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Eight Steps to a Successful TMS Roll-Out
Written by High Rock   

 The TMS has been installed on the server – so, what’s next? How do I get started? That is the single most asked question when I meet with organizations that have bought into the idea of implementing a translation management system. The many benefits are clear: 
  • Automation of manual transactions
  • Reduction of translation management cost
  • Enforcement of terminology and translation memory across projects, translation vendors and/or the entire enterprise
  • Control and visibility over translation processes, workflow and costs.
But what is the fastest way to get there? More often than not, it is the users that make the path to success rocky – and sometimes even block it completely. I have exchanged knowledge and experience with over hundred TMS implementers around the world for more than seven years. The number one issue reported has not been of technical nature, but user acceptance.

Step 1: Find the pain

The most successful implementers start out with the users in mind. They recognize that a new system requires behavioral adaptation from users and make it easy and transparent for them to adjust to new ways of working. There is only one way of doing it right:
  • Find the pain spots where you can provide instant relief
  • Show immediate benefits from using the translation management system
  • Roll-out in modules or incremental steps
Most likely, your project managers and translators are already very busy. Adjusting to new ways of doing things, such as working with a new user interface, or following new ways of communicating and exchanging project data adds to their already heavy workload. No one likes that. You will have a hard time getting buy-in unless you already have a proven track record of getting results. Find the strongest pain that staff feel every day. That’s where your roll-out should start. Once you have shown that the TMS will significantly improve the quality of the users’ work life, it will be easier to motivate people to adjust to the entire system.

Step 2: Audit your workflows

Think and work in modules or incremental steps. Start where you can provide the biggest pain relief first. There are many approaches, but the one that has been used most successfully is to start with a workflow review. The benefits are that at the end of the exercise you will have:
  • Harmonized and unified workflows for easy TMS implementation
  • Defined roles and responsibilities within automated localization processes
  • Understanding of what additional capabilities you will need that are not provided by a TMS
  • Outline of a TMS implementation and roll-out plan
In addition, during the workflow review some quick-wins often emerge which produce quick results with minimal investment. If such quick-wins do emerge, then you can implement them in parallel to the main TMS project. Those quick wins or ‘low hanging fruits’ will help you to build your track record of getting things done, if you do not already have one.
Understanding your current processes and modifying them for TMS use is not trivial. The TMS system will amplify any flaw in your existing workflow. You will set yourself up for failure when you transfer your existing workflow in every detail.
On the other hand, your workflows might not be detailed enough. For example, a workflow step can be called ‘retrieve file’, but in actuality there are different places to retrieve files and multiple ways of accepting them. The system will need to know exactly how this is going to work. It will also need to know who will be performing the work. So, be clear what functions need to be performed within the workflow. Be courageous: You might need to separate functions from roles, or even change roles.
Step 3: Define what can be automated

If your workflows are inconsistent or defined on a project-by-project basis, this is the time to make them consistent. Change them to meet your business requirements for input, output, transformation of content, and approval processes.
In particular, look for any steps within the current process that are:
  • Manual and repetitive
  • Not adding value
  • Redundant
File transfers are processes that often are good candidates for process automation. So are many routine localization project management tasks, such as:
  • Identification of project files
  • Assembly of project instructions,
  • Transmission of files to and from vendors
Step 4: Define what needs to be managed outside the TMS

A very important task in the workflow review is to identify which processes will need to be managed outside the TMS, for example localization of media files. How is this going to be done, and where, in the TMS – if at all? How will you track progress of these efforts?
Invoicing will most likely take place outside the system, because your bills will need input from additional sources. Unless you have retainer agreements with your translation vendors in place that allow you to send files to them without prior notice, your project managers will still need to check their availability and negotiate turn-around and pricing. The splitting of a document, so that it can be sent to multiple vendors in order to meet a deadline is still a manual step; so is the decision how to split it and who will receive which chunk of the document for translation. The re-assembly of the individual pieces to one single document is a manual step as well.
Find out which tasks will need to be managed outside the TMS and how to integrate these workflow steps with those inside the TMS.
Step 5: Relieve the biggest pain first

The general advice for successful TMS implementation is:
  • Keep it simple
  • Divide the work into manageable chunks
  • Start where it hurts the most first
  • Provide the immediate benefits from using the system
Instead of implementing an entire workflow, start with one module first, for example automation of memory analysis, quoting, memory management and application of memory re-use. Translation Management Systems were invented in the late 1990s when the industry believed that the translation memory was the ultimate solution to most of its quality and productivity challenges. So, naturally, to this day, what these systems still do best is supporting memory translation. It is where you can provide most relief – provided your documents are suitable to benefit from computer-aided translation.
The conventional way is to get started in a sequential manner and by focusing on major milestones in the workflow, i.e. project acceptance – project qualification – localization (including translation, editing, proofreading) – delivery. But experience has shown that this is not the most effective approach, because users struggle to adjust to ways of working that are entirely different and require a great deal of adaptive behavior. However, when changes immediately improve the users’ situation, change will be accepted more easily.
I often hear implementers say that ‘users do not like change.’ I do not believe in that wisdom. No one will throw away that multi-million dollar winning lottery ticket, play casino although it will bring tremendous change to one’s life. It is the apprehension of loss that makes people resist change. Changing a way of working with no apparent benefits is being perceived as a loss in the work life quality. So start where you can provide the most benefits of using the TMS.
Step 6: Test before deployment

Before rolling out the use of a new module or workflow phase, test it with a narrowly defined project. Choose a pilot project that can be used to test features of the TMS without risking the success of a project. The pilot project should involve all key elements of the module or workflow, unless you want to test individual features in isolation before combining them. The pilot project should also include representatives from all stakeholders who will be expected to use the system. You will need to provide at least basic training to those involved.
Look for any problems or difficulties, and identify their causes. Collect feedback and use it to determine the issues. You should focus not only on objective problems, but also on the users’ subjective experience as well, since the latter will help determine their willingness to use the system. Ask users for their suggestions how the process could better support their needs.
Step 7: Pace the roll-out

Once you are reasonably satisfied with your workflows, automation and user acceptance, roll out the use of the module organization wide. The best approach depends on a variety of factors some of which you might not be able to influence, e.g. other people’s schedules.
Determine what makes most sense for your organization. You can roll out by:
  • Document type
  • Language
  • Client
  • Project management team
  • File format
  • Product
Training must be part of the roll-out program and time must be allocated for it. If you are like most of the translation and localization organizations, then there will never be a best time for training and roll-out; and if training is seen as yet another task on top of an already overwhelming workload, users will be likely to resist using the new system. But you have planned for that from the get-go by starting your roll-out first where you can make the most difference in your colleagues’ workload.
Step 8: Address Issues – fast

During the entire implementation project, you will face technical issues, including:
  • Failure of the system to function as planned
  • Difficulties in integration
  • Issues with accepting source file
  • Problems in generating output
Deal with them head-on and immediately. You don’t want issues to linger too long and discourage your user community. Communicate clearly what users need to do to solve issues. Provide an escalation path, so that users know where to turn to when they need help and what needs to be done if more expertise is needed.
You might also face process issues, like (but not limited to):
  • Project types not considered in the planning process (yes, it happens)
  • Workflow/process design insufficient
  • Roles and Responsibilities not clearly defined
  • Too many steps in the workflow require manual interaction
While technical and process changes can be made quite rapidly, helping people to adjust to the TMS might take some time. Sometimes it will take a lot of time. And some people will never change. However, don’t let them derail you. Instead, do your best to anticipate responses to your plans and proactively address them. Communicate, educate and keep the opposition close. And remember: Sometimes separation is progress, but in the end, it is all about people and relationships – their quality will support your implementation or will make it fail.
About The Author

Andrew can be reached on 301-789-1284 or via email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Andrew Draheim develops high performing operations that meet or exceed desired profit margins, deadlines and quality targets. Leveraging two decades of implementing proven tools and methodologies, Andrew turns knowledge workers into high performing company assets. He understands that professionals are not paid to work 9-to-5, but to be more productive. Andrew has celebrated success in leading global organizations, such as Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group (Scientific American, The Macmillan Group, and many others), Berlitz GlobalNet (now Lionbridge), The World Bank, and thebigword.
Andrew completed the implementation of five localization hubs in developing countries for the World Bank. He implemented and managed one of the world’s largest Translation Management System (GMS / TMS) installations. He is co-author of the Best Practice Guide To Implementing Global Content Management Systems (CMS) published by the Localization Industry Standard Association (LISA). Andrew has also served as Managing Director for Central & Eastern Europe for Berlitz GlobalNet and Managing Director of HEP, the electronic publishing arm of the Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group.
Andrew is a featured speaker, facilitator and participant at many high profile industry events, such as Inter-Agency Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and Publications of the UN network (IAMLAPD), Digital Economy Forum of the Robert H. Smith School of Business, and ProZ translator conference. He also presents at events organized by Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA), Gilbane Content Management, International Quality and Productivity Center (IQPC), Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), Translation User Automation Society (TAUS), and others.