The Leading Role of Tech: 6 Transformation Tips for TV & Film Production & Distribution Companies

For too long, Royalty Accountants have been slowed down and stressed out by the manual reporting process required with Excel or Google Sheets. With every new title, share line or talent commitment, up goes the complexity of reporting and the time it takes to provide key decision-makers with even the most basic overview of their current finances.

Increasingly, TV & film companies just like yours are looking to technology to make better business decisions, optimise operations and stay ahead of the competition. It can range from something as small as introducing Microsoft Teams, to a full upheaval of your current systems and processes.

“There’s tons of technology movement and I’m excited about anything that can remove manual time-consuming processes, whether that’s a company expense processing app or modules that you can add on to finance systems like such as Just-ROYALTIES, which can unlock more of the potential of your system.” 

Stephen Hole, COO of Vertigo Releasing

We’ve put together 6 key areas of consideration for any transformation project to help your TV & film production or distribution company employ technology to do the heavy lifting with your production accounting, royalty reporting and finance management.

1 – Defining your goals

As with most things in business, a vital step of any project in its infancy is to define your goals. The key to getting the most out of your implementation is to have a clear understanding of what you’re looking to gain from the project. In essence, you’ll be planning the direction of your journey to ensure you take the most efficient route and stay on track to achieving your goals: 

  • Do you want to free up time for the CFO? Accounts Teams? Production Managers?
  • Are you looking to work smarter, not harder when it comes to issuing statements?
  • Do you need greater visibility of data across the organisation to inform key business decisions?

Once you understand exactly what it is you want to achieve, how you might get there becomes far clearer.

“Making sure that I could scale up the business to produce royalty statements and do royalty processing for ever-increasing numbers of clients, ever-increasing numbers of titles and lines of royalty income as well, meant that it was inevitable that technology would have to come into play in order to make sure that I continued to service the needs of the clients as that client base expanded.” 

Ed Hearsey, Lockside Consulting

2 – Creating a comprehensive transformation roadmap

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”.

The key to success is to plan your every move, especially when executing larger projects. Think of it like this: the bigger the project, the more steps are required and the more opportunities there are for things to go wrong, be misdirected or eat up valuable resources.

“Always take the time to properly plan your technology roadmap, whether that’s the specific implementation of a discrete piece of software or technology, or the longer-term view of the company’s objectives.” 

Stephen Hole, COO of Vertigo Releasing (Read the full interview here)

Having a strategy in place offers direction and ensures everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals at every step of the project. Think of it as your guiding star; your ‘how’.

But don’t be fooled – having a clear plan of action doesn’t mean defining one route to success. The best strategies will be flexible and able to adapt in the face of change. After all, digital transformation is a process of continuous improvement, not just a one-off phase of change.

At this stage, you’ll want to consider:

  • Who’s going to be heavily involved in the project and in what capacity: you’ll need strong leaders who are both committed to the project and have a fantastic relationship with the teams on the ground using the software.
  • The resources you’ll need – what does the resource commitment look like to pull this off?
  • The project timeline: is it urgent? Is there a date that makes commercial sense? What could this launch coincide with? When will testing and training take place?
  • How will you define success?

3 – Mark your metrics

Digital transformation is here to cut costs, increase revenue and help your business grow, but historically, TV & film production and distribution companies have struggled with quantifying exactly what an implementation has done for their business and what the ROI is.

Whilst not every digital transformation project will have an explicit financial focus, there are ways that you can begin to attribute a financial benchmark to the success of your project.

Let’s say your goal is to make processes more efficient to free up time for your finance team. Prior to deployment and go-live, you could record how long it takes your team to process “X” number of reports, issue “X” number of statements, and how much this time costs you. You can then review these numbers again once the software has been implemented. At this stage, you could also calculate the cost savings that arise from automating tasks previously carried out by your finance team. 

Ultimately, this is about results. Without defining clear metrics, you won’t understand just how successful your digital transformation project has been. So, define, monitor and be prepared to adapt if the numbers aren’t where they should be. 

4 – Working on uptake from the get-go

“Just telling people that we’re implementing this system and this is what you’re going to need to do is hopeless. You’ll hit resistance from day one.” 

Julian Freeston, Portfolio CFO (Catch the full episode on Spotify)

If you want your digital transformation project to succeed, you need to involve your people from the get-go. One of the biggest barriers to success is a lack of acceptance and a willingness to change. Demonstrate the relevant benefits of your digital transformation project to the people who are going to be using the software to get their buy-in, and you’ll be well on your way to success. 

Involve your team at every step of the way, and don’t be afraid to delegate tasks where appropriate to give power to the people. After all, this is the team on the front line. They’re the ones using the new systems and software the most, so their input is invaluable to ensuring the success of your digital transformation efforts.

“I think we’re very much led by the team when we’re looking at technology changes, and we’re always keen to hear from them, what services can they see or are being shown to them by the market and do they see genuine value in those services.”

Stephen Hole, COO of Vertigo Releasing

5 – Finding the right tech/solution

It can be costly and time-consuming to settle on the wrong piece of tech for the job. Whilst something may work well for one business, there’s no guarantee that it will be effective for yours. Research is key at this stage. Here are some of the ways we advise TV & film production and distribution companies like yours to do their due diligence and get the measure of a piece of tech:

6 – What to look for in a software partner

When it comes to choosing the right software partner for your digital transformation project, you need to remember that that’s exactly what they are: your partner, not just another provider. To unlock the full potential of your project, you should partner up with a software company that is prepared to work collaboratively with you and bring more to the table than just the technology. 

They have knowledge and experience that you don’t, so ensure to leverage their expertise and welcome new ideas – even if they challenge your preconceptions. The right partner should not only be able to provide technology to support your goals and growth, but should understand your TV & film production or distribution company and its unique needs. This is about finding a lifelong solution that will evolve and grow with your business.

“It’s very important to work with a partner who really, A) understands your business, but B) also takes the time to second-guess your business and query the way you are potentially working. Whenever I’ve been involved in technology projects that have been really successful, they’ve always been with people who are willing not just to take what you suggest as red and produce something that’s purely down to your own technical specifications, but also willing to query what you’re asking for and to really work through examples in-depth, so that together you potentially come up with gaps or problems in that specification and you can improve upon it through an iterative process of development to make sure that the product itself is much better than the one that you might have originally put down on paper.”

Ed Hearsey, Lockside Consulting (Listen to the full episode here)

The time for digital transformation is now. Don’t let the fear of the unknown hold your business back from unlocking the potential of your data, your time and your people. In the words of Iain Pelling:

“I wish I’d moved faster, in everything. I wish we’d have been here, where we are now, in half the time, and that’s the bit that I was probably a bit too patient about. And if I could push now, that’s what I’d go for – and I think it’s what everybody should be doing.”

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