Today’s broadcasting environment continues to offer new challenges that were simply not present a few years ago. Over the past years, a large percentage of TV broadcasters have moved from a single, linear schedule line-up to what I refer to as a Triple-M (MMM) environment – Multi-version, Multi-format and Multi-platform. The Triple-M environment means that new working practices and additional resources need to be applied. Following are the reasons:
The amount of metadata is growing at a faster rate than ever before.
- Broadcasting rights are becoming more and more complex and difficult to manage.
- Programming, scheduling and traffic have now to be managed across different platforms.
- Airtime sales need to be captured on different platforms using various pricing models.
- Media workflows are more complex, with each piece of content sometimes stored in several different formats and delivered to several different platforms.
For this reason, you may be planning to implement new technology that will help you to better manage your metadata, ease the task of scheduling and mainstream your workflows, such as Broadcast Management System (BMS) or Media Asset Management System (MAM).
Based on any assessment you have already carried out and your calculation of the ROI, it is possible that you are making the right decision. There are some great systems out there, from small to large, from cost effective to multi-million dollar systems, that can help broadcasters, regardless of size, to control all data and information in a centralized database, streamline their business workflows and increase efficiency.
However, things may not be as rosy as they seem. If implemented correctly, the new technology can definitely be a benefit to the business organization, but nevertheless there are a number of important things to which you need to pay special attention.
This is the first of a series or articles, to be published here over the coming weeks, which will shed some light on the various aspects that need to be carefully considered when implementing a new broadcast management system in your organization. Reading through these articles you may say to yourself that the issues being raised come down to nothing more than simple standard procedure and common sense. You would be right, and I am the first to admit it, because these articles will not attempt to reinvent the wheel. However, for many years, and having dealt with more than 25 broadcasters across 4 continents, I have come to the conclusion, after seeing broadcasters make the same mistakes time and time again, that you can never be too careful. The success of the implementation, adhering to deadlines and most importantly staying within budget, largely depend on some of the issues that we will be discussing. These involve not only tasks and bold decisions that you, the customer, needs to take to ensure a higher success rate, but also to gather important tips as to what to look for when searching for the software package that will best meet your needs.
The issues that will be addressed are:
Article #1 – Starting out (this article):
- Understanding what you are getting – making sure you and your staff understand the full depth of the process ahead.
- Replacement of legacy system(s) – how to make sure all aspects are covered.
Article #2 – Getting around sticky points
- Interfaces – identifying what interface you have and want, and controlling the information gathering process.
- Media Workflow – understanding your needs and defining requirements.
Article #3 – Current and future needs
- Rights Management – understanding your present and future needs, and defining requirements.
- Multi Platform support – Ensuring that the system supports your current and future broadcasting needs.
Article #4 – Flexibility
- Adaptable graphic user interface (GUI) – Having the ability to change the look and feel of your screens.
- Custom Reporting – Giving yourself the flexibility for generating your own reports.
Article #5 – Working with Users
- Working with users – getting your users involved in the process and incorporating change.
In this article, we will discuss the first two issues on the list above:
1. Understanding What you are Getting
Sounds pretty banal, no? You are probably saying to yourself that surely the right people have done their homework, and have reached an educated decision based on experience and know-how in presenting a large project for the implementation of a new and comprehensive software package. Generally, I would agree, but time after time I have run into broadcasters, especially those implementing a broadcast management system for the first time, who do not really have the full picture as to what they are getting, how it will affect their business and most importantly, what input is needed on their part in order to have a system tailored to their needs. This results in a very lengthy implementation process due to the fact that the vendor, when carrying out the initial business review and gap analysis, will not only be asking a lot of questions, but will also expect to receive substantive answers. Simply put, the vendor will be looking for hard-case answers to how the customer would like the system to be implemented. The vendor can assist in that, but it is the customer, and the customer alone, who needs to dictate the business workflows that need to be addressed. If this job is left up to the vendor, you are going to end up with a system that does not fully address all necessary issues, leading to endless, costly customizations until you get it right. In addition, this may lead to unwanted organizational changes and very unhappy users. So how can this be avoided?
First, you need to begin by identifying your key business processes, and those areas that you are most keen to have fully covered by the new system. Is your main area of interest revenue generation (i.e. airtime sales), or do you want to put more emphasis on acquisitions and programme management? Perhaps both are equally important.
How critical are your current business processes? Are you happy with them? How flexible are you to change?
These are questions that you need to ask yourself right at the beginning of the process, namely: What is my goal?
Second, you must implement your own research and understand what a broadcast management system can accomplish and more importantly, how it can help you to become more productive and efficient.
This is by no means an easy task. It requires time and patience, getting to know the different systems on the market and what each has to offer. Attending the major exhibitions (NAB, IBC) are great places to do this. It is essential to have a good knowledge of what the market has to offer and how the varying options will fit in with your current business requirements.
Time spent on this process will not go to waste. Familiarizing yourself with different systems will be most beneficial to you in the tender process, and will allow you to narrow your search soon after the start of the process. This in itself can save you a lot of time, money, and resources.
2. Replacing Legacy Systems
In general, when implementing a new piece of technology, or a broadcast management system in particular, it is very likely that it will be replacing several legacy systems. Undoubtedly the new system will be much more feature-rich than the current legacy systems in use. However, this certainly does not mean that all areas in your current working methods are fully covered by the new technology.
Before you can begin the process of looking for a new system, it is recommended you first do some homework, which means fully understanding your current key features and processes, as well as the crucial data and information that need to be covered. These should include:
- All data input and output, through all departments.
- Internal integration and workflows.
- External integration and workflows (workflows that include third parties).
- All required interfaces to third party systems (Automation, CA systems, etc.).
This is certainly not an easy task, but a more thorough examination of what you are doing today will give you a huge head start when dealing with a selected vendor, as we will now see.
OK. So let’s say you have done your research. You have mapped all necessary data and features, and you have even selected the best solution for you after a lengthy tender process. Now what?
You will first need to sit with the vendor through a business review and gap analysis process. If you have done your homework correctly, this crucial stage of the project will be a success. If not, and you end up sitting with the vendor trying to determine what, why and how, then you will have started off on the wrong foot. Not only will the business review be less successful and take longer than anticipated, it will also immediately increase the cost of the project before you have even begun.
During the gap analysis process it will be easier to not only identify where the system needs to be changed in order to meet your business needs (by means of customized development), but more importantly where your own internal processes can be changed to meet the system logic and processes, thus saving additional budget in the process. Of course, changing internal processes can in itself be a painful process, but we will discuss this issue in one of the upcoming articles to be published in the coming days as described above.
Another aspect that needs to be taken into consideration when moving from a legacy system is data migration, and although this is a very important topic in its own right, we will not be discussing it in the scope of these articles.
David Shapiro is an independent consultant, specializing in the procurement and implementation of broadcast management systems at broadcasters worldwide.
Having worked with over 25 broadcasters across 4 continents, as well as for leading vendors such as SintecMedia and Pilat Media, David offers his customers the necessary expert insight to ensure a successful implementation project.
David can be contacted at: