XTM Xplains

How customizable is a translation management system to my needs?
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Aleix Gwilliam
AuthorAleix Gwilliam
Reading time 2 minutes

Imagine this scenario: a medical-device company has marketing material that requires human translation, review, and sign-off from an in-country reviewer. They also have instructions for use which need to go through five different stages of review and SME sign-off, as well as legal compliance checks. These two use cases within the same company are very different and require different workflows and probably different language assets and guidelines, yet both are managed with a TMS. Most modern Translation Management Systems (TMS) have levels of customizability that aim to cater to the specific needs and requirements of different organizations. While the extent of customization can vary among TMS providers, there are several aspects where customization is generally needed:


Workflow customization in localization is adapting the number and sequence of tasks or processes to align with a project’s specific requirements or preferences. Workflows can be customized and adjusted to accommodate a specific project’s needs. Internal reviews, integration with external systems, and adherence to industry standards are just some of the specific requirements any given project can have. When deploying a TMS for the first time, it’s good practice to explain all your needs to your provider, as some of this customization will need to be carried out by them. Workflows in a TMS can be customized to match your organization’s unique processes, which help you define the necessary steps, tasks, and approval stages for the localization lifecycle. For instance, a simple document translation project may only require a straightforward workflow with steps like translation, review, and post-editing.

On the other hand, a complex multimedia localization project may involve additional steps such as script adaptation, voice-over recording, video editing, design review, and legal compliance, therefore requiring a more extensive workflow. TMSs will also usually allow workflows to be customized once the project has started, in the event that workflow steps need to be added or removed due to ongoing circumstances. These can be to implement additional rounds of reviews after new edits have been made, or to remove any non-essential steps at the project manager’s discretion if the project suddenly requires a much faster completion time than initially expected.

User roles and permissions

Having customizable user roles and permissions gives end clients and vendors full control over access levels and the ability to grant precise privileges to users based on their responsibilities and specific requirements. By allocating permissions that are adequate to each role, users can avoid unnecessary distractions or having to navigate through information that is not relevant to their task. For example, project managers can have full access to project creation, client communication, and resource management, while translators and reviewers may have limited access to specific translation tasks. On the other hand, end-client users such as localization managers can limit access to information they do not wish to share, such as project costs and performance data, to the users they choose. 

Users can also be given temporary permissions which can later be altered once the task has been completed, such as translators who are performing one-off review tasks. Having that flexibility of being able to customize user roles (such as translator, reviewer, project manager, etc.) and their permissions based on your evolving needs is a key feature in efficient project management.

Information fields

Depending on your setup and priorities, you may want to have certain information fields more visible than others in a TMS. In a customizable TMS, organizations can create new data fields or modify existing ones to cater to their specific information requirements.  From a project-management perspective, project ID, project status, task progress bar, and submission date should always be visible; whereas if you are looking at it as a localization manager, you may want to have more overall-level fields in view, such as total number of projects, total word count, tasks per language, etc.


TMS systems often offer integration capabilities with other software applications, translation-technology tools, or machine translation engines. By being able to choose which integration and machine-translation engine they wish to deploy, users can work with tools they are familiar with, making the process more efficient, as opposed to having to learn a new tool. The more integration capabilities across different points (content platforms, translation resources, reporting tools, etc.) that a TMS has, the more you can customize its use for different projects or evolving needs. 

For instance, if your Fintech company wants to localize its marketing campaign, you’ll need to integrate the TMS with a content management system (CMS), a machine translation engine, and project-management tools. However, if you want to implement this new marketing campaign into the app, you’ll also need your TMS to integrate design tools like Figma that help see the user flow and how that marketing campaign looks on mobile devices. Having that ability to integrate with a wide range of software platforms, as opposed to a limited type or number, gives organizations more flexibility in their localization processes.

Branding and User Interface (UI)

TMS platforms often provide the option to customize the user interface, enabling organizations to comply with their branding guidelines. This includes incorporating company logos, personalizing color schemes, and adapting the layout to mirror the organization’s visual identity with UI components, such as fonts, menus, navigation bars, and sidebars, to match the organization’s design patterns. 

A customized UI with the organization’s branding is important because it helps users be more efficient, especially just after deployment, thanks to their familiarity with the tool’s appearance and usability. The advantages of customized branding also go beyond usability, such as it portrays a more professional image if you have vendors using the tool. They will associate the TMS with your organization and perceive it as an integral part of your services.

Reports and analytics

A TMS can provide a wide range of metrics related to all localization activity, from costs (per word, per language, per vendor), to time (average project completion time, words translated per day per vendor), to performance (quality assurance checks, translation quality ratings). All of this data can be used to make data-driven decisions that improve a localization program’s efficiency and quality, such as to determine which vendors are performing better than others if you need to make decisions based on cost-efficiency or to determine the cost of each language you are localizing into to understand how profitable a particular market is. So if you’re a Localization Manager and the Localization Director wants to know which vendor is the best performer, you can provide an answer backed with data directly from the TMS, such as cost-per-word, average turnaround time, and level of translation quality.


A TMS has many ways in which it can be customized, and it’s important to understand which customization options are available and a higher priority for your organization’s needs. If privacy is a priority for you, you’ll need a TMS with highly customizable roles and permissions; if you are a data-driven company, you’ll need your TMS to be able to provide comprehensive data reports that can be as granular as you need. Each TMS will provide a different level of customization, so make sure it’s aligned with your priorities before deployment.

Expert tip

John Weisgerber
John Weisgerber

A TMS with a high level of customization across its features and UI can make a real difference in a program’s level of efficiency, as it’s a great contributor to streamlining the end-to-end localization process. The more you can customize a TMS, the more efficient your program will be. When choosing your TMS, make sure it has a high degree of customization as it will undoubtedly pay off in the long run. We have seen many examples of a company deploying localization tools and outgrowing them within a year. Your needs will also most likely evolve and change with time, so having a TMS that you know can adjust to any growth on the fly is what will allow your localization program to stay agile, flexible, efficient, and effectively support your evolving translation requirements.”

John Weisgerber

Xpert at XTM International

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