The SPACECONNECTION

ScheduLINK has enabled The SPACECONNECTION to repeatedly refine its service offerings and keep up with on-going changes in the satellite marketplace

When The SPACECONNECTION launched as a one-person company in 1987, the business of brokering excess satellite capacity was so simple that only a log-book, telephone, and well-thumbed Rolodex were required.

By the late 1990s, it was clear that something new was needed in the way of office technology. Competition had reached such levels that even the slightest scheduling conflicts were intolerable, and changes in satellite technology, excess satellite capacity and shifts in demand from broadcasters were driving prices down and eroding profit margins. Executives at The SPACECONNECTION recognized that to survive, the firm needed to compete not only on price, but by delivering superior levels of customer service. If the firm were able to process orders faster and with greater accuracy, client satisfaction would increase and with it, the business, too.

As it turns out, installing a powerful piece of enterprise software called ScheduLINK, supplied by ScheduALL Inc., has helped The SPACECONNECTION not only to expand substantially but also to outlast many rivals in an increasingly tough marketplace. Indeed, says Jonathan Crawford, the firm’s CEO, it is thanks to ScheduLINK that today The SPACECONNECTION, based in North Hollywood, Calif., delivers the highest level of service, to compliment its status as the No. 1 independent provider of satellite capacity in North America.

Designed specifically to help with managing and scheduling resources in the broadcast and satellite industry, ScheduLINK has enabled The SPACECONNECTION to expand its operations well beyond reselling its own transponder inventory. Today, the company has established numerous strategic partnerships and has the ability to offer direct access to the ScheduLINK system. Additionally, the system has no boundaries as The SPACECONNECTION has started planning expansion into Latin America, Europe and Asia. ScheduLINK is a transmission-specific extension to ScheduALL’s core application which is designed to manage and schedule a variety of production resources such as studio time, equipment and technical talent. Specifically, ScheduLINK provides a centralized set of scheduling, order-processing, and billing functions, all of which have proven critical to The SPACECONNECTION’s ability to streamline operations at the same time as it was expanding the scope of its business.

“ScheduLINK enables us to deliver faster response times to customers and to provide a higher level of service”

By capturing a comprehensive range of business information – client names and addresses, transponder settings, bookings, financial accounting data, and invoicing details – ScheduLINK has made doing business that much easier. Today, the software is handling an average of 30,000 orders a year for The SPACECONNECTION, significantly reducing the number of phone calls and emails required for each booking. In fact, Crawford’s team executes virtually 100% of its work through ScheduLINK.

ScheduLINK “has made our company much more efficient in how we service our customers,” says Crawford. “We can build each work order in a matter of seconds. As a result, we don’t have conflicts to deal with like we used to.” Without ScheduLINK, he explains, there was always the chance that two reps might be unaware of the other’s intentions as each attempted to schedule, say, the same time slot on a transponder for different clients. But now, pre-populated order templates designed to help our service representative’s book recurring transmissions greatly enhance the order-taking process. “I can honestly say,” states Crawford, “ScheduLINK pretty much is our business.”

He notes that ScheduLINK has enabled The SPACECONNECTION to repeatedly refine its service offerings and keep up with on-going changes in the satellite marketplace. For example, since installing the software, the firm started working closely with various transmission providers, data networks and government organizations. Other customers with special requirements include religious organizations and educational networks.

ScheduLINK’s capabilities have proven particularly helpful when disaster strikes, as it did in Haiti in early January. Soon after the massive earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, The SPACECONNECTION helped emergency-aid agencies to quickly book transponder capacity and bring up data and voice services on the devastated island. With ScheduALL BandPLAN in place, The SPACECONNECTION was able to determine availability of many transponders slices and provide an expedient off load of services to create sizeable time slots for the various requirements in Haiti.

SPACECONNECTION’s customers run the gamut, from broadcast networks to specialty cable channels to the Olympic Broadcasting Services Committee. While the bulk of the firm’s services are for full-time transmissions, the company depends on ScheduLINK to keep up with the increased slicing and dicing of transponder capacity into fractional segments – an added level of complexity and detail that demands the assistance of specialized software.

“ScheduLINK enables us to deliver faster response times to customers and to provide a higher level of service,” Crawford says. One example: The company’s processing of invoices appears more seamless to customers than in the past. It’s a snap to enter the latest rate cards and at the end of each month, ScheduLINK uses that data to create hundreds of invoices.

When first looking for ways of better automating and streamlining The SPACECONNECTION’s operations in the late 1990s, several options were available. One possibility, Crawford recalls, was to tailor a general-purpose scheduling system to the peculiarities of the satellite brokering business. Unfortunately, no software providers appeared to have the sufficient expertise in the satellite industry. The SPACECONNECTION might also have built its own system, but that would likely have been too heavy a financial drain. Indeed, satellite operators that did take this path eventually discovered that the maintenance of such a system was more complex and costly than anticipated.

“Most of those in-house systems were not user-friendly, not by a long-shot,” Crawford recalls. More of a concern was they were not architected in a way that would facilitate the kind of functional extensions, such as handling new transactions that would be needed as the industry evolved.

When Crawford first saw ScheduLINK in action, he remembers the contrast with other software as “night and day”. “ScheduLINK’s business logic and database granularity were specific to the broadcast industry, he recognized, and not general-purpose. Moreover, the application was regarded as the “industry standard” as a majority of broadcasters were already using it.

What makes the core ScheduALL system and its ScheduLINK module so well-suited for broadcasting is that out of the box, they are ready to capture, store, and manipulate information regarding customers, vendors, transmission resources, orders, schedules, billing, and much more. In addition, the software is easily linked to other systems a customer might typically have, such as HR, billing, and even an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system supplied by SAP or Oracle.

Looking to the future, Crawford sees nothing but change – and new business opportunities: While digitization of television content has significantly reduced demand for satellite bandwidth and thereby driven pricing down, the growing popularity of high-def TV (HDTV) is starting to take up the slack. Additionally, as broadcasters and cable networks seek to reduce long-term, dedicated bandwidth purchases by opting for shorter segments with ensured availability, The SPACECONNECTION will be well-positioned. It’s already the leading supplier of such segments and it can rely on ScheduLINK to process orders, maintain complex schedules, and prepare invoices as efficiently and competitively as possible.

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