Effective configuration management is essential for anyone that deals in the field of translation, but also anyone that deals with any type of documentation or text in general.
What is configuration management? Configuration management is an engineering term that generally refers to tracking a product and its given characteristics throughout the course of development all the way to end of its lifetime, also known as the PLC or product life cycle. Please keep in mind, documents are products too.
In the world of translation, configuration management has to do with a proper system for tracking various aspects of translation projects and related documentation.
As a simple example, the finance ministries of every country usually require an amount of configuration management to be performed by law with regard to invoices. In the EU, invoices have to be consecutively numbered and dated, for example. (Of course, there a great deal of other requirements as well.)
Configuration management within a company or a translation office gets much more complex. When dealing with a translation project, for instance, the project itself should have a number assigned to it. This number can be used in the future to recall the project and anything related to it. The number may refer to the language at hand, or maybe the customer or any other characteristics deemed necessary depending on the complexity of the organization. Most project management software in the field of translation will recall a project number and all other related information. This includes the name of the translators, proofreaders, layout specialists, customers, quotes, customer & translator correspondence, terminology lists, translation memories, invoices, etc. Each of the aforementioned elements should also be assigned respective reference numbers to enable and facilitate traceability.
The translation process itself should also be subject to an optimum level of configuration management. This includes keeping track of not only the project, but also the document versions within the project including the source document, the translated document delivered by the translator, the proofread document, the reviewed document and any subsequent corrections or modifications made at any point in time throughout the project. Most importantly, designating which of the aforementioned documents is delivered to the customer is crucial. It should be the most current version that is free of any error.
Why such a complex system of configuration management, you ask? There are many reasons for this, but most of it has to do with future traceability and analysis. In the event of complaint or identification of any type of an issue, even years after a project has been completed, proper configuration management enables you to recall a past project. This is most easily done using an invoice number which should lead to the project(s) by a specific customer. By means of proper configuration management and labeling of versions, each step within the project can be analyzed if need be in order to identify other issues or remedies to the issue at hand.
In addition to dealing with issues, configuration management can also benefit the customer in the case of loss of a document. They can just call the agency to see if they still have it on hand in their archive. Furthermore, if an source document has merely been updated, the old translation could be used as a basis, helping to save the customer’s costs.
Proper configuration management also ensures that documents are not confused or mixed up. During the translation process, especially with regard to multilingual translations in several different languages, there are many versions of documents that get generated. It is important that the most current document gets sent to the customer in the end. Configuration management helps to achieve this very basic but essential goal.
In a nutshell, configuration management enables a high level of flawless organization and traceability that can be crucial when dealing with a great deal of versions of several documents across a multitude of different languages.