POST POSITIONS: A NEW ECONOMIC REALITY
Following a turbulent year in the global economy, many industries have been forced to look long and hard at their operation strategies and practices in hopes of saving more and spending with more caution. Media companies have responded to the downturn by cutting costs, however this alone is not a long-term winning strategy. To build a sustainable competitive advantage, media firms must ultimately do two things — increase productivity and find ways to deliver new value to customers who continue to demand more access to rich content across multiple screens and devices.
IT providers in particular have been tasked with enabling businesses to simultaneously drive cost savings, improve productivity and speed innovation. This past fall, our CEO Steve Ballmer introduced the idea of “The New Efficiency,” or the concept of doing more with less — an effort he is championing and feels will help companies respond to this new economic reality.
I remain encouraged by the growth I’m seeing in the media and entertainment industry particularly. I spend my time with customers from broadcasters and major production houses to post companies that tell me they are committed to integrating their largely manual workflow processes in favor of more flexible automated solutions. Using a technology such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, for example, is one way companies can begin that process.
The logical place for companies to begin creating new efficiencies is by enhancing legacy systems through technological updates. Currently, there are many technologies available that add to existing IT infrastructure and investments. These options enable disparate technologies to come together and provide new end-to-end technology experiences without assuming the time and costs associated with a complete infrastructure overhaul.
SharePoint, an integrated suite of server capabilities, isn’t a tool most customers would think of immediately for post, however it’s very effective at enabling collaboration and media workflows across content and business systems while allowing for greater business insight. For example, this specific technology allows “Joe” to create a rough cut within a browser and be able to share that out for review and approval before outputting the edit decision list for final editing. In fact, media companies such as Starz Entertainment that have deployed SharePoint to manage their post workflows have evidence that shows, on average, an 80 percent efficiency improvement.
I often hear from post partners about the lack of transparency within their existing operations. Sony DADC, a leader in supply chain services for the media and entertainment industry, is aggressively tackling this issue with one of their major technology initiatives. To address the challenge of providing visibility to their systems and processes while enabling the next gen of an integrated digital supply chain, Sony DADC has chosen to deploy a large stack of Microsoft technology and solutions, including SharePoint, FAST ESP and Silverlight, to help them manage their end-to-end digital supply chain services. This solution will enable them to provide a highly scalable, transparent and fully- managed service to prepare and distribute content to hundreds of broadcasters, channel and retail partners.
Another example of where Microsoft technology is being used in post production is with one of the largest cable broadcasters, MTV Networks. Because this company is operating several different cable networks, they need to ingest huge amounts of content daily into their digital asset management system, which is based on .NET and using Microsoft Silverlight as the user front-end interface. This process was extremely overhead-intensive, with multiple processes needing to be run on each piece of content as it was being prepared and ingested. The company selected Microsoft BizTalk Server to help them integrate and automate this first phase of their digital supply chain, expecting to reduce their operational overhead and improving efficiency by about 30 percent.
Although it might seem like putting off new IT investments is the right choice for the near term, I believe it is essential for companies to continue innovating and preparing to meet the next wave of business challenges. Technologies like those mentioned above allow post to streamline processes, connect isolated systems and share information more readily while giving business decision-makers better visibility through intuitive business intelligence tools.
Studio, broadcast and media companies are being tasked to deliver content to multiple screens and to find new sustainable revenue models. These organizations must be willing to evaluate and creatively invest in their current IT infrastructure to keep a competitive position in a disrupted market. Media and entertainment companies stand to benefit by enhancing their current infrastructure, creating new efficiencies in time and cost savings, and providing critical service and compelling content experiences for the consumer.
Jake Winett is Media & Entertainment Industry Manager for the Microsoft Communications Sector in Long Beach, CA (www.microsoft.com/media).