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Selecting a Translation Management System

Selecting a Translation Management System

Choosing the right Translation Management System (TMS) can be a long daunting process. Especially when you consider that no TMS will be a perfect fit -- but there are different aspects that make tools better suited for your company than others. This guide will help you prioritize, organize, and ideally select the best TMS option for your localization strategy.

Define Stakeholders and Roles

Bring together key stakeholders who will be using or signing off on the TMS, and involve them in the decision from the very beginning to reduce any potential push-back further down the process. Don’t forget to identify the single person who has the final say to prevent a standstill. This person should be well-versed in your localization strategy – or better yet, have a well-documented version to ensure this project stays true to your processes and goals. Once your team is assembled, do yourself the favor of beginning a document to record the project details and decisions. If a decision is questioned, you can always refer back to your documentation.


One of the first things you should add to your TMS Selection Process document is a prioritized list of features. How do you arrive at that list? Have stakeholders submit a feature list of wants, needs, and must-haves. Everyone’s initial list will include ‘want’ features in their ‘must-have’ column, so instead of trying to convince them of this, implement a logical ranking system. Assemble a master list of all submitted features and as a team, assign a numerical value (we’re big fans of one to five) to each feature to signify importance. This step can take quite some time and deliberation as stakeholders will likely disagree on values, but once adopted, this system will provide you with a clear and logical list of priorities. This will serve as your guide throughout the process, and if given due diligence, will prevent a lot of headache down the line.


Simply Googling “best translation management system” will result in companies with successful marketing departments, not necessarily successful products. Get started with Nimdzi’s TMS overview or GALA’s Language Technology Directory, and take your time comparing your options to your list of priorities. By the end of this process, you should have a small pool of contenders.


Ask your shortlist candidates to submit a self-assessment RFI. Compare it to your list of requirements and disqualify vendors who don’t meet your must-haves. The remainders advance to RFP. At this stage, assess pricing models and features with hidden costs or usage restrictions. By the end of this process, you should be left with no more than three to five serious options.


Time to see each TMS in action with a live demo. Go into this with dummy text, anticipated scenarios, and expectations for results – and don’t forget that demos are designed to put the product’s best foot forward. Ask questions regarding features you know you’ll use and issues you know you’ll face. Afterwards, revisit your list of requirements and compare how the features rank. This step may not disqualify any options, but at the very least it will give you insight on details such as UI, UX, and customer care.


This is your chance to test out tools for yourself and find out if everything really is as easy as they made it look in the demo. Test your entire localization process and don’t be afraid to ask for support from your TMS vendor. Check the connectors, translation memory imports, supported file types, the QA process, etc. This is your experimentation time, so test everything and anything you think you’ll use. Nearing the end of your trials, revisit your list and you should be left with one or two options.


While there’s a lot to be gained from implementing a translation management system, there is also potential loss to consider. At this point you should calculate leverage loss by testing isolated parts of your localization process and analyze differences in segmenting, supported file types and languages, or changes to your process itself.

Don’t forget to factor ROI into the equation. Calculate the total cost of ownership for two to five years and entertain risk mitigation and migration costs to total up the expected benefits.


If you’ve kept your list close throughout this process, the decision should essentially make itself. If you’re still undecided, request to extend your trials or pilot phase to continue testing, and ask for a customer referral to speak to. You should feel confident in your final decision, so don’t be afraid to request additional time, information, or assistance.

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