SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

Tight Localization Schedules

[fa icon="calendar"] December 11, 2013 / by Adam Jones

I received an email from an Account Manager at SimulTrans noting that we would have the originally scheduled amount of time to complete a project that a customer was trying to accelerate.  

I wrote the following response:

Great!  Congratulations on negotiating this more favorable schedule that will allow us to complete the work successfully.
John will be disappointed that this will mean the revenue recognition for this project will be delayed.

John is SimulTrans' CFO, whom I copied on my response.  As in any company, we at SimulTrans like to maximize revenue recognized in any month/quarter/year, an effort aided by finishing projects quickly.  Nevertheless, my assumption about John's reaction to this news was inaccurate.

He replied:

I was actually concerned about being pressed for time on this job.  Tight schedules commonly lead to problems, unhappy customers, and cost overruns.
So I am also happy to hear you were able to negotiate a reasonable schedule.

Commitment to Customers

John is right: tight schedules can lead to problems.  While reiterating this important point, John's comment also highlighted something I always say about SimulTrans: we prioritize customers first, caring more about the projects going well than making our financial statements look good (especially since we have only ourselves to please, without any external investors).

Today's Real-Life Example of a Common Scenario

A couple weeks ago, SimulTrans started working on this large project for an important long-term existing client.  As is often the case in the localization world (or I suppose the business world in general), it took a bit longer than expected for the order to come in, delaying the project start date (it can sometimes take companies longer to finalize source files, issue a purchase order, and complete contracts).  Though this project was delayed in starting, our client's customer commitments still required the work to be completed by the initial deadline.

We have been working internally to find ways to accelerate the project schedule: adding more translators, asking people to work longer days and during the weekends, and sharing engineering steps across our international offices.  While there are always ways to get work done more quickly, often taking these steps can erode quality.  Fortunately our client and their key customers understood that taking a bit more time would yield a much better result, prompting them to go with the initial project schedule instead of aggressively accelerating it.

Balance between Schedule and Quality

For every project, it is important to strike a balance between schedule and quality.  We realize that assigning fewer translators will create more consistency, while not assigning enough will jeopardize release schedules.  We could have one translator (along with reviewers) work on a million-word project for two years, but this would never be practical.  Of course larger translation teams need to be assigned to larger projects.

The key to making large projects successful is ensuring consistency through training translators in advance, using a server-based translation memory, and assigning the rounds of reviews to allow each reviewer to look at text from multiple translators.

Your Goal: Plan Sufficient Time for Localization

Now and then we get a break, as we did today, and can breathe a sigh of relief that a project can be done in a reasonable schedule.  If you are planning for localization, try to leave enough time in your development and marketing roadmaps to ensure the work can be done well. 

By the way, SimulTrans has a video about Scheduling Localization Projects.  You might want to watch it if you want to learn more about the turnaround time metrics and scheduling strategies.

Topics: Translation Services

Adam Jones

Written by Adam Jones

As President and COO of SimulTrans, Adam manages and supports SimulTrans worldwide, having spent over 25 years directing the company's customer outreach efforts, internal production groups, and other operations. He previously worked in Strategic Accounts at Oracle Corporation. Adam graduated from Stanford University, where he studied Public Policy with an emphasis on Education. He has remained connected to educational policy through involvement in local school governance and related non-profit organizations.