Working with technology to understand your internal processes can not only cut costs but also help you better manage your business goals. NBC Universal (NBCU) tackled its business process management (BPM) challenges by creating a team to work hand in hand with IT and operations to help improve its customer-facing processes.
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"It was about understanding what processes were best for the business and ultimately for the end customer," says Michael Fabiano, VP of strategic initiatives and analysis, which does process improvement and strategic planning for NBCU. The company has had the group since 2005.
BPM is heating up as economic conditions force more scrutiny of the efficiencies of each business process, says Forrester analyst Clay Richardson. The economy is also speeding the trend of consolidating BPM under one department, like NBCU's strategic initiatives group, he says.
Fabiano's team has finished about 30 operational transformations and process improvements, including one with Universal Studios Home Entertainment's master data and one around NBC.com's delivery processes. But their biggest project in 2008 is restructuring NBCU's ad sales systems, which involves how it markets, sells and prices inventory across its broadcast network, cable properties and digital platforms.
"We have ten different processes that allow our sales team to sell ad space," he says, such as deciding on which show or channel an ad should run. A series of cable-channel acquisitions has added to the complexity and redundancy of the media company's ad sales processes and systems.
For Fabiano's group, the mission is to consolidate all this into a single, companywide process and system. This is where the linkage between the process team, the operations team and IT begins. "We have to look at all the processes and figure out how to change them before IT can actually build the new [ad sales] system," he says.
As part of that, Fabiano works with Katie Curtis, SVP of TV IT. Last year, Fabiano and his team, Curtis, and the ad sales operations and systems teams analyzed the ad sales processes to find cycle time reduction efficiencies.
Implementing a new, consolidated sales system also requires buy-in from the CFO, CIO and senior business-unit leaders. So Fabiano's team spent three months analyzing ad sales processes to provide Curtis with data to prove the business case, including foundation value stream maps and business requirements. "We decide where to put our best efforts and where we would get the best value," he says.
Streamlining the sales system is a three-year project with segmented phases that will achieve ROI every six months. Ultimately, the unified system will let an advertiser easily buy spots across NBCU's TV Broadcast, cable and digital media properties, eliminating multiple proposals, invoices and approvals. It will also improve inventory visibility for the sales team and help them offer more value to advertisers. "It's more than just decreasing cycle time and paper pushing," says Curtis. "We need to be better at packaging ad sales across our channel lineup."
Fabiano's secret to BPM success is to find projects that can cut costs, drive revenue, reduce cycle time or improve customer service in a three-to-six-month time frame. To win buy-in, he advises working with top executives and then building a strong business case for change. "We are actually the most successful when we are in total alignment with the business," he says.