GTE Localize

Understanding the Role of Project Managers in a Translation Project

Posted by Anne Q. on June 15, 2022.

The success of a translation project is usually thought to be attributed to the effort of translators. While it is undeniable that translators play an integral role in the quality of a translation, they are not the sole contributors. In fact, there is a dedicated team of project managers, vendor managers, salespeople, and supporters behind this success. They make sure your project is running smoothly and the translation is delivered to you according to the plan.

In the scope of today’s post, let’s focus on the important role of a project manager and see how they contribute to your translation project.

Who is a Project Manager?

As the name suggests itself, a translation project manager (PM) deals with the management side of a translation project. They are not directly involved in translating words between two languages (which is the job of a translator). Instead, they perform related tasks to make sure the translation process operates effectively, the quality of your translation is of the best, and the deadlines are met.

For example, if translators have any queries while translating your content, they will come and talk to the in-charged PM. This PM will then discuss the issues with you (the client) and get back to the translators. So does it make the job of a PM as simple as passing messages back and forth between translators and you?

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The answer is an obvious no. A project manager is in charge of performing numerous tasks during the whole translation process, including:

    • Analyzing the source materials to determine which elements and how many elements should be involved;
    • Estimating the project budget;
    • Planning schedule for the project;
    • Preparing the hand-off, detailed instructions and assigning tasks to suppliers;
    • Keeping the client informed of the project progress;
    • Monitoring the working progress and solving any issues raised during the process;
    • Performing quality assurance steps including LQA, QA reports and randomly spot-check.


What are the Roles of a Project Manager?

Now that you have an overview of who a PM is, let’s dig deeper into their essential roles in a translation project.

#1. A Project Manager is Your Main Point of Contact

As said above, if you have a translation request, the person who receives and handles the request is a PM. Likewise, if the translation team has any technical concerns, the PM helps them describe the issues to you.

Project managers are the main point of contact between the translation team and you. They are expected to handle any issues raised from both sides almost immediately to make sure the final deadlines are met. Therefore, their prompt response and clear communication contribute greatly to the smoothness of your translation project.

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One question that we sometimes receive from our clients is why can’t they communicate directly with the translation team while this option is obviously less time-consuming.

The thing is when you directly work with the translation team, you do not work with only one person. A translation team usually include translators, editors, proofreaders, desktop publishers, a QA team, and an engineering team.

Handling all the communication and coordination efforts yourself takes a lot of time and requires specialised skills. Without the essential knowledge and skills of the translation industry, you can’t effectively discuss issues with the translation team and are likely to waste time for both sides. That’s why you need a professional to assist your translation project.

#2. A Project Manager is Well Aware of  Your Preferences and Specific Requirements

A competent PM must thoroughly understand the language preferences and other specific requirements of your translation project. They will bring together native translators and subject-matter experts from all across the world and allocate the tasks to these professionals based on their skillset. This is to guarantee that your project begins on schedule and is handled by the most suitable and qualified professionals.

Before the project starts, the PM provides the translation team with proper training to make sure every member of the translation team strictly follows your company’s instructions and requirements. Furthermore, the PM sends the project’s glossaries and translation memories to translators. These resources help translators save a lot of time for translation while increasing the translation quality.

#3. A Project Manager Manages Timelines and Schedules for Your Project

A skilled PM ensures that your translation project is always completed on schedule or even before the deadlines. They allocate translation duties among the translation team in a way that the duty of each member of the team is not overlapping the others’ and everything is done systematically without getting failed.

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In general, PMs have the authority to adjust the scope of a translation project based on the requests of clients. For a translation project to be successful, you will need at least a team of a project manager, a translator, and an editor. However, depending on specific projects, the PM might decide to include more than one translator or add a proofreader to the final step of the project.

They can make these changes as long as the ultimate goals of the project (which is to make sure the project is completed on schedule and of the best quality) are met.

#4. A Project Manager Double Checks the Translation Quality

Once PMs receive the final translation from the translation team, they perform an internal QA step. This step is necessary and beneficial to both clients and the translation agency.

As the in-charged PM reviews the translation, they make sure no errors are left and everything is accordant to the requirements of the client. This is also how they evaluate the performances of each translator, editor, and proofreader. Later on, they will make a post-project assessment with notes and lessons learned that will help the whole team improve the work performance for future projects.


What Skills Should a Project Manager Have?

Whether you are looking for a project manager to help you manage your upcoming translation project or you are looking to work as a project manager yourself, here is what it takes to be a qualified project manager:

#1. Good Planning and Organising Skills

Excellent planning and organising skills are obviously essential for every job title and for this field of job, it is a must-have. A PM handles a wide range of tasks, from analyzing, budgeting, and executing to handling vendors and reporting. They are always under great pressure of making sure that the project is delivered on time and the quality goal is achieved.

What’s more, one PM deals with not one but many projects at the same time. As a result, a PM must have a strong ability to organise and prioritise their daily tasks, along with making plans for weekly and monthly activities.

#2. Strong Communication

Since PMs play an important role in bringing people together and resolving issues among the translation team as well as between the translation team and the client, it is essential for them to have clear and effective communication skills. And they should be able to communicate well both verbally and in writing because these days, most projects are conducted online via emails or online meetings.

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Here are some situations when a PM need to be in contact with related parties:

    • Receiving the source materials from the client;
    • Giving instructions to the translation team;
    • Checking the progress of the translation team;
    • Report the progress to the client;
    • Meeting with the client;
    • Describing technical issues to the client and the translation team;
    • Delivering the final translation and receiving feedback from the client.

A PM with excellent interpersonal skills can help everyone in the translation team understand their responsibility inside the team, avoiding overlapping and unnecessary misunderstandings that cause a delay in the delivery of the final translations. Their strong skills also add more value to clients and ensure a smooth workflow.

#3. Flexibility

Accepting changes and unexpected situations with an open mind is one of the most critical abilities of a PM. It’s usual for a client to request last-minute changes, which may necessitate the re-translating of some parts of the final translation.

They also deal with many challenges caused by updated source files or additional locales. Thus, to avoid disruption in the workflow, a PM should always stay flexible and ready for adjustments.

#4. Solid Technical Knowledge

To fulfil their duties, PMs navigate through various tools that require certain levels of training and technical knowledge. For example, a PM needs to use CAT tools for preparing the files and reviewing the translation and has the ability to use common file types such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, InDesign, and XML. Plus, they use Business Management System to calculate costs and estimate budgets.

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A PM should understand the problems that come with employing different tools and how to solve any technical issues that may slow down the translation process. When looking for a competent PM to oversee your translation project, technical competence is essential.

#5. Quick Problem Solving and Risk Management Skills

One issue that PMs commonly face is complaints about the quality of translation from clients. In these cases, the actions to take include identifying and analyzing the source of the issue, considering possible solutions (e.g., consulting with the original translator or using a third-party reviewer), and implementing the chosen solution.

Besides this recurring issue, PMs meet many unexpected situations that require them to quickly come up with the most reasonable solution.

As for risk management skills, project managers should take proactive steps to detect risks and properly prioritise tasks in order to meet project goals. Some risks they may encounter are delays in delivery, misunderstandings between team members, technical issues when delivering files, etc.

#6. Relationship Management

PMs work closely with many teams and departments namely linguists, vendor managers, salespeople, other members of the project management team and even accountants to achieve a seamless workflow and maintain a high customer satisfaction rate and a long-term relationship with clients.

Conflicts arise all the time when PMs have to work with so many people from different cultural backgrounds and personalities, thus, the ability to build and maintain a good relationship goes hand-in-hand.

To manage good relationships, PMs should be transparent and open-minded when giving and receiving constructive feedback from both clients and other teams.

The 6 skills listed here are just some of the most important for a good project manager, but there are still many more!

Here is a funny meme that our PM team made to show you what it is like to be a translation or localization project manager 😎

Translation Project Managers Meme


To Sum Up

It can be said that a project manager keeps the wheels turning. Having a skilled and dedicated project manager for your translation project enhances your chance of achieving a great quality translation and a smooth workflow. If you work with a translation agency, it is worth knowing who will be the project manager in charge of your project and how skilled they are.

Understanding the crucial role of project managers in the success of translation projects, GTE Localize makes sure that our project managers are always responsive, dedicated, and equipped with essential skills and industry knowledge. We provide our project managers with regular training and conduct periodic performance evaluations to guarantee the best client satisfaction when using our translation services.

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Book a 1:1 free consultancy with us to learn more about our translation services and project management team!