In the communication age, an ERP system is essential to running most types of businesses efficiently. This holds true for a translation business, too, as long as its operations are more or less complex. For a translation services company that uses a translation memory system, works with agency clients, engages two or more people in the projects, and has fairly complex or ongoing projects that span weeks, months, or even years, managing operations without an ERP can be a disaster from the financial and operational standpoint. The manual processes lacking transparency and prone to errors will likely become a bottleneck. The company will probably work in a crisis mode most of the time, and the management will spend many hours putting out fires each day.
In this post, I want to share my opinion about the system that we use, ]project-open[, and engage our readers in a conversation about alternatives.
- It’s free for any size of organization while a commercial ERP can cost many thousands of dollars.
- ]project-open[ has all essential features an average translation agency might need. It’s generally good. If you migrate to ]project-open[ from a completely manual process, this is going to feel like a major breakthrough in terms of efficiency and transparency of operations.
- It’s been designed with translation agencies in mind to a certain degree. I guess some translation agencies sponsored developing those translation-related features. These include things like special translation-related fields in a project template or creating an invoice from the translation tasks, just to name a few.
- It allows a certain degree of configuration without speciaized training. You can add things such as a custom field or project status.
- In addition to an installer, ]project-open[ also comes as a virtual machine running Linux, which saves time you’d otherwise spend on installation. If you have a VMware server, that is.
- It’s very stable and reliable. In fact, I can’t remember any problems in the last couple of years.
- It even lets clients track their projects. Our clients never asked us for that feature anyway.
- Even basic customization isn’t easy. For advanced customization, you’ll need to contact developers or hire someone who knows the underlying software. This is true for any ERP, though.
- In the last few years, ]project-open[ didn’t see any essential improvements that could make a difference for a translation agency. A great benchmark in this aspect is the translation memory program OmegaT. While OmegaT is free as well, its gradual improvement over the last two years is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
- Project planning is pretty much rudimentary. If you want flexibility and the ability to quickly see what’s happening in a given project and which team member is available, say, one week from now, you’ll likely be better off using a standalone planning tool.
- Many processes like assembling an invoice from the translation tasks can’t be fully automated, which sort of defeats the purpose of using an automated system.
Generally, I like ]project-open[. But I’m not sure it’s a good idea to continue using it going forward. Switching to a system designed specifically for translation agencies might be a better investment of time that we’d otherwise continue wasting due to inefficiencies. Because no major improvements are being made (at least from the standpoint of a translation agency), the risk of getting left behind is growing by the hour. Yet, it works and it’s free. Compelling, right? The question is, therefore, whether there’s a cost-effective alternative.
Dear readers, over to you! What system do you use in your translation business? What systems are you aware of that combine both powerful features and attractive pricing?