Top 5 TMS Essentials for the 2020s
How a Translation Management System can help you speak to the world
As digital transformation enters the post-digital era, enterprises are facing new challenges. Global content needs to be delivered quickly and accurately to a growing and varied worldwide audience with very little lag time. If we don’t communicate with our customers quickly, clearly and persuasively, we lose them. And we deserve to. Global enterprises need more than just translation to reach their target audience. Achieving this needs robust and connected technology which evolves in harmony with other content systems.
Next generation global content management platforms, also known as a translation management system (TMS), enables enterprises to meet their post-digital goals by creating accurate global content at scale and fulfilling growth ambitions. This is a now must-have technology for enterprises in the 2020’s, however what are the essentials of an effective translation management system? In this whitepaper we look at five of these and provide a self-assessment for readers to understand how they stack up.
How can I sum up the difference a TMS has made? Imagine that you have somewhere you really want to go, you’re on the right road but your car is stuck in first gear. You get used to moving slowly and uncomfortably, you get used to being overtaken. Now imagine being given the freedom to move through the gears, drive the car the way you want to drive it and get where you’re going quickly, safely and comfortably. That’s the difference.
A translation management system is a centralized platform designed to simplify the management and automation of translation and localization. We spoke with users of this technology across a range of industries to gain an understanding of the needs they believe these systems must address. The consensus was that a translation management system is now a must-have as enterprises aspire to control their language assets and build effective global content which powers their digital transformation goals.
- What problems should a translation management system be solving and what goals can it help us achieve in the 2020s and beyond?
- What are the essentials of a next generation translation management system?
This paper will aim to answer these questions and share the five TMS essentials. Whether you are a current TMS user or a future user, knowing the translation management system essentials will enable you to self assess your current situation and identify where best you can focus your efforts.
We must deliver a positive customer experience, particularly in new target markets. Yes, it’s a more digitized world than ever before, but people still want to feel as if they are truly being spoken to.
One of the constant realities of the post-digital era is that change is a constant. Systems need to work together and give users the flexibility to map to their organizations work processes now and as they change. When you talk about translation and localization management, high levels of system flexibility are key to being able to deal with the fact that content continually changes.
TMS Essential #1: Flexibility
Each organization and each globalization program is unique, with its own specific needs. A TMS should offer a range of features and configuration options to add value to any program. It should offer agile deployment options and the ability to self-serve, enabling customers to adapt the TMS themselves by changing settings in the UI and the administrative back-end. This means companies can reduce the requirement to pay for, in many cases, expensive customizations and professional services.
With business leaders embracing technology disruption, being fast on our feet is seen as an essential component in the leadership toolkit. If that same agility is absent in the organization’s language technology, then that technology can quickly become unfit for purpose. A translation management system should offer a multitude of configuration options and flexible workflows, and it should have the capacity to adjust to a specific program structure. When a client organization comes to a TMS provider with a defined process, the provider’s solution needs to have ways to adapt to it, either by replicating the process in the system or enhancing the process with something new. A best practice we have seen is customers taking a holistic view of previous localization strategies and approaches, and mapping those to state-of-the-art, modern workflow solutions. Moving to a flexible system is an opportunity to level-up.
Organizations in highly regulated industries find this approach particularly valuable. They have a series of clear and defined processes to follow and in some cases overseen by third parties. With potentially dire consequences for non-compliance, and with the organization having no capacity to change these processes, a translation management system must be flexible enough to adapt to them.
Flexibility also means making full use of existing language assets. When a translation memory has been built up over time, and is adding value for a company or a sector, all language assets become a target for extending the power and size of the translation memories. Having the capability for auto-alignment can bring language assets into a usable – and reusable – translation memory. This kind of functionality brings flexibility, which uncovers value in dormant assets which were previously assets in name only.
Organizations, programs and content methods evolve over time. A flexible translation management system adapts with that change, and leads that change through innovation.
TMS Self-assessment: Flexibility
How do you know if a TMS is flexible enough?
- Does it have the deployment options that fit your requirements? (Cloud, private cloud, on-premise, etc.)
- Can you easily access all of your language assets from one place?
- Can you configure very granular access rights for your users within the system?
- Can you edit all workflows before, during and after projects start?
- Could you restart or move the process back a step once a project is running?
- Can you change assigned linguists on the fly?
- Can you access project information on the go (mobile)?
- Can you flexibly manage translation assets on the fly and instantly leverage changes within the cloud working environment?
TMS Essential #2: Scalability
It’s difficult – far more difficult than it should be – to impress upon people just how important it is to localize our message for each territory. As long as people see localization as an issue that only affects the localization department, this will continue to hold us back.
Many sectors and service providers experience seasonal ebb and flow in translation requirements. The macro trend we have seen time and again is that once you connect content repositories to a translation management system, then the increased requirement for scale can be in the 20-50% growth profile per year. Without that level of volume scale ability, macro and micro (seasonal upticks) are not manageable and put stress on global content teams leading to slower publication times.
When we turn our attention to organizations mapping out future growth, the need is even clearer. Prospective investors will scrutinize scalability closely when they assess growth potential.
A next-generation, scalable translation management system should be designed to manage a high volume of large projects with many files simultaneously translated into multiple languages. It should also be designed to deliver that scalability without sending the client’s incremental costs spiraling upwards. As volumes are up-scaled, the TMS should be able to run at the same speed and efficiency. A translation management system that, for example, enables multiple users to work in a simultaneous editing mode without any overlap or confusion between them will enable significantly higher output.
A holistic approach to systems architecture – planning and building for more than just one purpose and examining the customer experience and potential customer needs from all angles – will deliver a TMS equipped to fuel business growth. If, on the other hand, an organization finds costs spiraling, limiting its capacity to onboard sufficient content, vendors or users, due to inflexible, unscalable language technology, then it’s time for a rethink.
Even for the business owner with their eyes firmly fixed on the here and now, there are good reasons to pay attention to scalability. Scalability is often seen as a problem for tomorrow. But if we’re not planning for tomorrow, next week, and next year, are we doing our job today? Organizations with a vision for growth need to have an equally clear picture of how scalable their business is, and what factors are potentially either holding them back or setting them free.
TMS Self-assessment: Scalability
- When you are scaling your global reach, do you have a way (system) to keep adding languages, file types, rates structures as you need them? Is there any additional cost attached to this?
- Are there user limitations, language limitations, volume limitations or additional costs to factor in?
- Can the cloud backend scale as you need it? For example, if you move from translating 4 million words to 120 million words in one year, does the technology still work?
TMS Essential #3: Cost-effectiveness
I think I’m the best judge of who I want to manage my translation projects, and to have that ownership firmly in my hands, enabling me to choose specialists and control costs as demand for our service increases.
Being able to manage costs at all levels of a localization program is an essential part of a TMS. If you have five business units with 50 projects on the go, you need to be able to see total program costs as well as the cost of one task to one translator. Switching from big picture costs to a granular costs view is now an essential tool for cost management.
A good translation management system needs to give you the opportunity to record rates for any workflow step (manual/offline, on-line, time-based, metrics-based, based on pages/files/languages, management costs, fix prices, etc.). It needs to give you the reporting capabilities to track and compare translation costs and analyze trends over time.
A typical scenario for global enterprises nowadays posits a disparate organization with a wide scattering of teams and assets. Being able to use these assets is essential for overall localization program cost effectiveness. Translation management systems need to allow the flexibility to use all translation assets available in appropriate ways. This means applying trust criteria relevant to each asset. For example, a project manager may have previous translations for a product which have been fully reviewed and stored as translation memories; these are trusted assets. They may also have access to previous translations from another product which is related to their product. In this case there is no translation memory available, however the source and translated files are available. These assets have a lower trust rating, and modern translation management systems will enable them to be used with an appropriate confidence rating applied. This means all translation assets can be fully utilized, generating significant cost savings on the project from assets previously deemed unusable.
For many users, the issue of cost-effectiveness is intertwined with that of scalability (previous section), and they see a pricing model that enables scalability as a key component of the modern translation management system.
Advances in NLP/AI are eliciting marginal gains that add up to significant economies. What might come next? Functionality such as sub-segment and phrase lookup enables the translation management system to suggest a match for part of a language segment even when there is no remotely similar match for the segment as a whole. Predictive typing in the target language is becoming a reality, and having the right language technology provider can increase cost-effectiveness.
The organization that invests in a translation management system brings its assets within comfortable reach; no longer scattered and of questionable value, but clear and easily accessible low hanging fruit.
Company-managed translation management systems are now seen as the objective source of truth for managing that company’s localization program costs.
The right translation management system offers the user clarity and objectivity, enabling immediate calculation of an accurate word count. The system saves project set-up time and removes the complication of having different methods of calculating costs and delivery timescales. This, we believe, is the essence of cost-effectiveness in translation management. It’s also a driver of speed, quality and ownership.
Automatic calculation of costs enables more efficient and better informed user management of project cost and quality. Central file storage makes it straightforward to create an audit trail and a reporting function. When users can monitor volumes, costs and dates of work, and hold each contributor accountable for what they do, a translation management system doesn’t just drive efficiency, it fuels a culture of individual responsibility.
We’ve all heard the statement “Fast, cheap, good. Pick two.” Can a next-generation translation management system deliver a measure of all three? This is, of course, a basic supply and demand question and the right TMS will turbo-boost an organization’s capacity to supply. It will boost productivity through automation, leveraging of language assets and maximizing the time and talent of linguists and project managers.
Language technology leaders tend not to describe their products as “cheap”. They do tend to believe passionately in value and cost-effectiveness, though, so let’s amend the famous quote accordingly. Fast, cost-effective, good. Why not choose all three?
A well performing TMS should give you visible ROI within one to three years after purchase, and even faster when starting from a greenfield position.
TMS Self-assessment: Cost-effectiveness
- Can you see all levels of costs within the system?
- Is the system enabled for newer cost units; Machine translation, edit distance discounts, etc.?
- Are you sure you are getting the value from machine translation and other assets (full translation memory leveragability)? Are you getting access to new machine translation engines as they come to market?
- Can you quantify the cost savings you are achieving and serve that as input to ROI case development?
- Does your TMS offer flexible pricing plans which meet your unique requirements?
- How much peace of mind do you have about not having unexpected and hidden costs for the TMS?
TMS Essential #4: Reliability
I’m not interested in a localization output where excellence is delivered on one project and mediocrity on the next. We need a way to prescribe and track consistent quality, and if we don’t achieve it our customers will spend their money with a company that does.
A stable, reliable platform is a priority for any localization program, particularly at the enterprise level. An enterprise translation management system with full redundancy and a clear downtime service level agreement sounds like an obvious must have. Is there anything more frustrating than cutting-edge technology that’s unavailable when you need it most?
The translation management system provider should also make suitably skilled and user-focused support professionals available to deliver constant, timely support. This requires specialist teams, including support, analysts, and solutions teams for on-boarding.
Every TMS houses translation memories slightly differently, as they have bespoke algorithms for maximizing re-use of already translated material. The expertise within the company managing those assets will make all the difference to their effective use.
Having specialist teams focus on connectors and migrations, for example, gives a TMS provider niche expertise that will add far greater value than a generalist approach. Specialism is enabling better performance which underpins overall consistency and reliability. We see this in other sectors, such as high performance sport teams, where golf putting coaches are now deriguour, and can help a golfer sink that six-footer to win the tournament. By focusing deeply on a particular skill, the overall performance is enhanced.
The right translation management system enables tracking of a linguist’s performance over a period of time, assessing their accuracy and speed of work. This allows a project manager to choose them or pass to another resource based on key performance indicators. A TMS should capture translation memory updates, ideally in real time, so the moment a project stakeholder makes a change to the translation memory, it’s documented, with a record of who carried out the work and the date and time when it was done. A system built around user priorities will store updates in a way that makes each linguist accountable and makes their good work reusable.
Supporting the latest data security protocols is a key factor in user confidence. As well as expressing concern over the way data is transferred between content management systems (CMS), organizations like to know they can easily manage and safeguard their own intellectual property.
Transfer of sensitive data via emailed Excel spreadsheets does nothing to put my mind at rest, and neither does the fact that linguists I’ve never met or vetted have access to content that I don’t have.
A secure translation management system will guarantee full protection for user data. Discerning system providers use the latest secure protocols, ensuring confidential data is securely encoded during the translation process.
Offering each user unique login credentials guarantees that only that individual user or their nominated proxy has access to their data, and the further failsafe of tying an individual user to a PC can limit TMS access to an authorized machine. You’re entitled to security and peace of mind. Insist on it.
Language technology pioneers will strive to meet every reliability standard a user sets for them, and also keep innovating to ensure they clear the hurdles yet to come. Innovation should be integral to performance improvement and to reliability. Reliability does not mean standing still, and a next-generation translation management system provider will serve user interest by reliably moving forward.
TMS Self-assessment: Reliability
- Do you have access to the right support and onboarding teams when you need them? Are you working with the experts?
- Does the TMS you use have enhanced tracking for all tasks?
- Does your TMS meet your data security requirements now? And in 2 years time?
- Does your TMS enable the user profiles you need to manage data security per user, team, or business unit?
- How much innovation is going on with your TMS? Will it be reliable in 2, 3, 5 years time?
TMS Essential #5: Automation/Connectivity
Translation management systems have evolved from providing a common platform for managing language assets and running and managing translation projects, to platforms that help automate task execution and enable direct connectivity with content repositories. This is a stand out must-have for all TMS systems; they help users to get content from one system, into the translation process, and back into the system in the most seamless way possible. Once a next-generation TMS has been deployed in a company, it can be easy to forget the manual effort and resource cost that it has removed. An example legacy process could include: Exporting files from a content system, sending them for translation by email, dealing with queries by email, receiving files, then re-importing these back to the content system. A recently deployed TMS can remove 50-80% of these costs.
After that, connectivity to content creation and content management systems brings additional gains. Within the same software ecosystem, a next-generation TMS can swiftly automate the processes that move a user’s marketing localization project forward, while connected marketing automation software can laser in on the buying preferences of that user’s target clients. A connected intelligence network can offer customer engagement that is personalized and measurable, and enable localized communication with those customers to ensure the message resonates in any language.
Client deadlines are challenging enough already without us incurring delays on project starts that can throw our delivery timescales up in the air. We don’t want to wait for a manual sign-off on box-ticking that could surely be done automatically.
Workflow flexibility, automated resource assignments and streamlined project creation are essential enablers of automation, both as standalone features and in conjunction with connectors. More recently, AI features that aid and automate decision making have become important contributors to TMS automation.
Translation management automation enables elimination of time-consuming manual tasks, and compatibility of file structures and formats across systems in multiple languages. It gives content creators and publishers the power to control translation requests and deployment of resources to localization processes. It gives people the time and freedom to do the things that only people can do, and makes the marriage between artificial intelligence and human ingenuity a happy and productive one.
TMS Self-assessment: Automation/Connectivity
- Does the TMS provide measurable improvements in efficiency compared to your previous system, technology or processes?
- Do you know how many manual steps you require to export a piece of content out of your CMS or repository, translate it and import it back? Do you know how much of an internal cost this represents for you?
- How many content management systems or repositories is your content stream coming from? How often did you need to adapt to cope with each system’s needs?
Bonus TMS Essential: Vendor inclusivity
Having a system which any service company can use directly is critical. To be inclusive, a translation management system must have vendor neutrality so that any supplier can use the environment. A vendor-neutral translation management system that’s technology focused, with no language service element, can deliver the technology platform users need and enable those users to choose the service partner they want for any given task. Vendor neutrality opens the door to innovation, choice and ownership.
Earlier in this whitepaper we referred to the benefits of working with niche providers. A localization project dealing with a particular sector in a particular territory would, logically, benefit from the involvement of a language service provider with expertise in that sector and that territory. A vendor-inclusive approach that captures the optimal resource for each project by enabling any vendor to seamlessly plug into the platform, offers the greatest opportunity for success.
Licensing should be connected between end clients and service providers; they need to be able to easily connect with each other’s instances of the TMS environment. This means adding new suppliers should be an easy and secure task.
Translation management systems have historically been built on top of a translation editing environment. This computer assisted translation (CAT) tool is where translators can translate, review and edit text. All translation management systems need to have inbuilt CAT functionality and the ability for translators to export and work in other translation environments while ensuring full interoperability.
TMS Self-assessment: Vendor inclusivity
- How much is your current system allowing you to own when it comes to collaborating with your vendors?
- Is your system tied to a specific service provider or does it enable you to add unlimited suppliers?
- Are there additional costs attached to adding new suppliers?
- Is the multi-vendor functionality secure, compliant and functional?
- Does the licensing model work well for multi-vendor situations?
In the past, companies regularly localizing into six languages or less and translating fewer than 25,000 words per month were generally comfortable having no translation management system in place. In the past five years, this has shifted as companies are tapping new content types as ways for them to sell, support and grow their target global markets.
Translation management systems are a must have for companies targeting international growth. The essentials for a TMS will continue to evolve and we expect to update this article as that happens.
Currently, the translation management system essentials are:
- Flexibility – Can the system fully adapt as your requirements change?
- Scalability – Can you increase your volume 20-fold and have the same performance?
- Cost-effectiveness – Can I create ROI for the system and for my product localization efforts?
- Reliability – Can I depend on the system now and in 5 years?
- Automation/Connectivity – Does the automation give me tangible and continued KPI benefits?
- Vendor inclusivity – Can I use this system with any supplier?
The word translation derives from Latin and means “to carry something across.” The way we carry messages across oceans and borders and between languages is constantly evolving, and the technology we develop to help us in this task is constantly evolving too. We’re excited about what comes next, and we’ll keep you updated. Watch this space.
At XTM International, we’re proud to be pioneers in advancing the technology that organizations need to speak to the world. XTM Cloud, our enterprise translation management system, is trusted by hundreds of global organizations and currently holds a 4.8 rating on G2.
Although a lot of TMS systems on the market today purport to be “enterprise,” very few cover the real needs of enterprise customers who are dealing with multiple in-house submitters, each with different requirements and a wide array of demands. XTM is a system that aids centralized, in-house localization teams within an enterprise to do the heavy lifting required when repeated requests are coming from a myriad of internal customers – each with differing objectives, file formats, processing requirements, stakeholder review processes, etc.
We’re confident that the TMS essentials outlined in this whitepaper can be found in XTM Cloud. Ready to see for yourself? Request your personalized demo of XTM Cloud today.