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Lessons in digital transformation from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4

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Digital transformation in the broadcasting industry is being driven by shifting viewing habits and the need to streamline working practices and processes that could benefit from a digital-first approach. That’s the theme of an article in the summer issue of Project journal in which we talk to some of the UK’s major TV companies to find out how project management has been helping them on that journey.

As part of our research for that feature, some clear lessons began to emerge. So, here are a few key takeaways on what gives digital transformation efforts a decent headwind – and a better prospect of success.

Start with a vision

Having a clearly articulated picture of where you want to get to appears to be an essential first step in providing those responsible for transformation with a direction of travel. In the case of the BBC, it’s about ensuring every household gets value from the corporation; with ITV it’s “bringing content to audiences ‘whenever, wherever and however they choose’,” says June Stewart, head of project and resource management at ITV. And in the case of Channel 4, there are specific objectives: to double viewing via on-demand platform All 4 and create new revenue streams.

It must come from the top…

TV companies are creative organisations, which need leadership that inspires their teams to believe in the transformation. “Successful change happens when leadership from within a particular part of the organisation says ‘this is how we’re going to work differently’, or ‘this is what we want to change’, and then models that new behaviour or new way of working themselves,” says Rachel Baldwin, a programme manager in the BBC’s Design and Engineering division.

… but people need to feel involved

“In my experience, change works best when it is a social movement,” says Baldwin. “When it’s not something that is done to you, but something you want to be part of.” That makes it all the more important to communicate well the need for transformation and the benefits it will bring. Ed Humphrey, director of digital at the British Film Institute, echoes this: “The best way of getting stakeholders in your organisation to go with you on a project is to make it as compelling, concise and transparent as possible.”

Language is important

Working in TV companies packed with whip-smart creative types, project professionals need to be especially sensitive to the organisational culture and avoid speaking in what might appear to be self-serving project management jargon. At Channel 4, head of enterprise PMO and planning Sonia Sharma will even use the word ‘initiative’ rather than ‘project’ when necessary. “If I use the word ‘project’, people will often say ‘mine is not a project’.”  But it is important that everyone understands what they are talking about, and so a universal language is a key part of the company-wide project methodology that she’s developed.

You need to prioritise

In any transformation programme, there are a large number of changes that could be made and potential project areas to focus on. That means picking the ones that will have the greatest strategic benefit. “Our demand always outstrips the capacity,” says Stewart at ITV. “So, we’re doing quite a lot of work now around demand management and making sure that we can actually understand the value that each of the initiatives could deliver.”


An agile approach, using pilots, can work well for business process change, even if it’s not the conventional choice. “One technique that we’ve used successfully is testing a new way of working for a defined period, say a fortnight, and seeing how that new way of working works,” Baldwin explains. At the end of that sprint, you can review, refine and repeat until everyone is confident in the new process and it’s ready to be more widely adopted, she says.

Be flexible on the pace of change

“Ensure that you give people enough time, because the pace of change is so fast at the moment,” says Sharma. “Sometimes one team will go faster than another. In our case, the tech team had some [project processes] in place already. So, they’re able to move a bit faster than other departments, who have never worked in a project manner before. You have to allow for those differences across the organisation.”



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