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Does Flexibility Trump Automation?

Does Flexibility Trump Automation

Change is always hard and as a software company that supports change management with each new implementation, we certainly know that it’s not easy to get used to a new system, new features, and new processes.

When we released Plunet 8 last year, we saw how difficult change management can be for our existing customers as well. We had made significant changes to our job assignment features, which are clearly the heart of every Plunet application and the most used function in the daily work of the project managers.

Project Management by Exception

Our medium and long-term goal for Plunet is “project management by exception”, meaning that all tasks that do not require human interaction can be automated and project managers only need to jump in if needed. This way they can focus on tasks where humans add value, such as tending to issues or complaints, monitoring KPIs or focusing on relationship-building with customers, vendors and other stakeholders. Our new features lay the groundwork for this vision and Plunet 8 was a big step in that direction.

User Research

After extensive customer research and feedback collected in our User Community, we improved our selection criteria, added ranking features and new assignment methods and rounds that speed up the request and assignment process. As always, when adding automation features, there needs to be standardization and well-maintained databases, as we rely heavily on templates and rule-based automation to reduce manual work for the project managers. And, of course, there is a fine balance between automation and the flexibility of human interaction, because automation is not always the right answer.

Need for Individualization

After our customers upgraded, everyone loved the new interface with search, request and assignment features and our new module VendorSearchManager PRO. However, we quickly realized that not everyone wanted to standardize all emails to vendors, even though it would save them a lot of time. The option to modify an email and add a personal touch clearly trumped the automation options in this case.  

What did we do? We listened to our customers and took the feedback to heart. After distributing surveys, arranging live sessions with customers and interviews with different user types, our research, UX and product team prioritized feedback and conducted additional prototype tests to offer both: the option to automate and the ability to customize and personalize if needed.

The changes that we made with our minor releases of Plunet 8 included:

1. Review several vendors for margin improvement

This new feature helps project managers who like to check the profit margin before assigning a vendor to a job

2. Re-assign a running job

This feature ensures that project managers can flexibly change a vendor in a running workflow or easily create a copy of an existing job. 

3. Edit automated request emails before sending

This new function lets project managers send request emails with one click but also lets them edit each email individually for a more personal approach.

Our biggest take-away

Automation is inevitable for growing language service providers, but the need for individualization and a personal approach can be a true USP in our industry. For us as a software company, this means that we are dedicated to increasing automation while still allowing the highest level of flexibility for project managers.

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