Interview with Tim Parson, Chief Innovation Officer, Quickflix

What’s your day job?

Chief Innovation Officer at Quickflix.


What are you working on at the moment?

Xbox, gamification, and celebrations for the first anniversary of our streaming launch!


How many staff do you have in total

We have about 100 (full time and part time), and I currently have 17 who work directly for me.


In your experience on client side, what are the major roadblocks or problems in doing good business with your agencies/contractors?

Tough question ! We’re an attractive client – who wouldn’t want to work with movies + TV content right !? – but also a very demanding one. Quickflix runs lots of high profile projects with tight deadlines and complex operating requirements, ranging from Smart TV/game console and mobile app development through to our own TV show.

We push hard for value and always look for ‘A’-level agencies or individuals that are the top of their game, who can adapt to our culture and pace, respond quickly to immediate challenges and also align themselves to our larger mission. Many are called, few are chosen.


How did you get started in digital?

I’ve always loved space flight and wanted to fly jets – and getting close to that in my childhood meant programming computers. A seminal moment for me was writing and presenting a BBC 2 Documentary called Cyberpunks & Technophobes at about the same the time the first visual web browser (Mosaic) was released, and suddenly everything clicked. Not long after I finished my aerospace PhD, I decided I’d have more fun working online than tweaking exotic financial products or continuing to write research papers.


What’s your current favourite book, website, blog or source of inspiration for your business? – some fantastic projects are seeing the light of day and the release of energy and human potential is truly inspiring. Our Xbox app is looking pretty sweet too !


Have you introduced new roles/jobs title in your business – is the nature of your business changing?

Yes dramatically: we’ve now got specialist roles like digital content ingestion and publishing, and of course data engineering as we grow our subscriber base and the reams of behavioural data they provide.


How do you keep hours and costs on or under budget? How do you maintain profitability on each and every project? Is it a result of project management processes, good budgeting, or initial scoping? 

Effective communication is vital – which means solid requirements owned by relevant business stakeholders; well thought-through estimates; and the agile-scrum process based on burn-down charts to ensure estimates are accurate. Over time, the team gets better at estimating, and nailing timelines and budgets follow. The most important ingredient of all: culture. If you really have to motor, there’s nothing like having people who are actively listening to one another, who are sharing problems and opportunities freely and honestly, and who have a shared vision of delivering value and hitting milestones.


What other tools or processes do you use for reporting and project planning?

We use all the usual Microsoft reporting tools plus Tableau for reporting. For project planning however, we eschew MS Project as too ‘waterfall-oriented’ and have been using Jira and Greenhopper to support an agile/scrum process instead.


You’ve mentioned previously that you use Jira – are there any other tools you use to manage time and job tasks?

We have an overall program of work (PoW) that we constantly prioritise and communicate across the business which acts as a funnel for all business stakeholders. We’re also working on new ways to prioritise projects based on estimates of business impact.


What particular skill set and attributes do you look for in your new hires?

Character: a combination of confidence, can-do attitude and humility – and ideally experience. People who have a good work ethos, who want to make an impact, who have experience and/or passion for what they do, and who want to belong to a pioneering crew.


How do you ensure that your team is performing well, and focused on the same goals? Do you have any special team activities that you do to maintain a good culture?

Checking in with each other on a daily basis helps a lot. We try and celebrate our big wins together too with our own mini staff Academy awards every quarter.


What’s your or the company’s biggest challenge currently?

My biggest challenge is balancing family life with the world-domination mission we’re on ! Streaming Hollywood movies + TV to many thousands of households is both a dream come true and a service delivery vocation requiring constant effort. When systems break or customers need help, the best laid plans can go out the window – but it keeps us fresh and on our toes.


Given that you’ve worked on client and agency side as well as your own startups, what’s the biggest challenge for digital agencies in your view?

Being too tactical. Digital agencies are often ‘doers’ who build and run digital things – campaigns, platforms, apps – but in this way, you’re only as good as your last job and as soon as you take a breather, some other shop can nip in and eat your lunch.


Strategic agencies – like brand or planning agencies – are better at partnering with clients over the longer term, helping them set direction, guiding and owning more of the fundamental DNA of brand executions.


Agency nirvana in my view is being regarded almost fondly as an extension of a client’s business, with barely visible seams, blue–sky projects with lots of creative scope, and fee negotiations based on agreed plans, mutual respect and trust. This is typically where branding and strategic planning agencies end up – and they then help to direct a lot of downstream expenditure… on the doers. Swim upstream.

Also read recent interviews with Tim:

- Metro Screen, video interview at the Privacy Event, Nov 2012

-  The Australian article on Unlocking new digital streaming technologies, Nov 2012


About Claudia Sagripanti

Involved in the evolution of mobile marketing and advertising from the early years, including co-founding Mobile Marketing and Advertising Awards, founding chair of AIMIA's Mobile Industry Group, development of mobile advertising guidelines for industry as well as commercialisation strategy.