Digital Transformation and Operations

September 28, 2017

By Kriege Janz

There are countless key learnings that take place when a company redefines the way it does business or what kind of company it is. The universal first step is to look externally to your clients to ask, learn and adapt. Cast & Crew, like any client-focused company, does exactly that. Our Product, Marketing, Operations, and Sales teams work collaboratively to ensure our product development and product messaging are in alignment with what we learn from our clients.

Our Operations team has another interesting – and multi-pronged – role to play. Number one on the list: it must maintain top-notch service in processing our clients’ payroll even in this transformational time. Additionally, the team has an important ambassador role as many of them are in contact with our clients and, thus, are both spokespersons (delivering our own key messages) and sounding boards (recipients of what our clients have to say).

The Ops team is significant for another critical, but sometimes overlooked, reason. That’s because, in a corporate transformation that includes something as important as digitizing critical processes, we as senior management must be as equally focused on “closing the internal sell” as we simultaneously sell to our customers.

And that’s really important.

As global search and advisory firm Forrester observes in its Six Steps to Become a Digital Business, “You must think of your company as part of a dynamic ecosystem of value that connects digital resources inside and outside the company as needed to compete. You must harness digital technologies, both to deliver a superior customer experience and to drive the agility and operational efficiency you need to stay competitive.”

In digitizing the entertainment production lifecycle, Cast & Crew is evolving into a products company. When I look at that opportunity through the prism of our Ops team, I know that, to truly become a products company, it is imperative that management fully understands and appreciates the internal sentiment around the new products.

We are experiencing this in real time right now with the rollout of our digital onboarding product, Start+, and our digital time-capture solution, Hours+. We are successfully introducing and demonstrating our products to our clients (and to new prospects) and have a meaningful population of early adopters using both. It is interesting to look inward, because an internal revolution is also taking place: better service; greater accuracy; quicker turnarounds, enhanced customer support. And all of that, in turn, is generating internal enthusiasm.

Interestingly, we come to this moment well prepared. Last year we introduced another new digital product — our new hours-to-gross product, HTG+. It is an internal-facing advancement, so it did not require a major client-facing rollout or marketing campaign. But it did require internal introduction and adoption. And that experience reminded us that, often, meaningful change is best tested through internal filters before being rolled out to customers. Our employees are our best litmus tests … and our greatest advocates.

But this doesn’t mean it’s always a simple answer or an easy process. Change must be introduced internally in the right way.

“Don’t try to force something that is not part of the current culture,” write Perry Finkelstein and Charmaine Wong of Deloitte in The digital workplace: Think, share, do. “Deliver business value: focus on delivering business value rather than technology implementation.”

At Cast & Crew, we recognize that our people have unique skills developed over many years … and it is critical to keep and grow that knowledge. At the same time, we have to show our internal team that digitization will make them better at their jobs and it will improve the service they are able to provide our clients.

Cognizant, a leading provider of information technology, consulting and business process services, notes there is a smart way to do this.  “Start by giving employees access to digital processes and machines that help them do their jobs better, smarter and with more meaningful impact to the business,” the firm writes. “It’s not about the number of people tied to ‘doing the process’; it’s about outcomes and making smart people even smarter.”

It’s been informative and rewarding to watch the evolution of some of our team. Some of our best internal adopters have been at Cast & Crew more than 20 years and were the last to clamor for digital solutions and the hardest to sell. They were more than comfortable with what they were doing and hesitant to change. But they’ve come around.  One of them recently told me that, now, they are feeling “relevant and hip” and have experienced great benefits of digitization.

They’ve also been pleased that new tools enable them to move up the “hierarchy of needs.” Digital advancements can remove the more-boring and physically taxing parts of their job, and allow them to interact – and actually speak in depth – with the clients. Without these digital products, they have to move at warp speed just to hit client expectations.

Think about this: the iPhone represents an opportunity to organize your life in a cool way. But it can only help you do it. As good a product as it is, it can’t run your life for you by itself. The same is true with new business tools. We need to learn, be trained and understand what is possible. With our digital products, our employees are learning about and understanding what is possible and how to optimize outcomes for our clients.

Our clients want the same thing our Ops team wants: great service that never stops improving. For Cast & Crew, it is an honor to process our customers’ payroll. They may not see if our processes are improving or changing, but they certainly will feel it if we don’t make necessary enhancements.

So, we’re the crew … just like on a movie, television or commercial production. The crew can make or break a production. If our crew functions, our clients can be the stars.

Kriege Janz is the Senior Vice President of Operations at Cast & Crew Entertainment Services. She provides operational strategic leadership and is responsible for delivery of Cast & Crew’s payroll services.  

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