Best way to monitor status of many projects
We have been using Smart Projects for almost 9 months now and have found workarounds for most situations. But from time to time, we want to make sure we are not falling into bad habits, but instead are using the system as efficiently as possible. To this end, I wanted to get the community involved to see what you have found to be the best way to monitor the status and need for action for numerous projects at the same time, e.g. at least 50-100 open projects simultaneously.
So far we have used a hybrid approach of:
* List of open projects
* List of jobs due today or earlier
* Systematically adding an internal "project preparation" step to all projects, which we only set to Ready once all vendors have been assigned, finances are verified, and the project confirmation to customer has been sent out
While this works fairly well, it is surely not ideal. The main purpose of a project management system is to have a clear and organised overview of running projects and jobs. The Smart Projects Dashboard is, at best, a half-hearted effort to achieve that. And the Notification section in the top bar is not practical or reliable at this point (see other threads on this topic).
So as we wait for a better solution to be developed, what other ways have you found to be effective in keeping an overview?
Customer support service by UserEcho
Quick follow up question. Are you asking as a PM managing lots of projects, or as an administrator managing a team of PMs? Each has a different need.
Having said that, I do wish there was a way to view project status that was more nuanced as open or closed. It would be nice to know if 2 or 5 of the process steps were complete maybe? I can sort by due date, but it would be great to know if there was a way to know of projects that were in final editing stage...
Yes, we had this issue as well. We have made some fancy virtual columns. So now we can see the job statuses in the project or in the task list view. We used colors as well because this is the best way to show the warnings.
Is this part of Smart projects or Classic projects? Smart projects doesn't have colors available...
We use classic projects, but it works in smart projects too. In virtual columns there is a little development possibility so we can write special text according to the task or project status and we can also color the text.
That is something that I'd love to see in my implementation. Did you contract with XTRF for special coding?
Would also like to know Viktor. We are just starting to look at using Virtual Columns. Would be curious a) how you are currently using them and b) if you did them yourselves or contracted them to XTRF. Please share!
I did it myself.
Seems it's a common issue. We suffer from it too and haven't found a satisfactory solution. We've also created an initial file preparation stage, I guess your project preparation would be an additional step before or after that one. One thing we have noticed is that if we don't set that initial step to Ready then the following jobs are not automatically started. Am I missing something here?
@Mark: This question relates to PMs in the first instance.
@Leo: Setting the steps to automatic start if ANY of the preceding steps is ready should fix that.
@XTRF: While Viktor's solution sounds intriguing, XTRF will surely want to offer something out of the box to efficiently manage projects instead of relying on individual scripting or the use of virtual columns, right? Please chime in and propose your out-of-the-box Smart Projects solution to keep a good overview of many projects at the same time. Thanks.
At the previous LSP where I worked, we had a much more sophisticated dashboard for the PM.
The purpose of the dashboard should be to display and prioritize EVERYTHING that the PM needs to take action on during a typical working day.
A. Projects that needs to be started
B. Job invitations that needs to be sent out
C. Started jobs that are overdue
D. Tasks that need to be delivered (unless they are set on auto-delivery
E. Jobs where the PM is the "supplier" (project management steps)
F. Jobs with new messages (in the project message board, a feature that doesn't exist yet in XTRF).
This overview can be achieved on one single page with three vertical columns:
1. Projects/tasks/jobs with status Open
2. Projects/tasks/jobs with status Offers Sent/Requested
3. Projects/tasks/jobs with status Started and Ready (but not yet delivered)
In each column, the three levels can be displayed either as a hierarchical tree, or broken up as individual lines, and default sorted by the first deadline at the top.
For each cell, you can display the job number, deadline, WWC, and status icons that indicate various events, like if there is any unread message, if a task can be delivered, if you have received any bid from a vendor (XTRF doesn't have this feature, but vendors could counter bid if they needed more time or express surcharge for a job).
I'm aware that we can work with separate windows for Project, Task and Job lists, but it's much more convenient to have everything on one page. The PM just have to "work from the top" and take action on the most acute deadlines first, for each of the action item columns.
I think you wrote down a very good concept. Unfortunately XTRF is not yet able to give this kind of page. That's why we've created the virtual columns which I think solved the problem at least for us.
Can you share more specifics about what virtual columns you created? We currently use a google doc that allows our team to easily manage and see everything, but that means that they are having to enter project management information twice somewhere and also makes me wonder why we are paying so much for translation management software that doesn't actually help our PMs execute their job.
The main complaint is that there is no way for them to get a large overview quickly. Even in dashboards, all it shows is projects, but if a project has 12 languages in different stages, it is not easy to see all of that at a glance at a high level. Also, with Smart Projects it is a bit better, but it can be a real pain for support folks to mark off workflow steps like file preparation, DTP, QA one by one for each language/task. With the spread sheet they can do those things in bulk, so even though we like XTRF and rely on it, they are still using a Google Doc day to day for high level task and project management.
One thing we have looked at is using the API to possibly create a custom dashboard that is more card based like Trello or something. But we have not gone that far down the rabbit hole on that one, and I am also hesitant to spend more money in a custom dashboard outside of XTRF. So would be really interesting how you are using virtual columns.
So we created a Job status column. There we can see, if every jobs has vendors, and the color can show us the status of the job.
The other column shows us what the PM has to do with the task. Such as contacting with the vendor because he is late. These are just examples, a lot of things can be done according to your working methods:
In the project view we created another column to see the multilanguage projects.
Very inspirational, thanks a lot, Viktor!
Great thread guys.
@ Sancho, thanks for the tip on getting tasks started, I´ll look into that (though I think that´s how we´ve configured things).
We also use spreadsheets for dealing with jobs with multiple files/file splits, etc. (it is specially handy when they need to be assigned to different vendors). Yes, it does imply entering information twice and having to manually update things.
Some constructive criticism: for us, this reflects not only insufficient usability in the PM dashboard as well as some lacking functionality in the Smart projects themselves (for example, there´s no way to know which files are ready if they have been bundled in a job).
Here's another question... We found the Smart Dashboard useless for our purposes. But then realized that the classic dashboard is much more useful for our view. It's not perfect, but can at least nest jobs/projects and give visual clues and colors for job statuses. So are you all using Smart Dashboard or Classic Dashboard?
But wow, I would love to see XTRF go in the direction of what Viktor laid out.
@XTRF: It has to raise red flags when you hear users of XTRF developing a parallel world to keep an overview and thus manage their projects. Surely not what you have in mind as developers of a translation management software. Therefore, the community is still very interested to hear your out-of-the-box approach to this core TMS function. Maybe we are all overlooking something and you can point us in the right direction. If not, then this surely has to be a top priority on the roadmap.
@All: Thank you very much for your active contributions in this thread!!
Thanks Sancho! Duly noted. Plus: http://xtrf.userecho.com/topics/624-/
I have also created a lot of virtual columns to solve problems with day-to-day work like showing the time to dead-line with different formatting, showing the status of sent availability requests and so on. Even a basic ticketing system.
But as virtual columns still cannot be sorted or filtered, it's not a perfect solution. Also the documentation for the macro developers is lacking to say at the least (most of the functions I have found with civilized guessing).
Yes, If you like to sort or filter it, you have to create custom fields, and update it with macros reqularly. This is not a nice workaround.
Is there documentation for creating a virtual column? Until this is addressed by XTRF, I want to learn more about this.
I only got a javadoc. A better documentation would be good to have.