4 key considerations for implementing a translation management system effectively

As your business goes global, your translation needs may grow significantly. The technology you use to manage the translation process will come under the spotlight.

You’ll find that you need to be able to ensure a faster turn-around on translations. You’ll undoubtedly want better consistency, better quality and smarter processes. You’ll need the ability to track and manage information about your clients and vendors, to track feedback, to see projects history and more. If you’re working with multiple vendors, in multiple languages, you may even want a system that lets you keep track of which projects are being handled by which vendor, in which language pairs or by which completion date. You might even need a tool to handle all the budgeting and administration involved in resourcing linguists as well as tracking payments and paperwork.

The good news is there is a way to manage all that. What you need is a good Translation Management System (TMS). But how do you get it working across your business?

Here are 4 things to consider before choosing and implementing a TMS tool. Get them right, and you’ll save yourself time and money, and put your business in a stronger position for growth.

First, get your objectives straight

Do you actually need a TMS tool?

The very first question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to manage your translation and transcreation projects yourself or partner up with a global marketing implementation agency instead. Implementing a TMS tool within your business may not actually be necessary.

It may appear useful at first but ultimately, as your business grows, the volume of content you need to get translated will also become bigger and bigger. So there’s a long-term strategic decision to make. Will your business be best served implementing a tool internally and managing a growing number of translation projects yourself, or would there be more benefit in working with a global implementation agency that will take care of your marketing campaign translation for you.

Be aware that requesting a translation agency to use your specific tool may incur more costs on your side as it may hinder their translation and transcreation process and involve more project management time. Partnering up with an implementation agency that already has tools and solutions in place will allow you to benefit from their custom technology without going through the hassle of implementing a TMS tool within your business. Most translation and localisation agencies already have bespoke technology solutions available. While investigating the different tools available on the market, it’s a good idea to check the costs of some translation and transcreation agencies for the same type of service.

What type of projects will you be managing?

Do you mainly get long copies translated? Are you mostly looking for consistency across your different types of media? The reason to ask yourself these questions is to define whether or not you need a simple TMS for internal tracking only or if you will need to give access to an online CAT tool (Computer Assisted Translation tools) to your translators and in-market reviewers as well.

If consistency and the use of the most up to date terminology across all your collaborators is your main concern, then you need to look into a solution that combines both a TMS and an integrated CAT tool (such as Wordbee, MultiCorpora, WorldServer). You may also choose any regular TMS and decide to link it to a web-based CAT tool via an API – a software-to-software interface, a way to seamlessly integrate the functions of a software into another.

On the other hand, if you are mainly adapting creative work, then an online CAT tool is probably not the solution for you. Check how the tool is able to keep track of projects that you wish to run offline. Will you still be able to brief your linguists through the platform and track their invoices without restricting them to an online editor?

What type of project management do you need?

What exactly would you like to achieve by using the tool?  Each TMS is different so you need to carefully think about the way you want to handle your projects and the level of automation you are aiming for. For example, if you are currently dealing with spread sheets and word documents that are usually subject to subsequent revisions, you may want to look for a tool that you can directly link to your content management system. Think about the project as a whole and how you will be able to handle the different stages of a project (translation, validation etc.)

How will you track your costs?

Ultimately, if you are going to be in charge of the translation projects yourself, you need to ensure the tool is able to provide you with detailed reporting figures. For example, check that the tool can give accurate word count reports per user, per language. Make sure it also has finance tracking capability: you want to know which invoices have been paid, which ones are still due, etc.

What about your future needs?

You have identified your main objectives and you feel confident that a particular TMS will definitely be of help to you and your teams. Now, think about where your company is going. Is this tool future proof?? If your industry going through a lot of changes (for example, from print to digital) then it’s likely that you’ll be working with different file formats in the future. Will the tool be able to adapt?

Think about the bigger picture. What else can the tool bring to the long-term success of your business? If you are going to invest in a tool, you need to make the most of it. Speak to the provider to find out if the tool can provide you with anything else that you may not have thought of yet. For example, the tool may be able to make your payment process more efficient. Maybe the tool can be linked to your current financial system? Ask them if they have any case studies where similar companies have managed to improve their internal and external workflows beyond the translation management stage. See if that would work for you too.

Consider future opportunities and the direction your company is taking. Be sure that the tool that fits your needs today is robust and flexible enough to see you through the next decade.

Involves all parties

Think about how all the different departments will be impacted by the use of a new tool.

If your main purpose for implementing a TMS is to gain time and ensure fast turnaround, make sure this will be the case across all the departments, and with everyone involved in the process – both internally and externally.

If your Project Managers are the first in line to be affected by the change, then other parties will almost certainly be affected too. There are a lot of people to consider.

  • Your teams Will the implementation of a new tool change your current workflow? (e.g. your designers, production teams, finance people).
  • Other countries If you go for an online CAT tool and TMS tool, what are its performances in terms of speed in all the countries that you will be dealing with?
  • Your translators are aware that various tools may sound great from a management point of view but much less from a translator’s point of view. Some automated localisation platforms will claim that they are able to provide translators with “context” during translation. Be careful – this is not always possible on all types of projects so do ask specific questions to the supplier and ask them for a demo on different file formats. Usually, most of the tools available are able to provide you with the same type of preview.

If your CMS is linked to the tool through an API for example, how will you be able to manage a translator’s request? If your new system makes the process too difficult you may be at risk of losing your most trusted suppliers.It’s crucial that your translators are happy with the TMS you choose. Some tools are far better for managers than for translators. The different editor interfaces and features might be great for PMs, but not for the people actually working with the copy. Some will prefer to translate in their own translation environment. Your translators are key to your process. Will they agree to work with this tool?

If your CMS is linked to the tool through an API for example, how will you be able to manage a translator’s request? If your new system makes the process too difficult you may be at risk of losing your most trusted suppliers.

Keeping translators on board

To avoid losing your translators, involve them in the decision making early on in the process. Tell them about the planned change, and ask them for their opinion. Uncover their main concerns so that you can sort them out before choosing the tool. If your main aim is to save time, you need to be certain that the time you gain on one side will not be lost on the translator’s side. Also delve into the detail of the way the tool works to make sure it’s not going to make life hard for them. For example, ask the vendor of the software to show you the segmentation rules they apply. Some platforms apply rather inconvenient segmentation rules that will even isolate full stop in one segment. This may be very unwieldy for your translators and you may not fully benefit from your Translation Memory matches.

Test it with your typesetters and other departments who will be indirectly impacted by the change of tools too.

A final note of caution. If you are planning to use a self-billing process through your TMS, be aware of the way the tax laws are applied in the countries you deal with. Some countries may not allow this type of system, so make sure you have the full picture before you proceed.

Organise your resources

Do you have the necessary resources available to implement this tool? Think about the setup, training, customisation, manual and login creations. Who will be training your own translators and creating training material? Who will take care of updating the manuals as new features are implemented? How will you modify any applicable T&Cs?

Challenge the supplier and ask them how they will help you with the implementation of the tool. Is maintenance and support included in the software price? Can your translators directly get in touch with them or will you need to be the link between the tool and the users?

Ensure smooth implementation

Every single management team within your centralised management system will have different requirements, and whatever tool you choose will need to be customised for their processes. (Remember, your teams won’t easily be able to change the way they work, so the tool that needs to adapt to the needs of your people.)

A good way to start the implementation process is to identify a team that always works on the same type of projects and start presenting the tool to them. Ask for their immediate feedback, their suggestions. Can they foresee any issues in using this tool?

After that, help them to launch their next small project through your new tool, internally first – without any translation vendors involved. Once you can see that project managers have come to grips with the system, you can start thinking about the training you want to provide the translators with. Would a webinar be the best way to do it?

Involve this team in as many decisions/brainstorming sessions as possible and ask for their regular feedback. Make them understand that the tool is implemented for the business benefit and that they have the bigger picture.

Once you have tested it, test it again. And give another chance to everyone to be able to feedback on it.

When this team perfectly master the tool, you can choose a second team and start training more translators etc.

As the roll out gathers speed it’s a good idea to use these early implementation experiences to create a useful guide to the tool containing all the most frequently asked questions. You’ll know what people find easy, and the parts they struggle with, so share this information with the whole team.  Get it up online, together with a place where teams can report bugs or suggest improvements.


A Translation Management System is an invaluable tool for some global businesses. If it’s the right route for you, following these points will help you get up and running quickly. Good luck!


Freedman International
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