At Inlingo, we have over 30 project managers (PMs) who are in charge of communicating with our clients and team, and overseeing the entire work cycle of each and every project. In this article, we’ll discuss the job of a project manager: what challenges they face and what helps them ensure that every project is the best that it can be.
This article is the second in a series of publications about the work of a project manager. In the first part, we explained the selection process for managers who wish to join our team.
1. Accepting a project and selecting a PM
The Inlingo team works in several different areas, including localization, narrative, voiceovers, art, and testing. When a client comes to us with a project, we connect them with a PM who specializes in that area, so they can discuss the best way to get the job done. For example, if the client isn’t sure whether they need a full edit of their text or just an LQA, the project manager can help them decide on the best option for their project before the work even begins.
Choosing the right project manager is essential for any project. It’s important to consider the manager’s current workload, as well as the client’s own timezone. Our project managers live all around the world, including Turkey, France, Spain, Armenia, Mexico, Kazakhstan, and Poland. In order to communicate effectively, the PM and client must live in similar timezones.
Another important aspect is the task itself, as the individuals in our team have their own strengths and expertise. Some of our managers can speak less common languages, while others know certain game series by heart. We consider all of these elements in order to choose the best match for each project. After all, having a manager who is truly passionate about their project can make a world of difference.
2. Assessing the task
During the initial call, the client and the PM discuss every aspect of the project. This is particularly important if the project is a bit unusual, or requires additional briefings. Some clients come to us for advice on the market prospects of their project, or the popularity of a certain setting for their target audience. Luckily, we have experts on the team for just that. So, we get our analytics department involved and prepare the perfect solution for their request.
One of our clients was preparing to enter the Arab market, so we designed a mini-study for him using contractors who lived in their target countries. Based on their responses, we came up with some key points that we’d need to consider when localizing the project into Arabic. For example, we suggested that they redesign the characters in clothing that is more traditional to the Arab world and get rid of certain gestures that could be negatively perceived.Yulia Molostova, Head of the Project Manager Department at Inlingo
After the initial call, the PM determines the project timeline, target languages, features of the game setting, number of characters, or anything else the client has mentioned. Based on their conclusions, the PM then comes up with the TOR (Terms of Reference), and sends them to the client for approval. After that, they can determine the expected workload, consider possible risks, and consult with our HR specialists to create the perfect team.
For translation projects, the next step is a quality analysis of the original text. When localizing a product, there are always going to be mistakes or inconsistencies in the source material. Since correcting these mistakes may interfere with the project timeline or require additional resources, this analysis needs to be conducted before the rest of the work can begin.
3. Creating a team
Generally, the PM consults with the Inlingo editors then selects the members who will work on the project team. If it’s an unusual or significantly large job, we get the HR specialists involved as well. When working with a less common language pair or very niche topic, creating the perfect team becomes even more important. Of course, if we have a rugby simulator, it’s best to have a team that knows the terms, understands the game, and can tell you the rules by heart.
Automated solutions, like dashboards that track progress, can also help to select the best team. In this case, the PMs and editors can regularly evaluate and comment on the work of their translators. This is how we’ve evaluated any of the contractors who have ever worked with Inlingo.
We also have to consider the workload of our translators as well. After all, if a translator is already working on one project, it’s best not to bring them into another. For this reason, we always keep an eye on each of our employees’ work schedules. Project managers are careful not to overload any of their team members, as we want to be sure that each can complete their work comfortably.
Most of our translators and editors are freelancers, so we’re always conscious of the amount of work they’re given. We really try to avoid any kind of burnout. Project managers keep track of their team’s schedules and provide regular feedback on their work. When our contractors are truly interested in their project and collaborate closely, it can really affect the final result.
Often, our project managers and contractors have a rather friendly relationship. One of our Japanese translators regularly sends their PM little ‘photo greetings,’ like a picture of a blooming cherry blossom or a dish they cooked based on a recipe from one of the games. Some contractors enjoy sharing important events from their lives, such as their weddings or the birth of their child. This shows the trust we’ve built among our team. We really appreciate when each member truly feels like they belong.Yulia Molostova, Head of the Project Manager Department at Inlingo
4. Project planning
One of our favorite tools for project management at Inlingo is the Gantt chart. This chart allows us to determine work volume, establish control points, and set the workload for each team member. It’s a great solution for especially large or long-term projects that involve many contractors all working on a lot of text.
Using this diagram, we can see how much work needs to be completed within a given timeframe. If a team is falling behind on their project, the PM might implement various changes to ensure that they’re not sacrificing quality or extending deadlines to get the work done.
Moreover, this chart can be helpful for spotting potential problems that might emerge during the work cycle and deciding how best to handle them. For example, if a team member has a holiday planned in the middle of a project, the PM can proactively find a replacement or redistribute their workload while that contractor is away.
The experience we’ve gained from past projects can also help us assess potential risks. Within the company, we have a significant knowledge base of real cases, instructions, and handy checklists. While it’s important to recognize successes, we must take note of our struggles as well. That way, we can avoid mistakes in current and future projects. We’re always learning, and we’ll continue searching for solutions until there’s no question left unanswered. This approach allows us to maintain our high quality in the face of any challenge.Yulia Molostova, Head of the Project Manager Department at Inlingo
5. The work process
Project managers make sure that everything is prepared for the team to get started: they upload the project files to the CAT program, collect all of the necessary references and links, finalize the task instructions, and handle any tags to ensure they don’t get lost in translation. Depending on the task, team members may be working on different platforms. For example, the Inlingo translation team prefers to work on a CAT program called MemoQ. This allows us to keep all of the information we need for a project in one place, including glossaries, character limits, developer comments, and string IDs. However, depending on client preferences, we may integrate other systems into the work process as well, such as Crowdin and SmartCAT.
If a certain project has been translated before, the team will usually ask to upload any past translations into the CAT program in order to ensure consistency. Often, it’s more important to maintain established tradition than create our own new realities. Otherwise, players might lose objects that have been retranslated in a game update. Nevertheless, we’ll almost always review past texts. Here, we’re not focused on rephrasing established game jargon, but rather checking for any clear mistakes or inconsistencies.
After uploading all of this data, the translators can get to work. If the project is particularly large, editors may work in parallel with the translators. This way, the team can quickly detect frequent mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future. Throughout this time, the PM regularly checks in to keep track of progress. They’re always ready to answer any issues or questions that might arise during the work process. If they don’t know the answer themselves, they might reach out to the client for clarification.
6. Final review and feedback
Once the translators and editors have finished their work, the PM can begin the final quality review and start assembling the files for the client. We use the Run QA function on memoQ to automatically run a quality assurance test. This way, we can round up any inconsistencies in the translation, incorrect terminology, breaches of character limits, punctuation errors, missed numbers or tags, or other frequent mistakes.
Finally, the PM reviews the text using a checklist of important things to remember. The list might include basic criteria, as well as more specific requirements that were set by the client at the beginning of the project. Then, they send the completed files to the client and the team waits for feedback. In the meantime, the manager keeps in contact with the client in order to answer any of their questions. For example, a client may ask why the team decided on a certain translation.
Correcting a text can take a lot of time and effort, especially if the project is quite large. For this reason, the PM always explains the client’s expectations at the very start of the project and describes how the translation should look.
By fully examining any potential areas of contention, the manager can reduce the likelihood of corrections after the project has already been submitted and make it easier to find compromise.
We always try to form a partnership with our clients. We’re not just localizing their projects; we’re helping them solve problems as well—and not just through translation. Our clients appreciate that we’re ready and willing to take on more responsibility for the project, and that forms the basis of our continued collaboration.Yulia Molostova, Head of the Project Manager Department at Inlingo
Three of our Inlingo PM’s most unusual projects
All of our project managers at Inlingo are equipped with several key skills: scheduling, risk assessment, work forecasting, and quick problem-solving. And with the right set-up and technical process, even the most difficult tasks can be overcome without problem.
1. Translating a romance
We received a request for a romance simulator game in which players had to form a harem. A lot of the text used very dignified language, imitating a classical Chinese court style. Moreover, most of the project had to be translated within 40 calendar days.
The text was unusual. We needed to consider specific behaviors and references to historical figures, as well as correctly translate titles and decline proper nouns.
Another challenge was the fact that the big Chinese publishers weren’t willing to compromise on deadlines. Either we agreed to their timeline or we lost the project. Given the urgency of the project, we weren’t sure we’d have enough freelance translators or in-house editors for proofreading. So, we risked missing the deadlines or sacrificing quality.
But despite all the challenges, we managed to get it done. The team finished everything in time, and based on Play Store reviews, Russian users loved our translation.Ksenia Kondratieva, PM at Inlingo
- The team evaluated the source material. Our in-house editors played the game, noting unique features and potential challenges.
- We pulled together a team of talented and creative translators, as well as some in-house experts in Chinese translation. Each translator received the part of the text that was best suited to their talents.
- Any points of contention were discussed in the chat and added to the project style guide.
- The text was divided among the translators, so we wouldn’t risk a nightmare scenario in which a certain translator had 100 thousand words to translate in one night.
- We had to start editing and quality assurance testing in parallel with the translators.
- The PM arranged a call with the client’s representatives to discuss current and future corrections. And we managed to gain the client’s trust on a number of issues. As a result, there were few corrections or issues that needed to be addressed after the project had already been submitted.
2. Learning as we go
The Inlingo team received a rather unusual translation project: a fitness app. We needed to translate the text from English into Canadian French.
When choosing native speakers for the project team, we prioritized finding people with a knowledge of the topic. We couldn’t find as many contractors as we would have liked that fit our requirements. Once we did have a team, however, it turned out that not all of them were familiar with MemoQ. As a result, we needed to provide some emergency training to ensure that all of our translations could be stored on one platform.Yulia Molostova, Head of the Project Manager Department at Inlingo
- The PM sent instructions to all of the contractors on how to install, launch, and work on memoQ.
- They also held a series of instructional calls to explain how to work with the glossary, track concordance with TM, and use the autocorrect function.
- If any of the team ran into difficulties, the PM actively helped them resolve the issue.
3. You have 6 days
That could be the name of an action film, but it’s actually one of the projects the Inlingo team successfully managed to complete. A client came to us with a request to translate more than 50,000 words from English into German, French, Turkish, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Indonesian, and Russian. All in 6 days.
Everyone worked day and night. We had two files—25 thousand and 28 thousand words —that we translated at the same time. The client actually suspended work on one of the files for a brief time, then changed their mind, all without extending the deadline. We needed to find not one but two good project teams of translators, not to mention editors and standbys.
Even worse, the project coincided with the New Year’s holidays, which made it all the more difficult to find contractors.
Moreover, the source text continued to change throughout the project, and it was not very well-written. We constantly needed to re-upload the source file, all while keeping up morale among the team, who were at severe risk of burnout.Ekaterina Yamenskova, PM at Inlingo
- We used a Gantt chart to plan, split up files, and launch every stage of work at the same time.
- Despite certain shortcomings in the source text, we managed to find the answers we needed right in the game, all thanks to one of the PMs who was actually quite an avid player.
- We quickly ran an LQA of the game, which allowed us to spot and correct any problem areas we came across.
- While discussing with the client, the PM managed to explained the nuances of the project’s technical process and convince them to change the source text as little as possible.
Project localization is a huge undertaking that requires immense organization. After all, it’s the PM who must skillfully plan out the entire work process to ensure that your project turns out just the way you’d like.
Now, you know the kind of tasks that our PMs face every day at Inlingo. If you’d like to learn about how to pass our selection stage and join our team, check out the first article in our series.