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What System Are You Using to Run Your Translation Business?

Translation project management systemIn 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.

Advantages

  1. It’s free for any size of organization while a commercial ERP can cost many thousands of dollars.
  2. ]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.
  3. 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.
  4. It allows a certain degree of configuration without speciaized training. You can add things such as a custom field or project status.
  5. 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.
  6. It’s very stable and reliable. In fact, I can’t remember any problems in the last couple of years.
  7. It even lets clients track their projects. Our clients never asked us for that feature anyway.

Drawbacks

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

What’s next?

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?

10 comments

  • Mohamed says:

    You may try GlobalSight. It is a free open source TMS which is great.

  • Tusshar says:

    I often use GlobalSight, it’s fabulous.

    • Hello,
      Thank you for your comment.
      How exactly are you using GlobalSight? I think this is a translation management system; that is, a system used to manage the actual translation, translation memories, and glossaries. What I need is a ERP system like XTRF that has invoicing, vendor management, client management.
      Best regards,
      Roman

  • Thanks for the review! It’s a critical review, and I believe that is OK. I agree with most of it.

    ]project-open[ was initially developed as a system for translation agencies only. However, over time we had less and less translation customers supporting our development and more an more customers from general project management. This is why the ]po[ translation functionality hasn’t evolved that much. This is how open-source works – at the end there are customers paying for development and influencing the road map of the product.

    At the moment we are working on a new organization form for “]project-translation[” (i.e. the specific solution for translation agencies). It would be great to get feedback from “the community” about this. However, any such feedback should address the economic viability of proposed actions, because at the end somebody needs to pay the salaries of the senior developers supporting the product.

    Cheers!
    Frank

    • Hello Frank,
      Thank you for your comment. I would like to use this opportunity to thank you for your system. As I wrote, I do like it overall and obviously appreciate the effort you and other developers invest in ]po[. Another advantage that I did not mention in the article is that it is surprisingly stable.
      Best,
      Roman

  • Thijs says:

    I have read your posts about Project Open and XTRF with interest. As we are contemplating a similar move, could you perhaps spare a moment and share with us your experiences from this move? What went well, and what gave you problems? Most of all, I would be interested to learn if you were able to move your historic project information from one system to the other.

    Your insights would be much appreciated!

    • Thijs, thank you for reading the blog and your question.

      I did not feel a need to transfer old projects from project-open to XTRF. XTRF is a system to manage projects, so you do not normally need older projects in it, because you do not need to manage them, right? Typically, you create, manage, and invoice a project, and then you forget about it.

      I kept my project-open installation and referred to it in case I needed to access older projects. As to the actual files of old projects, I keep them in a backup location now.

      That said, do you have a specific need to transfer your older projects? What is it?

      • Thijs says:

        Roman, thanks for your reply.

        We need to be able to access old projects, both from an operational view as for tax reasons. We often find that we need to refer to old projects when working on new ones, and it’s easiest to have everything in the same place. Retaining our project open installation, just like you, is also an option, though.

        Was there anything else that went surprisingly well or, on the other hand, gave you troubles during the move?

        • Right, I would keep the project-open installation alongside XTRF. If you only need to refer to old projects occasionally, spending time and money on moving your old projects to XTRF is just not worthwhile.

          I do not think I experienced any troubles during the move. In general, XTRF is a very powerful and easy-to-use system that lets you configure and automate a lot of things. And it is specifically designed for translation agencies. Replacing project-open with it felt like a breakthrough. So I would say almost all went surprisingly well.

          There is at least one thing that can make your move a challenge, though. It is a difficult choice between keeping your XTRF installation in the cloud or in your local network.

          A cloud installation is easier to manage and has higher availability compared to XTRF installed on your local server. However, with the cloud installation, you basically do not have any project file structure on your server (since everything is in the cloud). If you are used to having this kind of structure and doing projects right within this structure on your server, you might find moving to XTRF challenging. And you will also be losing time on downloading/uploading files to the cloud.

          As for me, I preferred to install XTRF on my local server.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.