The critical thing to remember, when it comes to technical document translation software, is that no company’s materials are ever complete. They will forever be a work in progress that requires constant attention. By adopting this mindset, you’ll be in a better position to choose a translation software that’s right for you and your team—for now and as you scale and need to bridge new languages.
Translating technical documentation is a bit like trying to change the wheels on a moving car. As you make updates to your English source text, you need to consider similar changes to all your supported languages. In even small organizations, this is an enormous feat. As such, you’re going to need to carefully consider the design of your translation platform.
Key Components of Technical Document Translation Software
Harley-Davidson is an excellent example of a company that faces a lot of challenges when it comes to technical documentation. This motorcycle giant operates in 42 different languages, so they must manage the consistent translation of thousands of user manuals, recall notices, service bulletins, repair documents, and more.
It would be impossible for them to control all these moving parts if they didn’t have a system in place that offered four components:
Consistency and Accuracy
Whenever Harley makes changes or updates to original English content, that triggers changes across all other languages in their automated system. Fortunately, they also have term bases, translation memories, and other assets that ensure consistency and accuracy and that repeat content isn’t translated multiple times.
A comprehensive translation management platform is essential for managing all the moving parts of a translation project. Harley has close to 1,000 different assets that need monitoring. Workflow management helps them track all of it without missing a beat. For example, with an at-a-glance view, Harley’s localization team can see that page 43 of an owner’s manual in Japanese may be in the midst of translation; at the same time, page 45 in Russian may be under review; and page 46 in Italian may be ready for delivery.
Simply assigning translators to documents would be a full-time job if it wasn’t for data-driven automation. Using historical performance data, Harley can easily access the linguists who have the highest score for a given market without the need to manually review and vet translators for every project. Data-driven automation ensures a program flows smoothly with minimal human oversight. The same is true for integrating content updates in need of translation without having to manually upload or download on either end of the process.
Flat-rate billing is never appropriate in technical documentation because it lacks transparency. Harley takes advantage of a system that breaks down billing to specific line items, allowing them to pay only for what they use and to clearly evaluate the ROI of any given market. This type of transparent billing is vital for planning current and future budgets for content projects and languages.
The Harley-Davidson example of technical document translation doesn’t just apply to large enterprises; it is equally fitting if your company is small and still growing. And it’s ideal for modeling future expansion. A system like Harley’s is scalable and provides everything you need to manage your technical documentation. That is because it’s a platform-based approach to translation that streamlines workflows and ensures consistency with high-stakes documentation.
Solving Future Problems with a Flexible Platform
Even though you may never see the back-end gears of a platform, it’s vital to ask some questions about how it works. Then, you’ll be able to pinpoint the perfect technical document translation software for your organization.
Here are some questions to ask:
- What is the designer’s process? An abstract, agnostic design process is highly desirable. The designer should be intending to solve problems for diverse clients and issues. This makes way for a robust system that enables continuous improvement.
- How are data organized? With well-organized data, reports are accessible at granular levels. As an example, Harley could ask, “How much did we spend on service bulletins in Turkish, compared to how much we spent on owner’s manuals in Greek?” and the answer is at their fingertips. Those insights are crucial for understanding translation ROI and eliminating unnecessary spending.
- How is the translation memory maintained? Every translation project should leverage a translation memory that applies previously approved translations to save time, improve accuracy, and cut back on unnecessary spending. And, as that translation memory grows, it proves invaluable for future projects.
- What are the available integrations? The ability to integrate your technical document translation software with other useful applications can improve your results and streamline processes.
Technical document translation software should, at the very least, offer consistency, workflow management, data-driven solutions, and transparent billing to meet your company’s needs now and in the future. While it may be tempting to use a lighter-weight platform early on, that mistake will become obvious—and even more costly—as your business grows. Choose a sophisticated platform that is designed to save you time and money now, as well as to grow with your business painlessly.
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