Introducing translation project management in your translation company requires handling change management properly. Just like with every other business goal, if you want your people to adopt change, you should determine the incentives and the KPIs of your coworkers.

One of the most important things is setting up an incentive system. Otherwise, if there is none, you will often find your employees go against your endeavors. For example, if you demand perfection at all costs, have 0% error tolerance, and that’s how you incentivize — either by monetary or career incentives — don’t expect your team to move out of their comfort zone.

Introducing project management automation requires:

If the teams get a free hand in how to achieve these objectives, they probably won’t go wrong – automation and improved client communication and project standardization are the main ways, and all are pointing in the right direction.

How to measure projects?

Before you introduce KPIs, you need to set up some measurement standards. One of the hardest things is to understand what’s the basic unit of work for project managers. For practical reasons, we would recommend that you measure and define tasks or jobs.

Tasks

These are any kind of customer-requested projects, one for each language pair. A task usually includes a series of jobs that you may have to do like DTP preparation, translation, review, DTP post-editing. Yet, a new update from a customer is a new task and so it is a non-continuous step in the job chain (e.g. you handed over the translation to the customer, customer reviews it, and sends implementation/linguistic sign-off task).

Jobs

These are single language pair individual workflow steps. In the above example, one task includes four jobs: DTP preparation, translation, review, and DTP post-editing.

Project management overhead can largely differ if the PM is expected to do quality assurance or other jobs. For comparability reasons, make it explicit what type of tasks a project manager does. If two project managers both do QA, but one increases the number of tasks or jobs by 20% and the other by 10%, you’ll still see who did better.

It does not matter if you choose tasks or jobs, provided the work of PMs is comparable. Just choose one, and stick with it, and when evaluating individuals, keep in mind whether their work is comparable or not.

What KPIs should you measure?

KPI 1: Number of tasks/jobs handled within a week or month

This can be the number of tasks/jobs opened by this PM, regardless of revenue or costs. Whether it closed or not doesn’t matter, because over a month/week you’ll get the same results.

Incentive: Set up a benchmark value by looking at your reports. Discuss a target and reward a percentage increase – for example, give a bonus or a promotion if they achieved a certain percentage of growth month over month. Automated vendor selection based on facts rather than feelings will naturally increase this value. Bear in mind that bigger growth should have a bigger incentive, otherwise PMs can slow down the improvements to have a steady but lower level of growth.

KPI 2: Revenue processed within a month

The total receivables for those tasks/jobs during the month.

Incentive: Reward any increase. An increase in the number of projects results in increased revenue. It is up to the PM to decide whether to start with bigger or smaller projects and when they feel confident, move into the next step. The same approach and skills are needed for both project types, so we think that any increase should be rewarded – but a significant increase can be rewarded more.

KPI 3: Set a threshold of error/late delivery

Set a penalty – from the bonus/incentive – if a certain threshold is exceeded, but be realistic, because ultimately change means that some things can go wrong. This should not be 0%. The best way to go about this is to ask the project manager what they feel is realistic and revise these numbers at least monthly.

KPI 4: Set a threshold for quality issues if the PMs do QA

The goal now is to improve throughput, earn you more profit, and if they experiment, they’ll probably try to cut QA time, etc. Can PMs go wrong? Yes. Will they realize and improve? Yes. Make it clear that complaints are measured, but not penalized unless there is a huge drop in quality that can’t come back from.

KPI 5: Increased gross profit, i.e. revenue minus vendor costs

Project managers normally go safe and don’t want to try new translators. Reward any increase.

These reports are available in each major business management system such as XTRF, Plunet, Protemos. If you need help setting them up, let us know, and we’ll go over that on a separate blog entry.

How about vendor management?

Project management automation goes hand in hand with making improvements in vendor management. But there is an underlying problem with how project and vendor management cooperation should take place. Often, vendor management is thought of as the lifeline for project managers, that is when none of your current translators is taking this job, vendor management jumps in to look for somebody else. But this is not the right approach to this partnership. Vendor management should use reports to know where there is a shortage of vendors – which service, language pair, specialization, and even client team.

First of all, you need to define the role of vendor management, which includes monitoring and onboarding vendors and tracking the requirements.

With the right metadata during project setup and the right database, automated vendor selection can be a significant benefit from the company perspective. It is, however, not so popular among translators for understandable reasons: fastly-placed projects are taken within minutes, the mailbox is full of email notifications that don’t turn into jobs and work is full of interruptions. So far there has been no solution for translators to help them mitigate the curses of automated vendor selection, but keep it in mind – at BeLazy we are working on it.

A useful method for introducing automated vendor selection is to allow a minor rate increase for translators who will happily work with automated vendor assignment, and monitor the readiness with custom fields. Only offer jobs automatically to people who are really available. Most business management systems support this.

As a vendor manager, you need to monitor how many times automated vendor selection fails. Vendor managers should have a KPI bound to the percentage of automated vendor selection failures, and a reward if this decreases.

XTRF, Plunet, Protemos, and other tools offer this functionality. Again, if you need help, turn to us and we’ll publish practical guides on what to monitor.

Project management