How Translation Management Systems support global companies

In any international Marketing context, translation of content is required. Contents can be anything from product texts, packshots, ads, websites, software & software documentation, legal documents and more. The actual translation is usually outsourced to professional translation services (agencies or freelancers).

Translation Management Systems (TMS) don’t handle the actual translation, but they integrate, support and even automate the whole process and administrative tasks behind it. 

This is especially useful when the volume and frequency of translations is high. Copying and pasting 1.500 product texts to a Word Docs or Excel sheet just to email them to your various translators? Not efficient.

Workflow Management & Quality control

Translation Management Systems manage the workflow between the client and the various translation providers. They support the following key steps: Monitoring/scheduling content for translation, creating a translation brief, assigning it to a translator, providing the content (ideally with relevant context), tracking the progress and handling the approval and quality management.
An important thing to note here is that is does not have to provide the translation (although some systems offer this). Different partners or services (even machine translation) can be integrated to handle the task. This gives the user the flexibility to choose the most appropriate (or cheapest) solution for the job.

 

How a TMS supports the translation process

In most cases your contents are stored in specific systems, whether it is a simple database or systems to process and manage content and assets. A Content Management System (CMS) and a Product Information Management (PIM) may feed your global and local websites.

Translation Management System
Key features of a Translation Management System

(1) Integration of content repositories & systems & databases

Ideally a TMS allows you to pull and push content from these system. This means you do not have to copy & paste content in order to transfer it to a translator. Also translators don’t need to get access to the many different systems, but only to the TMS.
While many TMS come with build in integrations (already set-up connections to other systems), there is usually the ability to leverage APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to connect the system of your choice.
An extra feature is CHANGE DETECTION, in which the TMS monitors the original content for changes. Translations may then be triggered automatically, following a chain of pre-defined workflow steps, reducing management effort even more. (this automation of process steps is sometimes called LIGHTS-OUT MANAGEMENT)

(2) Vendor, project & business management

On top of managing the translation process, there is an administrative layer of managing your various translation services: From selecting a translator, setting up briefings, keeping track of budget to monitoring SLAs (Service Level Agreements).
(2.1) Some TMS even include TRANSLATION QUALITY ASSESSMENTS or SCORES to allow you to easily compare the performance of your providers.
(2.2) Translations may also require reviews and approvals from different stakeholders, be it the legal or the research & development team. The system allows you to integrate them into the workflow.

(3) CAT (Computer Aided Translation)

The TMS provides the translator with a (web-)interface to make translations. There are several features that support the process and ensure consistent translations of high quality. They provide the user with suggestions and highlight issues as the translation is in progress.

Advanced Translator Editor interface from WPML (https://wpml.org/documentation/translating-your-contents/advanced-translation-editor/)
Advanced Translator Editor interface from WPML (https://wpml.org/documentation/translating-your-contents/advanced-translation-editor

TRANSLATION MEMORY
As large volumes of texts are translated, the TMS records and stores words and phrases in to a translation memory. The system will then suggest translations to the translator working on a text. This is not only a question of saving effort, but it also ensures consistency across all translated texts.

TERMINOLOGY MANAGEMENT
There are many terms and phrases that may not be translated at all or that need to be translated in a re-defined way. The brand name “DOVE” or a marketing claim such as “Just do it” are obvious examples, but this may extend to specific product names or specific legal/technical terms.

IN-CONTEXT EDITING
Some TMS provide the ability to preview the texts within its context, e.g. as a headline on a website. Translations can then be optimized to optimally fit into the layout of the page.

In-Context Editor from PhraseApp (https://phraseapp.com/demo)
In-Context Editor from PhraseApp (https://phraseapp.com/demo)

AUTO QUALITY ASSURANCE
AutoQA runs through translated texts to check for localization or spelling mistakes and more. This will happen on the fly, allowing the translator to make corrections on the go.

(4) Machine Translation (MT)

With advances in Artificial Intelligence, the quality of machine translations is improving year-on-year. Many TMS already allow you to leverage MT services such as DeepL as integrations. Whether they are used to aid (“pre-translate content”) or replace the human translator is consequently a choice of of the client.

Flexibility is critical

Most systems come as Software as a Service, allowing decentralized access by many stakeholders. As no organization is the same, a modern TMS should be able to adapt its workflows and interfaces to the business requirements.

A Marketing Technology to save costs and improve speed and quality of translations

Not to be mistaken for the actual translation service, a Translation Management System can significantly improve global translation processes. It sits on top of your existing systems and databases, integrating all content translation into a single system and allowing you to manage and control and optimize the progress and quality.

The benefits:

  • Reduced administrative effort
  • Automation of routine management tasks
  • More control over project progress, vendor performance and financials
  • Improved consistency in tonality and correct wording across all contents
  • Reduction of errors in translation and more control over quality of output

Selecting a TMS

Here are a few thoughts and considerations to start investigating the various solutions in the market. These should serve as an inspiration and their importance may vary from business to business.

  • Uses Cases & Users – Start by assessing the types and the volume of translations that could benefit. How many users are involved? (Users usually refer to the project managers, who oversee the translation process) Also what partners are involved and what file formats and systems need to be considered for integration.
  • Vendor Dependency – Is the TMS tied to a specific translation service? Or can other partners easily be integrated?
  • Hosting – Does it come as an on-premise installation or as a SaaS, cloud-based solution?
  • Customizing workflows – Can the workflow be modified or extended to fit to internal processes (e.g. for approvals)?
  • Lights-Out Project Management – Does the TMS allow you to set up workflows that run automatically, automating project management tasks?
  • Integrations – What integrations are provided? Do they fit to the current ecosystem (e.g. your CMS)? Also keep in mind future integrations (such as your product database)
  • API – If integrations are missing is there a well-developed, documented API to built further integrations?
  • Machine Learning – Does it integrate Machine Learning Software and, if yes, which?
  • Pricing model – Do you pay by user (mostly project manager overseeing the translation process)? Does “User” include external partners (translators)?
  • Business/Vendor Management – Does the system provide reports based on vendors? Does it report on financials?
  • CAT – What of the above mentioned features are available?
  • Reporting – Is there a reporting? Does the system provide a quality score for translations to help you compare vendors?
  • User Experience – Run a pilot/demo with actual end users (including translators) to investigate whether your they feel comfortable working with that solution in the long run
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