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A BMS checklist

Today's broadcasting management environment presents us with many new challenges, such as nonlinear scheduling, multiple platform broadcasting and advertising, and increasingly complex broadcasting rights, to name just a few. As a result, more broadcasters are considering the introduction of a new Broadcast Management System (BMS) for managing acquisitions and programming, broadcasting rights, promotions, airtime sales, scheduling, etc. The objective is to obtain an enhanced control of data, streamline workflows and offer better service to both clients and viewers.

There are many BMS systems on the market from which to choose. Product selection ranges from solutions focused on small and medium-sized operations to larger plans designed for global TV networks. Every system obviously has its advantages and disadvantages, and it is not always easy to know which would best serve a broadcaster's specific requirements.

As part of the procurement process, careful definitions of objectives, requirements and business goals need to be clearly identified. In the final analysis, the selected solution should be able to offer the most efficient answer to both present and future needs.

However, functionality and business workflows are not the only criteria to look for. In this article, we will look at other important aspects that should carefully be taken into consideration when selecting a BMS solution.

Usability

One of the most important but commonly overlooked aspects of a system is its usability and user-friendliness. In the BMS market, there are some very feature-rich systems, but it is not until they are actually used that you discover, although they perform everything as promised, straight-forward, day-to-day tasks may take longer than expected.

So, how exactly can system usability be measured? And, how can users themselves assist in this process?

Potential users of any new system should already have played a definitive role during the requirement-gathering process. Users' day-to-day activities, processes and workflows will have been properly documented and translated into requirements. However, the users' role should not end there. They are the ones who will be operating the system, and they really need to feel comfortable with it — especially after so much time, effort and money will have been spent on implementation. Entire projects have failed, not because a system performed incorrectly, but because the users were unhappy with “how” it did it. Such scenarios must be avoided.

That said, perhaps the most important step in system definition is to get the operators involved in the selection process. Let these hand-picked users participate in the vendor presentations. The operators will be more focused on usability and workflow, as opposed to management, which is likely to focus more on features and cost.

GUI changes

In the implementation of a new BMS system, it is almost inevitable that GUI changes will be required, especially in the case of larger broadcasters. This can result in additional work by the vendor, which means additional costs. Therefore, an important aspect to look for in the new system is the ability for the customer to make his or her own GUI changes. There are major differences in how vendors address this issue. Generally speaking, vendors approach GUI development/changes in three ways or categories.

  • Category 1: Even the slightest change to the GUI can be executed only by the vendor. This may also include basic actions like making a field mandatory. The system may have a mechanism for GUI changes, but, due to its complexity, only the vendor can carry out the required changes.
  • Category 2: The system permits the customer to define his or her own fields, but this can be executed only with specialist knowledge. This may entail not only a deep understanding of the system's data structure, but also specific programming capabilities. Larger broadcasters with an IT department may have the necessary skills set. Smaller broadcasters will be more dependent on the vendor for the necessary changes.
  • Category 3: The system offers a user-friendly mechanism by which new fields can be added, and basic GUI changes can be made. Some systems make this an easy procedure, while others may involve certain configuration and “fiddling” to get it right. The bottom line is that a system administrator should be able to make many, non-complex GUI changes without having to involve the vendor.

(Please note that although some of the systems allow for GUI changes to be made, it is important to check with the vendor in order to confirm how these changes are viewed under the SLA agreement.)

MAM

In the current broadcasting environment, media management has become even more complex. BMS has always played an important role when it comes to media management. However, BMS functionality falls short of what standard MAM systems have to offer. Some BMS vendors have identified this and are working to close the gap. Some vendors have even announced their BMS systems now feature full MAM capabilities.

If you are thinking of implementing a MAM system, it is definitely worthwhile to run a comparison; you may be pleasantly surprised. If the BMS system can be tailored around your MAM requirements, it may save an additional lengthy and costly implementation, not to mention double keying, integration headaches and having to work with two vendors instead of one.

Workflow management

Today's broadcasting environment has made workflow management extremely challenging. As a result, broadcasters often seek out good, robust, workflow-management tools that help ensure that all data and processes are carefully monitored and managed. BMS vendors recognize this need, and today many systems have some kind of workflow management solution. Here, also, the different BMS systems can be divided:

  • Category 1: The system does not offer any type of workflow management, meaning that if automatic workflow management is required, it will be necessary to interface online with an external tool. This is far from ideal.
  • Category 2: The system has a workflow management solution, but the ability to manage workflows lies solely in the vendor's hands. In such cases, the vendor will need to be commissioned for each required change.
  • Category 3: The system uses an internal workflow engine, or seamlessly integrates with a third-party solution. However, such a solution may require more than casual programming skills in order to maintain the workflows. Although it may be possible for the end user to define his own workflows, there can be a considerable learning curve to making any changes. In most cases, it may be better commissioning the vendor to carry out the work.
  • Category 4: Similar to Category 3, the system uses an internal mechanism or integrates with a third-party solution. However, care has been taken to make these tools as user-friendly as possible, allowing a system administrator to easily create and maintain workflows. Ultimately, this can be the best option.

Reports generator

Every broadcaster will want its own unique set of reports. Consequently, it is important to leave a lot of flexibility when new reports are needed or updates are required to existing reports. As above, different BMS systems offer different levels of flexibility:

  • Category 1: Systems where the reports can only be created and maintained by the vendor.
  • Category 2: Systems where the vendor has created its own report generator, giving the customer the option to create and manage reports. However, it may still be necessary that the staff person making any changes has an understanding of the product's data structure along with well-developed programming skills.
  • Category 3: Systems that fully integrate with a third-party report generator, meaning that the reports are created using the third-party tool. The reports are then uploaded into the BMS system, allowing them to run from within the BMS system itself. This can be a real advantage because most of these third party tools are easy to use.

Regardless of whether the BMS falls under one of the above categories, it is always possible to use a third-party report generator that is connected to the BMS database. However, in this scenario, reports would need to be run externally from the BMS systems.

As previously stated, selecting the most suitable BMS system is not an easy task. However, careful planning and clear requirement definition, as well as considering some of the points discussed above, can result in a successful implementation, better workflows and increased revenue.

David Shapiro is the founding director of DS Media Consulting and specializes in BMS implementation worldwide.