Plunet BusinessManager

Dan Milczarski is the VP, Process & Technology for CQ fluency. CQ’s TechTeam empowers customers, employees and vendors by integrating, automating and innovating. CQ has been a Plunet customer since 2013.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The language industry is too commoditized. Price points are shrinking. Quality and timeliness expectations are getting more stringent. Customers require a language service provider (LSP) with technology-enabled solutions. 

Sounds familiar, right? 

These elements can be limiting factors to the growth of a small or medium-sized LSP, and it’s hard to imagine any LSP working without a project management system today. The right system will reduce admin time, increase productivity, and increase your organization’s competitiveness in the market. As the industry evolves, so does the technology around it, ensuring your business processes don’t remain frozen in time.

My introduction to Plunet was back in 2010. I had just started out as a consultant, and one of my customers was exploring Plunet as an option to give them more structure, reduce project manager file handling, and give them better insight into vendor management. While the potential was there, the system lacked advanced automated features and the user interface (UI) was a challenge for internal and external users.

Figure 1: New vendor assignment in Plunet 8.

A decade later, Plunet still has a less-than-modern UI, but the advances in automation have been significant. Plunet 8 takes the biggest step forward in providing LSPs with a “lights out project management” experience, while still being empathetic to the external linguists who work within the tool. That’s because Plunet 8 is centered on programming the vendor selection process in a way that reduces project management time while avoiding the sometimes disdainful practices of first-come-first-serve (FCFS) vendor selection and BCC email blasting.

Don’t get me wrong, FCFS can work in certain situations. And many vendors are used to it by now. But it introduces an impersonal and transactional element to translation vendor relationships, and also creates risks. What happens if the least experienced vendor in your list accepts the project first while the best-suited was also available? You could be impacting the overall quality of your translation or, at the very least, you could be depriving your best linguists of projects that they would find interesting.

Figure 2: Ranking criteria in Plunet 8.

Plunet 8 solves this with automatic vendor search and assignments using a “top ranked” functionality that is enhanced with the VendorSearchManager PRO module. These features allow users to rank vendors based on important criteria for a customer or workstream, and then cascade requests in order of ranking. Plunet automatically contacts the vendors to assess their interest in the project and, if the first one on the list is not available, the request moves to the next ranked linguist, and so forth.

One of the newly added ranking options is the profit margin ranking option. This lets the project manager visualize the profit margin for the item, should the job be assigned to the applicable vendor. While this feature is only meant to be a “snapshot” of the potential profit margin, the red light/green light visual allows a project manager to quickly identify the vendors that would put their gross margin below what is needed.

While the vendor assignment functionality is the cornerstone of automation improvements in Plunet 8, optimized e-mail communication is also a defining criteria. This empowers users to customize and control the content of automated email messages sent by the system. This ensures that the email messages being sent to vendors and customers are more individualized and focused on the key elements of the project.

These vendor assignment additions in Plunet enhance project management automation while also creating a more personal approach to vendor communications. Yes, it still is a machine sending out the emails — but it’s not just a mass email nor is it an exercise in who can click the “accept” button the fastest.

The downside of these changes, though, is that you cannot predefine a resource in your workflow templates, you can only preselect them. In Plunet 7.4, you could predefine the resource for the job. 

In Plunet 8, you have to instead use the selection criteria to predetermine the resource(s) available for this job. This can create some additional steps for project workstreams that typically have the same resources assigned to them. One workaround is to use the “Preferred resources for” property in combination with the ranking criteria “Number of jobs for customer” to help filter the resources best suited for that customer.

Figure 3: Detailed view of jobs in the “Assignment” tab.

While the overall UI of Plunet does still need some modernization, each release makes slight improvements to the visualizations that project managers are accustomed to in newer applications. This was seen in the Workflow Editor in Plunet 7.3 and also demonstrated with the detailed job view in the new ”Assignment” tab. This color-coded feature gives a project manager a quick glimpse into the workload of a resource and the statuses of the jobs assigned to them.

Some additional UI elements have been added to the workflow management dashboard that will help project managers keep the proverbial trains running on time. The new “traffic light” system quickly shows the status of workflow jobs and calls out any failed processes that need to be restarted. This is helpful for work streams that are meant to be more “hands-off” and only require a project manager to monitor activities and take action in the case of an automation error.

Plunet 8 also gives users more flexibility when it comes to utilizing MT engines. For those users with a dynamic computer assisted translation (CAT) Integration with memoQ, you can now select your desired MT engine (by language) directly within the Plunet UI. Prior to this, all MT engines had to be defined in a memoQ project template. This reduces the work needed to create and sync these templates into Plunet.

Speaking of ProcessManager, the new release of Plunet clears out old processes more frequently, allowing for faster load times of the ProcessManager window. This feature applies to not only the memoQ CAT integration but also for connections with MemsourceManager, SDL Manager and XTM Manager.

Figure 4: Pre-translation & MT options with memoQ integration.

Speaking of ProcessManager, the new release of Plunet clears out old processes more frequently, allowing for faster load times of the ProcessManager window. This feature applies to not only the memoQ CAT integration but also for connections with MemsourceManager, SDL Manager and XTM Manager.

The other bit of news that accompanied the release of Plunet 8 is the new methodology that the Plunet dev team will follow for releases. The team will be focused on shorter release cycles — implementing changes throughout the year as opposed to waiting on one larger release. This should allow for a more continuous stream of improvements that LSPs can consider implementing instead of analyzing several release elements in one large release.

The current release of Plunet is 8.5.1 (released in April 2021).  

Operating system: Windows versions and Windows operating systems supported by Microsoft (x64).

Recommended: Windows Server 2019.

Browser: Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox version 31 or higher, Google Chrome version 40 or higher.

Licensing: on-premise & hosting, all prices on request.