of increasing competition in the translation and localization industry, language service providers must deal with multiple small projects, and often can’t afford to turn this work away. However, many companies struggle to deal with small projects in a cost-effective way.

This is challenging as these numerous small projects tend not to be particularly profitable. Each small request becomes a project in its own right. Each has a start date and a relatively short delivery date. Each has to be assigned, billed, and managed. The cost of handling these projects often does not reflect their size or value.

There is probably no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with these small projects. For the sake of brevity, we will not deal here with projects from direct clients, but will instead focus on those originating from strategic partnerships with multilingual vendors. It is crucial for a healthy translation agency to effectively participate in the supply chains of our industry, but delivering huge numbers of relatively small projects in short turnaround times while maintaining control and operational efficiency is no mean feat. Our solution? Introduce automated project management processes to your translation agency. Some of the benefits of this include:

Reduced costs

By automating tedious administration tasks including cost calculation, project-related accountancy, vendor assignment based on pre-defined criteria, creation of purchase orders and even project delivery, your team will become more efficient, and there will be less scope for human error.

Greater insight into your business

Your processes become transparent and measurable. Having access to in-depth reporting, metrics, and knowledge about your business helps you make informed decisions based on facts and hard data.

Increased client satisfaction

Automatic work dispatch between various project stages means you can turn projects around quicker, which in turn makes for happy clients.

Client choice

By allowing clients to select project flow templates in the dedicated client portal, you cater to their needs and save time on those small projects.

All of this results in significantly reduced project management costs.

But make no mistake. Automated processes cannot and should not be introduced overnight. More traditional businesses really have to invest the time and effort for a sustainable and rewarding implementation. The end results are absolutely worth the effort, but do require a major paradigm shift. Based on our experience, these four principles are key to a successful transition from purely manual processes to a heavily automated environment:

Be prepared for big changes

In order to automate processes, you must first clearly define your current processes. This will reveal all the unwritten rules and commonly taken shortcuts that you might not even be aware of, and which might be detrimentally affecting your results. Automation will enforce strict rules and accountability, especially in those areas where you were previously lax.

Be bold

Leverage technology by planning to automate as much as possible. Reshaping your processes into a more strict form takes a certain amount of effort. If this effort is to bring the best results, you can’t restrict yourself to just a small part of your work. Adopt a big-picture approach to restructuring your processes rather than looking at things on an isolated case-by-case basis. This strategy will allow for much higher overall savings.

Work to a systematic plan

 Although you shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture, neither should you try to push through too many changes at the same time. Prepare a plan for changes that are delivered in stages, and introduce new processes gradually.

You are not alone

Automation should not just affect your internal team, but should also look outwards, to your clients. Your clients will value the ability to submit their requests to you 24/7 and receive immediate feedback through the Client Portal. Clients also usually use their own suite of automated tools. By integrating these in your workflow via APIs, both you and your clients will be able to reap the rewards of this technological investment.

Automatic does not mean robotic. Often, people are worried that canned responses and automatic job dispatching mean losing some of the human touch so important in our work. Nowadays, however, the level of customization of processes is such that there is always space for adding something personal. Even a slight modification of individual messages can make a significant difference in the way your communication is perceived.

It’s worth considering that while you may decide not to automate a significant part of your processes, some of your competitors will. This will allow them to keep their rates low while maintaining a healthy margin and providing short turnaround times. This sobering reflection should be motivation enough to consider using process automation as a part of your day-to-day toolkit, without considering all the positive benefits of doing so. Ultimately, implementing automation will take a lot of repetitive, manual tasks off your hands, giving you more time for the things you do best.