What is the ROI of Terminology Management?

by | Dec 5, 2019

Notes: Wordbee is a translation management system and CAT tool that now includes terminology management, with new features for terminology in the pipeline. Request a trial or contact us for more details.

This article is part of a series on terminology management dealing with translation-oriented issues and it is meant for translators, language service providers and enterprises alike.

Previous articles:

Terminology: Necessary Evil or Bare Necessity?

Detailed Terminology Management in Wordbee

Terminology Management: Getting Started

How to Choose Your Terminology Sources

WIthout further ado, the three questions you should ask to approach the topic of terminology and ROI:

  1. Is it really necessary to do terminology work before starting a translation project?
  2. How much time and money should I allocate?
  3. How can I reckon whether it is going to be profitable?

#1. Is it necessary to do terminology management?

The creation and validation of each term recalls the unit testing process within the software industry where each unit function or procedure of a software application is validated during the development phase to make sure it performs as necessary. More or less in the same way, having every term validated, either by the end client or a subject-matter expert, will help make your process and project faster and better.

You can find a detailed answer to this first question in our previously published article, Terminology: Necessary Evil or Bare Necessity?.

#2. How much time and money must I allocate to terminology management?

For the second question (cost and time), the investment will involve setting up and training an ad-hoc team, as well as designing a process. To set up a team, you may ask for the support of a consultant or leave it to someone in your staff with some previous experience. In both cases, you may lean on them to help you choose and implement a terminology tool. The investment will also involve the cost for launching and running the terminology unit and the associate work, from implementing and maintaining the terminology platform to the actual daily tasks, i.e. collecting, developing, and validating terms. 

While terminology management does require investment, it’s also true that you will save time and money in other areas. We’re going to look at some of these areas, and do this on the basis of figures presented by terminology organizations like TermNet, the International Network for Terminology, a non-profit organization under the auspices of UNESCO aiming at international co-operation in the field of terminology. You might also find it useful to refer to a presentation on terminology management in a corporate setting held at LocWorld 2014.

The profit of a well-designed terminology plan (i.e., that starts before content creation) will include the following savings:

  • Savings in authoring
    Experts have estimated that, during the authoring phase, around 30-70% of errors in a technical document are due to the use of wrong terminology. This can be avoided by compiling a glossary: keep in mind that on average a terminologist will have to document 4-6% of the words contained in a document. But with a well-prepared glossary that enhances the consistency of a technical text, you can repurpose or reuse your documentation, which will lead to a saving of around 5% of the cost of writing content.
  • Savings in translation/localization
    Experienced translators spend about 20%-25% of their work on terminology activities. For a new translator, this percentage might be as high as 40% to 60%. With the correct glossaries your translators and reviewers can cut down on translation and review time, respectively, not to mention the time spent asking/waiting for an answer on a term enquiry.
  • Savings in requests from customers/tech support
    In a Tekom study of 2010, Schmitz and Straub showed that an organization with a suitable terminology database will register a saving of 10 minutes per successful term search, as well as a reduction of 60% in queries from translators/reviewers and of complaints from customers and users due to unclear product documentation.

#3. Will terminology management have a positive ROI?

We have mentioned savings in time and money across authorship, translation, customer service, and persons in your organization doing a term search. These are the benefits that are easier to measure, but it requires some thought to compare those benefits to the cost of doing terminology management.

However, the overall scope of terminology benefits may be wider than you expect, though they are difficult to quantify. If your company can communicate accurately and on-brand across different channels, forms of communication, and different languages, you might see increased sales, a better brand, clarity in customer service and documentation, and other benefits. These benefits have an added-value that goes beyond saving time and money.

That being said, the answer to this third and last question (i.e. how can I reckon any possible profits from terminology?) is that there is no magic formula. Many efforts have been made and many articles have been written on how to calculate the ROI of terminology, and, so far, the only thing that has emerged for good is that terminology management is a long-term shot, but it’s one well worth trying.

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