Why Do You Need a Translation Management System (TMS) and How to Choose One?

24 mins read

Translation Management System

In this article, we will explore the importance of translation management systems and guide you on how to choose the right one for your needs. If you need to make your business multilingual or you are new in localization, this walk-through will help you to deal with your multilingual content management. Let’s see how this translation management software can help manage projects, centralize and automate translation tasks, and facilitate stakeholder communication.

What is a TMS?

A Translation Management System (TMS) is software designed to streamline and optimize the localization and translation management process. It allows you to manage the translation workflow in one place, upload and sync all the translation files, and collaborate with your in-house team and translators.

What are the Benefits of TMS?

Translation management systems (TMS) offer numerous benefits for organizations involved in translation and localization projects. Here are some key advantages of using a TMS.

Improved Efficiency

TMS automates various aspects of the translation workflow, streamlining project management, file handling, and task assignments. It reduces manual effort, minimizes repetitive tasks, and accelerates the translation process, increasing efficiency and faster turnaround times.

Cost Savings

By leveraging translation memory (TM) and terminology management features, TMS helps reuse previously translated content, reducing the need for retranslation. Linguists could have translated many texts earlier when translating the app, and TM can utilize those existing translations for similar strings. Users can hide duplicates and translate only once, saving time and reducing translation costs, especially for repetitive or similar content across projects.

Scalability and Flexibility

TMS can handle translation projects of varying sizes and complexity, making it suitable for small-scale and large-scale localization needs. It offers flexibility to adapt to evolving translation requirements, allowing organizations to scale their translation processes as their business expands or diversifies.

Features of a Translation Management System

Most of the translation management systems on the market will allow you to do the following: upload files (manually, via built-in integrations, or custom solutions that use the system’s API or CLI), order translations, or invite your translators (some tools will have vendor-lock, some will be flexible), translation editor for translators (not all tools, but mostly), and a way to get your translations back (either to download manually or to automate this process).

This covers the basic functionality that any TMS must have. But many features might work differently, be offered at different price points, or not exist (the most obvious example is built-in integrations with specific tools). That’s why knowing other features can help you automate the translation process.

Here are some key components and features of a translation management system.

AI Integrations

Integrations with AI system or built-in AI assistant can work as co-pilots for translators that will provide translation suggestions, answer questions, provide term definitions, suggest translation variants, shorten or change the tone of voice of the translation, and “fix” translation memory suggestions.

From the manager’s perspective, you can use it to run pre-translation, as it can provide context-aware translations, which is an advantage compared to other Machine Translation engines. By context-aware, the AI can use the project’s terminology and access the translation memory. You can specify what kind of content you are translating, which tone of voice you should use, and other details you would typically share with a translation agency before assigning a job to them.

You can also leverage prompt engineering by customizing prompts for translators. The AI Assistant can include prompts after each chat response, not just at the beginning of the conversation.

Translation Project Management

TMS enables project managers to create and manage translation projects, define source and target languages, assign tasks to translators, set deadlines, track progress, and monitor overall project status. Teams can divide projects by content type or other criteria.

Some tools create new projects each time a new piece of content is added. Still, a continuous translation project should update the existing files instead of creating many duplicates that make it hard to keep track of the changes. Updates, of course, should only highlight new content and leave the rest unchanged. Continuous localization projects should also support agile development workflow, meaning you can work with feature branches, not only with a master branch - without conflicts.

Customizable Translation Workflows

TMS supports flexible and customizable translation workflows. Users can define translation stages, such as translation, editing, proofreading, and approval, and add custom steps. Once you have a workflow, you can assign specific people and teams per all projects or particular jobs.

Some tools also support the switch source language feature, which is especially helpful when the language pair is rare, so switching the source language for some of the target languages is more manageable.

Translation Memory (TM)

Translation Memory is a database that stores previously translated segments or sentences called translation units. Suppose you connect a TM to your project. The TM can suggest or automatically apply the previously translated content when a similar sentence or phrase reappears in a new translation project.

For example, if you translated the word “Home” for your iOS app and the exact text is used in your Android app, you can run TM to apply the same translation automatically.

There are different types of Translation Memory suggestions you can configure:

  • Perfect match – TM segment’s text and context completely match the source string.
  • 100% match – TM segment’s text matches the source string, but the context differs.
  • Fuzzy match (99% and less) – The TM segment’s text differs somewhat from the source string. Some tools offer the TM auto-substitution feature that can improve the % of the TM match.

Terminology Management

TMS allows creating and managing terminology databases to use specific terms across translations and projects consistently.

You can use the glossary to only provide definitions for the terms in the source language, where you’ll specify which terms should remain untranslated so your team chooses the correct translation. You can also create or upload your glossary to your TMS and translate it to use the same terminology across all languages.

Collaboration and Communication

TMS facilitates collaboration and communication among translators, project managers, and clients. It may be a discussion section, messaging systems, real-time project updates, and notifications. Some tools will have Slack, Jira, etc. integrations, so you can receive messages and communicate via your preferred channel.

File Format Support

A TMS should support all the popular file formats out of the box. The most common ones include md, xml, csv, xlsx, json, php, yaml, properties, android, gettext, strings, doc, docx, xaml, xliff, and many more.

If the file format is not supported by default, the tool should allow you to convert the file or submit a request to support this file format.

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance tools include spell-checking, grammar-checking, and automatic error checks. QA addresses language-specific aspects and ensures consistent formatting with the source strings, making them fit the UI. Common issues like missed commas, extra spaces, or typos are diligently identified by proofreaders through Side-by-Side mode in the Editor, enabling quick and efficient error detection. Address and resolve all QA check issues before proceeding with project building and downloading translations.

Integration and Connectivity

TMS can have various integrations such as help desk platforms, communication tools, CMS, marketing, website builders, email, DVCS, design tools, help center, MT engines, CRM systems, etc. These integrations enable users to connect their existing workflows with the TMS so that you can send content to and from your TMS without copy-pasting.

Reporting and Analytics

This software generates reports and provides analytics to help project managers track translation metrics, monitor productivity, and analyze costs. You can access volume, progress, and contributor activity data, aiding informed decisions and workflow optimization. View your project status, estimate and count the translation cost, and track the most active members.

Here’s an example of the reports you might find use for:

  • Project Status
  • Cost Estimate
  • Translation Cost
  • Top Members

Integration with Machine Translation (MT) Engines

Using machine translation to translate UI text is the most productive. While using MT engines, you will see a few translation suggestions for each string. The most popular engines are Microsoft Translator, Google Translate, DeepL Translator, Intento MT Hub, and Watson IBM Language Translator.

Translation Vendor Management

You need to be able to choose who will translate your content. If the system locks you to a specific agency, it will be challenging to migrate to another one when the software stops working for you. That’s why it’s essential to keep this in mind.

Cloud-Based Accessibility

This feature enables users to access and manage translation projects from anywhere with an internet connection. With cloud-based accessibility, all translation-related data and tools are hosted on the cloud, eliminating the need for on-premises installations or localized software.

This also boosts collaboration since you can work on duplicate files or projects in real time.

In-Context Review

Translation Management Systems offer a feature of in-context review. Unlike traditional methods, where translations are reviewed separately from the actual context of the content, In-Context Review allows reviewers to see the translated content within its original context.

When to Use a Translation Management System?

A Translation Management System (TMS) is usually a cloud-based solution that assists businesses in delivering multilingual products.

If you need help managing content localization efficiently, TMS serves as a bridge between your systems and translators. The TMS optimizes translation processes by connecting repositories like GitHub or Zendesk and inviting translators. TMS is particularly valuable if you are a business with frequently updated content, automatically detecting changes and placing translated content in its designated location. A TMS is essential as continuous localization becomes crucial for multilingual businesses with constantly evolving content.

Frequently Updated Content

When your organization regularly updates your software, website, apps, marketing materials, and product documentation, you can manage most of the processes directly in a TMS.

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Large-Scale Translation Projects

When handling translation projects involving multiple languages, translators, and stakeholders, a TMS provides centralized control, allowing project managers to assign tasks, monitor progress, and ensure the timely delivery of high-quality translations.

The Most Common Translation Management Systems

Translation management systems can vary in features, functionalities, and deployment options. Here are some common types of TMSs.

On-Premises TMS

An on-premises TMS is installed and hosted locally on the organization’s servers. It provides complete control over the system and data but requires IT infrastructure and maintenance. On-premises TMSs are typically considered by large organizations with specific security or compliance requirements that prefer to keep their translation processes in-house. But this way, the software would also be difficult to update and maintain.

Home-Grown TMS

A home-grown solution refers to a TMS custom-built or developed in-house by a company or organization to manage their translation and localization needs. Instead of using a commercial or off-the-shelf TMS, the organization creates its system that aligns with its workflows, processes, and requirements. However, developing and maintaining a home-grown TMS requires significant time, resources, and ongoing support.

It’s the same as building a product within a product.

Let’s take Netflix as an example. They had their program – Hermes, which they used for subtitling and translation testing. But a year later, Netflix announced the program closing. Right now, they decided to have sub-vendors for that and cooperate with dedicated vendors for each locale.

Cloud-Based TMS

Cloud-based TMSs, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, are hosted and accessed online. They offer scalability, flexibility, and accessibility from anywhere with an internet connection. Cloud-based TMSs eliminate the need for local installations and updates, making them convenient for organizations of all sizes.

Each type of TMS has its advantages and considerations, and the choice should align with your organization’s translation requirements, scalability needs, technical capabilities, and budget.

How to Choose the Right Translation Management System

Choosing the right translation management system (TMS) requires careful consideration of various factors. Here are some key steps to help you select the TMS that best fits your organization’s needs:

Identify Your Requirements

Start by assessing your organization’s translation needs and objectives. Consider factors such as content volume, number of languages, collaboration requirements, integration with existing systems, budget, and needed features. Establish clear criteria for evaluating TMS options.

Research TMS Providers

Explore different TMS providers. Look for established vendors with a good reputation and track record. Review their websites, product descriptions, customer feedback, and case studies to evaluate their expertise and suitability for your organization.

Evaluate Features and Functionalities

Compare the features and functionalities offered by different TMSs. Consider aspects such as project management capabilities, translation memory (TM) use, collaboration tools, terminology management, file format support, quality assurance features, integration options, reporting and analytics, and scalability. Determine what aligns with your specific requirements.

Consider User Experience and Interface

Request demos or trial versions of shortlisted TMSs to choose the preferred interface. Assess the ease of use, navigation, intuitiveness, and customization options. Involve potential end-users in the evaluation process to gather feedback on usability.

Integration Capabilities

Determine if the TMS offers the necessary integration capabilities and consider the ease of integration, data exchange, and automation potential.

Scalability and Customization

Consider the scalability of the TMS to accommodate future growth and increased translation needs. Check the system’s ability to handle larger volumes of content, support many languages, and adapt to evolving requirements. Assess the customization options to tailor the TMS to your workflows and processes.

Security and Data Protection

Ensure the TMS provides adequate security measures to protect sensitive data and follow relevant regulations. Inquire about data encryption, access controls, backup protocols, and compliance with industry standards, such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Training, Support, and Documentation

Evaluate the level of training and support provided by the TMS vendor. Consider the availability of documentation, user guides, and tutorials. Assess the responsiveness and availability of their support team and the potential cost associated with ongoing support or training.

Pricing and Cost Considerations

Request pricing information from the TMS vendors. Compare the costs, licensing models (subscription-based, per-user, or per-project), and any more fees for support, training, or customization. Ensure the TMS fits your budget and provides a favorable return on investment (ROI).

Seek Recommendations and References

Contact industry peers, colleagues, or professional networks for recommendations and references. Learn from their experiences with different TMSs and consider their feedback when deciding.

Choose a TMS that aligns with your organization’s translation needs, workflows, and long-term goals.

Translation Management System Workflow

A translation management system (TMS) workflow involves stages and processes, which vary depending on the specific TMS and organization.

Project Creation and Setup

Use separate projects for different content or different teams.

Content Preparation and Import

Prepare and format source content for translation. You can upload files manually or automatically by connecting your TMS with an integration with your content uploaded.

Task Assignment and Resource Management

Once your content is ready, you can invite vendors, in-house teams, freelancers, and agencies or combine them to translate it. The project manager assigns translation tasks to individual translators or translation teams based on language pairs, expertise, availability, or other criteria.

Translation and Editing

Translators access the assigned tasks within the TMS and begin translating the content online.

Reviewers and editors assess the translated content for accuracy, quality, and adherence to project-specific guidelines or style guides.

Quality Assurance and Review

The TMS may include built-in quality assurance tools to perform automated checks on the translated content, such as spell-checking, grammar-checking, and validation of translation units.

Proofreaders or subject matter experts may conduct a review process to ensure the quality and consistency of the translations.

Collaboration and Communication

TMS enables interaction among project stakeholders. Translators, project managers, editors, proofreaders, and clients can exchange feedback, resolve queries, and track changes within the TMS.

Translation Memory and Terminology Management

The TMS uses translation memory (TM) to store previous translations. It suggests or automatically applies these translations to ensure consistency and save time for translators. Translators can also access terminology databases or glossaries within the TMS, consistently using specific terms across translations and projects.

File Export and Delivery

The TMS exports completed translations to preferred file formats and delivers them to appropriate channels such as content management systems (CMS) or localization platforms.

Reporting and Analytics

The TMS generates reports and provides analytics on various aspects of the translation project, such as translation metrics, productivity, costs, and quality.

How to manage a Translation Management System?

Managing a translation management system (TMS) involves various steps and considerations. Here are some main tips for managing a TMS:

Define Clear Workflows

Establish well-defined workflows for translation projects within the TMS, outlining steps and responsibilities for each stage to ensure consistency and efficiency.

Train Users

Offer thorough training to all TMS users, including project managers, translators, and editors. Ensure they grasp TMS functionalities, use features effectively, and follow established workflows.

Standardize Project Setup

Define standard project setup procedures within the TMS. Establish consistent naming conventions, source language selection, target language selection, deadline setting, and project-specific instructions or requirements.

Optimize Resource Allocation

Use the TMS’s resource management features to optimize resource allocation. Monitor the availability and workload of translators and allocate tasks based on their language pairs, expertise, and availability.

Implement Quality Assurance Measures

Set up automated checks for spelling, grammar, and adherence to specific guidelines. Encourage manual review and proofreading processes to ensure the highest level of quality.

Monitor and Track Progress

Monitor and track the progress of translation projects within the TMS. Use the TMS’s project management features to monitor task completion, deadlines, and overall project status. This allows project managers to identify bottlenecks, address issues promptly, and ensure the timely delivery of translations.

Foster Collaboration and Communication

Encourage collaboration and communication among project stakeholders within the TMS. Use the TMS’s built-in collaboration tools, such as discussion forums, messaging systems, or real-time project updates, to facilitate effective communication, address queries, and resolve project-related issues.

Continuously Improve Processes

Regularly evaluate and analyze the performance of your TMS workflows and processes. Leverage the reporting and analytics capabilities of the TMS to gather insights on translation metrics, productivity, and quality. Identify areas for improvement and implement changes to enhance efficiency, accuracy, and customer satisfaction.

Stay Updated with TMS Updates and Enhancements

Keep track of updates and enhancements released by the TMS provider. Regularly update your TMS to take advantage of new features, improvements, and bug fixes. Stay informed about industry trends and best practices to ensure you are making the most of your TMS.

Use a Translation Management System to Reach New Markets and Faster Translation Management Experience

TMS offers project management, translation memory, and collaboration tools, leading to increased efficiency, reduced errors, and enhanced translation consistency. To experience the advantages of a TMS firsthand, explore how it can transform your translation workflow by implementing it in your organization today.

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What is a translation management system?

A Translation Management System (TMS) is software designed to streamline and optimize the localization and translation management process. It allows you to manage the translation workflow in one place, upload and sync all the translation files, and collaborate with your in-house team and translators.

Yana Feshchuk

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