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Managing Technology + Organizational Change for a Broadcast Media Company

The client’s perspective

A media organization was undergoing a massive technological upgrade of their broadcast production operations: from older analog technology to new, state-of-the art digital technology. Their goals were to improve the efficiency of the operations, to enhance the quality of their content, and to get ready for the new digital world.    

The switch was a big deal—and a challenge much bigger than technology alone. All of the organization’s production systems, processes, organization structure—in short, its fundamental ways of working—would have to change to adapt to the new technology. As part of the implementation, the organization had gone through a major investment of hardware, software and training. However, the implementation was behind schedule and employees were unhappy about the direction. 

When the media organization receives programming content from producers, it has to clean it up, add breaks and station identifications, check to make sure there is no inappropriate content, check audio and video quality, and produce a final program in the right file format to load it up on a server, web site or satellite to broadcast. The whole process takes several days before broadcast. 

The problem was that the organization had implemented new technology to automate many of these processes but had not adjusted the organizational structure and business processes to match. The old organizational structure was now causing swings in workload—with employees either in crunch mode or left with little to do. After millions of dollars spent, the new technology system was in place, but was causing the organization’s cost curve to go up and morale to go down. It recognized they needed a new approach, and they needed it right away.

A new view

Impressed with the quality of work Eagle Hill was already delivering on a separate rights management program, Eagle Hill was asked to help get the transformation program back on track. We knew the organization needed a fresh start and one of the first things we did was rebrand the program, to separate from the older implementation program that had negative employee associations. 

For the first six weeks Eagle Hill dug in deep, analyzing every aspect of the problem to put a smart and workable plan together. As part of the initial assessment, our team completed a stakeholder analysis and identified the concerns and expectations of the stakeholder community.  We met several times a week with these major stakeholders to develop a detailed solution design, including how the organization should be organized, what governance changes needed to be made, what business processes needed to be updated, and how it should make and communicate about the transition. Its executives were up to the challenge, embracing change and stepping up to lead the charge from the onset.

A breakaway approach

One problem we uncovered during our analysis concerned the metadata associated with individual television programs. When producers send a TV show to the organization, they send it in two pieces: the actual show content and the metadata, which contains in-depth information about the program (such as title, storyline, production specs and more). The media organization was assuming that every piece of metadata they received from producers was correct, when in fact, it regularly had errors. Often the organization would realize that the metadata that had automatically flowed into the new computer systems was not correctly matching with the show content. As the show approached its airdate, employees would be left scrambling to fix the problem. Moreover, producers were frequently late in delivering content—sometimes delivering shows just hours before airtime. Employees would then have to work overtime to make up the slack.

Eagle Hill recommended some strict new guidelines for dealing with these issues. From a technological perspective, we added systems logic to make sure the metadata matched show content. From a people perspective, we worked to change entrenched producer behavior. Eagle Hill helped the organization form a new internal organization that handled metadata discrepancies, pushing files back to producers to correct if there were errors. We also instituted a fee schedule with a series of relatively severe fines for late files and recommended a process for consistently billing producers for any extra editing the organization had to do. These changes soon effected the desired change in producer behavior and offloaded a tremendous employee burden back to where it belonged. 

A final problem we found was that the technology system had been implemented much later than expected. That meant employees had been trained on a system that did not actually appear until a year later. It was an overlooked problem—employees had forgotten many aspects of their training by the time the system was actually in place. Eagle Hill helped launch a major retraining effort to get the people back in tune with the system.

In less than three months from the start of our work, Eagle Hill had a solution in place. To deal with the issues we had uncovered, we developed a total of 16 key recommendations and formed 16 task forces to implement the recommendations throughout the fall and winter. We then developed a set of new performance metrics, which would give better insight into the true state of production operations at any given time.  

As a result of our work, the media organization started seeing improvements in operational metrics almost immediately after our recommendations were implemented. For example, having programs ready to go in the desired timeframe (10 days before airing) gave them some leeway to deal with last-minute programming changes and also helped them run in a more stable and cost-efficient way. Before the program, approximately 50 percent of programs fell outside of this window of readiness. Within four months of the implementation effort starting, that number had dropped to about 28 percent–nearly a 100 percent improvement. More importantly, within one day of airtime, the numbers improved dramatically, from over 9 percent not ready to less than 2 percent not ready—about a 5-fold improvement. These improvements were all a result of tighter processes aligned to the organization, faster producer deliveries due to the implementation of the new producer policies, and significantly lower metadata errors from producers due to the new validation procedures.