Blog post dated Jun 24, 2019

All about Translation Management Systems (TMS)

In our articles, we have often shown how translation processes can be accelerated and automated with a translation management system, e.g. by using translation memories or by connecting machine translation.

If you have not yet examined translation management systems in detail, all of this might sound rather enigmatic to you.

Perhaps your company still uses terminology lists in Excel, assigns translation orders to translation service providers by e-mail, and conducts manual quality checks, and you would like to know how you could simplify and centralize these processes. For this reason, this article zooms in on the basics of translation management systems—what exactly they do, what components they consist of, what benefits they provide, and more.

An Article by

Flurina Schwendimann
Freelance Translator

This article answers many of the questions that arise while researching Translation Management Systems.

What Is a Translation Management System?

Process optimization and cost reduction are key points of interest to many companies. For this reason, translation work is increasingly being outsourced to external translation service providers or translation agencies. Though this reduces the costs and the processing time of the orders, the supply chain gets longer and project management expenses go up, as more people are involved in the project and need to be coordinated.

A translation management system (TMS) can help to reduce this workload, while making the information exchange transparent and secure. The TMS is a centralized platform for creating, forwarding, and finishing translation projects.

It represents the link between the customers, translation service providers, freelance translators, terminologists, reviewers, and correctors.

Its central components are a customer-specific translation memory, a terminology database, and a translation tool. Moreover, a TMS provides translation and quality management functions.

The open architecture of a TMS also enables the connection of various systems via interfaces, e.g. for content management, product information management, machine translation, or authoring assistance. In this way, a contiguous process chain can be set up for seamless data exchange.

The TMS is a centralized platform for creating, forwarding, and finishing translation projects.

What Are the Benefits and Functions of a Translation Management System?

A translation management system is like a puzzle, each of whose pieces fulfills a specific function. Together, they support and accelerate the translation process. For example, the project management module serves the setup of all users who are involved in the process, such as project managers, language service providers, translators, reviewers, terminologists, etc.

These users can be selected as needed and depending on the workflow. Once this is done, an automatic process starts in the background. Subsequently, the users are notified that they have been assigned a new task. The project management module also serves the definition of the framework conditions for the translation, such as the language combination, due date, selection of project-specific settings, and others.

As all users work on the same platform, no information is lost. Moreover, this method increases the data security, as it is always obvious who has which information.

A translation management system helps to localize product and corporate communication in a faster, better, and more cost-efficient manner. The translations prepared with the help of the translation management system are stored in the central translation memory.

This translation repository serves as the basis for all future translation orders. Accordingly, if the stored sentence or a similar sentence appears again in a new order, the translator can simply apply it or adapt it. This is a win-win situation: The translator saves time and the company saves costs, as recurring sentences—so-called 100% matches and fuzzy matches—are normally paid for at reduced word rates.

Multilingual corporate terminology is an invaluable asset. Well-maintained terminology promotes a company's corporate identity and helps to boost the customer trust. Initially, the database can be populated with existing glossaries in various formats. For example, Excel files can be imported with little effort and be used immediately for translations.

For every project, the translators also receive the terminology database, which enables them to access specialized terms in the target language with a click. If they find specialized terms that do not yet exist in the database, they can submit them by means of a suggestion procedure. Following the release by the terminologist, the new term will appear in the translation interface.

The greatest advantage of the translation editor is the format-independent environment. This means that the translator can process all file formats supported by the system without having to be familiar with the actual format or program. Moreover, the customer can determine the framework conditions for the translator's work. For example, if he does not want machine translation to be used, he can disable this function along the entire supply chain.

A translation management system helps to localize product and corporate communication in a faster, better, and more cost-efficient manner.

How Can Quality Management Be Performed with Translation Management Systems?

Quality management is one of the most important steps of a translation project. Apart from the proofreading, the technical assistance provided by the translation management system is essential in order to deliver a high-quality text.

The TMS automatically checks various quality management criteria even during the translation, such as the use of the correct formatting and the consistent use of terminology. The translator is alerted if he wants to finish a project although not all errors have been resolved. This is important, as errors in target texts are not only annoying, they also drive up translation costs due to additional correction cycles. In the worst case, they can even cause operating errors, which would cost the company additional resources.

How Can Processes Be Made More Effective with a Translation Management System?

As previously mentioned, one of the key benefits of a TMS is that all parties in the supply chain work on a common platform. By means of automation options, the processes can be streamlined. For example, a customer can automatically create projects when documents are copied to a particular folder. The various user groups are notified automatically when they are assigned new tasks.

The communication process between the customer, language service providers, translators, and reviewers also becomes much easier. Without a translation management system, any questions or comments would have to be sent by e-mail. This increases the administration overhead and impairs the information security. Furthermore, an e-mail could be overlooked or accidentally deleted.

By contrast, the TMS enables the direct input of questions or comments in the user interface. In this way, all who are involved in the project can easily see the questions and answers.

The use of a translation management system makes the supply chain highly transparent. The customer can always see the project status and add new or changed documents whenever necessary. Moreover, the data sovereignty always remains with the customer. The customer can decide whether the language service provider or translator can store the translation memory and the terminology database on the local system.

Moreover, the translation processes can be improved and accelerated by connecting a third-party system.

The use of a translation management system makes the supply chain highly transparent.

Can Third-Party Systems Be Connected to a Translation Management System?

Yes. Third-party systems can be connected for the purpose of optimizing processes and facilitating the translation management. Many companies work with numerous systems in which content is produced. The manual overhead can be reduced greatly by introducing an interface between the translation management system and the third-party system.

By way of such interfaces, product information management (PIM) systems, content management systems (CMS), authoring assistance systems, machine translation (MT) systems, and many other systems can be connected. The interface enables seamless data exchange between the TMS and the external systems, which greatly optimizes the translation process and helps avoid information silos.

What Is the Difference between a Translation Management System and a Translation Memory?

Translation management systems and translation memories (sometimes called "translation memory systems") are often used synonymously, which is not correct. A translation management system can comprise a translation memory component, but not every translation memory system is part of a translation management system. Does it sound confusing? Well actually, it's not.

As the name indicates, the translation memory is a centralized, customer-specific translation repository in which every translated segment (which usually consists of one sentence) is stored bi-directionally in the source and target languages. In this way, translators do not need to translate similar or identical sentences over and over again. Companies also benefit from this functionality, as recurring sentences are usually not paid for at the full word rate. In the ideal case, customers can save up to 80 percent of their translation costs.

Translation memories are a key component both of translation management systems and of CAT (computer-aided translation) tools. Many freelance translators use CAT software. In the work interface, they can see the source and target segments as well as entries from the translation memory and terminology database. They can also benefit from the various quality management functions provided in the tool.

A translation management system, on the other hand, provides even more functions. Among other things, it enables the various parties in the supply chain to be connected. By means of role systems, project managers, translators, reviewers, correctors, and terminologists can be connected. Depending on the respective function, each party has different system rights.

For example, when translators receive tasks via the translation management system, they normally also receive the customer's associated translation memory. As described above, the entries are displayed to the translators in real time. Following the final quality check, the new translations are stored in the translation memory.

Of course, translators can also create their own projects and translation memories in the CAT tool without connecting to any translation management system. This is probably the reason why the two terms are often confused.

Translation memories are a key component both of translation management systems and of CAT tools.

What Is a Cloud-Based Translation Management System?

As the name suggests, a cloud-based translation management system allows all parties to work in the cloud using a web client. The advantage of this approach is that the data are always up to date, as they are stored automatically. Furthermore, the translators do not need to download any software and can work from any workstation with Internet access.

However, saving information to the cloud can also be a disadvantage, as many companies work with highly confidential data. Several data leaks in recent years have shown that the data storage in the cloud still involves risks even if the providers apply security measures. Therefore, companies must carefully consider whether a cloud-based translation management system would be the right choice for them.

Companies must carefully consider whether a cloud-based translation management system would be the right choice for them.

What Is the Difference Between Machine Translation (MT) and a Translation Management System?

A common misconception about translation management systems is the idea that they can automatically translate documents. This assumption might have to do with the use of translation memories. To those who are not so familiar with the technology, the automatic insertion of 100% matches in the translation editor might look like machine translation. Of course, that is not the case.

As already mentioned, 100% matches and fuzzy matches are segments in the text for which identical or similar segments already exist in the translation memory. These repetitions save time and money. This function is a basic element of every translation management system.

By contrast, machine translation engines are third-party systems that are not standard components of a TMS. A company that wants to use MT needs an account with an MT provider or have an individualized engine configured. Then he can connect the MT engine to his translation management system via an interface.

Further information on this topic can be found in the white paper "Introducing Machine Translation".

White Paper
The Principle of Translation Management Systems

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