it's a checklist
Finding the right translation management system comes down to knowing the right questions to ask PHOTO: Glenn Carstens-Peters

The best translation management systems (TMS) find the perfect balance between function, features and performance. 

Independent market research company Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research) released a guide for businesses in the market for a new TMS. The guide breaks down TMS evaluation into five main functional areas: management, workflows, platforms, analytics and integration.   

The list provides a nice overview for those in the market, but we expanded on the tips below to help you evaluate your TMS options. By comparing TMS offerings in these areas, you should be able to find the best translation management features and functionality for your organization. 

1. Agile, Scalable Management Tools, Visibility and Assignments

The growing demand for personalized content requires quickly scaling operations to keep up with the continuous cycle of content delivery. For vendor managers, the increasing project volume adds to the number of variables to be managed: projects, documents, vendor selection, rates, assignments, costs, deadlines, budgets. 

Scaling up only adds to the complexity.  

When choosing a TMS, look for vendor management tools that are agile enough to support large scale, multi-vendor management. This will make it easier for you to stay on top of the many elements that go into language services provider management. 

Project managers need TMS tools that will automate and streamline global translation projects and teams. Make sure your TMS has customizable workflows, convenient task assignment and real-time monitoring so project managers can effectively manage vendor resources, stay on top of deadlines and pace their work for timely delivery.

2. Automated, Easy to Use Workflows

The CSA Research guide recommends evaluating the workflow capability of your TMS. 

Workflows are key to operational efficiency. If done correctly, customizable workflows can put your translation processes on autopilot. 

Most TMSs only offer a single workflow. Some offer workflow engines, but they can be too complex for the average user, which requires engaging professional services to update or create a new workflow.

Look for a TMS that lets you customize your translation workflow. Customizing workflows lets you choose the type of translation and a review process that closely matches the content being translated. 

CSA Research emphasizes process management because project managers need tools to “advance, stop, or redirect sub-processes and tasks.” Not all translation may need professional translation with several rounds of review. Simple translations may only require machine translation with a single professional review.

3. Cloud-Based Platforms

Manual, offline processes can no longer keep pace with the speed of business today. Your TMS checklist should prioritize cloud-based TMS technology. Managing translation in the cloud is the only way to handle the volume, continuity and synchronization between several different departments and locations. 

Cloud platforms also give you the power to store, track and manage multilingual content across different enterprise applications and deliver continuous, integrated translation in real time. 

Constantly changing content needs a dynamic and agile tool to keep up with the increasing demand for round-the-clock translation and distribution. A cloud-based TMS gives companies more control over their content and helps maintain messaging and branding consistency by keeping corporate information in a single native environment. 

4. Business Analytics and Data Collection

CSA Research also advises TMS buyers to look at the business analytics function and uses scoring components to evaluate a TMS’s ability to provide actionable business intelligence in four areas: customers, finance, resources and projects. 

Business analytics and data collection supports project managers when making strategic translation decisions. Your TMS should be able to view the number of words translated by each translator, identify how many outstanding words await translation or offer a quick view of the percentage completed. 

Find a TMS with web analytics that show which languages and translations are engaging customers. If you are using community translation, it should have reports showing who your star translators are. 

5. Integration

The typical enterprise may have multiple departments using disparate systems. Find a TMS that can “play nice” with your existing systems. Look for one that offers integration with the most commonly used enterprise applications for content management, marketing automation, websites, knowledge bases, etc.  

A TMS that can integrate with several systems will save on the cost of translation. Users can work on a familiar interface without additional training, and you get added control when your information resides in your system. You avoid the slow, inefficient and unsecured process of sending files out to be downloaded onto a separate server used by the translator or translation services company. 

Translating in silos is expensive and inefficient. Look for a TMS that integrates with the enterprise software you use.

Ask the Right Questions

Being a savvy TMS buyer requires a little research and knowing how to ask the right questions. By understanding these TMS features and functional areas, you will find a solution that will help your enterprise upgrade, automate and keep pace with the growing demand for fast, efficient delivery of localized content.