Dimitri Stoquart Dimitri Stoquart
May 01

PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS: TO BUY IN OR DEVELOP INTERNALLY?

Every translation company or language service provider, regardless of size, needs to be able to monitor and properly manage all of its projects, from the simplest to the most complex, writes Dimitri Stoquart, Owner, Managing Director, Stoquart. When starting out, of course it’s possible for a company to make do with a spreadsheet to record all the projects it takes on. On the other hand, as soon as the company reaches a certain size or a certain number of projects, a more heavy-duty solution will soon become invaluable.

Although it’s possible to do a great deal in a spreadsheet before reaching its limits and perhaps graduating to a database management system, the fact remains that these tools are not designed for this purpose, and soon enough, a user finds themselves limited, even stuck.

The largest translation companies often use tools that they have developed internally over time, although this option is not solely the prerogative of bigger companies. Other companies opt for turnkey solutions offered by various suppliers. For several years now, the market for project management tools specifically dedicated to the translation sector has been flourishing.

The choice between purchasing a commercial system or developing your own solution is not governed by the size of your company, and nor is it a matter of cost. Rather, we see it as a strategic decision based on a number of factors.

To begin with, commercial solutions, like all tools, offer advantages and disadvantages and their own strengths and weaknesses. There is no such thing as perfection. In this regard, an internally developed solution does no better. No one can achieve the impossible. On the other hand, an internal solution can include functionalities tailored to the company’s needs. The tool is essentially designed to meet the actual needs of the company. There is no need to make staff adapt their working methods to work with functionalities that may have been designed for the sector, but not for their specific needs. This is in itself a not-insignificant benefit, all the more so when you add in the agility that is so fashionable today and which means that a solution can be adapted practically from one day to the next to suit a client, a project, a need or even a whim.

One of the great advantages of commercial solutions is their immediate availability. All that’s required is installation and/or configuration and the entire team can then be trained to use the solution on a learning curve that is as long or short as the individual requires. A tool developed internally from scratch will require months of work before a first usable version sees the light of day, but it will be the result of a team effort.

In the same vein, naturally, the cost aspect of the two options must be considered. On the one hand, you need to fork out for installation and configuration fees, plus annual licence and maintenance fees. An internal solution will require significant human and financial investment before you ever see a first usable version. After that, on the other hand, the tool will develop to meet the needs of the company and can be deployed as many times as necessary on any other sites without needing to loosen the purse strings. What’s more, the constraints inherent to licences, which give different levels of access to the system for various prices, just don’t exist with an internal solution.

Adopting and learning to use a commercial solution requires time, which can vary depending on the abilities of the teams and how intuitive and user-friendly the solution is. The length of the learning curve will differ from person to person, and adoption will rarely be unanimous, as users will have to accept choices made by the company supplying the solution. An internal system, however, will be the result of brainstorming sessions and other initiatives aiming to stick as closely as possible to the needs of the company and, above all, those of the different stakeholders – from members of staff to customers to external collaborators and teams. As the roll-out is gradual and the tool is known about before it goes live, the learning curve will be extremely short, and, logically, adoption will be close to unanimous.

In the same vein, if you decide to use a commercial solution, as a general rule, you will be making a purchasing decision to solve a problem. Developing your own tool, however, is a company project. This project offers everyone the chance to bring something to the table and contribute to the development and achievement of the system. Its adoption is smooth because it is the fruit of collective reflection. The development project is thus a unifying factor for the company’s staff. The solution meets their needs and fulfils their desires and is, in some way, made in their image. Uniting a team around a project such as the development of a management solution is as strategic as it is beneficial.

Lastly, while an external management solution is one more thing on the already long list of costs the company must bear, developing your own tool is an investment which, if done well, ultimately offers the company an additional asset. It has indisputable intrinsic value and at the same time highlights the value of the company – and all this is without even broaching the possibility of licensing this software out to other companies if they are interested. Furthermore, as indicated above, the tailor-made aspect of the solution can also free users from some frustrations and offer them double the satisfaction as they use a tool adapted to their needs that they have defined themselves.

Every company is different and has specific needs. Project management solution developers have good ideas and wonderful solutions to meet the needs of the largest possible number of users and companies. This means that they offer customisable generic solutions that sometimes leave some users wanting and don’t offer companies a unique opportunity to unite their teams around a common project, a driving force at the heart of the company.

This article opened with a question: to buy in or develop internally? The verdict remains open. Sometimes choices make themselves, and one company’s situation is never the same as another’s. If we’ve opted to develop our own solution, it’s because of the unifying nature of the project, the flexibility of being free from restrictive licences, independence, agility, ease of adoption and learning, and the agile aspects, as well as retaining value inside the company while giving ourselves a competitive advantage.