“The visible improvement
and real deliverables at their convenience, instead of having
accomplished have to contact the external vendor and
request a report.
definitely proven that the According to Magala, this capability
strategy is solid.” becomes even more valuable over time. Once Marvel has enough historical data
—Glenn Magala, Senior Vice President in place to serve as a baseline for per-
and CIO, Marvel formance indicators and benchmarks,
executives at Marvel headquarters will be able to assess indi-
vidual studio budget performance in real time. Accountants will
be able to look at the historical cost of labor at any production
stage to see if a given project is under or over budget. They will
also be able to compare data on ongoing productions to project
future costs and allocate available resources needed to complete
each production on time. “We can get that kind of informa-
tion from individual production applications,” says Magala.
“But someone has to cobble it together manually. Soon, we’ll
be getting a consolidated view of the cost structures and invest-
ments across all of our productions.”
company’s brand assurance system,
built on Oracle’s Stellent content
Whenever a new deal is cut with
a licensee, the new partner is given
access to the approved character
elements through Marvel’s brand
assurance system. Over the course of
production, the licensee submits its designs to Marvel to ensure
that the product complies with contract terms, matches the
original description the licensee provided to Marvel, and is in
compliance with Marvel’s strict brand and creative requirements.
With more than 5,000 characters to manage (some with multiple costumes), an effective brand assurance system drastically
reduces the hours Marvel’s brand strategy group spends vetting
all third-party licensed products.
If an issue arises, both Marvel and the licensee are automatically alerted, and automated workflow makes sure the product
continues to move through the licensed product approval
process. In fact, new products are rechecked as they move from
concept to prototype to final product design—and only then
does the system approve the licensee’s right to manufacture.
But workflow management is not the only benefit the brand
assurance system brings to Marvel. It also provides the capability to marry earned royalty data for approved products to unapproved SKUs. With information about Marvel’s extensive and
complex licensing deals flowing through Stellent, Magala is also
capturing valuable metrics about how the business operates.
That data, combined with data generated by other parts of the
business—say, Finance or Publishing—gives Marvel’s executives
the power to see the business in ways they couldn’t before.
“Business intelligence is the only way we can, collaboratively,
bring that information together,” says Magala. “This gives us a
cross-sectional view of the licenses we issue, what a licensee has
done with that license, and how that deal has performed over
time. Information like that is built from data collected from the
Oracle ERP [enterprise resource planning] portfolio.”
SUPERPOWERED BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE
For Magala, dealing with Marvel’s growth extends beyond
improving existing applications for the lines of business. In the
case of Marvel Studios, the company’s television and film production division, it meant creating new solutions where none
Historically, accounting for film and television has been
done in standalone systems, managed by vendors that specialize in the unique demands of studio production. While these
systems are very good at project accounting, they don’t deliver
the kind of real-time business intelligence that Marvel demands.
Magala created a process for importing production data from
the third-party system into the Oracle Projects software running
at Marvel. By using Oracle Discoverer and Oracle Business
Intelligence, project managers at Marvel could analyze the data
Two years after arriving at Marvel, the company’s IT Iron Man
is still restless. His systems are more efficient and users are
getting better performance and new insight out of the applications they use. The company as a whole has embraced strategic
IT and continues to embrace Oracle’s view of fully integrated
enterprise technology. But that is not enough for Magala.
“We have delivered collectively and collaboratively to help
improve the company over the past two years,” he says. “As
time goes on, the visible improvement and real deliverables
accomplished have definitely proven that the strategy is solid
and deserves the support that it gets.”
Magala’s peers in the lines of business mirror his confidence.
Dan Buckley, Marvel’s president of Publishing, says the move
to strategic IT is not only making his team more efficient but
allowing them to focus on creating quality content for readers.
“The publishing group is very excited about this because it will
make us less dependent on the institutional knowledge held by
a few staff members,” Buckley says. “Ultimately it will allow our
storytellers and editors to focus on creating product.”
But Magala always has an eye on the future. “We’re halfway
there,” he says. “But I don’t think IT is ever done. My goal is
that embracing strategic IT will lead to business opportunities
that will drive new initiatives.” <>
AARON LAZENB Y is an editor for Oracle Publishing and editor in chief of Profit Online.
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