Translation technology has reached an inflection point, swept up in the big trends affecting every industry: big data, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI). Language platforms are being renovated or replaced as enterprise buyers and innovative language service providers seek to align their language systems with the rest of their technology stacks. Dated monolithic translation management systems (TMSes) are giving way to microservice- and cloud-based architectures, with machine learning driving systems toward “lights-out” project management.
At the same time, TMS software developers are actively engaged in the end game of any mature technology: the “one-upping” of the late commercialization phase, during which each successive release of software matches and exceeds the capabilities of rival offerings. CSA Research has long referred to this feature war as “mutually assured one-upmanship.” The next wave of TMS innovation revolves around automation in service delivery, with big data and AI moving beyond linguistic tasks to address project management. Their ultimate quest is to develop an omniscient AI “brain” capable of managing an entire production line and its supporting business operations.
An Enterprise Software Perspective on S-Curve Dynamics and TMS Feature Completeness
But today’s TMS market is engaged in a full-on feature war. CSA Research began tracking this arms race in 2006 based on common enterprise software development trajectories we’ve analyzed for mainstream IT systems. In 2011, in “Build vs. Buy Along the S-Curve for TMS,” we wrote that broad agreement among users on the feature set needed to support standard processes would lead to simpler, more streamlined replacements for the TMS category. New translation management applications will be built with just the essential features needed to address the now-standard workflows. The S-curve illustration below chronicles the history of TMS to date and what we can expect as the category further evolves.
The revolution that is in the works will slim down and simplify today’s TMS smorgasbord of features, many of which are never touched by the average user, but which have been required to match competitors’ specifications. And most importantly, besides fitting so well in the emerging service-based architecture, these newer systems promise to better support Agile development methodologies, allowing enterprise and LSP users alike to speed up their operations.
During this next phase of competition, developers will focus on implementing the standard set of translation processes with fewer human touches – and remove unused capabilities and features. The TMS itself will become a set of callable functions delivered via micro-services to other content, database, and specialized management platforms such as version control systems, marketing automation, CRM, or ERP. These innovative approaches will look less and less like today’s monolithic TMS. At the top of the S-curve, software categories tend to get absorbed by a broader segment.
In this case, CSA Research observes the emergence of unified language platforms that combine business management and service delivery for both translation and interpreting services. CMSes and marketing management systems will also start adding TMS as a feature, as industry-standard processes reduce the unknowns.
When Will These Svelte Next-Gen TMSes Come into Being?
CSA Research has seen some of these capabilities on drawing boards, hints of others in existing commercial products, and in working bits in some in-house LSP solutions. We will explore and analyze these harbingers of the next-generation TMS in upcoming briefs and reports. We look forward to continuing our analysis and categorization of the sector as it evolves and, shortly, gives birth to new categories and the start of new S-curves of feature growth.
Meanwhile, will today’s TMSes disappear? Not anytime soon. The continuing work of their installed base of users will keep them alive and, in some cases, thriving with upgrades, maintenance fees, professional services, and additional licenses to meet new requirements. That momentum comes from the fact that these systems perform the heavy lifting on tens of billions of dollars in service delivery every year. They will continue to integrate with new content platforms and adapt to new demands, competing head to head with next-generation systems.
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