The Business Case

“Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.” - Natsuki Takaya

“Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.” – Natsuki Takaya

So, you have read and prepared yourself to start a terminology project. The problem is that you have to convince your client that properly managing terminology is a good great excellent idea. Here are some pointers, facts collected from several sources, that you can use when presenting your business case. (You can find general information and links on the business case here).

Now that you have acquired some knowledge about terminology, or that you have obtained a certification or taken courses, you probably need some tips on how to sell your terminology services to a potential client, whether you already work in an organization and need to sell the idea to your boss, or you have to present a terminology plan to a client.

The truth is that resources are scarce and people who are outside the terminology sphere would tend to think that the investment is too large, but it is also true that by managing terminology properly the investment is worth the time and resources spent in this effort, and more and more companies are becoming aware of the fact that they need to adopt a different strategy. That is why you have to present the before and after scenarios. Show stakeholders what would happen if terminology is properly managed, and equally important, show them what would happen if it is not managed at all.

Here are the facts that are on your side:

  1. In the automotive industry, General Motors carried out a study that showed that 47% of translation errors are “wrong terms” and that investing in terminology “provides the most effective ‘bang for the buck’” (Source: Introduction to SAE J1930: Bridging the Disconnect Between the Engineering, Authoring and Translation Communities by Rick Woyde, President, Detroit Translation Bureau, Inc.)
  2. The modification of a term after translation can consume up to one person day of work and cost 480 euros or more (Source: Terminologie – (k)eine Kostenfrage? (in German only), by Dieter Gust. I did not find the English translation of this document.
  3. 95% of translators notice inconsistent terminology in the source content and that inconsistencies in terminology have an impact on the quality of translation. (Source: Terminology Survey by Sophie Hurst — Center for Information-Development Management — CIDM).
  4. 40% of time required for text production is terminology work (Source: Hans-Jürgen Stellbrink. Selling Terminology at a Price – The Wrong Approach. Terminology and Knowledge Engineering Conference) Document not available online.
  5. Between 30% and 70% of errors in technical documentation are terminology errors:

This shows that errors made at early stages in the documentation workflow are extremely expensive to repair. If such error occurred infrequently, then the contribution to the overall documentation cost would not be significant. However, terminology errors are indeed a large class of errors typically found in complex technical documentation. These errors could be between 30 % and 70 % of the errors discovered in technical documentation.” (Source: Evaluating Language Technologies: The MULTIDOC Approach to Taming the Knowledge Soup by Jörg Schütz and Rita Nübel)

  1. Extract from the document “The economic value of terminology. An exploratory study” (Guy Champagne, Inc., A study submitted to The Translation Bureau of Canada). (This document is a must-read as it provides more details about the business case that might be useful to you.)

It is hard for a focus group to assess terminology’s impact on productivity. In general, however, the focus groups validated fairly well what the surveys and case studies reported:

  • In the current environment, with the Internet and other data bases, it takes about 15 minutes to create a record. In dollars and cents, this means about $20. It was noted that, several (20) years ago, the Translation Bureau estimated the cost at $10 to $15.
  • Terminology research is required for 4% to 6% of all words in a text.
  • Experienced translators spend about 20% to 25% of their work on terminology activities. For a new translator, this percentage might be as high as 40% to 60%.
  • Lack of a database, such as TERMIUM®, reduces productivity by 10% to 30%.
  • This is fairly close to the 15% to 20% range already determined. Some said productivity could be reduced by 100%. The work would take twice as long.”

In the same document:

  • “Managers of the terminology function estimate that it offers a 10% return on investment. In other words, a $100 investment yields a $110 return.
  • Terminology accounts for 15% to 30% of translation/writing work. Terminology increases productivity in translation and revision by about 20%.
  • Terminologists and their tools thus each generate $35 of every $100 in increased productivity.”
  • Work volumes, the pressure of deadlines and cost management concerns make it
    necessary to invest in and use terminology tools and banks.
  1. “It costs 10 times more to fix a term at the end of a production cycle than at the beginning”. The original source, or at least the exact or similar quote, was not found on the Internet, but this fact has been mentioned in several sources consulted on line, especially by Kara Warburton in her presentation “Language Resources and their Commercial Applications”. By the way, she wrote the following document for Lisa Terminology Special Interest Group: “A Comparative study of costs, data categories, tools, and organizational structure”. She mentioned the source of the quote as “Xerox Corporation, J.D.Edwards”, which are mentioned in the footer of this document and, according to the wiki, J.D. Edwards is a software company in Colorado, USA. If you have more information on this, please let me know. Klaus-Dirk Schmitz also mentions the fact in his presentation “Terminology Management in Technical Communication

Note: This and other facts mentioned here are included in the sources mentioned above (item 5) as well as by AAC Global in “Not all translation tools are created equal

  1. “Outsourced translations may be 50% more expensive if source terminology is inconsistent”. This fact was also mentioned by the above sources, and was also found in a presentation by Diana Brandle “Promoting Terminology Awareness In-House” and the sources seems to be Kjeldgaard (no full name provided nor found).
  2. About 20% of the terms in one glossary can be found in at least one other glossary (sometimes defined differently).
  3. It costs $2,000 to change a term in a translation memory for one language (Martin and Karsch) Source: Perspectives on Localization in google books.
  4. Kara Warburton (TermoLogic) wrote a document called “Developing a business case for managing terminology” that you can find here. It includes the following topics; Terminology’s introduction into commercial settings, Some business case assumptions, Direct, indirect, and strategic benefits, The costs of NOT managing terminology, Conditions that favour the ROI, Maintaining a realistic perspective.
  5. The following document is not available online, but you can read an abstract here. The Case for Terminology Management – Why Organizing Meaning Makes Good Business Sense by Kelly, Nataly and Donald DePalma (Common Sense Advisory, 2009).
  6. A tekom study “Cost and effectiveness of terminology work” presents valuable figures and talks about the cost-benefit aspects of terminology management.
  7. SDL explains in a few words what the cost of inconsistency amounts to in this useful infographic.
  8. Sarah Evans wrote this article called “The Importance of Effective Terminology Management“.
  9. Terminology Matters Everywhere. TermCoord’s Rodolfo Maslias post in their blog.
  10. Developing a business case for managing terminology by Termologic’s Kara Warburton.
  11. An article of the ISTC (Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators) Communicator newsletter, by Sophie Hurst “Wake up to Terminology Management” (on page 14). Results of SDL’s two surveys to translators and organizations on terminology effects and issues, trends, concerns and developments raised by both surveys.
  12. The case for terminology management. Why organizing meaning makes good business sense (Common Sense Advisory, 2009) by Nataly Kelly and Donald DePalma. (Used to be available online but I leave it for reference).
  13. Project Management Fact Sheet: Developing a Business Case
  14. Infographic: What cost savings can be achieved through Terminology Management? by SDL Trados.

3 Comments on “The Business Case

  1. Pingback: The “how to” of terminology project planning | In My Own Terms

  2. Excellent collection of references and sources, thanks!

  3. Thanks, Špela. I’m glad you find it useful.

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