Agile Project Management and other examples of research skills applied to Digital Translations & Multilingual Marketing
An agile approach brings in adaptability, allowing you to tackle each part of a bigger project at a time and asking you to adapt, change and evolve your processes at each step.
This I learnt the hard way, while conducting research projects. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life was completing my PhD. It is also one of the things I am most proud of and that I learnt most from. During this time, I not only acquired knowledge on my subject matter but also developed skills that, although I did not know at the time, I would use over and over when working in Digital Translation projects as well as while creating Multilingual Marketing campaigns.
Let’s have a look at what writing my Thesis taught me:
* That to complete a big project it needs to be broken down into stages that come together at the end.
This is the principle of agile project management. Rather than embarking into something full on and then finding errors only at the end, or even that it does not work altogether, try your approach first in a small portion of the work and expand only if it works or adapt the process as needed. Applying this to digital translation projects has helped me immensely when launching new projects or big volume, complex multilingual marketing work.
Website localization projects, for instance, often involve thousands or millions of words to be translated and usually into more than one language. This is a mammoth task that requires a lot of organisational skills. The first hurdle always has to do with extracting the content for translation from the client’s CMS and manipulating the file formats that come out of them to make them ‘translation-friendly’. This process generally involves the IT and Development teams that know their systems working with the translation manager who brings in linguistic expertise. Usually, an approach is agreed in writing, which involves a certain degree of file manipulation at both ends. I always, always test this approach with a small portion of the website text, in several languages, before kicking off the entire operation. This ensures that I can anticipate any additional steps that would only become apparent at the actual ‘live’ stage, it helps me be prepared and able to commit to a deadline with peace of mind. Imagine the alternative: you send out hundreds of words for translation with the reviewers waiting in line and a deadline for final delivery to the client only to find out after the translations have come back that you cannot import them into your system or the CMS… No!
Being able to start small, and break projects into stages is a skill well worth the practice.
* That celebrating each little step that moves you forward really helps.
When you have an end goal in mind that feels unsurmountable it is easy to get lost in the despair of ‘god I will never get this done’, however, each little step forms part of the bigger picture bringing it closer. Each part of a translation gets you closer to the final deadline, each new software learnt or tested helps easing processes, each new sale brings new hope,.. because it all means you are one step closer to the final result you desire, and you are still working at it.
I was the key stakeholder in an implementation project for a new Translation Project Management System, this project took months to complete as it was a complex operation involving many, many elements: from IT security, to change management (both internal and with external stakeholders and clients), training and simply building the system to our requirements. I took every little step as a victory: from correcting the database set up with the wrong encoding to opening up the portal to clients. This gave all the team the strength to carry on and built a sense of belonging and unity around the, otherwise, much disliked project.
* That everything that you critically question shows you a new truth.
Things are not always as they seem at first sight. Questioning everything helps with risk assessment, evaluating the best approach to a new project or the direction of your next company move.
In PPC Translations, this is extremely helpful when incorporating data into the multilingual process. Translation is often seen as a linguistic task, but data can tell us so much about how our translations perform in the real world, insights that are extremely valuable when used to build up the content strategy and inform future translation decisions.
In recent years it has become fashionable in English short from of advertising copy the use of capital letters in every word as opposed to the more traditional sentence case. Advertisers use this as a way to attract attention and users are becoming increasingly accustomed to this practice. I am often placed between clients and translators on this one, with clients wanting this approach used in all their copy across all languages but translators resisting it, especially for languages like French or Spanish, where capitalization of the words can be considered a typographical mistake.
I always use the same approach in these situations, let’s test which works better, and let’s not take generalizations, let’s see what works better for your language, but also for your industry, and even for your audience, and in this particular point in time. Because in language there are not universal truths. Setting up tests to evaluate what works best with a particular audience and learning to read the results when there is enough statistical evidence is key.
* That ‘Good’ is good enough and almost always more ‘good’ than you give it credit for.
The hardest one to learn for me. At some point you have to accept that it is done and needs to go: that translation that you have been reading and re-reading and reading once more, that new collection that wants to be launched, that new client lead…
Letting go of my PhD thesis was tough, I wanted to keep adding, keep reading, keep evaluating… at some point my supervisor stopped me and said those words: ‘Laura, perfection does not exist’. I sighted. And I repeat these words to myself with every translation that I deliver, every presentation that I prepare and every speech that I give.
Working with a client recently, a small beauty company, whilst setting up international reporting and recommendations for her website traffic and social media platforms I realized that the periods in and around the launch of her newsletters brought in almost over 70% additional traffic to the site. I also realised that newsletters had gone out sporadically. I got talking to her to understand her approach to newsletter writing and she confessed that the task felt daunting for her and she could never bring herself to parting with her writing. We discussed my supervisor’s sentence and my approach to this and since this conversation she has been regularly sending out newsletter with an almost 600% increase in revenue.
Adapting the principles of Agile to running a company, managing a localization project or getting a translation done in time can make a daunting task feel manageable, celebrating each step make it feel achievable, using data to inform your decisions make them more real and going one step at a time simply makes it happen.