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A Project Management Test
Thread poster: Williamson

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:01
Flemish to English
+ ...
Aug 16, 2008

Some agencies are pure hub and spoke project management agencies and do not translate themselves. You apply for a job as pm at such an agency.

You get the following test :

A reliable translation agency has accepted a number of assignments which have to be finished in the coming days.

Data about the assignments:

Assignment 1 2 3 4 5 6

Translation work (in days) 5 4 3 1 1 2

Due date 12 10 16 2 1 3


If the agency has to pay a fine of $10 per day for each assignment which has not been delivered on time, what would be the execution order you would advise for these assignments?



[Edited at 2008-08-16 09:18]


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 21:01
French to English
+ ...
Depends how many translators you have Aug 16, 2008

If you only have one translator, do them in due-date order. Jobs 6 and 1 will be a day late each. Total fine $20.

If you have two or more translators, you can meet all the deadlines and there's multiple solutions. You could give 6 and 1 to translator A and the rest to translator B. Still in due-date order.

Terry.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:01
Member (2002)
German to English
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We need further information Aug 16, 2008

Firstly, it would be necessary to know which month/year is concerned, because it is necessary to know which dates fall at the weekend, as that affects productivity.

Secondly, why are the translations not all to be done at the same time, by different translators? Why only one after the other?


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:01
English to Dutch
+ ...
5 4 2 1 3 6 Aug 16, 2008

Am I hired?

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:01
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Two points Aug 16, 2008

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:
Firstly, it would be necessary to know which month/year is concerned, because it is necessary to know which dates fall at the weekend, as that affects productivity.


That is true, but other things also affect productivity, but one has to make the test as simple as possible, see? For that reason, the assumption is that all days are equal. They are not equal in real life, but in real life you'd have to juggle other factors too.

So, as far as I can see, the purpose of this particular test is not to simulate a comprehensively accurate real-life scenario but to see if the candidate has or doesn't have a particular type of multitasking and/or overviewing skill.

Secondly, why are the translations not all to be done at the same time, by different translators? Why only one after the other?


No, I think you misunderstood. Those numbers are the number of days that the translations will take to complete. So, task #1 will take 5 days to complete. I also think the assumption is that today is day 0 (or day 1), so task #1's deadline is 12 days from now.

Of course, if you have 6 translators in that language combintion, you can simply execute them all at the same time. But what if you have only 4 translators, or only, or only 2? I wonder if the assumption here isn't in fact that you have only 1 translator in this particular language combination... or if not, perhaps the answer to the test is the solution that uses the smallest number of translators.

In reality, different translators translate at different speeds, there are time-zone issues to keep in mind, some jobs have more complex QC requirements than others, etc, etc.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:01
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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This is where those pesky Gantt charts come in Aug 16, 2008

Williamson wrote:
what would be the execution order you would advise for these assignments


Code:
Assignment numbers    #1    #2    #3    #4    #5    #6
Size of job (in days) 5 4 3 1 1 2
Due date (in days) 12 10 16 2 1 3



This is a very interesting exercise. I suspect this is where those horrible Gantt charts come in. It may be easiest to calculate it visually. Here's my calculation (sorry for the horrible syntax but that's all that ProZ.com's forum software can handle):

Code:
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #
# # # # # # # 1 1 1 1 1 # # # #
# # # 2 2 2 2 # # # # # # # # #
# # # # # # # # # # # # # 3 3 3
# 4 # # # # # # # # # # # # # #
5 # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #
# 6 6 # # # # # # # # # # # # #



So the order is either 5, 4, 6, 2, 1, 3 or 5, 6, 4, 2, 1, 3. The agency can use one translator for all jobs, except that jobs 4 and 6 will require at least two translators. But I'm no PM and I'm sure I've forgotten something somewhere. For example, I assumed that zero time goes by between receiving the file from the translator and handing it over to the client, and I assumed that the client's deadline is "end of day", not "start of day".

Can you explain your calculations, Loek?




[Edited at 2008-08-16 10:19]


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:01
English to Dutch
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Excel and PHP Aug 16, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:
Can you explain your calculations, Loek?


As you get rewarded for finishing as many jobs as possible, and not the actual quantity translated, I decided it would be best to start with the smallest jobs and deliver those on time. Once the first "fines" started coming in, I juggled the remaining jobs trying to deliver each one as close to the due date as possible.

With 6 jobs it's still possible to think this way. Once you get more, a more mathematical approach is needed. In real-life, I'd probably have developed some PHP software with a recursive function that could automate this job for me.

Basically you need to try all combinations and use the one that yields the best result (in this case the lowest fine). That's 6! combinations (6x5x4x3x2x1=720).

My current fine is 10 USD. I don't think you can get it to 0.

P.S. This is all assuming that we only have 1 translator to work with.

[Edited at 2008-08-16 10:41]


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:01
Member (2006)
French to English
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Phew !! Aug 16, 2008

Why do I feel a sudden and unaccustomed wave of sympathy for PMs? Quel cauchemar!
You're all much cleverer than me, I admit it.
Jenny.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:01
Flemish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Translation business : not only about words Aug 16, 2008

Just to show that the translation business is not only about translating (into one's native language only) as some might think, but has a lot to do with figures (accounting, ops management techniques, interest calculation for late payments,...) and rules and regulations
The basis was 1 translator doing the tasks and no time zones.
Loek is close, Samuel is closest....
I'll post a possible answer later. Perhaps other people might give it a try....



[Edited at 2008-08-16 13:26]


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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:01
English to French
+ ...
546213 for a $20 penalty... Aug 16, 2008

This is why I hate translation PMs. Most of them will look for several translators, splitting the files in an irrational way, or imposing an irrational order like this one... while the only reasonable thing to do is to negociate realistic deadlines first.
Moreover, sending back related files to customer in successive batches is a source of terminology and coherency problems...


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:01
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
If only one translator... Aug 16, 2008

Williamson wrote:
The basis was 1 translator doing the tasks and no time zones. Loek is close, Samuel is closest...


Closest is not good enough. I think I made a mistake in my first calculations (at least, if you have only one translator). It should really be:

Code:
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #
# # # # # # # # 1 1 1 1 1 # # #
# # # # 2 2 2 2 # # # # # # # #
# # # # # # # # # # # # # 3 3 3
# 4 # # # # # # # # # # # # # #
5 # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #
# # 6 6 # # # # # # # # # # # #



...in other words, 5 (on time), 4 (on time), 6 (fine), 2 (fine), 1 (on time), 3 (on time), resulting in a $20 fine. I see this results in the same as bohy's calculation.


[Edited at 2008-08-16 18:04]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:01
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
$130 fine Aug 16, 2008

Loek van Kooten wrote:
My current fine is 10 USD. I don't think you can get it to 0.


By my calculation, your job #6 will be 13 days late, resulting in a $130 fine. What am I missing?


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:01
English to Dutch
+ ...
Misread Aug 16, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:
By my calculation, your job #6 will be 13 days late, resulting in a $130 fine. What am I missing?


I overlooked the "per day". I read it as 10 USD per late assignment. Back to the drawing table.


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:01
English to Dutch
+ ...
Solution Aug 16, 2008

FINAL CONCLUSION
Smallest fine: 20
Combination: 546213

You can find the entire solution here:
www.loekalization.com/misc/fine.txt
(Written in PHP)

Samuel was first - this software confirms it (it's completely waterproof).

Some other alternatives:
30 USD: 456213
50 USD: 456123
70 USD: 452613
100 USD: 451623
110 USD: 425613

[Edited at 2008-08-16 21:16]


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 21:01
French to English
+ ...
Actually, I was first :) Aug 17, 2008

Take a look at the second post in this thread. I said "due date order" which is the same solution.

I can also prove this is the best possible solution:

Rearrange the jobs in due date order:

Day: 01 02 03 10 12 16
Work due: 01 01 02 04 05 03

Now accumulate the work days:

Day: 01 02 03 10 12 16
Total Work due: 01 02 04 08 13 16

From this you can plainly see that by day 3 you have a total of 4 days work due which has to result in a $10 fine. The same is true at day 12, resulting in a total of $20 in fines. No matter what sequence you do the jobs in, this is the best you can do. The only thing you could possible do is to accept a higher fine at one of the critical days to make the fine lower at the other critical day. But, the only fine higher than $10 is $20 (or more) which is the minimum we already found, so $20 is the lowest possible fine.

T.


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