Automating Business Management in Translation: The Why and the How Public  

Article by Yulia Akhulkova.

The intertwined concepts of TMS and BMS

At the end of 2019, Nimdzi launched a survey about Translation Management Systems (TMS). The survey provided quite interesting results – about 20 percent of respondents confuse TMS for Business Management Systems (BMS). In an industry where lexical precision is paramount, there is great irony in the existence of unclear terminology around the naming of the two main technologies.

To follow up the research of the TMS market, we decided to explore BMS solutions in further detail using data collected from our respondents.

But first, let’s recap the main differences:

  • In a TMS you translate AND manage jobs. 
  • In a BMS you just manage jobs that may come from different TMS.

Now, let’s discuss why and how BMS is helpful in managing localization.

BMS - Managing a localization project. Protemos

Managing a localization project. Source: Protemos

The demand

In a world obsessed with the concept of continuous integration and continuous delivery, there are consumers and clients who simply don’t want to know how their products get localized into multiple languages. They just want to get it done. Continuously.

This is achievable. However, it requires technology to support a quick and seamless workflow. The operations of a translation agency or localization department within a larger organization are anything but simple, and usually involve dozens of tasks and processes. Such processes can include (but are not limited to):

  • Customer database management
  • Overall business monitoring
  • Project quote calculation
  • Risk analysis
  • Project progress and profitability tracking 
  • Workload and productivity management
  • Vendor management and translator rating
  • Linguist task coordination
  • Automatic  financial document generation
  • Uninvoiced customer job tracking
  • Return on investment calculation

All of these need to be tracked and continuously monitored for the success of a project. That is why every major translation company has either built tools of its own or invested into a third party solution. 

Option #1: build

The days of manual collating data for estimations and review of project activities are long gone. The data needed for the specific project is now housed in one place, and language service providers (LSPs) are following the trend of providing their customers with easy and open access to it. Below are three examples of business management technologies developed in-house serving this goal.

TMS SAP® by AWATERA

AWATERA’s ERP SAP®-based system for project management helps automate the translation processes for owners and customers of multilingual content and translation companies, encompassing the entire production cycle. 

What is interesting with the Russian market is that most of the major language vendors in the country historically started tracking their operations in 1C. So it’s no surprise that they feature connectors to this software, still regularly used by Russian enterprises and LSPs. Awatera is not an exception: their system can be integrated with 1C and SAP, as well as ActiveDirectory and amoCRM.

Having an open API, AWATERA (Tera) ERP allows integrating with other solutions within the company and with clients’ systems. It also features personal accounts for clients and vendors. The user interface of the system is currently available in Russian.

Localization Management Platform by Bureau Works

Bureau Works has elements of both a BMS and a TMS. Everything is API-based. In addition to managing regular business operations, such as, for example, tracking translator performance, the system offers workflow management and helps manage translator payments, including integrations with Payoneer & PayPal.

Bureau Works - TMS and BMS Elements - Translator Performance

Translator performance. Source: Bureau Works

This localization management platform has a project dashboard with filters, accounting for AP (talent payments) and AR (client invoicing), and helps aggregate data about translator pay rate by language pair (average, min, max, standard deviation).

Project dashboard with filters. Source: Bureau Works

Integrated Quality Data Analytics help monitor the quality program, address the specific issues relevant to each language, and measure progress over time. The system also features an ISO compliance management module.

ISO – Corrective Actions. Source: Bureau Works

On top of that, Bureau Works suggests saving time through autopilot job assignments: this helps minimize the routine of contacting linguists. The task assigning algorithm matches the right linguists to a given project by leveraging quality performance data. Customizable tagging adds another layer of data to drive automation of job assignments.

Global Technology Platform by Janus Worldwide

The Global Technology Platform currently represents a suite of five tools, including Janus Connect and Janus DashPort. These two solutions aim to provide enterprise customers with timelines and accurate real-time data about their projects. 

Janus Connect gives access to various functionalities to allow for handling and overview of translation projects. It includes a customer portal and API. The Janus Connect Portal is a website for monitoring translation projects at any project stage.

Source: Janus Worldwide

Janus DashPort consists of 15 different visual displays of KPIs and SLAs for users to choose from. The DashPort also supports customers in analyzing project patterns and trends. It helps with budgeting, future project planning and also market penetration decisions.

Source: Janus Worldwide

Such platforms and portals are designed to give more visibility to customers of LSPs. This removes the need to request information manually, reducing admin and saving both sides time.

As for project management within the company, Janus Worldwide also uses their own developments on the 1C platform which is integrated with other systems both inside the company and among the largest customers; a part of the functionality is available via API.

Those who don’t innovate, (waste on) copy-paste

Another important question for an enterprise client appears when they have already invested in a BMS (or a TMS) themselves. And they want just the translation from an LSP. This quite common scenario results in a need for either: 

  1. A manual copy-paste of the data from one tool to another, which puts the whole idea of the BMS itself into question; or
  2. Connectors for two tools: the client’s and the LSP’s in-house BMS. 

The second option, in turn, means additional costs and effort for development on the LSP side. Even if an LSP can afford this, it will take time. But one of the biggest reasons BMS saves companies money is that it saves time and makes processes more efficient, allowing a translation vendor to take on more projects while decreasing internal costs.

That is why it may not make sense to spend the precious time on building connectors from scratch, especially when the most popular solutions on the market have already explored and developed the main connecting options. As Rikkert Engels, CEO of Xillio, says to support this idea, “You need these connectors, we have them. Are you going to build them yourselves and try to catch up to what I already have?

In addition to those who can’t afford to or don’t want to build their own tools, there’s another scenario begging for a modern third-party BMS. Surprisingly, it’s when an LSP has already built a tool, but long ago. For those veterans of the industry, the need for automated aligning of people, processes, and content was clear decades before the BMS market even emerged.

Back then, they invested in some piece of technology which is, by today’s standards, the antithesis of continuous delivery. They’ve likely been stuck using this cumbersome relic ever since. Same as with the “just the translation, please” scenario outlined above, this old-school approach results in wasted time and money spent on manual operations, copy and pasting mistakes, unsatisfied project managers (PMs) dying under the weight of the amount of busy work, and missed opportunities.

Here’s when a modern third-party BMS can help, never mind the trusted old ways of doing things.

Option #2: buy

What’s on offer?

In the 2019 Nimdzi Language Technology Atlas, we list 20 BMS providers: Consoltec (FlowFit), LBS, MiniTPMS, Plunet, Protemos, Rulingo, QuaHill, XTRF, and others. There are also new examples of technologies not yet included in the Atlas but on the radar, such as Alisa TMS and 2Manager.

The results of our survey show that users have quite a high level of general satisfaction with their current BMS solutions. Still, there’s plenty of opportunity for BMS providers, as half of the respondents were not satisfied or satisfied but still looking at what the market has to offer.

How satisfied are you with your current BMS?

 

Source: Nimdzi Insights

Unlike with TMS technology, where the main selection criteria are integration and automation, with BMS, it’s the price of the solution. 

What are the main selection criteria for a BMS?

 

Source: Nimdzi Insights

Pricing per month per user

Speaking of pricing, the majority of tools charge by the license. We collected some examples of pricing from the main solutions on the market.

System Pricing per month per user

LBS

EUR 42 (the pricing can start from EUR 500/year/user)

LSP.expert

EUR 45 (unlimited users)

Plunet

EUR 160 (monthly rent of the smallest setup, including two licenses)

Protemos

USD 45 if billed monthly and USD 25 per if billed annually (for Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus)

USD 90 if billed monthly and USD 50 per if billed annually

Rulingo

Free. Was: USD 70 if billed monthly and USD 53 when billed annually

Translation Projex

USD 99, USD 66.6 if paid annually

QuaHill

With own server: 

EUR 30 when paying for 3 months 

EUR 25 when paying for 12 months

For SaaS: 

Starting at EUR 49 with a European data center 

EUR 95 with a non-European data center

XTRF

Around EUR 75 for small teams (EUR 2.5/day)

Around EUR 250 for growing teams (EUR 8/ day), including access for two users, with each additional user an additional EUR 119 per month

 

Pricing per user is not the only option.There are other default pricing options. For example, Alisa TMS does not charge per user but for the number of projects per month (100, 300, 500, ∞).

Simon Van Renterghem confirms that for Plunet pricing is a hard question to answer because it depends on a number of factors, and therefore a common denominator is difficult to give. What can be defined is the monthly rate for Plunet’s smallest setup, including two licenses, which is 160 EUR/month.

In any case, it’s important to keep in mind that these figures don’t reflect the total estimated cost of the solution. It’s just something for interested clients to start with. The total cost of implementation may change depending on:

  • System customizations based on individual client preferences
  • Additional components and features if not included in the product package, such as integrations (e.g. with CAT-tools) required for a specific agency or localization team

Getting a solid proposal

What also differs for technology providers is the financing and hosting model. The above prices are for cloud SaaS solutions. But some providers have the purchase model as the default, so it’s not as straightforward to compare pricing as it may seem.

Aleksandra Brzeska from XTRF explains this further: “In Purchase financing, the entry cost is much higher, licenses are bought for perpetual use and clients then pay a percentage for support and maintenance in the following years. The monthly fee then seems lower, but only if you disregard the substantial initial cost.

That is why when selecting a BMS it is important to not only request demos but also very strictly define the demand and ask for a solid proposal with the cost of all user licenses and a server license. The proposal should indicate where the data will be hosted (on an LSP’s server, locally, or in the cloud) and the breakdown of what’s included in the solution. In other words, all costs (visible and hidden) for any possible scenarios and additional modules. 

In calculating the price of the solution based only on the subscription licenses per user per month, a buyer will not get a clear picture. It may even turn out that data import, user training, statistics, and reports cost extra.

Deals for smaller teams and individual linguists

For smaller companies not eager to pay as much, there exist cheaper and free BMS options. 

Dashboard. Source: Rulingo

Rulingo was founded with the mission to improve the everyday life of small and medium-size translation companies. 

Translation project. Source: Rulingo

Since January 2020, this cloud platform is free. Dmitry Borodin, the inspiration behind the mission, explained this to Nimdzi: “Running a translation business means spending a significant amount of time daily on operational tasks. To optimize that, big and established companies use advanced management tooling, but for small and medium[-sized] companies the same tooling means unreasonably high onboarding and ownership time and cost investment. Free self-service offering from Rulingo is in town to change that.

Finances. Source: Rulingo

Another project from Brazil, 2Manager, is currently looking for investors. The product mostly targets freelancers and costs about USD 23.77 (R$ 99,00). A one-time purchase with no recurrent payment. Customization such as invoices and budgets with client’s logo and visual branding cost an extra USD 6 (R$ 25,00). Each time an update is released, a new charge of USD 9.4 (R$ 39,00) is made. However, those updates are not mandatory.

2manager was created to be simple. It is not a web-based tool, though. The system works with more than one currency. If a client works with USD and receives payments from Europe, they can track all payments in euros and in the end their ledger is in dollars. The amount is then quoted at the moment of payment. This is an advantage of 2Manager, as its creator Paulinha Vianna says.

Option #3: use business modules in TMS

Some of the Nimdzi survey respondents said that the business management modules in TMS are just enough for their cases. 

Examples of such technologies include:

BaccS, which has been part of SDL Trados Business Manager since 2019. It offers tracking of a translation job from start to finish, as well as accounting tasks, and reports on business performance. It is integrated with both SDL Trados Studio and SDL Trados GroupShare. BaccS provides built-in reports and analysis, management of vendor and client data, quoting and templates for various quote designs, invoice management and tracking, and a dashboard with an overview of key translation project information. This helps tracking jobs with upcoming deadlines, unpaid invoices, and sent quotes. BaccS is available as a plugin for SDL Trados Studio with invoicing and quoting features, as a standalone desktop version, and as an online team version. 

YiCAT, a Chinese TMS launched in May 2018 by Tmxmall, which is a company behind Tmxmall.com, a translation memory marketplace. Before deploying their own CAT tool, Tmxmall operated via plugins for third-party tools such as Trados Studio or memoQ. Linguists can use Tmxmall even if they don’t have a CAT tool with an integration. For PMs YiCAT offers real-time progress tracking, job analysis and price calculation based on translation memory (TM) and machine translation (MT). It also provides a project status and issues dashboard, the option to split one project between several linguists, task manager functionality for an in-house team, and a workflow builder.

Respondents also named Across Server and memoQ Server as the means to help manage translations.

Unsolved issues

In an ideal scenario, when using a BMS, a PM just imports the files (or facilitates the import via a connector), creates a couple of workflows and templates one single time and no longer needs to manually repeat these steps for a recurrent or similar project.

A manager trains the system once and then simply oversees the projects, tweaking things here and there. And a BMS helps not only to track the translation process but also conduct an overall evaluation of the project, generating various reports on cost savings and such.

Let’s see how close to ideal modern solutions are and how they are satisfying their users. What users of different systems reported as lacking was “enough automation.” Here are a few examples of replies describing such pain points:

  • Inconvenient/lengthy process for allocating tasks to linguists
  • Inability to see what status a task is in  within the translation, editing, and proofreading cycle
  • No possibility to automatically calculate or import weighted word counts per file in a complex multi-file project
  • Issues with assigning multiple files in a project to different team members and leveraging the word count
  • No (or not enough) CRM functions
  • Challenges with the client portal
  • Challenges with the invoicing configuration

Speaking of invoicing, this turns out to be a major area for improvement. In countries other than the one from which the specific BMS tool originates, the invoicing system may be more complex or just different. For example, here’s what a respondent from Spain told Nimdzi: “I would like the invoicing part to be more complete. In Spain, we have in the same invoice a job without taxes, another job with a negative tax and the third one with a positive tax. I cannot introduce all these details in my BMS for now.” 

Last but not least, as usual, users reported:

  • Slow development of individual features and integrations (e.g. Protemos)
  • High price of some solutions (e.g. XTRF, Quahill)

But that, of course, depends on the buyer’s definition of “slow” and “high.”

Many localization teams stuck using tools from the past complain about the lack of correlation between fulfilling the needs of accounting teams with real project management. For the latter, some use external tools such as Asana.

As a result of having to resort to tools like Asana, another respondent told Nimdzi: “Frankly, it is now difficult to look at the BMS market. Most of the BMS solutions are just… lagging, especially in terms of daily and minute assistance to the manager, and in terms of convenience.

But unfortunately, even in the year 2020, not every client will accept a cloud-based solution. This creates another lag.

Try before you buy

We’ve looked at three BMS solutions developed in-house and eleven by third parties, as well as two TMS having process management functionality. Even though they are similar at their core (as they were developed for the business processes of translation agencies or departments), a system that does the trick for one buyer would likely not be easy to implement elsewhere with the same level of success.”

Source: Protemos

So while users are looking for “Asana for translation”-type solutions, for BMS providers there’s opportunity and there’s competition. Luckily for the buyers, unlike with the TMS market, with cloud BMS there exists a common denominator for pricing: most users are charged per license.

Even though the price was named the main decision driver when choosing a BMS, it happens that attempts to keep within a smaller budget or a shorter implementation time have a negative effect on the final result. So when making a decision about a BMS, buyers are encouraged to ask more questions, add their own parameters (e.g. consider server installation when needed and request the pricing for their specific case), and not to forget about the “try-before-you-buy” option available in most of the solutions

By doing so, a buyer will have an idea of whether their vision of how a BMS can and should help facilitate the reliability of the delivery corresponds to the one of the chosen provider.

 

This article was researched and written by Nimdzi’s Senior Technology Researcher, Yulia Akhulkova. If you wish to find out more about this topic, please reach out to Yulia at ya@nimdzi.com.

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