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Buying a translation management system (TMS) is like finding a new home. Seriously, both are big investments and exceptionally large commitments. You want to get it right.

Language-management TMS technology is mature – there is little to differentiate products' basic functionality – and the responsibility to find the right system falls fairly and squarely into the hands of the buyer. Like choosing a home, you might know your basic needs: a place with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garage for a couple of vehicles, proximity to the freeway and schools. Then you must decide, how much work am I prepared to do? Am I a do-it-yourself enthusiast or must it be perfect and ready-to-go from the moment the keys are in my hand? Do I want to own or rent? What is my budget and how can I finance and spend it? Am I ready to buy a new-build based on an architect's design, or do I want a tried-and-tested building that has stood the test of time, but which now needs updating? 

Should there be an automated security system, garage, or time-triggered sprinklers in the yard? Do I want a high-tech apartment with a doorman to take care of deliveries and a housekeeper to keep everything tidy? Do I need room for the family to grow – or is my plan to simply move again when I outgrow the home? Have I researched my favorite locations to see how other people enjoy living there? How long will the overlap be between my current home and my new place to live – will I have to pay the expenses for two homes and for how long? What if I also want a vacation home?

When looking for a new home, I think about what specifications I can give to my realtor or estate agent to help with finding the right property. I know that if I leave the choice up to them, they will sell me what they think I need – not what my heart desires. We all – individuals and businesses alike – have different requirements, and often, unique interpretations.

Investing in a TMS is the same. You won't find the home of your dreams for your linguistic needs unless you know exactly what you want, and where you are prepared to compromise. The competing systems all have the fundamentals: a home has walls, a roof, a kitchen, bathroom, plumbing, and utilities; a TMS that focuses on language management has translation memory, terminology, workflows, and connectors. The specifics make the difference. 

Which content management systems and repositories do you want to connect to? How much automation do you need and expect? Do you need room to expand, add an extension, or are you prepared to uproot and move to another system in a few years' time? Have you spent time with the technology and done a full inspection or are you OK with relying on the sales team's promises and documentation? Do you want a solution with language services and technology entwined or do you prefer separation of systems and services? Will you manage the running of the technology yourself, or do you prefer – or need – someone else to take on that responsibility? Are there any restrictions imposed on what you can choose – for example, budget and IT or security rules – that limit the choice? How much must you budget for both the new TMS, and any preexisting system, to run in parallel during a switchover (or even forever – some systems never shut down for good). 

Whether you are investing in a new home for your family or a TMS for your business, the secret is in 1) knowing what you need, what you want, and any limitations; 2)  doing your research, so that the decision is informed and knowledgeable; and 3) selecting the one that feels like home, because it has checked all the boxes on your list. 

To help you sort out your options, CSA Research conducted an analysis of top language-oriented TMSes that we will be publishing next week. Use this research to help with building your TMS requirements list and to explore competing technologies within the marketplace. Thinking of building your own? See Should You Build Your Own TMS. Armed with a clear and measurable definition of your business needs and the knowledge that no building – or technology – is ever perfect, you are well-prepared to choose the best-possible place to be.

About the Author

Alison Toon

Alison Toon

Senior Analyst

Focuses on translation management systems, plus helping CSA Research’s clients gain insights into the technologies, pricing, and business processes key to executive buy-in

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