Why I believe PRINCE2 is a good project management methodology to use on Localisation & translation projects
In my experience not many translation agencies use PRINCE2 to manage their translation projects, with other methods such as a waterfall approach or agile (...or no method at all) being more typical. However when applied correctly PRINCE2 can really help guide translation production projects and enable the delivery of quality work under tight constraints (time, budget etc).
Here are 4 reasons why I find PRINCE2 methodology a useful tool for managing translation projects:
1. Product lead planning
Clearly defining what the output should be and what the quality expectation of the end users are, means that not only do you have guidance on what needs to be produced but you also have guidance as to what should be left out (the scope), the level of quality that is expected and also who is responsible for quality checking specific elements of the work. Translation projects often suffer from a lack of clear direction at the front end and are almost always process focused (i.e.we translate then we proof-read etc) rather than considering what the end results need to be. I have worked in some PRINCE2 environments where product libraries have been used by translators and this has been really useful. In essence a product library is a reusable brief/description that can be used to create a product. Having a high level of detail available on what was used to create English content (for example) can really help in communicating the requirements to your translators when they are producing their translations.
2. Use of work packages
Many LSP’s will use purchase orders accompanied with a email description to communicate the requirements of what is needed to their translation teams. This might be as simple as ‘translate x into y’ and for small simple projects, perhaps this is all that is needed. However by using detailed work packages (which detail the requirements of what's needed, key dates and query reporting) it helps communicate two things to the translators and teams working on the project. Firstly it provides guidance and details of exactly what is required, when it’s required and any allowable tolerances. Secondly it also shows the translators that there is a level of professionalism and commitment to providing quality that goes beyond simply “please translate this into that”. Translators are usually really grateful that an agency has made the effort to find out specifics about the source material and what is needed in the target translation.
I’ve used a templated form fillable PDF in the past for creating work packages and sent copies of them for client approval and also ensured that everyone working on the project (client, PM, translators etc) signs a copy of it.
3. Clearly defined roles & responsibilities
Knowing who is responsible for what in a translation project is critical. One of the key decisions to make when setting up a PRINCE2 project (or any project for that matter) is deciding who is going to take on what role and with regards to translation it is specifically important to confirm who is responsible for quality control and assurance. Projects that do not establish (and share with the translation team) who is going to review and ‘test’ the translation and more importantly how they are going to test it (specific methods etc) are destined to not meet expectations. When I’ve worked with clients in PRINCE2 environments managing translation workflows it’s normally been as a team manager. From the start I would always ask who is managing quality control’ (is it in country review, group testing etc) and how (what methods) will they be doing this. If appropriate establish a relationship with this quality control person/group as they will likely be the determining factor behind if the project is a success or a failure.
4. Manage by Stages
Translation projects lend themselves to being broken down into stages and the technical processes that make up a typical translation workflow can fit nicely into PRINCE2 management stages. PRINCE2 plans each proceeding stage towards the end of the current stage and this can really help especially in terms of planning and replanning the issues that can occur in translation projects (late delivery, technical issues etc). If any of these issues fall outside the tolerance that is acceptable then guidance is provided on what to do and who to contact.
For more information on PRINCE2 and the use of the methodology to manage translation projects contact the author now.