Then and now: From my experience, entertainment has always needed ECM

Behind the scenes at event

I remember it like it was yesterday. Fast asleep on a Tuesday night in my sparse LA apartment on Poinsettia Avenue at Sunset, circa 1995, when the phone rings. It’s my boss barking at me to get up and go to the storage unit to find a production contract from the late 70s he needed for a meeting the next day.

This being my first industry job, working a desk at a boutique literary agency, I pretty much have to do everything and anything that is asked of me and, believe me, I was already used to bizarre requests like this. The funny part is, I didn’t have a car at the time, so I literally had to take a bus at 2 a.m. to get to there, which is both life-threatening and fun overall.

Even though I lived, I still haven’t forgiven him to this day.

The storage unit itself was a 15′ x 20′ square space literally filled to the ceiling with file folder boxes of every single piece of paper that ever passed over this guy’s desk for the 25+ years he had been representing writers, directors and producers for feature film and television. Every contract, bill, receipt, phone number written on a napkin in lipstick; all stored into file boxes labelled by month and year. It was like his whole life was in there, and I had to sort through it all.

I spent over two hours in that unit with a flashlight in my mouth digging through each box that happened to land within the timeframe he “thought” the contract may have been executed. I’m certain I lost at least three pounds in sweat and tears by the time I found the documents and made it back home around 7 a.m. …Just in time to start another busy workday.

The true cost of clutter

The cost of that unit in today’s dollars is around $367 per month and back then the fee was, at least, half of that. That agency paid that fee every month for the three years I worked there, not to mention the decade prior.

That’s about $4,400 per year in today’s dollars – just to store documents in case of an audit. I won’t even go into the complete paper-based accounting and contract management processes that were consistently riddled with human error and penalties because well, quite frankly, there weren’t any other options back then. It was what it was.

Different side, same problem

Moving from the agency side to the studio side a few years later, I felt the same symptoms. The studio I worked for occupied eight floors in a lovely building on North Robertson and row after row of two-drawer-wide file cabinets actually served as the walls for our cubicles and lined most of our office walkways, almost creating a metallic maze for our daily scurry and yes, occasionally, I did find cheese.  Since then, that studio has grown and moved and I have no proof that maybe an even bigger maze lies somewhere within their walls, but based on my experiences today, I have my theories.

When I started becoming passionate about providing enterprise content management (ECM) solutions to entertainment organizations, I questioned whether or not these problems still existed – miles of file cabinets, paper-based, human-error prone accounting processes and contract management lifecycles taking months instead of days.

After all, the entertainment industry is the typical “if we don’t know it’s broke, we’re not even going to THINK of fixing it” type of landscape and it wasn’t until we had landed our first big studio customer a few years ago that I realized nothing has changed. This particular studio confessed to not only having a rather pedestrian accounts payable process and project collaboration strategy, but admitted that at least “30 percent of their campus was dedicated to physical file storage.”

That seemed ridiculous to me. A studio grossing billions of dollars annually, a studio so forward-thinking technologically with their production capabilities, can still have a somewhat archaic back office chugging in the background directly effecting cash flow and the bottom line? When I looked across our entire roster of entertainment customers, I found similar stories, similar issues.

Entertainment needs ECM

My point is this: Entertainment needs ECM. The same back office and paper problems that the entertainment industry had back in the 90s are still the same problems the industry has today, only 10 times worse. The entertainment Industry needs ECM to fix the problems that most organizations don’t even know they have.

Studios, production companies, agencies, TV networks – they all need to sit down with ECM providers as trusted advisors, provide details on their back office day-to-day and let ECM providers help identify ways they can help eliminate paper, streamline their back office business processes, shorten contract management life cycles and improve employee onboarding and offboarding.

Investing time and money into a true enterprise-wide solution that will grow as your business grows will recognize instant ROI, drastically improve cash flow, help eliminate human error and, more importantly, keep your employees out of the metal maze and those dangerous, life-threatening, late-night storage unit situations you hear about at parties.

So, save an executive assistant’s life and contact an ECM Solution provider today.

With a combined 18+ years of entertainment and ECM experience, Dan serves as the Hyland's subject matter expert, visionary and champion of Entertainment Industry solutions.
Dan Sabre

Dan Sabre

With a combined 18+ years of entertainment and ECM experience, Dan serves as the Hyland’s subject matter expert, visionary and champion of Entertainment Industry solutions.

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