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Medialaan

Medialaan makes strategic decisions about TV programmes with the help of the BI tools of SQL Server

The BI tools of SQL Server – Master Data Services, Analysis Services, Integration Services and Reporting Services – enable users in Medialaan’s finance department to efficiently collect and analyse the viewing figures, costs and revenues of each programme. This forms the basis of advice given to the programming department and management committee, for example about buying specific television programmes.

The new method being used by Medialaan/VMMa is much more efficient than before. The users now have a single environment where data from the three sources are automatically collected and linked. The finance staff can manage the parameters themselves by using Master Data Services, without help from the IT department. It is also easy to integrate additional data, for example a new budget exercise. So the organisation can act much more quickly in the fiercely competitive media world.

Most appropriate broadcasting times for each programme

“Using Master Data Services and Integration Services within SQL Server 2012 makes it easier for us to merge the data from the different sources and display, process and manage them in a consistent way,” says José Rotsaert, Manager Business Applications at Medialaan/VMMa. “A BI model is created based on Analysis Services, after which we analyse the data with the help of Excel and Reporting Services to display everything in an attractive and well-organised way. It includes information on the costs, revenues and viewing figures of each TV programme. So we can for example estimate how much we can invest in a film or a broadcast to keep it profitable. In addition, we also give advice on the most appropriate broadcasting times for each programme. SQL Server plays an important role in making major strategic decisions in our competitive media world. We use the software for assessing programmes after they have been broadcast as well as for forecasting potential revenues from planned programmes and the monthly financial reporting. The reports are also presented by the finance department to the staff who are in charge of programming and to the management committee.”

Mapping, validating and expanding data simply

The automatic processing is, according to Medialaan/VMMa, one of the major plus points of Microsoft’s BI solution. José Rotsaert: “Before, the mapping of data from different databases was not automated enough. So we had to manually import the three sources alongside each other and validate everything because it wasn’t always possible to link them simply and consistently. However, the new system can proactively link the data from the different databases based on predefined logic. Thanks to this automatic processing, we can now concentrate on validating the anomalies which are also listed automatically. So no more manual work – which saves a lot of time. Manually processing a week’s worth of broadcast data easily used to take three-quarters of an hour to an hour. This has now been reduced to zero minutes if there are no anomalies or a couple of minutes if we do have to validate a few anomalies. These time and cost savings weren’t our primary goal, but they have given us a good return.”

The anomalies that come from linking data from the different databases often have to do with the titles of films or TV programmes, which are not always consistent. The titles that Medialaan/VMMa itself uses in its applications are in fact not always the same as the titles from the viewing figures. “For instance, their database may contain The Voice, while we use The Voice van Vlaanderen,” explains José Rotsaert. “By using Master Data Services we can integrate logic into the mapping, so that when the source data are imported most of them are linked automatically. Then only the anomalies still need to be validated in the Master Data Services Excel add-in.”

The data warehouse, which now runs on Microsoft SQL Server 2012, contains predefined cubes in which the viewing figures are related to the appropriate costs and revenues. “The end users can view and analyse the data with Excel pivots and from different perspectives,” says Frederik Vandeputte, partner at Kohera. “Medialaan/VMMa used to have technology for Business Intelligence, but it consisted of separate applications. Now they have everything in one, which is much more efficient.”

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José Rotsaert, Manager Business Applications at Medialaan/VMMa: “SQL Server plays an important role in making major strategic decisions in our competitive media world.”

Dealing with expansion and change flexibly

While time and cost savings were not the main goals, greater flexibility and autonomy were. Previously there were many more manual interventions needed to get the same results. There was a .Net application to process the data, but changing or adding something was extremely labour-intensive.

“Expanding functionality used to be extremely complex and could only be achieved by revising the code manually,” says José Rotsaert. “Now thanks to the Master Data Services add-in for Excel, it is easy for the end users to change things themselves. What’s more, the entire system can be flexibly adapted to future changes in our organisation. For example, if we were to acquire another broadcaster, integrating it into our BI software would be quick and easy. After the acquisition of Vitaya we still had a lot of manual work, but now all that is needed is to change a few parameters so that their data are also included in our analyses.”

In addition, previously there were a lot of settings for performing the procedures programmed at the server level. “We reassessed this and now it’s all at the front-end,” says Hans Van den Troost, BI Consultant at Kohera. “This means the end users can make a lot more modifications themselves, without help from the IT department. So now the finance department is less dependent on IT, allowing it to work faster at the business level. At the same time, the IT department no longer has to work on tasks like these, which have little added value.”

Experienced BI partner

For Medialaan/VMMa, collaborating with Kohera was a conscious choice. “We had already worked with them before and what’s more, they are very familiar with this BI technology. They were one of the first Microsoft partners to have experience with SQL Server 2012,” explains José Rotsaert. “Choosing Microsoft wasn’t difficult either. After all, we already had in-house knowledge of the Microsoft BI technology. The end users didn’t even really need training and they themselves asked for the new working method. The fact that they can now manage the parameters independently and have to validate less manually makes their work much more pleasant and efficient.”

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