This looks set to be a year of transformation at Swiss media company TX Group. Effective 1 January, the company previously known as ‘Tamedia’ has not only undergone a change of name, but also has in place a whole new corporate structure to reflect and support the expanding scope of its business activities at the start of a new decade.
Like most media organizations, TX Group has experienced massive, Internet-driven shifts over recent decades in how the public consumes content and how money can be made from publishing. And, in common with many industry peers, the company - once a traditional publisher of print newspapers and magazines - has had to respond to survive, experimenting with new business models and new digital technologies.
The new corporate structure is based on four largely independent units that focus on: classifieds/marketplaces; advertising across Switzerland, Germany and Austria; commuter media; and paid-for newspapers and magazines. Its introduction during the first half of 2020 will be overseen by CEO Christoph Tonini before, in a further round of changes, he steps down from operational management at the end of June and joins the group’s board of directors.
Against this backdrop of organizational change, significant technological transitions are underway, too - not least the implementation of a new, cloud-based system to support group-wide finance, HR and procurement processes. The system in question is provided by Workday and replaces an older, on-premise system from SAP, explains Simon Maurer, head of development and projects for corporate services at TX Group.
So what won the deal for Workday? A desire to move to the cloud was a big factor, but not the only one, he says. After all, TX Group could have taken the option to migrate data and processes from its existing SAP implementation to a cloud-based set-up from the same vendor - but it was actively looking to completely redesign those processes from the ground up, in keeping with its evolution as a modern digital media company.
In that respect, says Maurer, Workday represented an opportunity for a ‘fresh start’ - and the fact that its customer rollcall includes digital media pioneers such as Netflix didn’t hurt, either. Other flagship media customers of Workday include Conde Nast, The Washington Post, 21st Century Fox and News Corp.
Another bonus for TX Group was Workday’s commitment to deploy its own consultants on the project, directly addressing the company’s reluctance to use a third-party systems integration partner for the roll-out. Finally, TX Group was also reassured that the Workday product portfolio represented a close fit with the functional areas that it is looking to transform, adds Maurer:
For us, it’s all about finance, HR and purchasing - and these are all strong areas for Workday. There are lots of areas of function that our business does not require, so for us, it’s not an advantage for an ERP provider to offer software in lots of different areas that we don’t need, such as supply chain or CRM. We wanted to see a clear focus from the provider, so that we can be confident that the areas that we require will get the full attention of developers.
It’s all about the money
Interestingly the implementation at TX Group has financial management as its biggest focus - and the roll-out schedule reflects that.The company began in 2018 with financial accounting, management accounting and consolidation, before moving on to HR and payroll (with payroll provided by a specialist third-party because of regulations specific to Switzerland). Says Maurer:
It’s not so much that finance is at the centre of this project, but that finance is so much more complex in a business like this and requires a lot more work. I mean, we are running many different businesses, in many different areas, and we have to bring these together in terms of accounting.
In HR, it’s relatively easy to harmonize working conditions and expenses processes and performance reviews across a group like this. In finance, it’s much more complex - not so much in the transactional part of accounting, but in the area of management accounting and all the dimensions you need to show. Especially in a very diverse business like ours, this is where the biggest risks lie in a new software roll-out.
As the project has progressed, new opportunities have arisen. When Workday launched new lease accounting software, TX Group decided to add it to the list. When Workday acquired Adaptive Insights, the team at TX Group agreed that these tools would provide the company with a far more workable approach to business planning, as compared to the more basic capabilities of Workday Planning.
But supporting the new corporate structure at TX Group may present the biggest opportunity yet for Workday to prove its benefits. For now, implementing Workday’s procurement and accounts receivable modules has taken a back seat while wider, group-wide changes take effect. But it’s certainly hoped that the Workday modules already rolled out will help smooth out any potential bumps along the way. Says Maurer:
We’ve already done a lot of work on making the necessary changes in the software to support the new corporate structure and we’ll start rolling those out in 2020, to run in parallel with the existing set-up. That’s as well as integrating new companies and bringing them on to Workday. It’s going to be a very busy year.