Integrating your MAM and BMS Systems
In today's broadcasting environment, we are constantly facing new and interesting challenges which are all related to one, central goal of the broadcasters striving to offer their clients a better viewing experience.
One of those challenges is keeping track of your media. Because of today's ‘Triple-Multi' environment (Multi-Platform, Multi-Version & Multi-Format), this task is becoming continuously more complex. For exactly that reason, more and more broadcasters are deploying MAM (Media Asset Management) systems as part of their IT infrastructure. These systems play an important role in the management, storage and delivery of the media, and when fully utilized, considerably improve media workflows and make searching for media much easier.
But streamlining your media workflows is not enough. Behind the media lies a lot of data, and most of it, although eventually linked to the media itself, is information that you do not expect a MAM system to cater for. This includes information about programmes and episodes, costs, airing rights, promotion management, ad-sales, scheduling, and so on. In addition to this, with a growing number of third party systems playing roles in the Triple Multi environment, all of this data is becoming more and more critical. Although a MAM system does an excellent job managing your media files and formats, when it comes to controlling your metadata and business information, it simply does not offer the functionality required.
For this purpose, you are probably using some form of system that manages the business side of your operations. These come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from an Excel workbook, through a programme and scheduling management system, to a full-blown, fully integrated broadcast management system.
So you now have two separate systems; one controlling and managing your media, the other managing all your operational and business metadata. But are these two systems speaking to each other? If you do not have some type of integration, this means that you have a case of double keying, with two separate systems both controlling similar information in part, information that is broadcast critical. This may be producing unnecessary extra work, not to mention an increased risk of human error and inconsistencies between the two systems. Also, when you drill down you will find that there a lot of tasks in the workflow on each system that are dependent on the completion of a certain task on the other system. This implies manual updates, emails and follow-ups.
To better streamline your data processes and increase efficiency, you are going to need to reach the important decision that your business management system (BMS) and MAM system are going to have to be fully integrated. This means not only transfer media information from one to another, but also have the systems rely on each other for metadata sharing, status updates, workflow triggers, and so on.
But that sounds great. But how do you go about making this happen?
There are several steps you will need to take. Many of the steps can be done internally. For others, it is most probable that the system vendors will need to be included in the process and build the actual interface. However, the more you perform internal analysis and design, the less the vendor will need to be involved, thus reducing development costs.
Even once the two systems have been integrated, there are always going to be additional integration requirements as needs evolve and change. Therefore, every effort should be made to develop an interface that can be easily updated and modified, with or without the help of the vendor.
Please note that the steps described below refer only to the integration between the MAM and BMS systems, and not to the actual implementation of each system.
First, you will need to make a strategic decision that input is going to be through one system only, with all other systems receiving required information through dedicated interfaces. Deciding which systems to use should be based on the depth of the data input capabilities on each of the systems, as well as how that data will be used further down the line. Typically, a BMS system would allow holding a lot of business information on top of media information, therefore I usually would advise using the BMS as the system for data input. (Note: A number of issues discussed below are based on this assumption).
As a next step, you will need to carefully analyse all of the information that your MAM and BMS systems hold and require. Ensure that whichever system you are using for data input can supply the necessary information to the other system. You may find that there will still be some level of data input on the second system, but the goal is to try to reduce this to the bare minimum, if not eliminate the need altogether.
Now that you understand your input requirements, your next step will be to run an analysis of the gaps between what your input system has to what it needs for the integration to work. This is not going to be an easy task and requires careful planning, data analysis and having a good understanding of any future needs.
When considering which information needs to be shared, include not only technical data like actual programming and technical media information (like format and resolution, etc.), but also keep in mind business information that could be crucial for both systems. For example, scheduling information is crucial not only for the BMS system but also to the MAM system so that it can better prioritize jobs and processes. Also carefully map out flags required by either of the systems for their own, internal workflows.
Don't forget that different users are using different systems. There are only going to be a small number of users who have access to both systems. There, ensure that the integration also carefully addresses user needs and requirements, and just dumping a load of information from one system to the other.
The interface is not a one-time transfer of information between one system to the other, It should be an ongoing sharing of information, statuses, triggers, etc, constantly moving between the systems. Even after the initial transfer of the basic information, updates on the receiving system may need to be relayed back to the input system and vice-versa. This will really increase efficiency as your users will not need to be reliant on manual updates.
Understand how both your BMS and MAM systems have been rolled out. This not only includes the data management referred to in this document but more importantly the different media and business workflows. Even without either of these systems, you are still managing multiple workflows around media management, trafficking and delivery, many of them completely manual, many of them involving parties outside of your organization (distributors, translation studios, etc.).
Decide on how the interface would best be performed; flat file transfer, drop folder, ETL, XML, CSV, etc. How is it going to be performed? Logs? Tracking?
In addition to the metadata requirements, probably the most important aspect of the integration between the two systems is getting the data hierarchy right. Your BMS system will be managing media information, regardless of content type, in some form of structured hierarchy, with a lot of business information. The MAM system is most probably managing your media files in a library and sub-library structure. Be sure that the interface is capable of supplying the necessary information to the other system in the correct structure, ensuring that all mandatory data and fields are being correctly populated.
You will also need to plan how the interface is going to be implemented. Agile or waterfall? What information will be included in each phase? Who will be affected? What processes will be affected? Please also refer to clause 7 below.
Both the BMS and MAM systems are going to be used not only as a business/storage system but also as search and access systems for all of your business data and assets. For this reason, you need to ensure, for all of the above steps, that the necessary members of your organization will not only have access to files, but the metadata assigned to those files will enable them to easily find what it is they are looking for.
Users never like being taught new tricks. They like to remain in their comfort zone, even though this is not the most efficient to the organization. It is, therefore, necessary to carefully plan your rollout, delivering necessary and adequate training to all necessary users in the areas that are related to them. The goal of the training is not only to show them the new integration and workflows but more importantly show them the benefits of them. Regardless to say, the integration is going to replace manual processes, and some employees may fear for their jobs. Therefore, the utmost sensitivity needs to be displayed during this process.
7. Roll Out
Implement your solution. Do it in stages – you don't have to try to do it all at once. Carefully plan your implementation stages, and gradually roll them out, paying careful attention to all aspects along the way. Leave ample time between each different stage so that unexpected issues can be addressed before having to move on to the next stage in the implementation.
Good Luck !