How to choose your translation management system effectively | Blog

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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, and you’ll undoubtedly want better consistency, better quality and smarter processes. The ability to manage information about your clients and vendors, to track feedback, to see projects history, and more will become vital. 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.

It may sound like a lot of things to think about, but don’t panic. The good news is that there’s 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.

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 whether you want to partner with a global creative production company instead. If you choose the latter, implementing a TMS tool within your business may not actually be necessary.

A TMS tool may appear useful at first but ,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 a global creative production company which already has the tools and solutions in place will allow you to benefit from their custom technology. It’ll also reduce 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? Ask yourself these questions to define whether or not you need a simple TMS for internal tracking only, or if you’ll 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, which seamlessly integrates the functions of one 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? All important things to think about. 

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’re 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 and which ones are still due, etc.

What about your future needs?

You’ve identified your main objectives and you feel confident that a particular TMS will definitely help you and your teams. Now, you need to think about where your company is going. Is this tool future proof? If your industry is 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’re 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 by linking to your current financial system. Or, 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, and see if it 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, but that it’s also robust and flexible enough to see you through the next decade.

Involve 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 first-in-line to be affected by the change, then other parties will almost certainly be affected too. Remember, there are a lot of people to consider:

  • Your teams: 

Will the implementation of a new tool change your current workflow? For example, will it affect your designers, production teams, finance people, and so on?

  • Other countries: 

If you go for an online CAT tool and TMS tool, how does it perform in terms of speed in all the countries that you’ll be dealing with?

  • Your translators: 

Be aware that various tools may sound great from a management point of view but not from a translator’s point of view. Some automated localisation platforms will claim they’re 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.

Keep translators on board

To avoid losing your translators, involve them in the decision making process early on. 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 details how the tool works to make sure it’s not going to make life harder for them. It’s always a good idea to ask the vendor of the software lots of questions about the tool, i.e. what segmentation rules they apply, and so on. Also, it’s wise to test the tool with your typesetters and any other departments who’ll be indirectly impacted by the change of tools too.

A final note of caution. If you’re planning to use a self-billing process through your TMS, be aware of the way the tax laws are applied in the countries you’re dealing 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 tool 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 and 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? Or perhaps face to face training? 

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, so that they can see the bigger picture.

Once you’ve tested the new tool, test it again, giving everyone in the team the chance to share their feedback. Once the initial team has mastered the tool, you can choose a second team and repeat the process while also starting to train 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 for 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!

For more advice on finding the right tools to localise your campaigns, please feel to get in touch. 

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