Over the last few years, the number of Globalization Management Systems (GMS), Translation Management Systems (TMS) and similar Workflow technologies dedicated to Localisation has increased steadily. It is not quite comparable to the explosion in the number of Content Management Systems (CMS) but the choice certainly has increased. As a result it has become more complicated to thoroughly evaluate all options available, and the rise of more specialised subcategories such as Localization Management Systems, Proxy and Cloud-based solutions, Crowdsourcing Portals etc. only adds to this information overload.
This evolution indicates that this technology sector is vibrant and not yet as saturated as the traditional CAT tools market. It remains innovative and in my opinion contradicts analysts who argue that GMS’s will be absorbed by CMS’s and the booming eCommerce platforms.
In fact, there are so many CMS’s and eCommerce solutions around, from the big players such as EpiServer or Adobe Experience Manager (formerly Adobe CQ) to open-source solutions like Drupal and proprietary systems provided by website integrators, that there is no way these can be relied upon to provide workflow features which can respond to the specific requirements of the translation supply chain.
The GMS sector has also become more of a replacement market, where Enterprises are often looking to replace an existing GMS with their second or third technology. A certain lack of innovation, excessive licensing costs and mergers among some of the traditional big players have created an appetite for diversity and an opportunity for innovators.
There are certainly some interesting new technologies. Some focus on the User Interface and the easy-of-use, others on community with in-tool forums for users to share tips and experiences and real-time Support to keep production streaming. Others yet allow segment-level task completion and embedded MT to enable real-time progress. Most, if not all of these efforts seem to concentrate on improving ownership satisfaction which has long been a shortcoming of GMS’s.
Unfortunately, fundamental GMS features can sometimes be lacking when these tools are released at an early stage in their Development, or when their design is not aware of the requirements of the entire supply chain. Prospective GMS-buyers should not get distracted by the bells and whistles, and miss possible issues with the more essential features.
The 10 fundamentals below should be your starting point and the rest should only come as extras. The order of priority between these will depend on your own business process.
Automated Quote Process
Workflow systems are used by Enterprises which have a regular stream of translation requirements. Vendor rates are usually pre-agreed rather than negociated on a project by project basis. The Workflow technology should be able to hold these rates and automatically generate a quote when a translation request is submitted. It should be able to handle minimum charge, PM fees, volume discounts and provide a workflow step where the requestor or authorised user can accept or reject the quote.
CAT Tools compatibility
Ideally there should be an online translation interface as well as the option to download translation requests and work offline.
The online interface should include enough features to ensure it can be used by professional translators: Spell-Checker, Tag Checker, Terminology Checker, Concordance Search are the minimum required.
The offline option should be vendor-agnostic and offer XLIFF as well as the bilingual formats for the main CAT tools such as WordFast, memoQ and Trados. The ability for these tools to connect to the online TM and Glossaries and update them in real-time is also expected more and more commonly.
A library of CMS and eCommerce adaptors should be available. GMS’s such as GlobalLink provide a library of connectors for the most common systems as well as an API to create connectors for new CMS and eCommerce platforms or proprietary systems.
There should also be the possibility to monitor FTP locations and file systems.
Dedicated Review Portal
Client review or independent linguistic review is common in translation chains where volumes a big. This is mainly due to the fact that big volumes mean multiple translators must work simultaneously, and the Review step is needed to enforce consistency and monitor quality trends. A dedicated Online Review environment can make this process immensely more efficient if it’s kept clear and free of the more specialised features required in the Translation Interface. Client-side reviewers are rarely linguists and more likely employees whose primary task is brand and marketing related. Live in-context preview is more relevant to them than a side-by-side segment layout.
The Review environment should have its own reporting tool to monitor quality if error categories and scores are used. Reports on individual projects (online scorecards) and Organization-level reports are equally as important. The system should keep an audit trail of changes, and offer some workflow functionality towards Implementation whether it is done by the reviewers or by the translators.
Changes implemented in the review tool must be automatically added to both the final deliverable and the translation memories.
File Filters designer
Most file types will be supported out-of-the-box but it is also crucial to have the ability to easily add future or unusual file types without having to resort to Professional Services. The file filter interface must be flexible and allow Administrators to import filters from CAT tools but also create filters online in the GMS. I have yet to see a tool, let alone a GMS, which does that as well as a Alchemy Catalyst and its EZparser but hopefully that day will come. In the meantime do not settle for a system that wouldn’t let you parse all tags in a JSON or other custom XML and ensure post-filters are supported (e.g. for HTML code nested within XML or XLS).
Linguistic asset management
A good GMS will let users with appropriate permissions perform all TM and Terminology set-up and maintenance tasks natively. This includes manual editing of both asset types, TM sequencing (with leverage priority, penalties, update TM selection), workflow-driven automatic updates, terminology extraction and approval. All users need the ability to search TM’s and Glossaries, while only experts will get the permissions to perform Maintenance.
Project creation templates
The key to workflow management is automation. Clicks are a GMS’s worst enemy and should be a primary focus during User Acceptance Testing.
Any repeatable task should be recorded and automated. The requestor should not have to type anything other than the project name. Everything else should be available through menus and selectable options, each with the most commonly used choices pre-populated. Ideally, the software should interactively learn and remember the behavior of each user, but pre-programmed defaults are the current standard.
There should be a choice of download formats, and a way to create custom reports based on queries to the underlying database. Client-side users don’t always need visibility into the linguistic side of the system. What they do need is flexible on-demand reporting. Whether there is a live dashboard or a facility to run reports, the system has to be customisable so the reports respond to their Organization’s needs both from the point of view of Program Management and Financial tracking.
Unlimited number of users
The pricing should not be directly linked to the number of users. I have often come across Enterprises with state-of-the-art workflow systems where the vendor side PMs had to download and upload translation kits on behalf of their freelancers. The hidden cost of such a limitation is monumental and the amount of negative sentiment generated towards a system which is supposed to automate repetitive tasks cannot be recuperated.
Role-based permissions should allow Administrators to control what everyone is doing at a granular level, and all routine user assignment should be automated. Once you own a GMS, every single transactions must be seamlessly supported, and no one should ever have to be delayed by timezones.
Localization workflows vary. The technology you choose should offer enough flexibility to support your business process without too much adjustment. The Workflow Designer should offer a customisable library of human and automated steps and the possibility to have more than one outcome to each workflow step (e.g. Pass/Fail, DTP/no DTP etc.). The best Designers have a graphic interface and allow the easy cloning of existing workflows.