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It’s not the technology, stupid!

Let me say that I do like technology. Even if I am not a techy, I am happy when I can use technology to speed up my work, and to automate processes, in my professional and personal life. But I take it as a personal insult when I have to stop using my brain.

Since I have never worked much with translation companies and big LSPs, I had only glimpses of the newest Translation Management Systems until recently. In the past few years, also investment companies started to use TMS to manage multi-lingual content and translation workflow.

What are cloud-based TMS? Translation management can be defined as the automation of the translation process. It should eliminate repetitive “manual” tasks and increase efficiency through project management functions, incorporating translation memories, and storing information.

What do they promise then?

  • Customisable workflow
  • Efficient project management: real-time view of all the projects
  • Centralised translation memories (always up-to-date and available to all translators!)
  • Integrated glossaries and QA tools
  • Automatic project tracking
  • Elimination of file transfers and emails
  • Cost control

Apparently, TMS are the perfect solution to manage multi-lingual translation projects, saving time and money. It sounds great. Companies are willing to spend a lot of money in the prospect of saving much more money and time in the future.

I am not saying that these systems are not useful, though my experience with a couple of them brought me to the conclusion that –  as any system – they work if you use your brain dealing with them… and with the people involved in the process.

Lower productivity

When I used them, the integrated translation editors (similar to CAT tools) had not the half of the functions of my standard memoQ licence. Memories were often a mess, the Italian memory for example was full of French segments (!?!), the quality assurance tools almost useless (my Word spellcheck is far more efficient). I could not even save my work locally, as safety measure or proof for my invoices. Productivity decreased and frustration increased exponentially.

Lack of communication

Deadlines were set automatically by the system (based on pre-set criteria) and not negotiable. The system sent, or rather “made available”, a file to be translated, you translated it in a translator-unfriendly environment and were supposed to know nothing of its use, destination, layout and could not even comment on it or discuss with the company’s project manager.

Maybe, my experience was an extreme one, and I am sure there are better systems out there.

If your company is planning to buy one, I would strongly recommend consulting with a professional translator you trust before moving forward.

It’s not the technology, stupid!

The systems themselves are lacking, though they could be improved and refined, if the software developers talked to professional translators instead of designing a system with the only aim to save money on professional fees. Communication and teamwork would solve many problems.

At the end, machines do what we tell them to do and instruct them to do.

Why did I stop working with these clients?

The main reason is not technology. I am perfectly aware that it can be improved. And I was more than happy to suggest the necessary improvements to increase productivity and quality (which went unheard, by the way).

The main reason is that TMS systems are sometimes managed by people who have no idea of what translation is and of its complexities, or who show no respect for others’ work, discouraging communication. And when you spend a lot of money for a new technology, you do not like to realise it does not fit your purpose, right?

It’s not the technology that does not work, it’s a corporate culture that values price over relationship, automation over communication, bossism over collaboration, no-brainers over brain-users. And I want to use my brain. I cannot do without it.


What is your experience with cloud-based translation management systems?

Please share your positive experiences with me!


Further reading:

Translation Management System

4 Possible Disadvantages to Cloud-Based TMS Systems

7 Things Every Translation Management Software Should Have