Friday, May 7, 2010

Ideal Workflow

I recently received an e-mail requesting permission to reprint my April 1 blog post on client education in an upcoming issue of the American Translators Association's Chronicle. In that post, I promised to blog on my ideal translation process. So here is what I'd like that process to look like, from start to finish:

  • I receive an e-mail from a new potential end client requesting quote on translating documents attached to the e-mail.

  • I check the client on the web (more on that in another post) and evaluate the documents directly in my e-mail application. I decide I'm interested in the project.

  • I open a project mgmt/invoicing/translation memory application and input the client's basic information (name, address, etc., as well as language of communication) and flag him/her as a potential client, as a new client, and as an end client (as opposed to an agency), then attach the e-mail I received to that record.

  • I download the documents attached to the e-mail.

  • The software automatically creates a directory for them (based on a directory structure I previously specified) and assigns a project number clearly identifying this as only a potential project.

  • I initiate creation of a quote by selecting a couple of parameters (currency, price level, due date). At this time, I also specify the documents' subject matter(s), as well as source and target language variations (Austrian German, German German, U.S. English, etc.).

  • The software counts the number of words in the source documents (even if they're in PowerPoint, PDF or similar formats) and displays a quote based on previously defined conditions (surcharge for PDF format, deposit requirement for new clients, ...) in the communication language I specified for the client. It also creates an e-mail message to go with the quote (based on boilerplate text I have previously input).

  • I review the quote and click "send".

  • The software sends the e-mail, attaches it to the client record and automatically enters a reminder to follow up after a previously specified number of days into my electronic task list, with a link to a follow-up e-mail.

  • On that follow-up date, that task is displayed in my to-do list. I click a link in the task and the software displays a follow-up e-mail based on previously input boilerplate text and personalized with the client's name, date of initial contact/request, date and number of proposal, etc. Since my availability changed in the meantime, I edit the e-mail to propose a later due date. I am really interested in this project, so I decide that a second follow-up may be necessary. I select that option, as well as the form of communication for it, in the software, then click "send".

  • The software sends the e-mail, attaches it to the client record and enters the second reminder in my task list. Since I selected telephone follow-up for this one, the task includes a link to Skype.

  • The second reminder date arrives. I click the Skype link in the task, which dials the client's phone number in Skype.

  • I reach the client and he agrees to the project over the phone. I ask for a written confirmation, which the client agrees to provide by e-mail.

  • The client's confirmation e-mail arrives.

  • The software links that e-mail to the client's record. I flag the e-mail as confirmation of the proposal and change the due date. The software removes the "potential client" flag from the client record, and changes the project number from a potential project to a "current" one. It also enters a task in my task list with the due date and project number, as well as a link to the directory for the documents to be translated. If the due date is more than a specified number of days in the future, it also adds a second task a specified number of days before the due date to remind me to start the project, again with a link to the project directory

  • When that start date arrives, I click the link in the task, which takes me to the first of the source documents opened in the translation memory software. Based on the subject matter and language variations I specified earlier, the software selects the appropriate glossaries in the TM software. Since this is a new end client, it also creates a new translation memory with that client's name (I previously specified that each end client gets his/her own translation memory). If this had been an agency, the software would display a list of existing end clients where I could either pick one or add a new end client. The software also adds the TM and glossaries selected to the record for this project.

  • Since the source files are PDFs, I direct the software to convert them to MS Word. The software uses Acrobat and a multi-lingual OCR program to provide an MS Word document with all images removed, but formatting intact and image captions preserved; text flows throughout the entire document rather than being corralled in text boxes, except for very special cases.

  • I translate the text using the translation memory and glossaries set up above. During that work the software automatically saves a copy of the files on which I am working in a specified interval.

  • In the course of the translation, I decide that a separate glossary for a new subject matter would be helpful.

  • I create that new glossary by adding a term and specifying "new" rather than picking an existing glossary. In addition to creating the new glossary on the fly, the software adds that new subject matter to the list of subject matters from which I can pick when initially adding a project. It also adds the glossary to the record of glossaries/TMs used for this project.

  • When I am finished with the translation, I can preview the translated document as it will appear to the client. Any changes I make in this preview are automatically also made to the TM.

  • Each day at a preset time, the software backs up any projects I worked on during that day to an external hard drive attached to my home network. It also tracks the time I spent on each project.

  • When I am finished translating and editing a project, I tell the translation memory portion of the software that I'm done. It saves the translated files in the appropriate format (MS Word for Word files and PDFs, Excel and PowerPoint files in their original formats) and displays these final files.

  • I briefly review the final translated files to make sure formatting didn't go astray or caption text, etc. is missing, then click "project completed" in the main software.

  • The software creates an e-mail to the client with boilerplate text and the final files attached.

  • I review that e-mail, adding a note to wish him a good trip later that week and click "send".

  • The software sends the e-mail to the client, attaches it and the project files to the client record, backs up all project files to the external hard drive, marks the project as completed and enters a task in my to-do list for the next day to follow up on whether the files were received.

  • The next day, the client e-mails back that the files arrived safely.

  • I open the follow-up task and click the "files received Ok" option in the task (the other options being "send follow-up e-mail" and "resend files").

  • The software flags the project record as ready for invoicing.

  • During the next weekly invoicing cycle, the software automatically invoices this client, based on the parameters I had set during the creation of the quote (language, price level, etc) and using my standard terms.

  • I review and approve the invoice, changing the standard terms to accommodate the client's billing cycle (which he had explained in my phone call). I can also edit the standard e-mail the software created to go with the invoice.

  • The software sends the e-mail and creates a task in my to-do list to follow up on payment a specified number of days after the invoice's due date.

  • The client does not pay by the due date.

  • A link in the follow-up task that appears on my to-do list goes to a boiler-plate follow-up e-mail. I review and send that e-mail.

  • The client pays my bank account electronically, which triggers an automatic e-mail from my bank with a standard subject line, format and e-mail address.

  • After initial setup to specify these bank parameters, the software recognizes this as a bank e-mail and retrieves the pertinent details from it. During the next invoicing cycle, the software notifies me that this invoice has been paid.

  • I approve the payment receipt and the software marks the invoice as paid and enters the payment in the accounting portion of the software, including crediting it to the appropriate bank account.

I know that this kind of seamless integration of various disparate softwares and level of customization for my particular workflow is probably a pipe dream. The challenge now is to see how much of it can be implemented with existing commercial software at a reasonable price ...

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