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Nov 28, 2008

The Great Administration Platform Migration Odyssey

Since 2004 I have used the LTC Organiser from The Language Technology Centre Ltd. to handle my translation project organization, invoicing, customer records management, financial reporting and other related tasks. At the time it was the best option I found for what I wanted to accomplish as a single translator who needed to manage team records for outsourcing (Projetex had not been released yet) with an interface which I found superior to TOM (Translation Office Manager).

Although the package made my administrative work much easier and I used the reports to great effect in my business plans which I had to submit to banks when we decided to build a house, I was never really satisfied with the product. There were many little bugs which were never resolved, such as the "tab bug" in the quotation view of the last released version, which would clear the data for an entire line item if one tried to tab between fields. I had serious doubts about the LTC programming team, which were fully confirmed when I was in discussions with the company about beta testing the new Worx product in 2006 and I was suddenly informed that the availability of that online tool would be delayed by about 9 months. The fact that top management had been unaware of problems in the development team up to that point says a lot. I am a former software developer, and I've been part of that game since I was ten years old. Any company that has so little oversight of its development is best avoided. Maybe they have their act together in the meantime, but I really don't care any more. The fact that close associates of mine had support issues with the product for years (though whose fault that was I really don't know, the company had excuses for this too) sort of closed that book for me.

We recently decided to migrate to one of the most popular tools for freelancers to do their admin and accounting work, Translation Office 3000 a k a TO3000. God only knows where the 3000 comes from - maybe it's an inside joke to say that the software is 1000 years ahead of its time. I can't agree with that, but I will say it's pretty good. I've owned a license for several years, but I never did more than play with it, because when I got it, we still did the occasional bit of outsourcing. After we finally stopped giving in to end client requests to manage projects for languages we don't work with and some Murphy's Law experiences with good translators we sent work to made us quote Poe's raven when it comes to outsourcing, the product suddenly became very relevant. When the LTC Organiser was discontinued last year, I realized it was just a matter of time before I would upgrade to the latest version of TO3000 and leave LTC behind. So a few months ago, I downloaded the fully-funcional demo version 9 onto my not-so-new-anymore laptop and tested it. I immediate realized that the workflow for setting up price sheets and quoting jobs was far better than what I have suffered with for four years, and many features which irritated me in version 7 had improved. And the templates for invoices, quotation forms, etc. are all RTF files, so my partner can update them if I don't feel like doing the work. With LTC I had to get Crystal Reports to customize my paperwork if I didn't feel like paying the company a zillion GBP per hour to do it for me.

So I played for a few weeks, decided that TO3000 was the future and promptly forgot about it in a blizzard of work. With the end of the year coming up, however, I want to make a clean break, and my partner has promised to help with a backlog of invoices to be written that goes back to last spring (we are very, very busy), and she doesn't want to waste her time with the old system. So I ordered the upgrade and got the license key today.

This was the point where I started to get nervous. I switched laptops about a year ago, and the other day I tried to install my legal copy of Abbyy FineReader 7 (yes, I know I'm out of date) on the new laptop, because I no longer use it on the old one. No dice. It was an upgrade from version 6, and I have long since lost the v6 files and license info on yet another laptop that died in a spectacular way, so basically I'm screwed as far as that Abbyy license is concerned. One of these days I'll contact tech support, and I'm sure the nice folks there will have a solution for me. It'll be a while, because I've got projects that will keep me distracted for a while.

So after my FineReader experience, I figured I would not be able to install an upgrade on a machine which had never seen version 7. When it worked without a hitch, I screamed "BLESS THESE PEOPLE!!!" so loudly that Monique thought something was seriously wrong. On the contrary. I love those rare instances when a tools provider gets it right. They know we are licensed users, so there's no bullshit about the upgrade key working. I was prepared for a long, complex correspondence with AIT to explain about the change of computers, etc. - but I don't have to waste my time. I wish every company were that customer-friendly.

My database from the test phase into which I had already entered a master price list and a few clients was taken over by the upgrade, so my work a few months ago wasn't in vain. With our client base and my schedule I assume that transferring all the relevant data will take me a few weeks at least unless there's a clever import function I haven't found out about yet.

Since there is a lot to do before the system is completely in place, I'll be posting updates regarding the individual phases to give an overview of the process. I'm sure I'll have a few false starts - or maybe a lot of them - since I have not spent a lot of time learning how to use the software up to now. General impressions were more important. So now, Dear Readers, you'll be able to follow the progress of a practical setup for an overly busy translator more or less in realtime. We'll see how it goes....

4 comments:

  1. Hi Kevin,

    I use the latest version I really appreciate being able to create jobs in the system as they come in during the month. It makes month-end billing an absolute breeze and saves me countless hours.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I usually (if I have time) bill jobs as they are finished or at least individually. However, particular clients have requested collective invoices and/or month-end invoicing, which I have - up to now - generally refused to do because it was such a nuisance using LTC. (It was possible to link a job to an existing invoice, but things get very confusing if other jobs come in later which aren't supposed to be on that invoice, etc.)
    It was very quickly apparent to me that TO3000 is far more flexible with regard to billing options, terms, etc. To what extent I'll make use of these features I can't say. I'll have to get used to being able to do these things conveniently.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Kevin,

    The product does indeed have limited import functionality.

    This utility is available at

    http://download.to3000.com/p2r4t6v8
    /SetupTO3000v8Import.exe.

    It supports importing data from .xls, .dbf, .txt, .csv, and .mdb files.

    It's documentation can be found at

    http://www.projetex.com/images/stories/
    files/documents_pdf/ProjetexImportUtilityGuide.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  4. Are you on Version 8 or Version 9 Anil? It looks like the file link you posted is for the last version. I want to be sure it's compatible before I do anything stupid.

    ReplyDelete

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