Welcome to the newest episode of our low-code 101 webinar series. This time, Yad Jaura is talking to two low-code developers at Sky Media, Jack Reed and Sukdeep Thiara. Jack and Sukdeep show us some of the applications they have built using our Liberty Create low-code platform, explaining the benefits that Create has brought Sky Media.
Watch the webinar below – you can find the other episodes in the Low-code 101 series. A transcript of episode ten is laid out below.
Yad: Hi everybody, welcome to this low-code 101 webinar. I’m Yad Jaura, a product marketing manager for Liberty Create here at Netcall. And today I’m thrilled to be joined by Jack Reed and Sukdeep Thiara from Sky. Hello gents, thanks for joining us today. I wanted to start by asking you both to introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about the roles you play at Sky, if you would.
Jack: Yeah of course, I’m Jack Reed I’m a Systems and Strategy Manager within Sky Media. We overlook all the current and future changes within the video on-demand space within Sky, we manage our ad server, we launch new platforms and on-boarding on all new devices.
Sukdeep: Hi I’m Sukh, I’m a Systems and Strategy Executive, working under Jack Reed. My job is managing linear airtime, allowing live ads to air on live TV. We focus a lot on the Premier League and things like that, ensuring that everything runs on schedule.
Yad: Are you guys in what would traditionally be thought of as the IT Team? How is it organised at Sky?
Jack: Well there’s a lot of IT Teams at Sky! We’ve got ITT Support, OTT Bod Support… We like to describe ourselves as the inner cog that works within all teams at Sky.
Yad: Can you tell us a little about how you go about building applications at Sky?
Jack: We’re looking to on-board Liberty Create to try and streamline some quick and easy processes that we can spin up, that we don’t have to go deep in with Support or make a change request. We can just either do it ourselves, or get people trained with that team on level 1 or 2 certification, and they can just spin up their own application based on the process that they would like to improve.
So that’s where Liberty Create’s fitting at the moment. We have a few systems that we’re using, so if someone comes to us with a brief Liberty Create is on that list of systems to use. Something might be better with Carrier, it might be better with Salesforce APIs, but Liberty Create is definitely a great tool to use and we’ve been utilising some of the quick and easy low-code systems at the moment.
Yad: OK that’s great. When you first looked at low-code, and Liberty Create in particular, how did you go about choosing a tool like that? What were the things that you were looking for?
Jack: I think the key for us was to eliminate Excel. Our business is so Excel-heavy it’s ridiculous – people rely on Excel and it breaks, it goes down and things get delayed. So it was really good to see how you can translate Excel to an online interface. It looks better, it’s easier for a user to view the UI and manage it around the interface and it also just eliminates Excel. We went from there, and that’s how it’s developed.
Yad: What was the learning process you went through to get up to speed with Liberty Create low-code? And how many people actually use the tool now?
Jack: We did the Level 1, and that was good because it was before COVID, so we had 3 full days in the room to get our heads around it with Kurt, who was leading it from your side, who was brilliant. I think we had me, Sukh and a few other people from Support, who wanted to get involved in it to support us as well as learning about it from their own perspectives, and some others from a smaller teams. We got Level 1, and then me and Sukh did our Level 2. We do have some other people in our team who have recently completed level 1, which is good as they are working on their own thing at the moment and we are assigning them different builds and briefs that we have from within the business.
Yad: Can you tell me about how you’ve used the platform and what applications you’ve built with Liberty Create are approaching £1m. And that’s every year ahead too.
Sukh: We focused on an internal project we had, which is around the advertiser move process. Inevitably, it’s a form that Sales fill out, saying that a named advertiser is moving from Jack to Sukh, making me the full owner of that advertiser at Sky. Our system is managed in Landmark, and we have to make sure the changes are done in the back-end before the user can see it on their side. So, it’s all about how we make sure that the form is filled out and sent to us, with the correct details and we action it. There’s quite a lot of processes involved so different teams need to see the form at different points. Via Excel, only one user could access the form at one time, so if Jack went to lunch while he was in the form, I couldn’t access it and action tasks on my end. It was quite tedious and mundane. So we implemented this within Liberty Create. After just Level 1 training it was quite a simple process and straightforward to build. Within a month or two, we got it live. It’s been doing really well since.
Jack: We’ve had really good feedback. Predominantly it’s being used by the sales house, because they obviously fill out the form for us, basically as a request.
Yad: So how many people are using it now, in the Sales Team and elsewhere?
Jack: How many people are there in sales? About 300? So, whenever a change request is made, it comes through. I think we’re on around 180 moves, since the launch in October, which have been a lot more streamlined than the previous process, which is brilliant.
Yad: And, have you been able to measure the improvement between this system and the previous process?
Jack: Prior to the system in Liberty Create, they were taking out all of the individual requests from that Excel and migrating it over to their Excels and processes etc. For them it was taking a good few days at least to manually take all of the stuff out of the Excel. And now they can just hit one export button and they have everything instantly. So for them, they have seen a big improvement.
Yad: Do you think we could see a demo of the application and how it works?
Jack: Yeah sure. Within the system we’ve put loads of rules and permissions in place. Sukh and I have full access to the build, but a sales user will only be able to log in and see this form. On a side note, we’ve also integrated single sign on within this system, so we’ve connected our Microsoft Azure network with all of the users, so that’s easy, they just hit one button and log straight in, rather than faff around with usernames and passwords.
When we went live in October we just had the advertiser lead form, which is what we’re looking at now. Actually, last Thursday we launched the agency move form, which is basically the same thing, but just the agency equivalent, of when an agency moves to a new Sales Exec. We’ve embedded it into the same build, just because it’s easier, we’re using the same users and basically the same process, we just copied it and changed a few of the names and fields.
The sales users will log in, we’ve got the date which is automatic and the reference number is also automatic. All the advertisers will be in here. A good thing which we developed quite early on, was we needed a way to store all this data, so we have every advertiser name, every agency name, and we thought we could either put it in this system or this instance, but then taking a step back, once we develop more applications down the line, more applications will use advertiser, agency, they use other things like channel names, audiences and demographs. So we built another instance called Sky Media master data store. It’s basically just a UI that stores information and then whenever we spin up an application, we build remote objects off them, to the advertiser is a remote object. So it’s taking all of the advertiser names from our other instance/data store.
So, the sales user would add in the advertiser and then they’d select when they want the move to take place. Traditionally it’s always the first of every month, so if they were going to make a move now, it would be for May or for later on, it wouldn’t be for this month. Then, they would take the Exec, in this example we can just use my name, and then this advertiser is moving to Sukh. And the same again for the advertiser, this is a remote objet, linking up the agency name.
Once that’s filled out, they would hit submit. And then we have rules in place to generate emails automatically, so the request gets sent to our Team inbox which we can all pick out work from. That email gets sent to us, it has a bit of information about the request and then a direct link to view the request within our own UI. We are then greeted with this screen, so you’ve got your active requests, which is at the top. Obviously currently there are no active requests. And then below that is everything that is closed and complete. You basically go in and view the request, you go along the process chain, a few checked boxes to say the data is ok, have we completed the back-end work, which is what we then go away and complete the manual work in our Landmark system. Once that’s complete, it fires off an email to the sales user saying the move is complete, you’re all good to go for your move date in May, or whenever it was.
A real benefit for us is we don’t have to faff around with emails, which is great. We know that once we hit case close, emails are sent out to the Sales Team and to the Planning Team. So they both get emailed automatically which is a really big plus for us.
Yad: It sounds like a lot of people involved and lots of communication and it really streamlines that communication. Do you have any thoughts of new features and ideas that you want to incorporate, a road-map if you like, for this application?
Sukh: We’ve got a few other phases which we want to integrate into this application, which is really good. And hopefully we’re going to move a lot of our other forms into this potentially, but we haven’t got an exact idea of what we want to do with that yet.
Jack: We are working on trying to link up some APIs with Landmark currently, in the form of CSV data dumps. So on a daily basis we can send a data dump of advertiser and agency information to our master store, and hopefully that should pick up any new fields and add them in there and filter them down into any relevant applications that are using those remote objects.
Yad: OK great. In terms of the teams that you build these applications for, what’s their involvement in the development process, has the system helped to foster that collaboration between those teams and your development team in order to get those applications built more quickly, would you say?
Jack: We’re currently working on a project with our Commercial Operations Department, it’s very similar to forms, requests, etc, but there are a lot more moving parts. They were kind of involved from a process perspective, as obviously it’s their system, it’s their process. We don’t know how it works. So when we were designing the process map, we spent a lot of time with them. That’s their involvement for the moment. The plan for the future though, is to get more teams involved with building it from their perspective. With Commercial Operations, we’re trying to get one or two people trained up in Level 1, so when they do have this idea or brief, they can go and spin it themselves, and me and Sukh can look at it from an over-perspective and help out where they need it.
Yad: Are there any other applications that you’re working on that you’d like to show us?
Sukh: We can show the build environment of the Commercial Operations application. This application is for our commercial operations and sales team. This process revolves around competitor activities on certain channels. For example, Disney+ airing on a Viacom channel, like Channel 5. Owners of Channel 5 might have an issue with certain programming having Disney content on there. So this is a form we fill out and send to the external client, the channel themselves. And the channel can decide whether that advert should play out on their channel.
Another one is for example, Disney content on Sky programming. Sometimes certain sky programming might not want that Disney+ advert to air on their programme, such as Game of Thrones, which is a competitor. This form fills out the details, for example, similar to the other application, advertiser agency, so it would be Coco-Cola product airing with this agency that don’t want it to play out on kids programmes, because of certain restrictions. So for example, I can fill out this form, enter campaign number, advertiser would be Disney+, pick any agency. So, this is telling us that Disney+ do not want to air out on Channel 5, because certain programming on Channel 5 doesn’t want any competitors in there. Once we go into our bit, it would be sent to us like the other application, we then email the Commercial Operations Team, informing them what they would have to do. They then have to watch the copy, watch the advert for themselves, to decide whether the advert is inappropriate, whether it should be restricted, and contact the actual channel themselves to find out whether they want to play it out or not. Depending on yes or no, they’d go back to the sales team and inform them whether it plays out or not.
Yad: You talked earlier about future applications and potentially opening up the platform to some of the other users in the business to be able to create their own applications, that would be done under your guiding eye I guess. One of the things that the Liberty Create platform lets you do is to put control in the hands of business people to be able to build the applications, but do it under the management, governance and security that you guys would provide at the centre. Is that something that’s important for the way that you might use the platform in the future?
Jack: It’s a big part, because we don’t want users to have access to things were they shouldn’t. The big thing that Sukh and I were concerned at, was if we don’t get the user roles and permissions down to a tee, we don’t want a sales user being able to access our requests or being able to view the other requests being made by other sales teams. So we got the roles down and sorted. Really apart from that, it was the big security thing that we spent a while on and actually had help from Darren at Netcall, which was single sign on. We had some trouble integrating your single sign on with our Microsoft Azure server, because of the security protocols we had to dodge through. Sky is very big on security and keeping things locked down. There were a lot of hoops to jump through. But we got that one sorted, and it’s helped us a lot with single sign on and allowing users to access it relatively easily.
In terms of the data itself, we haven’t really shared anything so we’ve got advertiser name and advertiser short name, but we don’t have any information specific to that advertiser. It’s in our other systems which we can view credit information, where they are based etc. Within Liberty Create it’s in simple terms, so it’s not data we’re worried about it being in the public.
Although we want teams, like our Commercial Operations Team, to go out and build these processes for themselves, because they have a better understanding of what they want and how their current processes work. It’s a lot more effort for us to fully understand their process from their perspective, and then us to go and do the work. The idea is to get them to go and do it themselves. But we will be the ones overlooking the Liberty Create Controller, if they want a new instance, it will still have to be requested and driven by us.
Yad: That’s great and a really important message actually for lots of organisations, they can equip and enable users to build applications but it’s still done under your oversight and control. That makes it really powerful. Can I ask you guys as developers, what are the things you like best about building in the system?
Sukh: When we started building applications, it was really simple, easy to use terminology. Process, objects, data modeller – it all made sense and it was all really clear and clean to see. One thing that really helped me was that the objects are colour-coded and the way they are laid out – it made it really easy for a new user to understand what each thing does.
Another thing I really, really liked was within the Build studio, you can actually click on each name and header and it gives you more information as to what they do. With me, I like to know about what I’m doing before I actually do it, I’m more curious, so it kind of helps understanding every little bit, even though I don’t need to, so it’s clear in my own head.
Jack: I think once you get to the interface, it’s great, it’s good fun. I was in a demo and they said “could you add this” and you can literally just take it out, add it in and show them what it looks like. And if they don’t like it, you can take it straight out again. It’s really quick and easy once you get down to that page development and design – that’s kind of the fun bit.
What’s really helped is the Community. Nine times out of ten somebody’s had the same problem that you’re trying to address, and even if they don’t, you can obviously write your own request and someone will get back to you, so the Netcall Community’s really helped.
Yad: Can I ask you guys to talk just a little about some of your future plans?
Sukh: One of our upcoming projects is with Finance. So, when a new client wants to advertise with Sky, they come through the Sales Team and Finance. So if for example Netcall wanted to advertise on Sky TV, they’d send the Sales Team a form, Sales would check it and give it to us. We’d need to set them up on our systems and send to Finance for their approval. Depending on how much they spend and how big the client is, Finance can take quite a while, so we need to make sure that the process is good and is easy with Liberty Create.
At the moment, it’s a form and multiple emails. So it’s obviously an easy fix we can build with Liberty Create. But it’s trying to figure out what teams need to be spoken to, how we’re going to adapt the current process and when we’re going to move it onto the Liberty Create platform.
Jack: I think we want to try and branch out a little bit and get more teams qualified, at least to Level 1, just so they can spin up a little build for their team to improve some processes.
Yad: OK final question then, how would you sum up the use of Liberty Create at Sky?
Sukh: One of the key things for me is the constant support we get. When we were building our advertising application, we encountered so many little issues, that were really simple, but just speaking to Darren and him coming back to us ASAP, it was really, really helpful and made everything easier.
Yad: I just wanted to say thanks ever so much to you Jack and you Sukh, for taking the time to go through your experience with us today.
Watch the webinar in full. Our next episode of “Low-code 101” will be available soon.