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Terminology management at Medtronic

Terminology management at MedtronicWhile researching our recent post on Low-cost terminology management, I came across an interesting piece by terminology guru Uwe Muegge, the now departed Corporate Terminologist at Medtronic.

His article shows how device and drug companies can approach terminology management, making it a manageable and effective quality tool. It's interesting to note Medtronic's reliance on ISO standards, such as:

  • ISO 704:2000 Terminology work – Principles and methods (good introductory text to terminology management, including guidelines for writing definitions)
  • ISO 1087-1:2000 Terminology work – Vocabulary – Part 1: Theory and application (overview text that describes and defines concepts in terminology management)
  • ISO 12616:2002 Translation-oriented terminography (information on managing terminology specifically in translation environments)
  • ISO 12620:1999 Computer applications in terminology – Data categories (specifies data categories that should be used to ensure easy data exchange between terminology systems)
While most people by now understand the importance of accurate and consistent terminology, many organizations still struggle to fund a terminology management effort.

Uwe provides that justification in the form of a 1998 study from the automotive industry: During the 1998 EAMT Workshop "MULTIDOC - Controlling language in multilingual documentation", Jörg Schütz noted that a terminology change at the "maintenance stage" (i.e., after publication) is 200 times more expensive than a change at the "specification stage". This is neatly expressed in the following diagram:
A terminology change at the maintenance stage is 200x more expensive than a change at the specification stage

Uwe puts it succinctly in his article:
"It cannot be repeated too often: Effective terminology management starts long before the first source document in a global campaign is ever written. Terminology stakeholders should decide on new terms for features and functions at the specification stage. Starting later always leads to changes."
While not every company needs to (or can) go to the lengths that Medtronic does in managing terminology, every translation group at drug and device companies can and should do some terminology management.

For more information on managing multilingual terminology, take a look at the following resources:
  • Wikipedia has an extensive list of standards and other documents concerning methodology and principles for terminology and language resources
  • Our Primer: Translation memory vs. glossary takes a look at (and provides explanations for) some of the differences between translation memories and terminology glossaries
  • Angelika Zerfass knows a lot about terminology management; her audio conference An Introduction to Translation Memory Technology provides a detailed look at the translation memory tools on the market today

ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translation and software localization services to drug and device companies. Contact us to learn more.


  1. Mat Kramer said...
    The link to the Uwe Muegge article is broken. The new link appears to be: http://www.bioprocessintl.com/multimedia/archive/00090/BPI_A_100804AR02_O_90751a.pdf
    ForeignExchange Translations said...
    Thanks, Mat, for the heads-up.

    The link you provided is for a different, but also interesting, article called Terminology Management - Neglect It At Your Own Peril.

    The piece we originally referenced was Why manage terminology? Ten quick answers (click the "Download" button.

    We've updated the link in the story. Thanks again!


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