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Our Analysts' Insights

08Apr

TMS in the Time of COVID-19

The sudden change from office-based to remote workforces forced by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a rethink of computing strategies at many organizations. For example, businesses and government agencies that so far have distrusted cloud-based information technologies have suddenly and necessarily embraced them to keep operating.

Why? The remote working challenge touches every function at a business or government agency, including translation and localization departments. Some of these teams use on-premise enterprise translation management systems (TMSes) to manage content and communications with global and domestic multicultural markets and audiences. What they’ve found in this COVID-19 pandemic is that these older-generation systems lack the deployment flexibility, system service integration, and responsiveness of the current generation of cloud-based systems such as Memsource, Smartling, Smartcat, and XTM.

Buyers of language services need rapid response

Consider the move to remote operations that came with COVID and the communications requirements that come with a global pandemic, natural disaster, war, or civil unrest. In the past month, organizations worldwide sent their teams to work at home but continued operations, and saw the need to communicate immediately to all their constituencies. Some of the many commercial enterprises and government agencies that CSA Research has interviewed had a comprehensive business continuity plan to move to remote computing technologies and were able to make the switch with little pain. Others were less prepared and are now struggling with installing VPNs to tunnel their way back to their data centers, establishing secure access, and training staff. The management overhead of setting up such remote access with an on-premise TMS is enormous.

These shortcomings block the responsiveness global enterprises need in such a business climate. For example, the initial reaction to the coronavirus in market segments such as healthcare, travel, and tourism was for enterprises to ask their LSPs to treat each translation as an emergency or rush job. Immediate turnaround became their mantra. They wanted translations to instantaneously inform customers and other content consumers around the world, without the usual discussion, planning, and conversations typically required to kick off any project.

Because project managers, linguists, and other LSP staff are also under the same don’t-leave-home constraints as the buyers, this need for speed and greater efficiency begs the question, how are enterprises – and their supply chains - that are not yet using cloud-based TMSes weathering the storm? During such a business climate, wouldn’t it be great:

  • If a project manager (PM) could process a job from their smartphone – or better still, for the work to progress automatically, with the PM prompted to take action only if there is an exception to deal with?
     
  • If linguists could work within a secure web browser – from laptop, tablet, or even a phone – without needing to download large file bundles and reference materials before beginning work?
     
  • If all participants in a workflow could communicate through the same secure interface so that PMs and buyers can answer questions ASAP?
     
  • If an enterprise localization manager could easily swap a subset of content types to machine translation if they must urgently switch resources and budget, knowing they can just as easily swap it back once the pandemic is over?

Sadly, many translation management systems still do not allow this to happen. Whether hosted on premises or in a vendor’s datacenter, older TMSes do not have the access-it-anywhere-friendliness and deployment flexibility of today’s cloud-based TMSes. Users – both at the customer and the LSP – have to be set up in advance with remote access for working from home. There may even be internet bandwidth issues when downloading translation job packages when the whole neighborhood is homeschooling, taking an online yoga class, and binge-watching movies.

Our report “TeMpuS Fugit: Time for a New TMS?” examines the reasons why many early adopters of TMS appear to be stuck with perpetual licenses, and high support and maintenance costs – and effort – for aging and highly-customized systems.

Does your TMS enable rapid response in a time of crisis?

To help enterprises and organizations that feel stuck with an aging TMS or are now reconsidering their stance on cloud-based systems, our  “Is it Time to Replace Your TMS?” analysis provides diagnostics and recommendations for ensuring a strategy-based decision on updating or replacing your TMS – and then keeping it current with future technology advances.

It’s up to all of us to keep our families, friends, and colleagues safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and easy online access to the tools and processes that enable remote work are part of this. Organizations that already have a disaster plan are well placed (“Profiles of Interpreting-Focused LSPs in Times of COVID-19”) – those for whom their TMS was not previously considered business critical might now have a new view based on needs for immediate translation for urgent content and communications. Use this opportunity to rethink your remote business requirements and assess how well your translation management system aligns with your new decentralized reality.

How has your TMS helped or hindered your communication initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic? Reach out to Alison Toon to discuss challenges and success stories.

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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