(Smart Projects) Multiple processes in a single project, similar to creating new tasks in Classic.

Adrián Flores 8 months ago in Home Portal / Smart Projects updated by Sancho Leath 2 months ago 28

We receive small, periodic job orders from a particular client several times a month. The way we handle this in Classic projects is by generating multiple tasks within a single project that we create every month (not the same vendors are assigned to every small job order). We are currently transitioning from Classic to Smart, and would like to keep handling this client's requests using a single project per month. Is there a way to achieve this using Smart Projects and keep a detailed record of each order (like we had with tasks)?

Thanks in advance.

I'm curious about this. What's the advantage to setting new tasks in an existing project? Is it about having the same workflow? Or about monthly invoicing? I'm a user of smart projects so I don't really know how this would work in classic projects.


minimize admin work, and invoicing.  eg. not needing to fill in so many fields, reusing information from other tasks, finding related information between tasks faster and more easily, probably more. 


seeing ROI auto calculated across all tasks, rather than as individual projects (which you can't do)...

I think Angelo covered everything important.

For us the main reason to do this is that we generate a single invoice per month and that these requests come in almost daily--adding a new task is much easier than creating a new project. I know we can generate a single invoice grouping tasks from multiple projects (Classic projects, at least), but it is still more work than necessary.


Interesting. Sounds like it makes a lot of sense. I would like to have this option in Smart Projects. 


all the option in classic should be transferred over to Smart projects, otherwise, they're not really smarter than classic, just simpler.  

Idea behind Smart projects is simplicity. When it comes to long term, complicated projects we recommend Classics. Options between Classics and Smarts are not the same unfortunately. 

What I can recommend when it comes to tracking similar projects in Smarts is custom field. In such field you can add numbering scheme or any other number or name and then filter out those projects grouped by this custom field so you would know that they belong together as in Classics (which will be useful for invoicing etc.). Additionally you can duplicate already existing project to avoid manually inserting all the data.

Interesting, so XTRF actually expects us to use both class and smart projects, not just one or the other?


We actually have two clients that fit this description. We currently use the API to auto create the projects to reduce the data entry on the PM part. It works pretty well for the most part. Not ideal, but pretty well. And yes, we currently have 6 or 7 custom fields at the project level to help manage these projects, and have set up monthly invoices via periodic jobs.

We're now at a point that we're seriously considering removing some of these small repeat projects from XTRF entirely. Small, repeat projects take such a higher proportion of PM time, that we are considering maintaining these outside of XTRF and not using it for these projects at all. Currently, for these projects, I'm essentially only using XTRF to manage invoices. Maybe if there was a way to have micro-projects for only invoicing purposes with fewer data / clicking needs??

Sadly, we may even move these repeat projects to (gasp!!!) google sheets. It would save us so much time! Small repeat projects and Smart Projects don't seem to work efficiently together. And I don't think Classic Projects is the answer in this case. 

I think handling these projects outside XTRF is going to do more harm than good for us, most of our PM are not very tech saavy and this is just going to add to their workload. I think we'll stick to Classic Projects for this client.

@Mark, we are thinking of leveraging on the API to optimize our work, would you mind sharing what kinds of things you guys do with the API? Did you guys create your own interface? Also, how do you go about setting a perodic job for invoicing?

Thanks in advance.


In a nutshell, we use the API for a number of things, but most consistently we use it for reporting and for starting projects/quotes.

For reporting, we use a combination of the google sheets integration (which works but it's buggy), and we also connect the API to dump our daily data into google big query. From there we use google data studio for daily reporting of projects, receivables, payables, open projects, vendor ratings etc...

For starting projects and quotes, we have two main ways of getting started. We connect the API to forms on our website forms. This allows up to auto-start projects or quotes when a user enters their project request from our website. We've even created a form specific to a client (one that for various reasons couldn't use the client portal) that has particular fields for that client. Again, it's all about reducing the cutting and pasting from and to XTRF.

But we also have templates in Google Sheets set up with an API connection for repeat projects where we can enter data, including standard client notes, vendor notes, default workflows, and push them to get projects started automatically. These templates have repeated data in vlookups so and many variables are dropdowns - so we can push these pretty efficiently to XTRF. It's not ideal, but it works. And we're limited to the fields that the API allows. We end up putting a good chunk of data in the internal notes and just have the PM cut and paste from the internal notes, but that's easier than cutting and pasting from external tools. 

If you need more detail, I'm happy to go into it.

Good luck!!

Thank you, Mark. I appreciate you taking the time to write this.

I find the google sheet integration very interesting. I'm a big Excel fan though, I'm already thinking of connecting some of my VBA macros to XTRF via the API. What are the most important limitations of the API in terms of creating/modifying a Smart Project? Do you need to go in manually to finish setting up a project after you auto-start it through an API call?


There are a lot of things that the API can't do. The main stuff is there, and it is being extended (slowly). But most of the gaps can be filled by building Macro's. If you combine these two, you have a real powerfull tool to automate almost anything within XTRF.

Thanks, Dennis. I want to start diving into XTRF macros too, but I need to learn Apache first and I just don't have the time, unfortunately. Do you guys write your own macros?


We do write our own macros.

If you have a little background in Java or another programming language, Apache Velocity isn't that bad. Though it is tough to comb through the whole XTRF framework and understand how they have built their system. 
My reference for Velocity is this website: http://people.apache.org/~henning/velocity/html/

Mark has also created a thread for sharing Custom Column code, you can use this as a reference and get some clue on how Velocity works. https://xtrf.userecho.com/communities/8/topics/633-sharing-virtual-column-code

I do have background in Java and C++, very, very amateur though.

I'm giving it a try. Bookmarked both of those links.

Highly appreciated, Dennis


That's a good idea.  We don't use XTRF for all our projects either because it's not worth the inefficiency.  Google sheets works well for this stuff.  Then just create the project at the end of the month so that you can create the invoice.  The only loss we get with this approach is the automated email going from translator to editor, but that's easy address.  


I actually agree. If I make this move, I'll have to change my reporting around. But having micro projects?? Maybe we can do this in workflows where the project only has one PM step rather than a full workflow. Thoughts??

Actually this could help... but I think one of the biggest pain points for us is the time-consuming task of making payables and receivables. Form micro-projects, it's just so inefficient. That is something that would greatly benefit of a thoughtful streamlining in my humble opinion.


Why don't you automate the creation of payables and receivables through the API?

I assumed we can't do that. Am I wrong? I"d love to do this. Is it through macros? (which I have very little experience with)


You can do it through both of them. 

If you are going to execute it through the API, please note that not all the model parameters work as expected. For example, you cannot change the minimum Charge. Though for most of the stuff, it works really well.

See your API documentation for adding the payables and receivables.

I'm going to look into this. Thanks for pointing this out!

I think losing the automated workflow is too big a loss for us. How do you handle notifying vendors that they should start working on something in multi-step jobs (Translation, Editing, DTP, etc)? For example letting the editor know that the translator finished his/her job


This all depends on your specific workflow - this wouldn't work for most of our projects. However, for the client I'm considering switching out of XTRF, we have established linguistic teams that already work together on an ongoing basis using external tools, so the XTRF functions of notifications is redundant at best, and unnecessary in reality. 

Here is how we handle more complex projects with XTRF Smart Projects only:

We create one pro forma project (actually named "pro forma" to easily identify it as a Service and Process Template) with only the Preparation step. This serves as the central hub for a multi-batch projects, which we use to

- collect all relevant customer and internal notes for the overall project

- invoice the customer (vendors are invoiced via the respective subprojects)

- hyperlink auxiliary files (spreadsheet for e.g. project schedule or customer clearance procedures outside of XTRF VP)

- the deadline of this Preparation step also serves as a good job-level reminder for the PM throughout the lifetime of the overall project (we use a Smart View on job level as a daily PM task list)

The project ID of this pro forma project also serves as the Master ID (custom field on project level), which is what it ties it all together in XTRF.

Each subproject receives the same Master ID, based on which we create a Smart View. This Smart View allows us to maintain an overview of all related subprojects, as displayed in following screenshot. We have used this approach for projects up to about 30 subprojects and it has worked reasonably well.

@XTRF: Some years ago there was talk of creating a proper multibatch project management solution in Smart Projects. Is that idea on a foreseeable development timeline, e.g., version 9.x?

Thank you for this, Sancho. I hadn't really thought about using custom fields before, this is an interesting approach—I think I'll use it.

We're thinking about implementing this. Sancho, I'm curious: how do you track the overall margins and ROI of the proforma master project with the receivables and all the sub-projects with the payables?

Since SmartViews don't provide sum totals per view, according to my knowledge, you will have to export the view, or better yet pull the XTRF data into a data analysis tool such as PowerBI that allows you to aggregate data at will.