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This article discusses the choice between a vendor such as thebigword and a GMS solution such as Trados GXT, Globalsight, Idiom, etc.

It aims to be as objective as possible and is written from the technical and process standpoint. If there are any questions regarding this article, please do not hesitate to contact Ian Harris on +44 (0)870 7488000 (

Using a GMS (Globalisation Management System)

A GMS is designed to allow a company to manage many parts of the translation workflow themselves. It allows them to deal directly with translators. It also allows them to deal with translation vendors but removes much of the project management, file handling and memory management resource so allows negotiation of much better prices, and allows much easier swapping of vendors.

GMS (Globalisation Management System)


A GMS generally consists of the following elements:

The GMS is installed and configured to accept files from a number of sources. Sources could be content management systems, document management systems, databases, file repositories and anywhere else that translatable content exists. The GMS will generally advertise many pre-built 'connectors' for standard applications such as standard CMS (content management system) solutions.
As well as having the necessary technology for extracting the file out of its source repository, the GMS also has many 'filters' that, once the file is in the GMS, will extract the text out of the file so that it can be translated without breaking the file.

The GMS has workflow capability that enables the GMS manager to set up a process flow for each file type, or each file type from each repository. An example of such a workflow might be:

  1. Extract File
  2. Filter File
  3. Leverage Memory
  4. Translate
  5. Proofread
  6. Back Filter
  7. In-Context Check
  8. Return File

Each of these stages is either performed by the GMS itself or is managed by the GMS. In the case of translate and proofread, for example, the GMS cannot perform these stages, but instead manages these stages by e mailing the relevant parties, logging any work completed, and on completion, continuing to the next stage in the workflow.

The GMS has a built-in memory so when translators log in and choose to translate a file they are generally pre-leveraged. This means that the translator does not need any CAT (Computer Aided Translation) tools, and all translators receive benefit from the memory the instant a translator adds a new translation unit (typically a sentence).
Vendor Management
The GMS will generally have some translation vendor management facilities allowing translators or translation vendors to be added to the system. The system can hold price information and other details and allow the system manager to select the best translator or vendor for the job.
Review mechanisms allow the reviewers, as part of the translation workflow, to log in and make annotated amendments to the translations.

Given the above functionality, it is possible to choose the cheapest translator for the job, and not pay for any of the add-on services of the vendor since all the extraction, filtering and memory management is done automatically. The aim of these systems is that the client only pays for the translation.

Using a Translation Vendor

Using a vendor, such as thebigword, without the use of a GMS is described as follows.

Using a Translation Vendor


If the translation vendor in the diagram is thebigword, it consists of the same elements as the GMS. In this case, the comparable elements are as follows:

Files can be sent from a number of sources using thebigword's TranzManager™ suite. This includes connections to content management systems and databases, user interfaces that are either web based or integrated with the Windows desktop, as well as links with eProcurement systems such as Oracle and Ariba. This allows automatic access to content repositories where required and manual submission mechanisms in all other cases.
thebigword employs not only the latest industry standard filters for common file types, but also creates bespoke filters for client specific files.
Workflows for each file and content type are managed by thebigword. It is our responsibility to ensure that these are the most efficient for each type. The client need not be concerned with these, but they are transparent should the client be interested.
thebigword manages the memory on behalf of the client. The memory is always owned by the client, but this is cleaned and maintained by thebigword. The memory is available as a download at any time on the translation portal hosted by thebigword and available to the client. Translators use this memory with their own CAT tools.
Vendor Management
thebigword manages the vendors that translate the files. These may be individual translators or single language suppliers.
thebigword manages the review process with specifically designed tools and file formats.


On the face of it, it seems that the decision to opt for a GMS solution or a vendor such as thebigword is based on a financial calculation between the up front cost of the GMS (plus on-going maintenance fees), against the higher per-word costs of the translation vendor.

However, there are issues to consider. Below is our comparison chart of the two options. Note that this is clearly written by a translation vendor and is therefore potentially biased towards that solution. However, we have much experience in competing with and in many cases replacing such systems and can provide references to back up these findings.

  GMS thebigword
Extraction Out of the box 'connectors' involve high maintenance, installation on the client system, and are generally very unreliable. Very few good case studies or referees exist. Un-intrusive web service based messaging is compatible with all but the oldest systems, uses standard SOAP protocols and has a three year track record of successful implementations. Case studies and referees can be provided on request.
Filters Pre-built filters are excellent for standard file types that adhere to the standards. The files must not vary in their formatting or this part of the workflow breaks down. From 25 years of working with files, thebigword have found that very few file types in a company's translation file type portfolio adhere to standards. Filtering is our specialism. If the XML contains encoded HTML that contains Javascript, we can extract the text. Filtering is major problem area for out-of-the-box solutions. Filtering is difficult and needs to be in the hands of experts that know the issues, both technical and linguistic. When file types change, as they invariably do, our filters change at no extra charge, and they work every time. This is because they are managed by experts
Workflow Design of workflows for each file type or new process is a burden. This creates large internal costs. Existing GMS users can provide details of how significant a burden this is. Workflow design is removed from the client. The client sends source files and receives finished, working translated files.
Memory Centralised memory is owned and managed by the client and is used by all vendors. Swapping vendors is easy. Memory is managed by thebigword. The reality of managing a memory is that each translation unit that enters the memory must be good since it will be re-used in future. Therefore the mechanism of sending out translation packets then cleaning these into the memory is essential. Instant on-line memory updating is a mechanism that thebigword can support, but it leads to instant perpetuation of any errors.
Vendor Management Vendors are simply loaded into the system then used as required. thebigword selects, tests, and monitors all vendors. Disputes between reviewer and translator are resolved as part of the service. Management of vendors should not be underestimated. We have built a 25 year old business on the premise that selecting and managing translators and vendors is a specialised job.
Review Review mechanism is automated. Review mechanism, plus review scheduling, chasing, dispute resolution is either automated or managed by thebigword. This process is at times painstaking and requires expertise. However, it is completely removed from the client.
Cost of Ownership Cost of set up is high, on going support and maintenance cost is high, but more significant, the cost of running and managing the system with its connectors, filters, workflows etc. is extremely high. No up front or maintenance costs, but higher cost per translation.


Choosing to employ the services of a major translation vendor or purchase a GMS is a significant investment decision. The two approaches are fundamentally different and involve different levels of cost and internal management. It is difficult to measure and compare the ROI on each due to the cost of internal management in the unknown areas of filter management, dispute management, vendor maintenance and others.

We would always recommend that when choosing between the GMS and vendor-based approach that you speak with actual customers of each. This should help you see beyond the sales pitch and provide a 'warts-and-all' view of the investment required.

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