There’s no question that global enterprises require some kind of translation management system (TMS) to support mature localization operations. But do you need to buy a TMS? Many companies make that decision without considering how the choice constrains the ongoing localization effort.
My colleague Pavel Soukenik has already written about the advantages and disadvantages of building a localization platform from scratch (see parts 1, 2, and 3 here). Let's discuss the pros and cons of owning a TMS in in-house, single-sourcing and multi-vendor localization models.
How In-House Works
If you have an in-house localization team, you must own your own TMS: and that means you need to buy a license and a support agreement, allocate server space, and probably hire a TMS expert to manage the implementation and support users.
Owning a TMS also means prioritizing human resources for training, ensuring coverage for down time, and committing their hours (read: salaries) to the effort. Even deciding on which tool you will purchase for your team requires a certain level of expertise regarding options, limitations, and extendibility.
That’s quite an upfront and ongoing investment, and most global organizations would rather convert a large capital investment to a manageable operating expense, especially when the investment falls beyond the organization’s core competency.
But it can be worth it when you have highly complex process interdependencies, in-context review needs, or server arrays that are necessary for your security setup. In those cases, you may want to integrate translation management tools or make them accessible — for testers or those responsible for in-context review, for example.
Where Single-Sourcing Excels
When you outsource localization to a single vendor, you can outsource practically the entire TMS function: the tool selection, management of tools and data, user training and support, and the setup and maintenance of the servers. The single vendor takes care of all of that, even freeing you from licensing expenses. In fact, you may not need to pay any technology costs at all.
There are certainly exceptions to every rule, but you can generally hand over everything to a single vendor and have them handle it. Or, depending on your project needs, you can assign some part of it. For example, Moravia’s TMS consulting services are available, if you decide to go the route of outsourcing the translation management tool selection process.
How Using Multiple Suppliers Increases Complexity
A multi-vendor model poses several challenges. First, you have to pull your TMS tools back in-house, which brings back the capital costs of servers and licenses. Additionally, you have to grant your external suppliers equal access so that they could do their jobs. In some cases that means paying for each vendor’s license to access and use the tool on your servers. For large enterprise accounts, such a commitment of licenses, security features, data warehousing, and support requirements could drive costs upwards of $1 million.
Working with multiple suppliers also means having to work in a far more structured way to meet the needs of collaborating vendors so that they can access each other’s collateral. Vendor A is translating, but Vendor B also needs access to that translation. If the teams are not talking to each other or not exchanging project information, then they will drift apart — interpreting instructions, objectives, and outcomes differently.
The more people that are involved and the more walls there are between them, the more you risk project inconsistencies, errors, and unnecessary duplication of effort. There is no way then around this pattern of internal controls for external access if you want to ensure project success. Whether it is the more cost-effective and quality-minded choice is another matter entirely.
In future blog posts, I’ll be exploring more of the factors that influence client choices regarding single sourcing. Do you have questions or comments about single sourcing? Post them in the section below.