When there are so many different Translation Management Systems (TMS) on the market, all offering a different range of features, functions, and pricing options, how can you possibly evaluate them all and select the most appropriate one for your organization’s needs? Unless you have unlimited time and a bottomless budget, it’s almost an impossible task.
Don’t worry though, help is on the way. The Ultimate Guide to Selecting a Translation Management System is designed to make it much easier to evaluate the wide variety of TMS platforms and choose which is the best fit for your organization.
Before you go out and start surfing the websites of the hundreds of translation technology providers, take a long look in your organizational mirror to define what features you need now, and what feature you might need in the future. Look at every step in your workflow and ask yourself if there is a way to apply technology to that step to make it more efficient.
For example, are you an LSP that has external clients, or are you an enterprise that has internal requesters? In either case, would it make your workflow more efficient to have a Client Portal where clients or requesters can upload a document and receive information such as the word count or even an initial quote? Alternatively, do you have clients that insist on using email? Or, do you have workflows that involve content management systems (CMS) or document management systems (DMS)? In any of the above cases, you will want to make sure that your future TMS can support your needs.
Questions you should ask yourself include:
- Are your clients external, internal, or both?
- Would using a client portal with automated word counts and quotes be more efficient and secure than your existing process?
- Do you need to support email communications between clients, translators, editors, and vendors?
- Do you manage workflows that involve a CMS or DMS?
- How many project managers do you have? Are they in one location or are they spread across different time zones and regions?
- How many translators and editors do you have? Is there a benefit for them to use the TMS?*
- How many different workflows do you need to support?
- Are your workflows simple or complex?
- Do you need to support machine translation (MT)?
- In addition to translation memory, do you need support terminology databases and other resources used by PMs, translators, and editors?
- Do you use automated Quality Assurance (QA) features? If not, would using an automated QA feature help to improve quality and, or, reduce review times?
- Do you need a translator workbench or translation tool or editor?
- Do you need the ability to invoice? If so, would it be helpful to invoice on the project basis, or for pre-defined period.
- What language(s) User Interface (UI) do you need?
- Do you need business reporting and analytics?
- Do you need an API to push and pull data from other systems?
- What types of filters do you need?
- What types of documents do you handle?
- Do you use external vendors? If so, how do you store their information and how do you communicate with them?
- Can you use a cloud-based “software as a service” (SaaS) system, or do you need to host the solution “on prem.”
- Do you have privacy, security, client, or regulatory requirements that restrict where your data or your client’s data can be hosted or processed?
- What is your approximate budget?
Know the Market
After you have answered the above questions, you should then start to investigate the various TMS that are available. BUT, before you rush out and sign up for free trials for a bunch of different TMS platforms, you should first prepare a list of questions or requirements based upon your answers to the above questions and send that to various TMS vendors you are considering.
Questions you could ask prospective TMS vendor include:
- Does your TMS support workflows from internal requesters and, or, external clients? In either case, how are files delivered? By email? FTP? Both?
- Do you have a client portal? If so, is it customizable for each client? For example, can one client upload a client and receive a word count only, but another client can receive word count and an initial quote? Can you adjust pricing by client, by language, and by workflow?
- How does your TMS facilitate communication between requester, PMs, translators, reviewers, and vendors? Is it email only? Do you support translator and reviewer comments at the project, document, and or segment level?
- How does your TMS integrate with CMS and DMS platforms? Via API, middleware? Are there any “off-the-shelf” connectors available? If not, what are the approximate development costs?
- Can your TMS scale for use by multiple PMs, translators, and reviewers? Can it scale across multiple time zones and regions?
- Can the TMS be used by both internal and external translators and reviewers? How can translators and reviewers access the TMS if they don’t have a license?
- Can the TMS support multiple workflows? If so, is there a limit?
- Can PMs create custom for different clients?
- Do you support MT? If yes, what engines are supported? Is there an integration or development cost related to MT integration?
- Do you support terminology databases and other resources used by PMs, translators and editors?
- Do you provide any automated QA tools? If yes, are they customizable by client and, or, by workflow?
- Is there translator workbench, editor, or CAT tool integrated into the TMS? If yes, is it customisable?
- Can PMs create invoices using the TMS? If yes, are invoices customizable by client, and can they be generated for a variety of periods (i.e. monthly, weekly, or when a project is completed)?
- What languages is the TMS UI available in?
- Do you provide business reporting and analytics? If so, what types of reports are available? Can users create custom reports?
- Do you have an API? If yes, what type? Where is the documentation?
- What types of file filters are provided? Can users create custom filters?
- What types of documents are supported? Do you have a built-in PDF converter?
- Does that TMS store vendor information? If yes, can users filter by language, text type, price, capacity, or other criteria?
- Is the TMS cloud-based? Can you provide an on-prem server-based solution?
- For cloud-based solutions, where is the data hosted?
- What is pricing structure? Are licenses concurrent? Are there “hidden” charges based upon volumes translated or any other criteria?
I’m sure you’ve noticed that these questions were all mapped to the first 22 questions about your organization’s needs. As such you may be able to eliminate some of them based upon how you answered.
There are, however, some additional questions that might want to ask potential TMS vendors.
- Do you support single sign-on (SSO)?
- Do you support custom domains for client portals?
- Can we customize the look and feel of the client portal, PM dashboard, and translator workspace to match our company’s brand?
- Do you support custom roles and rights?
- Is it possible to migrate data from another platform or TMS? If yes, how? How can data from your TMS be exported?
- What type of training support and materials are available? How about user support and custom development?
- Do you provide any type of “middleware” or connectors for CMS and DMS integrations?
Once you have received the answers to the questions that are relevant to your organization’s needs, you will probably be able to eliminate some of the TMS providers simply because they can’t support some of your critical needs such as CMS integration, or perhaps because their pricing doesn’t align with your budget.
At that point, you could register for a trial (if the vendor provides a trial version) and have your team run the TMS through its’ paces. If you do that, I’d highly recommend that you ask for a demo so that you can get a feel for the TMS and save time on the setup process.
Lastly, you may want to check industry research organizations such as Common Sense Advisory (CSA). CSA provides detailed and un-biased ratings of TMS platforms and they have a TMS comparison tool that can be found here: https://www.commonsenseadvisory.com/TMSLive/tabid/191/Type/ProdSearch/Default.aspx
*Having translators and editors use an integrated CAT tool on a TMS is more efficient and secure than having them work remotely with their own translation tool. Communication, collaboration and project tracking are all easier when using an integrated CAT tool.