However, those pages in their current state don't really tell me what I would want to know about the system. There's a lot of talk about features, a little about benefits and a bunch of high quality screenshots. What's missing for me are good process descriptions. Workflows.
I tested this system occasionally over a period of four months and was involved with two others (my former partner and her assistant) who tried to wrap their heads around it. It is a very good system for businesses ranging from busy freelancers who do a lot of billing to SME LSPs. But unless the processes are clearly understood it's hard for most people to deal with anything more complex than the back of an envelope or a chalkboard backed up by an Excel spreadsheet.
As part of my recent shift in activities, I now have access to this system in two incarnations: a fully configured company setup for one of the companies that has been using the system for years and the demonstration system for the SaaS provider lsp.net. This enables me to test a wide range of functions and observe carefully how the system is put to daily use. It's very interesting to talk to the individuals making use of it and hear how their practical needs have shaped the system over the years.
I am familiar with several other systems with a similar purpose, and as a translator I am the victim of a number of web-based project management systems from various clients and former clients. Generally I don't think much of these, and their cost can range from substantial to astronomical. I think it's fair to say that this system offers the best balance and value for cost that I've seen yet. It's not perfect, and there are things I hope to see added, many of which are in fact on the development roadmap already. The company, like Kilgray, pursues a steady, well-thought out course for its innovation and tends not to shoot from the hip just because some geek thinks a feature would be "cool". I don't agree with every approach, but I appreciate the thought behind the structure, and after a bit of familiarization, the reasons for particular design decisions often become much more apparent and more desirable than alternatives.
Enough introduction. I intend to show how this system works by presenting a few basic perspectives and workflows. In this post I will show a typical customer experience for submitting a text and receiving a finished translation job. Future posts will deal with the system from the perspective of translators, project managers and others using it.
Each licensee of the Online Translation Management (OTM) system has a dedicated subdomain, such as myls.qtn.net, the demonstration site for the system. This trilingual (DE, EN, ES) demo site doesn't have all the typical text for terms & conditions that one would find on a production site such as Ralf Lemster's rlft.qtn.net or ESmedo in Spain. (But that's the site I'll use, because I can test it from all sides for purposes of explaining how things work. Nonetheless, have a look at these three other sites to see the variations in how the environment is implemented.)
The initial screen layout is simple but functional, with standard navigation elements. Customization is limited to color and content. If you want a fancy front-end, do as you please with your regular web site or blog and link to your workflow subdomain.
Let's get straight down to business and request a quotation by clicking the third element in the navigation bar above.
The following form appears:
I filled out the form and submitted my request with one file upload. The automated response I got after submitting the request was as follows (yes, I made typos):
The notification mail I received regarding the customer service pages was as follows:
That link works at the moment, by the way. Go ahead and try it out. I or someone else may delete it eventually.
When the job was completed, I received another e-mail notice:
Clicking the link took me to the login web page:
Since I had never been in the system before with this customer account, I was asked to choose a preferred language for the interface. This can be changed later.
Just for laughs I chose German. Bear with me if you don't read that language. Here is the main customer page telling me that there is a job waiting to be delivered:
The page from which the finished job can be downloaded looks like this in German:
And like this in English:
Afterward I received an e-mail with a PDF attachment for the invoice. This is an option; invoices can also be printed out and mailed, of course.
The invoice looks like this:
All pretty straightforward I think. Any part of this communication can be switched off to suit your preferences and those of your clients. I'm not particularly bothered by the little quirks in the interface localization here (such as "MwSt" instead of "VAT" in the invoice shown), because I can fix that when I customize (or gripe at the system developers to make the change).
For a bit under 30 euros per month I can offer my clients semi-automated professional communication, secure submission of files for work or quotation and secure deliveries. The last point is very, very important to me, because often I have delivered a job, hopped in the car and driven off to an urgent appointment only to learn to my dismay that the e-mail got lost or delayed. With a system like this the client can just log into his secure area and see if the file is ready.
For clients who don't want to deal with logging into a secure file area with a password to view their project archives, etc. (the majority according to one OTM user), simple deliveries via a secure HTTPS e-mail link are possible. This happens, for example, if the customer does not have service pages activated. A mail is received which looks like this:
Re-sending e-mail to OTM