Implementing a TMS at Ciena

Ciena Corporation, headquartered in Maryland and with over 4,500 employees worldwide, offers network infrastructure solutions, intelligent software and comprehensive services. Many of the world’s largest network operators and submarine network consortia deliver services with Ciena network solutions, such as AT&T, Bell Canada, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Telefonica, Time Warner Cable and Verizon.

After the Nortel acquisition in 2009, Ciena became a truly global company with translation needs growing exponentially day after day. This unveiled the need to set up a translation team responsible for the definition of a well-outlined corporate localization strategy, which would create workflows and expectations, establish quality standards and metrics, and optimize costs and efforts.

One of the first steps taken in this direction was the implementation of a translation management system (TMS) that would not only support the localization of Ciena’s corporate website into 12 initial languages, but would also serve as the main platform for the management of all translation activities within the company. This implementation was driven by a joint effort of the translation team and the web marketing group, in collaboration with the IT and procurement departments.

There are some relevant steps for the evaluation, selection and implementation of a TMS. Though we understand that each company will face different and specific challenges, derived from the nature of its business, its needs or size, we also understand that there are challenges shared by all organizations.


Understanding our needs

As an initial step of the TMS implementation process, we needed to understand the current situation of the localization efforts within the company. For this purpose, all teams involved in the translation process were identified and consulted. The main objective was to obtain information about the steps they followed in the translation process, the resources and file formats they used, and the volume and frequency of their translation requests.

After a few first conversations it was clear that all teams were facing similar challenges and that translation seemed to be a pain point in their processes given it had suddenly become crucial in their objectives after acquiring many of the internationalized Nortel products and services. More than 15 different teams from all regions and organizations were interviewed and consulted during two months.

Now it was time to fully analyze the data. This would be the basis of an action plan to deploy a scalable translation model and implement a corporate localization strategy. The conclusions were, first of all, that the corporate translation requirements were mainly focused on marketing materials, public communications and the corporate website. This website served as a repository of much of the generated content, but at the same time it also generated its own content on a regular basis.

Second of all, though Ciena is present in over 60 countries worldwide, the most significant language requirements were primarily focused on ten specific regional markets, though language support was also provided to all markets when required.

Third, there was a need for centralization of the translation efforts, and the implementation of a translation management system, in order to reduce costs, avoid duplications, simplify processes, and last but not least, measure the translation quality.


Selection process

Once all the needs and requirements were identified, it was time to define a translation model. This would need to standardize activity within the company, but at the same time should be flexible enough to accommodate the current and future needs of all Ciena internal teams. With this in mind, a search for potential translation management platforms was started. Before looking at all the suitable solutions on the market, Ciena outlined a series of both mandatory and preferable features the TMS should have in order to narrow down the search as much as possible:

 Full compatibility with the current web content management system. Those platforms with previous successful integrations would score higher than those also compatible but without previous common experience.

Flexibility and scalability. The system should be able to accommodate all current needs but also be flexible enough to add new functionalities or adapt the existing in the future.

Low maintenance fees. The platform should consume a low percentage of the budget resources and should prove a high return on investment over time.

24/7 efficient customer support. Though the system was expected to be reliable and with minor support intervention, it was mandatory to have around-the-clock support coverage, enabling a quick resolution of potential issues.

Quick implementation. Given the time limitations, the TMS and all related products had to be deployed and ready to use in a maximum period of two months after signing the contract.

After an initial screening and research, several TMS providers were identified and we contacted them to obtain more information and request an online demo for evaluation. After this initial approach and attending several online demos, some of the platforms were discarded for different reasons, such as long implementation processes, over-budget costs and contract requirements.

For those still on the candidate list, we requested an additional on-site demo at the Ciena headquarters in Maryland. Members of the IT department were invited to attend as they needed to evaluate the entire integration process within the Ciena network and their input and feedback were critical to obtain a successful outcome of the process.

The main objective of this onsite demo was to test potential scenarios on the tool to see both its adequacy to the requirements and its flexibility. The integration within the Ciena network and the content management system (CMS) were some of the key topics discussed. Last but not least, it also served to get an idea of the support service level to be expected from each of the providers.

After completing all the onsite demos, only two candidates were left. As a conclusive step before final consideration, Ciena asked each company to provide three references of current users of their tools to obtain direct input from them. All references were contacted by phone and the feedback coming from companies that were similar to Ciena in size and requirements was considered as most valuable when making a final decision.

For this final decision all teams and departments that took part in the evaluation process were consulted. After a week of deliberation and discussion, a decision was made.



Both finalists were informed about the decision, and the selected TMS provider was urged to start the process immediately considering two milestones in the process: 30 days for a soft implementation, which would allow Ciena to control everything going in the right direction, and 60 days for a full implementation with all features enabled.

As a preliminary step to the implementation, though, the legal teams from both companies were asked to start working on a contract and a service level agreement. Given that this process was expected to be long and for the sake of speediness, a short version of both documents was created first. After all the pertinent signatures, the IT teams on both sides finally received the go-ahead.

This implementation process meant an extraordinary communication effort for all teams involved, and though the TMS was going to be hosted remotely by the provider, its integration with the existing CMS required legal supervision, which sometimes added quite a challenge.

After one month of implementation work, Ciena had the chance to have a look at the first results and these were quite satisfactory. Most of the work had been accomplished, and the main challenge at this point was the completion of the application programming interface communicating between the CMS and the TMS. This was quite a surprise for everyone considering all the previous successful implementations.

Thirty days later, the full implementation was completed. Ciena was ready to start using a TMS for the management of all translation activities within the company. This TMS consisted of a project management portal, a translation memory (TM) hosting application, a translation and review portal, and a glossary management tool.

Right after the implementation, all users of the tool were invited to attend trainings — project managers, freelance translators, translation vendors, reviewers and desktop publishers. Each training session was customized for every user group, as the functionalities, features and access rights were not the same for everyone. In order to get all users up to speed as fast as possible, some of the sessions were repeated because this allowed the users to ask questions after testing the tool for a few days. Based on these sessions, user guides including frequently asked questions and quick references were compiled.

As it turned out, the first months proved to be extremely challenging due to two factors. First, the time needed by the users to get familiar with the tool took longer than originally anticipated. Consequently, this slowed down our usual translation process, adding additional pressure on the Ciena translation team, as the deadlines and turnarounds were supposed to be reduced or at least maintained after the implementation. This inexperience also caused a high number of user-induced errors, and the support team was frequently required to step in and help.

The second and most troublesome factor was that the tool did not work as expected, and many of the functionalities were unusable or showed random behavior. This made the platform completely unreliable, with inaccurate status of projects, incorrect file conversions, word analyses and so on. So in addition to solving problems generated by the users of the tool, the support team had to deal with continuous bug fixing and tweaks as well.

Unfortunately, the bugs continued to increase over time and it became clear at a certain point that the platform was a problem-generating source rather than a problem-solving one. This was giving rise to a high level of frustration, and our translation team was not only concerned about the extra work being created, but also about the fact that many resources might decide to cease their collaboration given the number of hours being spent on troubleshooting.


Customizing the tool

After several months of non-stop problems and issues with the platform, the TMS provider was given an ultimatum to solve all the open issues and provide a reliable tool, as the situation was becoming unmanageable. The provider promised to provide a new version within an agreed period of time, which would incorporate not only fixes to all known bugs but also missing and customized functionalities.

The new version of the TMS that the company presented at the end of the period proved to be reliable after the first weeks of use, and all the teams agreed that things were starting to work. Now that the basic features were functioning normally, it was time to ask all users, from project managers to translators, to start providing input and suggestions about ways on which the TMS could be improved, making everyone’s job easier.

Many of the recommendations came from the production team, and they were mainly about the implementation of new features and functionalities such as reopening of old projects, or being able to clone previous submissions. There were also some requests related to a better management of the glossary platform and the TM.

It has been almost two years since the initial implementation and the platform has been upgraded several times since then. Fortunately most of the issues are now solved. Many new functionalities have been added, others have been removed, with the result that the TMS is now a fully customized tool for all its users. Recent tweaks include the possibility to update translation files (and consequently TMs) on completed projects allowing unexpected last-minute edits, and also an on-hold feature that allows project managers to keep projects on suspension when required. Additionally, everyone is now fully familiar with the platform and the number of interactions with the support team is very low.

TMs are now densely populated and Ciena benefits from content leverage, which translates into a significant cost reduction for content updates. Also, thanks to the TMs, turnarounds are now 40% shorter compared to two years ago. Online glossaries are also being updated on a regular basis, incorporating new or updating existing terms, allowing translators and translation agencies to use the latest terminology at all times.

The main challenge at this point is probably the management of the redesign of all international websites. This redesign implies not only new content but also a new design and layout of the web pages, changing how the information is organized and extracted for translation. This is leading to some content not being included in translatable files, or sentence units being wrongly exported into split translation segments.



There are some lessons to be learned here about TMS implementation and consolidation. First, carefully review all current and potential translation scenarios and make sure the TMS will be able to adapt. Prior to your final decision, obtain feedback from other companies that have adopted the TMS. Be open to sharing your experiences in return.

Legal processes always take longer than expected, so try to initiate these as soon as possible. It will never be early enough, and this step might jeopardize all your timelines. It will take a lot of time to have all users get familiar with the tool and there will probably be some frustration about it. Be prepared to provide as much support as possible. Quick reference guides may become good allies in such situations. Once the TMS is implemented, you will have to deal with the support team on many occasions. Engage with them right from the start to make sure they are both efficient and communicative. Finally, always create pilot projects when implementing new functionalities, tools, workflows and so on. This will minimize the required bandwidth.