If you’re fired up and ready to make the most of the business opportunities that 2022 presents, it could be time to shine a spotlight on your translation workflow. Tweaks to your translation workflow management can have a surprising impact on how efficiently your translations are delivered and how much they cost your business.
Read on for my top tips for achieving a better translation workflow, to start levelling up the way you are managing translation in the workplace.
I always like to start with the basics, so let’s look first at what translation workflow management is.
Just like any business process, translation needs a workflow to ensure that everything is done the way it needs to be and that it is completed on time. The way that you manage your translation workflow will impact how efficiently and how cost effectively your business is able to convert materials from one language to another. That will have a knock-on effect on other areas of the business.
Your translation workflow management should oversee the entire translation process, as laid out below.
It’s worth putting time and effort into identifying the right translation company for your business. Translation timescales, cost and sector-specific expertise vary from provider to provider, so be sure you’re working with a company that aligns with your priorities and has experience of your area of work. With that sorted, it’s time to focus on your translation workflow.
A translation workflow involves multiple steps:
Do you need to provide a glossary of terms that are specific to your business or products? Have you highlighted any elements of the content that shouldn’t be translated? Is there a process in place to stop staff making any changes to the original document while it’s being translated? Have you ranked your documents in priority order for translation? Or ranked the languages you need by order of importance? Do you know which file format you need to provide the content in, and which you want it back in? Will you need localization services as well as translation?
I could go on, but I feel I’ve made my point. Clearly, sending a document to your chosen translation company isn’t as simple as just emailing them a file and hoping for the best. You’ll need a clear, detailed workflow that incorporates all the above and more if you want your translation workflow management to be effective and efficient.
Your translation company will take the original content and translate it into the target language(s), in line with any instructions you have provided. They may have questions while doing so, so ensure they know who to contact for speedy responses.
Your translation workflow doesn’t stop the moment you receive the document in another language from your translation company. Instead, you need to be clear about where it will be stored, how it will be shared with staff, when (and if) it will be shared publicly and so on. Defining roles and responsibilities within your team is important here, so that everyone is clear on precisely what to do with each translation and when they are permitted to do it.
At the heart of the translation process sits one or more translators. These linguists are the people who will undertake the conversion of your content from one language to another. They will also be able to advise on the localization of your content to suit the intended audience(s), should you require them to do so, and deliver the localization workflow elements of your process.
Translators will either work freelance or be employed directly by the translation company you’re using. The nature of their engagement won’t impact your business, but their knowledge and expertise will. Translating a website is a very different task to translating a set of company accounts. As such, you need to be clear with your translation company regarding the translation expertise you need.
The translation workflow can (and should) be used for any material that you need translated. That includes everything from text-heavy documents such as contracts and patents, to glossy marketing brochures, to your company website to your corporate videos. If you need to present it in another language, it needs to follow your translation workflow process.
Technology is great, isn’t it? Today, you have various tech-based options available when it comes to managing your translation workflow.
If your business needs to translate documents regularly and into multiple languages, then by far the most sensible option is to use a translation management system. These platforms include technology to manage translations. They also provide language technology (such as translation memory tools) to aid translators in their work.
The idea of translation management systems is that they automate those parts of the process that can be automated, making the human element of the translation process (essentially, the translation and review phases) more efficient.
Many translation companies are happy to recommend a reliable TMS tool that you can use, so you can save yourself some time by asking your chosen translation provider for recommendations.
If you only have a couple of documents to translate, then it’s possible to use a Kanban system such as Trello to define and manage your translation workflow. A series of clearly named columns, with cards that move along them as the process for each document progresses, can work well as a way to manage translation for small teams and projects.
However, if you plan to handle your translation workflows in this way, bear in mind that the process can become unwieldly and inefficient if you have too many translation projects or if those projects are complicated. In that case, a proper translation management system is likely to better meet your needs.
The conversion of your documents from one language to another will likely involve a range of other translation tools, from computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools to desktop publishing software to subtitling tools. While these are an essential part of the process, they will be sourced and handled by your translation company and translators. So you can tick them off your list of things to worry about when it comes to developing the best translation system and processes for your business.
Right, time for some tips to help you level up your translation management.
Companies translate documents for a whole range of reasons. Working out your translation goals and the reasons behind them can help you to mould your translation workflows to better meet your business needs.
For example, do you ever need translations of documents that won’t be in the public eye? If so, you could opt for a faster translation process, such as machine translation followed by human editing (known as post-editing machine translation).
Understanding your translation goals and drivers will help you make decisions such as this, which can make your translation workflow management more efficient.
How long have you been using your TMS tool? New TMS tools are launched regularly, so you might be missing out if you’ve stuck with the same translating system for the past decade. Or you might not – but you won’t know until you benchmark it against other popular translator systems. The difference between the best translation management software and the worst is considerable, so make sure you’re at the right end of the spectrum.
Your translation company does more than simply work with languages. Their experience of providing translation management services puts them in a strong position to help you level up your own part of the translation process. Start thinking about your translation company as more of a partner than a service provider and you can quickly reap the rewards of listening to their expertise.
Many processes have bottlenecks but so many of these can be removed once the reasons behind them are understood. Identify where the holdups are in your translation workflow and then trial solutions to solve them.
Be systematic in your approach and assess the impact of each change you make against measurable objectives. That way, you can clearly see which changes have worked and which haven’t. This can then inform your thinking around what needs to be done next.
Whether it’s the entire translation workflow, the process for deciding which languages you need for which documents or any other factor, it’s important to review things regularly. Businesses are dynamic environments, while the world around us is also changing fast. That means that static processes aren’t likely to stay efficient for too long.
Make sure your review encompasses not just the processes but those involved in them as well. Job roles change often, so are the correct people still involved in your translation management in the correct ways?
Just as roles can change, so can business objectives. Ensure that your translation workflow management is tied to the company’s strategic objectives closely enough that any changes to the objectives are swiftly mirrored in the way you manage translations. After all, if management decides to put less energy into pursuing a certain market, translations for that market need to be bumped down the priority list immediately in favour of those for markets that are more relevant and important.
Finally, be sure to challenge your own assumptions regularly. The translation sector is changing rapidly as technology and language blend in new ways. That means that what was true of machine translation yesterday may no longer be the case today. Keep up to speed with what’s going on in the industry rather than relying on out-of-date knowledge. Doing so will ensure you can fine tune your translation workflow management to be at the forefront of best practice, even as the language industry grows and evolves around you.
I hope you’ve found these translation workflow management tips useful. The way you structure your translation workflow can have a direct impact on how efficiently your business is able to connect with overseas audiences, be they customers, suppliers, manufacturers, logistics firms or anyone else.
Here at Tomedes, we delight in working with businesses to ensure they are able to translate their content smoothly and efficiently. Any questions, just ask. And if you have any comments, please feel free to leave them below.