Spreadsheets were our lifeline
In our early years, we relied on email and cloud storage for file management. And did we mention spreadsheets?
Yes, you guessed right. Spreadsheets were —and still are in some cases — our back office. Whenever a project request came in, we had to complete endless columns of information to make sure we didn’t miss anything.
We knew we needed a more robust, scalable yet affordable system for our growing organization. Enter XTRF.
With XTRF, we gained an all-in-one project dashboard which enables us to centralize project information (i.e. order dates, files, receivables, payables, deliverable dates for all vendors, purchase orders, internal notes, etc.).
There’s also the added benefit of smart custom views to help us keep track of each and every stage of the translation process.
Because we still use our private cloud storage solutions (for extra cybersecurity compliance), we can also easily share and categorize links (e.g. bilingual documents, reference files, CAT packages, etc.) via XTRF as if these were the original files.
Our clients gave us the push
Our company is client-centered. This means that everything we do is designed to offer them maximum value.
We work with fast-paced, agile businesses that send urgent translation requests on an almost daily basis.
Hungry customers demand both top quality and immediate availability. Likewise, we needed a tool that could take our productivity to a new level.
The Smart Projects subsystem did just that. With triggered email notifications and automations, our project managers were able to stay focused on what matters most—our clients and translators. Time spent on manual communications and tracking was drastically reduced.
Is invoicing that easy?
We’ve already talked about spreadsheets, but here’s where things get really interesting.
Invoicing several hundred projects is no easy task, especially when specific projects have various invoicing requirements for the different organizations within the same client file.
Add to that our manual PO generation and verification system. At the end of each month, over three hours was dedicated to manually verifying vendor purchase orders.
Now, thanks to purchase order automation—a feature that sends out the purchase order as soon as the vendor accepts the job offer—, and to the invoice statements that are sent out to vendors at the end of each month, we are able to close the vendor payment process in under 15 minutes.
This frees up time to focus on building stronger teams and processes to improve our client services.
In the past, we spent a little under 10 hours on invoicing each month. These days, it just takes us only a couple of hours.
We’ve even got cybersecurity compliance
In today’s connected world, small businesses like ours are also targets for cybercriminals. This is something we take extremely seriously at The Translation Team, which is why we’re always on the hunt for solutions that protect the integrity and confidentiality of our clients’ and vendors’ data.
XTRF is certified under ISO/IEC 27001:2013, which means that they have implemented security techniques, risk assessment, and information security management systems throughout the organization.
Moreover, their data servers are shielded by ESET and they perform periodical penetration tests to ensure there are no cracks in the network infrastructure.
Custom workflows for all occasions
There is not a one-size-fits-all approach for handling projects from multiple clients.
Each and every customer has a specific need that is addressed through a specific project workflow.
With XTRF, we are able to prepare workflow templates that we can later reuse to create new projects.
As of today, we have compiled a comprehensive library of templates that cover all manner of client scenarios, and at the same time, speeds up the preparation process for the project manager.
Previously, all this was carried out manually on a project-to-project basis via email.
Transparent vendor relationships
In the past, we issued a monthly purchase order at the end of each calendar month. This gave vendors a chance to verify their totals before submitting their invoices.
Today, as we mentioned, we automatically send out purchase orders as soon as a vendor accepts a project offer. This has not only reduced manual administrative tasks but has also increased visibility since vendors now have a clear and detailed view of the total fee for each project.
What is more, having a dedicated vendor portal as part of the formula is fantastic. It allows vendors to keep a record of the jobs they have worked on, keep track of payment status, see if there’s a job offer roaming around, or simply update their background information so it showcases their new skills, knowledge, and/or certifications.
Ironing out the kinks
In our company, projects tend to have a longer life cycle as they iterate in multiple rounds due to our clients’ agile workflow. Practically speaking, this means that we can have up to four or five TEP cycles for a single project.
In XTRF’s platform, projects are considered tasks, and each task has several stages called jobs.
Since XTRF is based on a waterfall-type project management system (you go from A to C, and then you close the process), we had to figure out a workaround so that tasks didn’t close.
Even if they reached the final job, later the same day they had to be reopened to include additional stages (groups of job steps).
In order to make this work, our implementation to accommodate agile clients was to create as many job types as there are rounds. For instance, if the average project (task) has around two rounds of TEP, you might want to label these new job types as R2 Translation, R2 Editing, R2 Proofreading, and so on.
We generated templates with the standard workflow but created these additional, customized job types to add on on the fly.
Undeniably, this solution still creates friction on a busy day, and we look forward to seeing what customization options can be created to bolster this iterative project management process.
Together we are stronger
Let’s be honest, technology is never bug-free. A comprehensive platform like XTRF certainly requires maintenance and bug fixes.
One of the strongest points of XTRF is their JIRA service desk for error and bug reporting. In terms of community, they have a User Echo forum where you can post suggestions, features wish list, and a place to share tips and tricks.
Our experience has been fantastic with both platforms. We have learned from the experience of other users and reported minor bugs that were fixed in subsequent releases.
The response time has always been satisfactory, and the channels have always been open to ensure that we get our issues addressed.
Collaboration across continents
Krakow and Huntington Beach, CA (our previous home) are separated by more than 10,000 km of sea and land. This didn’t stop us from working hand in hand with XTRF’s Customer Success Manager, Agnieszka Wójcik, though.
She helped us to get to grips with the basics of the translation project management system (TPMS), customization opportunities, and troubleshooting.
While we started with XTRF Academy to familiarize ourselves with the features, hoping for a “self-implementation” approach, we soon realized that we needed a dedicated person on our team to assist us.
The implementation did require more than just watching videos and tweaking a few settings. For smaller companies like ours, without the budget to sign up for XTRF’s full implementation package, I’d recommend having a dedicated team member for implementation, instead of hoping you’ll be able to figure it out between projects.
It will also require constant and close communication with XTRF. Their team is great at responding promptly, but just remember there might be a time difference.
That’s how I took the lead for a few months to play around with the platform and its features, and once he was ready, customized every single aspect of the software to suit our needs and those of our clients.
We then created step-by-step training manuals and videos for the whole project management team and vendors, with the information specific to our customized version. We did a soft launch towards the end of December 2019 and turned on the switch on January 1, 2020.
We also created our internal XTRF-The Translation Team handbooks, one for PMs, and the other one for vendors. We recommend creating your own reference materials, specific to your implementation, to aid in training and for future reference.
It was very important for management to have full adoption on the vendor’s side. This wouldn’t have been possible without XTRF user-friendliness and the customized reference materials we created for our vendors.
We are extremely satisfied with the support we received from our XTRF contacts, and we look forward to continuing our story with the rest of the XTRF team.
Let’s strive for more!
Translation Project Manager, The Translation Team