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Adding Value - the benefits of creative collaboration

Across the industry, most implementation and transformation projects have traditionally been collaborative because individual groups of people from different companies and multiple disciplines work together to achieve a common aim. But it is often the case that they are working alongside each other rather than combining their intellect and jointly determining the best solution for a client, even if that means their system or technology is not core or managing some of the key functions as part of the overall solution. As systems have become diverse there is a real Venn-like overlap of functionality and it is essential that vendors now work side by side, within these common areas, to determine the most optimal solution for that workflow, operation, site or organisation.

Three Media has adopted the approach of intellectual integration as a regular business practice, especially for our latest consultancy engagements, where we have run and architected transformation programmes resulting in wholesale change across a client’s organisation. In each, it has been critical to bring all vendors together through a series of workshops to jointly agree which system is the master of the data and the function. The outcome of this approach is that the client benefits from the best possible design with near zero duplication, optimised system use, and a group of vendors that are invested in the final solution.

As part of these type of consultancy projects, we have seen a shift in client’s expectations around vendor selection with the emphasis moving towards delivering business value rather than understanding in depth the underlying system technology. We have also seen that clients are less concerned whether a solution is a single or combined system offering, so long as it is, in total, state-of-the-art. This has opened the doors for more product vendors to offer collaborative partner solutions rather than to develop new functions and extend internally.

We considered this change of focus when re-designing our own product, XEN:Pipeline, a highly automated business content management system. As part of this process we re-defined the technology stack and identified new functional areas. For each, we evaluated if the development should be managed internally or if solutions already existed.

As the XEN:Pipeline product is highly automated with its goal to transform an operation by reducing the cost and time to process, maximise efficiencies and generate new revenue streams across the content supply chain and its associated workflow, it was important that any existing solutions evaluated adhered to these principles.

We investigated potential partnerships and if they could be incorporated into XEN:Pipeline without adding risk and overhead on quality, performance, flexibility, and speed to make changes. One of the commercial drivers was to have a near zero dependency on the vendor selected.

One new feature of the technology stack was the introduction of an orchestration layer. Many broadcast operations today are looking to move away from a segmented/departmental methodology to open, automated workflows that are quick and low cost to change. We are strong advocates for moving as much of the workflow and business logic into its own layer rather than being embedded within vendor systems. This degree of orchestration is not fully achievable within our ESB (enterprise service bus) but needs to be enabled through the introduction and integration of a BPM (business process management).

Given that we have worked closely with the digital business platform specialist Symbox on consultancy projects in the past, and our collaborations resulted in innovative and efficient solutions for the clients, they were a natural fit be selected for the business process management layer within XEN:Pipeline. The Symbox BPM is an enterprise class solution that is scalable and superior to its main commercial rivals in many respects, but more specifically within the UI where users are able to design, build, view and easily identify failures.

Around 95% of the business logic within XEN:Pipeline is now either within the internal configuration layer or the BPM. This significantly reduces the regression cycles and considerably lowers the cost and time to make a change.

This has created something that is unique in media and broadcast, which would not have been possible without the collaboration between Three Media and Symbox. Not only have we transformed the typical iterative vendor model of develop, regression, deploy, but we have also enabled XEN:Pipeline to extend outside of supply chain management and to introduce the combined force of the ESB and BPM into areas of the organisation that would not otherwise have been considered. Our industry knowledge, combined with Symbox and their experience of driving effective business processes across crucial areas such as finance, IT or HR, has created a unique offering that can be rolled out across a company or an enterprise.

There is also the opportunity for clients to extend and manage workflows and processes within their own suppliers and distribution points, gaining even more control over the end to end supply chain.

This collaboration has resulted in several benefits for both parties and opened new commercial opportunities. The Symbox brand and reputation is gaining recognition across the media and broadcast industry as a trusted vendor. For Three Media, the XEN:Pipeline technology stack is greatly improved and more powerful in its functionality, offering something new to the industry. Looking to the future, and utilising the wider network connections of both companies, we have introduced a joint sales strategy to focus on identifying opportunities that could benefit from our collaboration.

Creative collaborations bring about a renewed energy across teams, motivating the other to push forward to create the most powerful solution for the benefit of the client. This is certainly true of this partnership.

This article, written by Debra Slater, Managing Director of Three Media, first appeared in the IABM Journal 115, published Q4 2020


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