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“Termbases are Fun” was a phrase overheard in a webinar this week by SDL on their new Terminology Workflow Management platform. The platform is designed for organizations at higher level of Technology Maturity or for Agencies to use with their clients. But when do organizations actually consider a Translation Technology Investment to be a priority?

If your organization is in the early stages of maturation, you may not be fully aware of the value of Terminology Management. But if you choose an agency that looks out for you, your terminology assets are managed and kept up to date before it even becomes a noticeable factor. But even at higher levels or maturity, we realize that there may be a budget conflict between the need for more technology management and the scope of work.

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Illustration of Termbase Workflow Management with SDL, a Translation Technology Investment

Illustration of Termbase Workflow Management from SDL

Termbases can be Fun Complex!

What this webinar verifies is that the creation, review and approval of terminology can become a very complex process. While terminology management as part of regular project work happens behind the scenes for many clients, we do work with organizations with local marketing managers that could benefit from investment into their own technology. The software that we manage can already do a lot to make Terminology Databases do intelligent things. Termbases can be defined from scratch to include synonyms, notes, definitions, images, and pretty much any data field you can imagine. You can define terms that are not allowed. And there are different ways in which you can setup a workflow to test the completed translation against the Termbase to make sure the terms are applied consistently.

What limits the management of these Termbases is that they typically managed only by the agency and on a project-by-project basis. And even though we advocate to make those small investments in translation project management with people who know what they are doing, it’s not realistic to assume that these Termbases will cover complex conditions or a concept hierarchy of terminology that extensively covers all business operations. In our experience, the most complete Termbases are created when a project covers a lot of terminology that is related to a major project or, for instance, a website that covers all business operations. Preferential terminology is often acquired during a preflight phase where a local manager or company expert weighs in on terms extracted through our MultiTerm Extract terminology. Terminology from thereon gets added/updated per project typically. However, terminology created in-house is only captured if this is being catalogued internally or if we discover it through preflight.

Graphic showing the high risk stage on the Maturity Map when you need to make a Translation Technology Investment

At the High Risk Stage, translation technology needs may become more visible even though budgets may not yet support that need.

Translation Technology Investment will hit you likely at the High Risk Stage

At some point, you expect that organizations may need to get more control over their terminology and make it easier for people within their organization (writers, client reviewers) to be able to access, add and maintain their own terminology or even a style guide. The availability of a new tool to streamline the activities around terminology management sounds like a dream for projects that include client review and multiple translators. When projects get complex, so does terminology management.

Consider this: You have multiple projects going on where on one project you may have a few new organizational terms that are being reviewed and approved by the client. This may hold up another project that requires input on the same terminology. Having a collaborative environment that allows all users to see terms being created, reviewed or discussed in real-time may be the solution to a faster workflow. Here are a few more situations where organizations may want to think about Translation Technology Investment:

  • Centralization across different Divisions with different client reviewers but similar (branded) terminology;
  • A Retailer that tends to launch a lot of branded materials with large catalogs that need logical structure for context;
  • Global organizations that manage both in-house created content and outsourced translated content across multiple locations.

Many organizations simply don’t get to that level of workflow to ever justify the investment into the tools. Generally, this investment may be to let their agency just handle terminology centrally either using the same tools or by a project manager with online access. Our Localization Maturity Model highlights that at some point, that technology need puts a stress on budgets as scopes are getting larger but you need more upfront investment to manage that complexity.

We are considering in-house Translation Technology: Now What?

Say your organization is investing in terminology management technology. What needs to be remembered when looking at technology investment is that this will only work well if it is managed properly. When witnessing the demo by SDL, the very idea of having to manage something that complex seemed overwhelming when you consider the amount of engagement you need to create with all team members involved. As the webinar pointedly made aware; you need to make terminology management something that people care about. And that’s perhaps where many organizations may still struggle to see the value unless they identify and can successfully have each individual express the pains before they adopt new technology.

Graphic of Global Readiness Areas mirroring organizational pyramids

Terminology Workflow Technology adoption should be tested against organizational readiness factors for proper adoption

Our Readiness Areas can help to understand where in the organization the major pain points are felt at different stages of maturity. Organizational Readiness is typically a function of middle management to organize people and processes around a common goal, such as technology innovation.

As we know with many client reviewers, their main job is typically not to be the spokesperson for terminology preferences. What this means is that if you throw more technology in their way (as opposed to a “simple” Excel file that is shared), you’ll likely see some push back when you consider that you need to log in, use a system that you are unfamiliar with, be diligent about how you catalog terminology changes and engage in a conversation that may take weeks if you have other priorities.

Therefore, while budgets may be an issue at rising, but not sufficient level of scope of work, consider also the work that agencies do every day to handle a lot of the work internally to ensure that your terminology runs great. If you start feeling the pains of managing a lot of terminology in-house, you may want to talk to your agency to see what the leading indicators are of good terminology management before you incorporate any translation technology in-house.

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