Do you want your translation projects to go smoothly? Do you want cost and quality benefits from past translations? Obviously, and so you have probably looked into TMS (Translation Management System) solutions. A TMS can centralize localization projects, manage TMs (Translation Memories) and term databases, provide translation workflows, automate QA, manage handoffs and handbacks, and provide visibility of data/dashboarding.
Many of our clients look specifically at cloud-based TMS systems because they have one huge advantage over server-based ones: as an SaaS solution, businesses don’t need to buy, install, manage, or maintain any software or servers. The software is accessed via a web browser, and is paid for by seat or by monthly subscription.
Sounds good! Many cloud-based TMS systems do provide a full feature set, nearly equal to server-based TMS products, which are generally more powerful and feature-rich. Yet, while there are some excellent cloud-based products on the market, some systems that exist today may not effectively manage some important parts of the localization process. There are four main areas where these tools may go weak:
1. You can’t count on consistent TM leverage
TM management can be sub-optimal in these systems:
- TMs received from these systems can be poorly organized TMX files.
- Depending on the tool, the exported TMX can be interpreted in different ways, which can affect leverage.
- When not working within the tool (such as when there is a need to split up a project), TMs must be downloaded and used offline, which can create problems with currency of the “master” TM. Each time a user uploads or downloads it can affect leverage…and at the least adds additional steps.
A quote from one of our partners articulates the impact of this: “The simplistic user interface and lack of standard CAT tool functionality hindered the usual production rate of experienced translators and editors. Our client warned us of the reduced productivity caused by the tool, so that we could assign more linguists in order to meet the deadline.”
2. They may lack a full QA solution
The richness of QA tools – a mechanical way of detecting inconsistencies and other project-wide potential issues – is less robust than in a server-based system.
While some have a nice interface for conducting linguistic reviews, that feature does often not allow a translator to see and review the total. At the least, that view is not very “clean”. The content must be downloaded for review, and it often can be hard to pull the entire body of content out for that purpose.
3. They could lower translator productivity
Connectivity to a cloud-based system can be patchy from areas of the world where connections are intermittent or where there are frequent power brownouts/blackouts. A recent article on ZDNet showcases this issue in Brazil. Until wireless connection speeds in those areas are stable/fast this could lead to major problems when using any cloud-based tool.
And also, some translators do not have new enough systems to support the tool. A tools expert in my circle said, “You can only shove so much technology into a SaaS based solution before processing becomes too slow,”…especially impacted by patchy internet and underpowered machines.
4. They value price over relationship
Many cloud-based systems have an already set up translator pool. They can send jobs out to auction, and thereby drive down costs by choosing the fastest/lowest bidder. There are a couple problems with this:
- It doesn’t allow translators to work as a cohesive team to ensure quality, consistent use of assets, etc. They instead compete with each other.
- Because the system is somewhat anonymous – body for hire – no “real” back and forth is possible. However, some tools do have a system supporting a client/translator Q&A.
- It favors a “throw it over the wall” approach that works best if you only need it translated cheap and quick with no concern about anything else. There is little way for a vendor to add value.
Deemphasizing relationships like this can dehumanize a business that is all about relationships, customized solutions and process improvements.
You can squeeze your vendors on pricing to reduce costs and TAT, or you can leverage the personal relationship you have with your vendor to collaborate on a customized program that maintains quality, drives down costs, and improves turnaround time.
What do you do now?
If you are looking for insightful, well-thought-out system that allows for maximum CAT tool usage, collaboration with your vendor, and high productivity, then some cloud-based TMS systems will not work for you. (Some will! I am by no means discounting all of them).
Carefully consider the cost/quality/productivity benefits that you hope to gain in implementing a TMS. Ask your translators about their experience in the system (ProZ is a good source). The bottom line? Be careful of implementing a solution that actually causes you a management and productivity problem.
And now you are scratching your head. What are your options then? If you don’t want to buy a system and don’t want to rent one either, then talk to your service provider about a managed service, whereby they own the translation management and drive the process. You may not need as many of the benefits of a TMS as you think you do.
What has been your experience with cloud-based TMS systems? Good or bad, we’d like to hear it.