SURVEY RESULTS: Risk Management in Translation Projects


SURVEY RESULTS: Risk Management in Translation Projects



Question 7: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when talking
about ‘risk’ in a translation project?

The answers to this question are numerous and varied; respondents not only cite many risks, they also list sources of risk. Since there are many repetitions, all the responses are summarized in table 4.5.

Question 8(a): Do you have an assigned risk manager on your projects?

The answers to this dichotomous question revealed that only one person among the 107 respondents has an assigned risk manager in their office. A separate survey has been designed for this person and sent to the email address provided. Unfortunately, this request remained unanswered.

Question 8(b): If not, then who considers and analyzes risks on a project? 

For this question the respondents could also choose multiple answers. As depicted in figure 4.5, according to 80% of the respondents, it is mainly the project manager who is responsible for risks on a project.

Figure 4.5 Average percentage of the level of risk responsibility in translation projects

According to the comments in the Other box, in some translation agencies it is the business unit manager or the sales department that takes care of risks in a localization project. Some respondents added that if it is indeed the project manager who deals with risks on a project, each stakeholder on the project deals with risks related to their activities. Moreover, one respondent pointed out that “risks are assessed collectively for more complex projects or projects for new clients”.

Question 9: Where is risk more likely to occur on the following stages of a project?

As depicted in figure 4.6, most of the respondents strongly believe that the execution stage is the most subject to risk(s). Closure and monitoring are ranked at the bottom meaning that these project stages are the least subject to risk, according to the respondents.
Figure 4.6 Average percentage of risks per project stage

Question 10: Which external factors are more likely to give rise to risk?
Classify them from 1 to 5. (1-most influential; 5-least influential)

Similar to Question 6(a), the quantity of answers for each element has been converted into a percentage in table 4.6 in order to calculate the arithmetical average of the classification. On each line, the largest percentage has been highlighted for a better overview at a glance. Based on the average, respondents ranked the external risks from most to least influential as follows: (1) project risks, (2) financial risks, (3) market place risks, (4) reputational risks and (5) infrastructure risks.

Question 11: Project risks include two internal factors, which one is most likely to give rise to risk?

As depicted in figure 4.7, respondents consider that the production process, i.e. the process of translation itself, is the most likely to give rise to risk.
Figure 4.7 Average percentage of risk probability per internal factor

Question 12(a): The following table lists some risks that may occur
during a translation project. Indicate what the impact of those risks on
the project would be: high, medium or low. In the last column indicate
whether you experienced those risks at least once.

As can be observed in table 4.7, many suggested risks are considered as low impact risks. Three similar risks seem to be of high impact according to respondents: translation errors, translators using the wrong terminology and client instructions not being respected.
The right column gives a global overview of the average occurrence of each risk. The most frequent risks that appear are: translator falls ill, computer problems, translation errors, translators used the wrong terminology, lack of translators for a particular language, client withdraws in the middle of the project and client instructions are not respected.


Question 12(b): Do you have other risks that come to your mind?

Since this question is very similar to question 7, the same is true for the answers. Here are some risks that had not yet been listed:

  • corrupted files,
  • change of scope after translation started (example: extra target languages are added),
  • client complaint,
  • translator suddenly withdraws from the project,
  • internal system fails,
  • accepting too tight deadlines from client,
  • misunderstandings,
  • misalignment of client expectations and project deliverables in terms of style, terminology, etc.,
  • missed deliveries by translators,
  • resource changed in the middle of the project,
  • translator good on paper but quality delivered is questionable,
  • languages that are hard to quality-control (like in alphabets that are not known to the TPM),
  • competition and
  • accepting too much work.

Question 13: To what extent did the recession affect demand for translation at your company?

To answer this question, respondents could only select one of the suggestions and could add a comment in the Other box. In general, translation demands slightly decreased with the recession as illustrated in figure 4.8. However, for a minority of translation companies the translation demands increased significantly.

Figure 4.8 Status of translation demand after/during the recession

Among the comments, respondents explain that some client companies they worked for had to shut down because of the recession and that this had a significant impact on their organization. Another respondent admits that demand from a regular client decreased due to budget restrictions and restructuring in the client’s company. As a consequence, their translation company tried to support the client by agreeing lower rates for fixed periods. However, business from other clients increased or remained stable and the translation company was thus able to find a balance.

Finally, some respondents admit that they experienced wild fluctuations regarding the demand and that this makes planning very difficult. As a consequence, several workers were laid off because of the recession.


Question 14 (Optional): Could you give an example of a project that has gone
wrong because risks were not considered from the beginning?

Since this question was optional, only 30 respondents participated in the question. Most of the answers refer to risks that are already summarized in the above result tables and figures. In addition, some respondents provided examples of failed projects. Table 4.8 summarizes these testimonies by describing the issue, its source, the impact on the project objectives and the eventual strategies used to address the problem.



(Back to Part 2: Project Management in Translation Projects)



Section 4.6 of the study discusses those Survey Results.
Download the full study, including this survey and the related analysis:
Risk Management in Translation projects: Study and Survey Results (PDF, 148 pages