It has been a while since my last post – I will take the liberty of arguing the reason for the gap is because I was “preparing” this entry on project management by being a project manager (PM).
This was a role I volunteered for as part of the CAT tools module at Leeds. Along with 6 other PMs, I was given set of language pairs and the materials that needed to be translated accordingly. We had to work together to distribute the materials – webpages, Word Documents and PowerPoint Presentations – for translation by the “freelancers” (the rest of the students on the course).
The files we were working with came from real clients – various charitable organisations and NGOs – although the “clients” we had to deal with directly as PMs were our module leaders.
The financial aspect of the project was also, obviously, simulated. In order to be considered a success, the project needed to make a profit margin of 30-40%.
The project came towards the end of our lessons on Déjà Vu X3 (DVX3), and so we were expected to carry out the project using that CAT tool, as well as the TEAMserver that the module leaders managed to secure us access to. As I will explain later, this was both a blessing and a curse!
Each PM was expected to meet a set of criteria to achieve highly in the project, including: giving clear instructions, timekeeping and organisation, anticipation of issues (both logistical and software-related), good use of DVX3 and the TEAMserver, teamwork, and so on. Essentially, we were to be as professional as possible, to reflect how we would work on a real translation project, in a real industry scenario.
So where were the biggest issues?
Who knew they could cause so many problems? Despite having been told countless times that freelancers absolutely must factor emails into our financial calculations, the time we spent on emails still surprised us. Moreover, if we (I) rushed them, mistakes were made. As our module leader has reiterated since, it is better to be 10 minutes late than waste time or even decrease credibility by having to send corrections. However, other than the odd error, I believe I managed to maintain a professional appearance in my emails throughout the project.
With 11 language directions to deal with, organisation was inevitably going to be a key aspect of the project. Google Drive was an incredibly useful tool, allowing us to share and update files and references in real time. We used Sheets to display which PM would be working with which freelancer for each different task. This later allowed us to see who had finished each task and was ready to be assigned the next one. It also allowed us to share quotes, invoices, share pricing rates etc. and so maintain consistency within our “company”.
However, TEAMserver has a function which, providing the freelancers tick the correct boxes when uploaded their “After Task Files”, would have shown us who had finished each task – had we (I) instructed them properly, we would not have needed the spreadsheet for this purpose.
On the topic of instructions, we debated at the end whether sending a very clear set of instructions to the freelancers at the beginning of the project (as some PMs chose to do) were too time consuming, or perhaps unrealistic. We reflected that qualified/experienced freelance translators would have better working knowledge of DVX3 than any of us did; however, this approach would have made the process of sending instructions a one off task – they could be used in/adjusted for future projects. I would also have avoided having to clarifying instructions through further emails.
DVX3 and its functionalities
When distributing the files, DVX3’s “Divide and Dispatch” functionality was indispensible. It allowed us to distribute an appropriate amount of text to each freelancer (they were each required to translate around 1,000 words each), without us having to manually look where the text could be divided; each “package” was then distributed via the TEAMserver. However, we never figured out how to get the translated, proofread and validated files back together at the end, instead having to opt for the “pre-translate” functionality, using the TMs that had been created during the translation and proofreading processes. Comments and advice on how to deal with this issue would be hugely appreciated.
In classic Arts-students-who-have-not-had-to-add-up-for-years, we struggled a little with profit margin calculation! I think this is the correct formula:
But, as always, I appreciate corrections.
We did not charge for localisation of images, which we undertook ourselves, thinking it was a quick task. It was – but it should not be free, it is still time spent. Perhaps we should have outsourced it, to our freelancers. Neither did we think to tell the freelancers they were likely to have to validate the changes proofreaders made to their work – it is a good job they just accepted the task without questioning it, as we did not factor this into the quotes!
The Return Files
Finally, some of the files we returned were not fully functional, as requested – namely, the html files. We had no idea where all the images had gone or how to get them back, why some things had jumped to the other side of the screen and so on. Turns out the solution was easy – there is a reason the html files turned up in complex folder structures in the first place! We simply needed to save the translated files into copied versions of those folders.
The project was pretty stressful! Yet I cannot deny I am glad I did it, and I intend to give project management another go in the New Year, to prove how much the experience taught me. It must be noted that all seven of us were not just new to DVX3, not just new to CAT tools, but new to Project Management itself. There were things that could have been done much better, but now we know for next time.
Next time – SDL Trados!