IT Simplifying the Residual Payment Process

Daniel Inukai, CIO, SAG-AFTRA

When Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists merged in 2012, we faced numerous challenges to integrate business processes and leverage the efficiencies of our goals post-merger. One of the biggest challenges facing our organization was the timely delivery of members’ residuals checks. Daily, we receive anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of paper checks from hundreds of studios, payroll houses and producers. Each check has a distinct layout and mechanisms to provide us the supporting data for validation and information recording to ensure timely delivery to the hundreds of thousands of performers who receive residuals each year.

“While a strong infrastructure, security position and development team are important, the impact IT can make on an organization through business innovation is transformational”

Negotiated by SAG-AFTRA, residuals are compensation paid to performers for use of a theatrical motion picture or television program beyond that covered by initial compensation. Residuals are the lifeblood of working performers. As the nature of creative work is often unpredictable, residuals provide a steady income stream so performers can sustain themselves between jobs. This compensation can make up more than half of an actor’s income, and as chief information officer for SAG-AFTRA, it is my job to make sure that money is delivered to our members as expeditiously as possible.

My role and the role of Information Technology within an organization is increasingly leaned on to improve business processes. The proliferation of apps and automation of everyday life has led to a greater awareness of IT capabilities, blurring the lines between IT and business functions. Our internal customers and members are more educated about IT and it is equally critical for IT professionals to understand the businesses we support. While a strong infrastructure, security position and development team are important, the impact IT can make on an organization through business innovation is transformational. The role of the CIO has evolved to transcend technology and is now relied upon to innovate the ways in which we conduct business.

In the months following the SAG-AFTRA merger and with a goal of decreasing processing times from 100 to 30 days, I partnered with the head of the Residuals Department to offer automation wherever possible. We began by identifying bottlenecks and processes in need of optimization and tackled issues by distributing workload and increasing specialization to improve quality. Additionally, we worked with our technology vendors to upgrade outdated equipment. Shortly after, we saw our processing times drop from a peak of 100 days, down to our target, 30 days. We were able to accomplish our goal without adding significant headcount or capital expenditure.

Business challenges in today’s world offer unique opportunities for partnership with IT and, if done in harmony, can lead an organization to surpass seemingly unachievable goals. As I enter my third year as CIO, now overseeing the Residuals Processing Department, I am happy to report that we have sustained our 30-day residuals payment processing for more than two years. We continue to take on our organization’s most significant aspirations and look for opportunities wherever possible to help take our business to the next level.