​Everything you need to know about enterprise translation management systems

Published on 05 May 04:07 by Erik Chan
Tags: translation   localization   management   machine translation   tools  

TranslateFX ​Everything you need to know about enterprise translation management systems

What is a translation management system (TMS)

A translation management system (TMS) is an important piece of software to improve the efficiency of translation teams and their workflow. Translation management systems often exist on their own but are sometimes a component to larger systems such as content management systems (CMS) and document management systems (DMS) -the two latter help teams improve workflow of all types of content or documents within a team or organization and are not only focused on translation management.

Translation management systems primarily help teams reduce the need to do repetitive tasks via automating process or document hand-off. This includes process driven workflows such as assignment of documents for review, translation, editing, sign off, publishing and such. The most important job of translation management systems is to help translation teams improve consistency and efficiency. To give you an analogy, translation management systems are like factory design tools to help implement and ensure the factory line is going to run according to how the factory line (or process) is designed.

What are the main features? How does it work?

The main features of translation management systems typically include tools for:

1) translation, editing, review

and 2) content/document management.

It is typical for TMS to have other primary features specific to the team, industry, or use case. These are usually integrations into systems such as e-commerce platforms, API-driven content translation, publishing platforms, etc. Since improving efficiency is one of the key factors, it is typical to find translation management systems that are heavily customized.

Translation, editing, review tools

Translation, editing, and review tools are usually word processor-like software. The most typical mode for this is a computer assisted translation (CAT) tool making it easier for a translator to add and review the translation. These CAT tools typically break documents into sentences or 'segments' to make it easier for a translator to focus on smaller pieces of text at a time. Other typical functionality include features to manage a translation glossary or use uploaded translation memory to speed up the translation. The topic of translation glossary and memory is a topic requiring a lengthy explanation which I will discuss in more detail in a separate post.

One newer and significant addition to translation tools are machine translation engines. Machine translation also improves the speed at which translation can be performed by providing a 60-90% accurate machine translated reference for the translator to start on. The speed increase provided by a quality AI machine translation software makes the translation task easier and at the same time emphasizes the important of humans to perform post-machine translation editing.

Content / Document management tools

Content & document management tools are more straightforward. They are tools to ensure the content or document at hand is better managed and administrated. This ranges from ensuring document security, assignment, version control, notifications, review, editing, upload/download, and many others. From the perspective of translation management, these tools are mostly workflow related. Sometimes this could be as simple as having software to management translating a piece of text into 25 other languages as such job will require multiple translators with fluency in a variety of languages.

Another example, equity research divisions in banks all utilize a specific workflow before a research report is published. This will usually begin with a research analyst drafting a report, then sending it to the team manager for review (or send back for revisioning), before having a translator translate the report, and lastly a compliance officer to review (or send back for revisioning) and approve the piece before customer-facing bankers obtain and send the reports to their clients. This process can get difficult to manage when multiple reports are required to be published each day. Document management tools help make the handoff between the different people involved in the creation of the research reports much smoother, consistent, secure, and accountable.

Why do companies employ translation management systems

Efficiency. Usually to increase employee productivity but also at times to reduce labor costs. The benefits of such systems can easily be the difference between business profitability and none. There is a reason why all major automobile companies now use an assembly line. Assembly lines are more capable of producing large quantities of cars with fewer errors more quickly and translation management systems do the same by allowing translation teams to produce (but with less overhead and team size requirements.)

When does a company employ translation management systems

While there is no correct answer to this question, I would argue any business with a consistent number of documents to be translated (e.g you already hire one or more in-house translators) should use a translation management system. It will speed up the process of translation, incorporate fewer human mistakes, start accumulating a knowledge base through translation memory, and provide the ability for your translation department to scale more easily.

Alternatively, I don't believe a company is ready to employ a translation management system if business is uncertain and the need for translation is fickle or inconsistent. Companies who tend to outsource the majority of their translation needs may not also need a translation management system either, rather they should expect their translation service provider to have one they can use instead. If that is not the case, your translation service provider is probably not particularly efficient and you should speak to other vendors.

How much does the translation management system cost

Translation management systems range from free to six figures depending on the amount of customization a company requires to make it effective for their organization. Off-the-shelf translation management systems definitely cost much less but I want to remind you the goal is to benefit from improving company efficiency, NOT to save costs purchasing a cheaper system that ends up barely improving anything. Translation management systems tend to get more expensive when they are custom developed or integrated into proprietary workflow/management systems. Other factors that influence price include number of users, particular/complicated workflows, security, AI machine translation engines, and on-premise solutions. The more complicated your company workflow or the larger volumes of texts to be translated will result in much larger benefits with customized software.

How long does it take to get a translation management system up and running?

Price is a good indicator for how long it takes to implement a TMS. As mentioned above, the price of the system tends to go higher with more customized development or integration. For existing off-the-shelf solutions, I imagine a system can get up and running smoothly as quickly as 2-4 weeks. For. more involved systems, it will take 2-4 quarters for design, development, implementation and also to obtain company sign-off processes.

How to decide which translation management system is right for you?

Since translation management systems come in different shapes and sizes according to the company's needs the best way is to determine the requirements with the team who will be using with the system first. Often times, this may be specific person in the organization who will be in charge of collecting and understanding the company's requirements and speaking to vendors about their needs and possibilities.

Most vendors will tell you they can do anything you ask for. The key is to ask them for example customers they have provided solutions for in the past. You want to check they have experience developing translation systems for similar size clients or for those in your industry. Another important decision factor I've come to find of significance is how forward looking (technologically advanced) is your vendor. We are at a juncture where AI is playing a larger role in translation management systems, and some older vendors are stuck with legacy products and do not have those newer AI capabilities and know-how (despite their claims).

What is the future of translation management systems?

If you have not heard of the phrase "software is eating the world", it surely is eating the translation industry. At TranslateFX, we believe human translators will continue to play an important role in translation but software will become smarter and better to complement humans to minimize repetitive and labor intensive tasks and allow them to focus on things that matter. Translation management systems today primarily automate straightforward processes, in the future it will automate those that are more complicated. The existing AI tools machine translation and translation memory will inevitably continue to improve and become more context specific. Other improvements will include recommendations such as which documents to prioritize, plugins to offload workloads to pools of freelancers, multi-user real-time collaboration tools and many others.

Have other questions about translation management systems? Email us at support[at]translatefx.com and we would be happy to share our insights.

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