An approach to risk management in the language industry (part 4 of 5) Reply

This fourth part of an article first published in the June 2016 issue of the MultiLingual magazine, deals with the application of the previous considerations to the language industry. 

Risk management in the language industry

Both the PMI and the ISO 31000 provide generic, high level frameworks that should be adapted to the realities of each organization. This is usually done by project managers and, in some organizations, by a Project Management Office (PMO).

Several factors conspire against the organization-level implementation in the language industry, starting with the small average size of the actors (many small companies and even more freelancers). Smaller organizations have fewer resources to dedicate towards the professional management of risks.

A second factor is the role of the project manager. While in other industries project managers are trained and empowered to plan and manage areas such as scope, scheduling, cost, risk and stakeholders, PMs in the language industry have little time for planning, and spend a significant part of their time in activities such as finding (and tracking) vendors, reviewing, DTP and firefighting. Moreover, the flat structure of most small organizations provides little in terms of career path, with the corresponding impact on staff rotation and the associated loss of learned skills.

A third obstacle is the relative small size and short duration of the average language-related project, leaving fewer resources and less time to dedicate to planning in general and to risk management in particular. Short projects also mean less time to recover from problems.

All these factors become extreme in the case of the freelancer, who must include risk management among the many activities performed by his or her one-person company.

On the bright side, the projects performed tend to be similar, thus enabling the use of risk management templates that can be improved with experience and briefly reviewed for validation at the beginning of each project. This reuse means a lighter impact on each project.

Another factor to be explored is cooperation. You don’t need to go it alone, as attested by the exchange of information and advice found at and other similar sites. Fraud prevention and credit-risk management are two hot areas, but a lot more should be done by professional associations and language-related communities.

A simple 6-step program

It is hoped that the following approach to risk management will be solid and yet simple enough for a freelancer to implement, yet comprehensive enough to benefit a small language service organization.

  1. Understand and communicate risk management: make it part of your processes and thoughts. Train your people to become proactive risk managers. Don’t do it alone: share and ask, teach and learn from others. Share vertically with clients and service providers. Give that “stitch in time”. Get (and remain) ready.

  2. Identify your risks: list your critical activities in two broad categories: projects (work with a beginning and an end) and processes (everyday work). For each activity create a list of risks that could affect it. Be creative and inclusive at this stage. Ask others.

  3. Qualify each of your identified risks by assessing their probability and impact, to help you select the risks that will be managed and those that will be recorded and accepted.

  4. Create a risk response plan by defining and recording a response for each of the risks you decided to manage. This can include additional checks, the setting of contingency reserves of time, money or resources, modified procedures, etc.

  5. Control your risks. Include risk control in every aspect of your professional activities. Modify procedures to avoid risk; for instance, by getting verified contact information to prevent the risk of being scammed, or by getting an automated backup system to prevent the loss of project data. Include checklists in your projects to include, for example, a list of issues to be considered at the time of defining their scope.

  6. Learn and apply lessons. Consider all of the above as a work in progress. Each error or problem found should be considered a lesson learned, and should be documented in such a way that benefits the whole organization. Encourage your people to suggest new ways to resolve issues that arise, and move back to step 1 to make your risk management get even better.

This article first appeared in the June 2016 issue of MultiLingual magazine. Reproduced with permission.


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