What To Look For In A Translation Management System

This article was originally posted on the Wordbee blog. Wordbee are the makers of the translation management system and CAT tool for translators.

The translation technology market provides numerous translation management systems (TMS), all offering a variety of functionalities, options, integrations and subscription plans. When selecting a technology, the three main pillars of the decision process are: processes, data and flexibility.

What is a TMS? And why do I need one for my translation projects?

A translation management system (TMS) is a software platform for automating as many repetitive and non-essential tasks as possible within a translation and localization process. With a TMS an organization can centralize, control and automate  the translation and localization workflow and enable simultaneous work.

Whether your organization needs a TMS depends very much on the volume of translation requests and the number of translation vendors your company has to manage.

In general, implementing a TMS can help you to vet and manage your vendors and translation workflow; maintain and leverage your data; monitor and improve your processes. The end goal is to maximize resources, increase efficiency and reduce time-to-market.

More specifically, when dealing with continuous delivery and/or high translation volumes and multiple vendors (internal and external, and maybe located in various parts of the world under different time zones), centralization of all the translation-related tasks can result in process standardization, lower risks, a higher cost/benefit ratio and better performance.

How can a TMS help me manage my translation vendors?

An updated vendor database is a crucial part of any TMS. As vendors accept and complete work, you want to collect vendor information such as language combinations, specializations, fees, their portfolio, etc. to match them with specific translation projects.

With business analytics and KPI functionalities you can measure each vendor’s performance: determine the volume your vendors are turning out per day/week/month, monitor their response times to translation requests, estimate scheduling or delivery times, the ratings provided from your (project/localization) managers, etc.

You can also implement a data-driven approach to vendor management, which is very useful when vetting and selecting new vendors and expanding your human resources database.

Communication is key in everything, but especially in translation projects. E-mails to your vendors should be automated in order to increase efficiency but without losing the personal touch, which can be achieved, for example, with the help of easy-to-customize templates within your TMS.

How flexible should a TMS be?

Each organization requires unique solutions to solve specific problems. A highly flexible platform will allow you to integrate different technologies and customize features, all meant to create a tailor-made solution for the needs of your organization. 

You could, for example, customize the look and feel of the TMS user interface by adding your company logo and colors, or create customized comprehensive reports (containing, for example, financial data on suppliers, on projects, orders, and jobs), to enhance your branding. 

Customization of workflow is essential, especially when dealing with different content streams. You should be able to customize and automate various workflows, starting with a conventional TEP (translation-editing-proofreading) workflow or a quick machine translation and post-editing stream (with or without quality assurance steps) or, even, a complex flow for sensitive content that includes back translation, reconciliation and cognitive evaluation.

When selecting a TMS, keep in mind that integration with the most used enterprise applications for content management systems (CMSs), marketing automation, cloud storage like Dropbox or Drive, etc., can take your translation management system from a helpful tool to a veritable powerhouse. 

What can I expect from a TMS in terms of language data and file formats?

Language data, i.e. translation memories (TM)  and terminology databases, are valuable corporate assets. Being able to maintain and leverage TMs gives your organization more flexibility to respond to market demands. When external vendors are being used on a translation project, TMs and termbases make the learning curve less steep for them, especially when dealing with highly technical and complex products.

Furthermore, translation memories can be stored in your centralized TMS, assigned to the various vendors according to the jobs in progress and maintained on the fly both by your vendors and by your localization managers, even when a new version of the same document is introduced in the workflow.

Different content streams might also request different file formats. Make sure the TMS platform supports all major file types for software, documents, games, video, e-commerce, web content, and more.

Flexibility, in this respect, goes hand in hand with integration. A flexible TMS should allow your organization to scale functions and formats up and down simply by adding or removing a plugin; this is more easily done in a SaaS environment when it’s the provider who takes care of any updates and deploys them seamlessly. Also, a flexible provider is willing to meet a customer’s requirement for new implementations, especially when various customers can take advantage of them.

How do I know if I am making the right investment?

Start by calculating the total cost of ownership (TCO), which amounts to the total of all lifecycle costs of IT equipment, from purchase to installation, from training to management, from maintenance to disposal.

Keep in mind: for SaaS solutions like Wordbee, there is no purchase price but a periodic fee or subscription, and the cost in question will be absorbed into the TCO for the expected duration of lease.

To guide your decision making process, I’ve put together a list of items to consider when calculating the return on investment of a TMS in this article.


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