Poised for transition: Digital technologies give East Coast digital media marketing firm a productivity boost

December 09, 2013— Sydney, Nova Scotia

Virtual Media Productions Limited

VMP Group's DTAPP project enabled the firm to replace its traditional telephone system with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), bundling just the services it needed into a single cost-effective platform.

VMP Group is a "next-generation" digital marketing agency that offers its clients—which have ranged from local firms to household names like CTV and Teletoon–a unique experience in electronic media. VMP Group provides e-services (such as web, responsive design, database, e-commerce, e-marketing, SEO and content management system tools and solutions) that help its clients reach their target markets, as well as creative services such as design and production, shooting, writing, executive production and visual effects. It also offers products designed to help clients with information sharing, digital signage and personalized promotions.

Originally conceived nearly 20 years ago as a marketing agency, the firm gradually evolved into media production and software development, and is now in the early stages of transitioning into a product-based company.

Looking to boost its productivity by improving customer service, response time and quality control, in 2012 the firm consulted the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) to see if it might be eligible to participate in the Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program (DTAPP). Shawn Green, president and CEO, talked to NRC-IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) Stephen Manley about the challenges it was experiencing as a small firm trying to move forward in an aggressive, competitive market space.

Manley recognized the firm as a potential DTAPP candidate, and the two started talking about how VMP could embrace technologies that would make it more competitive by decreasing costs and increasing the effectiveness of its processes.

Looking inward

Despite the number of innovative services it was offering clients, VMP hadn’t made any internal investments in resources or technologies to improve itself in recent years, says Green. "It was always on my radar, but it never became a priority. When there’s time and money involved, you tend to focus on external things, like your clients and just getting through the week."

Manley steered the firm through a multi-tiered project with three key components. The first involved implementing a new customer support and issue tracking system. Next, the firm incorporated technology that would allow it to maintain higher levels of control and quality assurance. The third component was the elimination of the firm's traditional telephone system and a switch to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). Although it may seem like a minor change, the new system is much more convenient and yielding substantial savings. VOIP allowed the firm to bundle just the services it needed—such as voice mail and conferencing—into a single cost-effective platform.

Manley says VMP was an excellent fit for DTAPP. "It was a case where a relatively small contribution on our part allowed the firm to focus on implementing technology in a way they couldn't have otherwise, and the ongoing benefits are very real—not just in terms of the productivity increase, but in customers' perceptions of the firm, because the technology is helping VMP deliver a more professional image and consistent message."

DTAPP funding doesn't cover software or hardware costs. For this project, VMP paid for new required equipment, such as computers and a server unit, while DTAPP funding provided support towards costs related to solution design, project planning, hardware and software selection, installation and configuration, testing, staff training and maintenance.

"The DTAPP project made us more productive and efficient, increased our ability to service our clients, and helped us gain a competitive advantage in a very aggressive market." —Shawn Green, president and CEO, VMP Group

Laying the groundwork for scale-up

The changes are helping VMP transition from a fee-for-service to a more scalable product-based company. "Although we're a company that develops technology, sometimes it's been a struggle for us to adopt new ones ourselves," says Green. "That's where DTAPP really made a difference. The impact has been pretty substantial." Manley's guidance was instrumental in giving VMP's leaders the confidence they needed to take the next steps with comparatively inexpensive open-source technologies, adds Green. "He walked us through the project steps and helped us explore and define what we were trying to accomplish."

VMP completed its DTAPP project in January 2013. Since then:

  • It has reduced its own telecommunications costs by 90 percent while gaining a world-class communications infrastructure
  • It has increased its customer service quality by reducing response times by nearly 300 percent
  • It has integrated a DTAPP-supported digital technology directly into a client solution, permitting that client to request support directly within an application

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