Translation: Time, Scope and Cost

December 13, 2016 Heba Nady

Time, cost and scope are considered the three triangle constraints for any translation project, with quality as a central focus. The challenge for any project manager (PM) is how to manage these three constraints, without compromising quality. The goal is to deliver on time, on budget and within scope, while meeting the quality requirements.

For example, if the budget is reduced, the scope may need to be decreased and the project duration could increase, if the project's scope increases, cost and time will increase accordingly. The success of any project depends on balancing these constraints and the project manager must aim to measure and manage all aspects as the project progresses to make sure the projects are on track.


According to the PMBOK Guide, the project scope is defined as, "the work that needs to be accomplished to deliver a product, service, or result with the specified features and functions."

The PM is responsible for identifying the project scope, managing and controlling it. Managing the project scope means defining the required work and controlling any scope deviations, so only the scoped work is executed, no more, no less.

The scope should be defined prior to the project kickoff and should be approved by all parties. Any changes to the project scope should be measured in terms of its effect on time, cost, quality, resources and risks. Furthermore, these scope changes should be budgeted for accordingly and recorded as a change request and registered in the scope control registry.

The scope of the translation work will dictate the time required for the project.


The PM should be capable of creating an accurate budget for projects and developing a cost management strategy. Cost management means estimating, allocating and controlling the costs of a project, which helps the project teams make sure to stay on budget.

During the project planning phase, the PM should calculate the project costs and get approval from the stakeholders before commencing the work. Then during the project execution, the PM documents and tracks all expenses to make sure all costs stay as planned. After the project is finished, the PM should compare the planned and actual costs.

There are two main approaches for creating a project budget:

  • Top-down Approach: Determining the total project cost then dividing it among the work packages.
  • Bottom-up Approach: Determining the total project cost by adding up the total of each work package.

The PM should create a project scheduling plan, which determines what work needs to be done, by whom (the resources) and when (the time needed to perform this task).  The schedule is basically a list of the project's activities and milestone deliveries, with intended start and finish dates. Before a schedule is created, the PM should have a work breakdown structure, as well as a list of the estimated effort for each task and the availability of all resources.


Scope, time and cost are interrelated and any deviation in one on them affects the others. Lack of awareness of the fact that they all are related might lead to issues. Creating a translation project strategy taking these three constraints into consideration, will set the team up for an on time, on budget delivery.

Further Resources on Translation Services

You may gain further insight into translation services and related topics by reviewing previous blogs written by GPI:

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Please feel free to contact GPI at with any questions about our language and technology services. Also, let us know if you have any interesting blog topics you would like us to cover in our future blogs. You may request a complimentary Translation Quote for your projects as well.


About the Author

Heba Nady

Hebatullah (Heba) Mahmoud Nady is a native Arabic speaker who lives in Cairo, Egypt. She has 11 years of experience in client relations and project management, working in different industries, such as publishing, oil and gas and translation and localization. Heba holds a B.A. degree in English Language and Literature from Ain Shams University, and has a great passion for language and culture. She has been actively managing many localization and translation projects for major clients since 2008 and is well versed in a wide range of localization tools and practices. Heba enjoys working with teams from different cultures and bringing people together to achieve a common goal. For her, translation is a mission that contributes to enriching Arabic and other cultures and languages. In her free time, Heba likes to read about literature and management and go sightseeing.

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