What is our primary use case?
We needed a custom solution for our events business. We had a bunch of software that we use for a variety of our financial planning and analysis tools. A lot of them, pieced together, were able to solve things for our business, but we needed a custom solution. After a national RFP that Zudy won, we were able to build a custom solution specifically for our events business.
How has it helped my organization?
One way that Zudy VINYL has improved the way our organization functions is a very simple, but just incredibly helpful aspect: workflow. It has given us the ability to have different stakeholders involved in different projects and to have visibility through the dashboard and have automated emails that they can mark "approved" or "not approved." That way, there is a log that everyone has signed off. And it gives us some very easy dashboard reporting. Instead of having to search for information, it gets delivered to you. That's been a really big game-changer for us. Efficiencies are higher, revenues are better. It's been really positive. There is not a single negative thing to say about it. It's stuff we've always wanted and we needed to find the right partner to make it happen. We're glad we did.
It has also, absolutely, decreased our go-to-market time. It has increased our ability to get things to market faster, without a doubt. I'd be guessing, but I'd be fairly confident saying that it decreased go-to-market time by at least 25 percent, anecdotally. It's a significant amount. To get 25 percent of our business to market faster would be a significant change for us.
The solution also allows us to run a variety of back office processes without coding. And that has very much to do with the integrations that we've built into place, that Zudy VINYL is able to handle. It's allowed us to make faster, smarter decisions, which is really important. Because systems didn't talk before, because they weren't integrated, just getting data was a bit of a challenge and it slowed the process down. That part is really important.
It's also allowed us to re-examine our business during the pandemic. It's given us the business intelligence to really look at all of 2019 and then pivot to what our 2021 plans are, with what COVID has done to the events business. It really gave us a chance to step back and have time to look at the business, instead of just continuing to run event after event after event, just because it's what we do, it's how we generate revenue. It's given us a chance to really dive deep and model out what the future looks like for Entercom.
Overall, Zudy VINYL has increased development speed. It's given us the data we need to make decisions quicker. It's given us the business intelligence we need to do some short- and larger-scale modeling. And it's also allowed us to look at using the Zudy VINYL platform in other departments that may have the same challenges.
What is most valuable?
Their integrations are terrific. We've had zero issues, a 100 percent success rate with integrations. In terms of Zudy's data source connectors and API integrations, we've been really pleased. We use some software that is very common in the media business, and then we also have some custom things that we built for a variety of different use cases within our company, and we've had zero integration issues, in terms of getting data into Zudy and getting data out of it. It's been great. I've been really pleased with the integrations from the simple to the more complex. We've done everything from financial planning and analysis to single sign-on. It's really been a great tool and it has really saved us a ton of time spent on things that were done manually.
The workflow, and the ability to add business intelligence tools into our platform, to make us work smarter, not harder, has been a lifesaver for us.
In terms of the speed of development of custom applications with Zudy, we've had no issues. I've been really happy with the speed. Whenever we've asked for something, they've been able to get it to us in a very reasonable timeframe, sometimes beating deadlines. Sometimes we're our own worst enemy in terms of some of the requests we make, but that's not a platform issue at all. They've been terrific, both their folks and the system itself, when we need something turned around really quickly. It has been able to solve for us.
For example, we moved all of our event P&Ls into the Zudy VINYL platform. What was happening on a variety of spreadsheets—Google Docs, some other financial planning tools, but not necessarily at the detail we needed—we were able to build as a custom, P&L for our events. They highlighted the various different ways we look at events, from before the event happens, to while the event is on sale or in its promotional flight, to after the event, and all the analysis that comes with that. It also gives us the workflows and approvals for stakeholders who need to sign off on events throughout the process. That custom application was built earlier this year.
Without using Zudy, I do not know how long it would have taken. It would not have been something I would have been able to do by myself. But we built it in about seven-and-a-half months.
Zudy also continues to improve the solution's features, that's a thousand percent [true]. Every time there's a new rollout or new development in their solutions and the things that they've been able to launch since we've been working together, it has just enhanced our business quite a bit. I'm very happy with the new enhancements, their ability to roll them out, and the functionality that comes with those rollouts. We've had no issues. With their improved rollouts, we've expanded our business with Zudy. What started as an events platform has grown into some other areas of the business. We now have three live platforms, with several more that are potentially in development for 2021. As the system has worked for us, we've continued to grow with them.
What needs improvement?
I don't have a lot of negative things to say about the platform. One of the things we joke about, because it is very minor in detail, is that as with any platform, when you're hosting a live webinar on a GoToMeeting or a Zoom, everything slows down a little bit. So when you're doing a live demo internally with folks, the platform can go a step slower. That's not necessarily just a Zudy thing.
But I don't really have a ton of things to say in terms of improvement. It's done everything we've asked it to do.
For how long have I used the solution?
We started our initial build with Zudy VINYL about 18 months ago.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
In terms of stability, we've had no issues.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
Scalability has been one of the great successes we've had and one of the main reasons that we're working with them. The system is very scalable. We've had zero issues in terms of scaling anything with Zudy VINYL.
There's been one instance where we beta tested something, in one of our 47 markets, with the goal of then rolling it out to the other 46 and we're still in beta tests there. But it's working flawlessly and we've started the build for the remaining markets. The integration has been great. It's going to go flawlessly and I don't anticipate any issues with how the system has been set up.
As part of our initial launch there were about 80 users. We have since grown and that number is closer to about 165 people across the company that are using Zudy VINYL, with plans to grow that number, possibly even double it, in the next six months. We started with one platform—events, that was our initial build for Zudy VINYL—and we've developed three to five, and potentially more, for other business units, to come in 2021. It's continuing to grow on an annual basis, so far.
How are customer service and technical support?
We've been able to utilize all the channels: a little bit of email, a little bit of Slack, a little bit a ticket system they have. The ticket system for me, personally, is the one that I find most valuable because it really tracks what's really important and time-sensitive, and what is a nice-to-have or are minor bugs. We use that quite a bit and it's been great.
To their credit, some of our folks, myself included, are West Coast. A lot of the Zudy VINYL folks are more East Coast, but we've never had an issue in terms of time zones or availability. It has been 100 percent, perfect, in that respect.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
Previous to Zudy VINYL we were using a couple of very manual, non-cloud, solutions: a lot of Excel sheets, a lot of Google Docs, because that was the only way to get granular enough for the details that we needed. It's a huge improvement and we're glad to not be using those other very fine platforms. We're really happy that we were able to integrate everything and roll it into Zudy VINYL.
We didn't have roll-up reporting and we didn't have workflow approvals. Those were the really two big ones. It was very hard, on a macro level, to see our business. And on a micro level, local stakeholders were tired of how many emails were floating around. Now, we just have a dashboard that shows where the to-do list is and the task list of who is responsible for what, in the order that we set up. It's been a game-changer. No one can cry that they never saw anything or never approved anything. Everybody has the business intelligence now to make those decisions and those approvals, right there on the spot. They don't have to go searching for it in a different platform.
Ease of use was one of the main reasons that Zudy won our RFP. For someone like me, who knows enough to be dangerous—who can get in, and build, and experiment around, but by no means is software development my first expertise or my "day job"—it's been wonderful to not have incredibly sophisticated needs on the build side, but still be able to have incredibly sophisticated results. It's really been a blessing and I'm really happy with it.
The fact that it's a no-code solution is another reason that we chose to work with them. It has allowed a lot more folks to get in and build some custom integrations on our side, people who may not have been able to do so with other pieces of software.
How was the initial setup?
The initial setup of Zudy VINYL was straightforward. We certainly had some more senior IT folks in the room to help get us launched, but in terms of big-picture and the strategy for what we needed and how they were going to build it, it was very clear and very straightforward: the data they needed to build, the results and information we wanted to get out of it. We sat through a couple of workshops and it was very crystal clear and very productive and the end result was exactly what we talked about.
Typically, with anything we do in our company, we do small-group rollout, small-group testing, and then large-group rollout. That's exactly what happened. We had a core team that was involved in the build. We had a slightly larger team that was involved in beta testing, using real life examples in our business. And then we had a more formal rollout that went out to all the applicable folks in our company.
From start to launch of the Zudy platform, it took seven months. Our core build team that was involved included about six of us. For maintenance, typically it's our core team. For things we can't figure out on our own, the Zudy folks have been terrific in terms of customer support and helping us nip those issues and solve them in pretty rapid fashion. We've been really happy with Zudy's services.
What was our ROI?
We have seen ROI, absolutely. Our sponsorship business has seen some great growth, and part of that was just using the tool we built to identify our inventory in ways that folks may not have been looking at it and to scale some of those sponsorship deals in ways that were very manual before. That can be significantly more automated now, so that when a national partner wants to come into play, we can be much quicker and much nimbler, getting those deals finalized. It has increased our sponsorship revenue. We're happy about that.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
The pricing and licensing were within the range we were looking at in the RFP. It continues to be a great partnership and great value for us. We've been really happy with the pricing structure. We think it will continue to be a great partnership.
We haven't really had any issues with pricing. Like with any good partnership, you're paying a fair and good price for a good product. That's where great partnerships are developed, when one side doesn't feel like they won in a deal; when both sides feel like they won. That's where we are with Zudy VINYL.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We had a national RFP, which Zudy VINYL won.
The main differences between Zudy and the competition were really about customization, integration, and customer service. Those were the three boxes. We needed something specific to us. We do things differently than other companies. We needed something that could integrate with our other systems—some very big, popular ones that a lot of businesses use—and some that were custom-built just for Entercom. And we needed some strong customer support, since this was our first go-round in this particular platform. They delivered on all three. It was pretty obvious.
What other advice do I have?
Think long and hard about what you want and then be ready for them to come to the table with the solution, to get it to you. It will solve your challenges. You just have to put in the time on the front-end to build it. I fully believe that, based on what we've done together, it can do the same for other businesses too.
I have looked into upgrading to VINYL 3.0. it is actually on the radar and will happen very soon. In terms of the updated UI and UX for Zudy VINYL, we've seen it and we're excited to integrate that in. It was our own issue and our own product launch deadlines that caused us to wait a little bit, but we're going to be up in the new version very soon.
In terms of data access, user identities, and encryption, Zudy VINYL works with the vendor that we use for that. We have pretty seamless API and have had very few issues with that. It's been a really easy partnership to create.
It's a big deal in the software world, but there have been no security issues, no hacking has gone on with respect to our partnerships with Zudy, so that has been terrific. I can't say enough good things. I know I'm not supposed to expound too much about the people involved, but the product can only do what the people tell it to do, and the people involved have been terrific. The people are just as important as the product. In terms of partnership with people and product, it's been a great win for us to be working with them.
The biggest lesson I've learned from using Zudy VINYL is that while it takes time to build a custom solution, if you do it with the right partner, and have the right integrations, it can be the game-changer that everyone thinks it can be. When you're sitting around in a room and just writing on a board or dreaming up, "Hey, if we could have one solution that did all of these things, man, our life would be easier. Our bosses would be happier." And that's really what we found. Zudy VINYL has delivered all the things that we've dreamt up and asked. It's been a really awesome 18 months so far, and we're excited for the next 18 months and beyond for where we're going to go with our partnership with them.
It's done everything we've asked it to do. We keep developing more with the platform because it does everything we ask it to do. We continue to grow our business with them because it's a price that we think is fair for the value we get out of the product. It's been a terrific product.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
Which version of this solution are you currently using?