"We've dealt with it thousands of times. We have an international project and the higher-ups have set a launch date that must be met. Everything is calculated and there's plenty of time in each phase to meet the deadlines. But there are inevitable delays in the early stages, unexpected changes and lost time that have to be made up in the later stages of the project. How can I be sure that my translation agency can work with such tight deadlines?"
Kobalt has participated in an endless number of projects that have run into delays and require that lost time be made up closer to the deadline. This is usually where we come in, and we'd like to share some tips on ensuring that your deadlines are met.
Let's start with an uncomfortable truth: these aren't the best conditions to work under and as project managers we have to make sure that there are no setbacks to prevent any unpleasant surprises.
But if you're still running behind, here are some tips that will help make up for lost time.
1. SHARE INFORMATION
It is crucial to share all the information with your translation agency when dealing with an important project. Having a brief in advance about the project scope and objectives, the target audience and the tone will help us answer many of the questions that could potentially arise during the translation process. Sharing all the necessary reference material with the people in charge of conveying the company's values to another market seems logical, doesn't it?
2. DON'T TRANSLATE UNTIL YOU'RE READY
It might often be tempting to send the material you need translated before it's completely ready. And while you might think that the more you get ahead the better, even if changes are made later, the truth is that this is often counterproductive. While a change here and there is easy to make, deeper changes cause a considerable delay that only multiples the more languages you are dealing with. It's better to submit the final content for translation a day or two later rather than implement changes and revisions as your content is being translated.
3. KEEP COMMUNICATION FLUID
People often think that once the content has been submitted for translation, there's no more communication from the translation agency until the day the translation is delivered. Nothing is further from the truth.
Keeping communication fluid with the translation agency for the duration of the project is crucial.
Questions often arise that only someone with inside knowledge of the company or project can answer. Perhaps something that we've translated so well for the local market won't make sense in Japan and there are things we need to discuss. Or our way of addressing a Spanish client is different than the way things are done in Germany. Not to mention questions about company-specific terminology and concepts that only someone in the company knows. We've seen a lot of almost-finished projects that have been paused for days as we wait for a client to answer a few questions. Don't let the same happen to us. ;)
4. THE PROCESS IS EVERYTHING
It's very important that your translation provider have an established workflow and method for approaching each project. At Kobalt we have clearly defined pre-production, production, evaluation and feedback stages that we are continuously optimising to improve the end-to-end process and reduce inefficiency. All this translates into a considerable savings of approximately 20% in the time needed to complete a translation project.
We use all the technology available to us to eliminate manual and routine processes that are the biggest time wasters.
With some of our most technologically sophisticated clients we have automated translation reception and delivery services that have managed to reduce the time required to receive and publish translated content from 3 hours to 3 minutes. In other cases, our translators receive the content to be translated, along with all instructions, reference material and glossaries, mere seconds after the client has confirmed a project.
Translation tools also allow for a level of productivity unimaginable a few years ago for any translator. Being able to work in an interface that decouples the text from the format, making it possible to work exclusively with the translatable content while the software detects terms that are approved or not recommended, is a massive time saver.
Obviously, none of this would be possible without a team that is trained and experienced in the use of these and other tools.
The real secret is having the talent that knows how to continuously evaluate and improve all these processes and consistently suggest improvements. We strive to seek improvements that, despite sometimes only translating into a 1% or 2% difference, lead to spectacular results over time.
None of these 6 points will achieve miraculous results, nor make the impossible possible. Translation is still a process that requires a good number of human hours. But all these processes allow us to significantly reduce the time we need to complete a translation project from start to finish. That 20% reduction might mean delivering your translation two days ahead of schedule so that you can launch your new international project on time.