Work Unleashed: How UTA enables talent from anywhere


Welcome to our work unleashed series: a collection of posts from Box executives and conversations with Box customers on navigating the "new normal" of work today. Here, you'll find insights and resources that enable your teams to do their best work, anywhere, anytime.

Over the years, United Talent Agency (UTA) has represented some of the biggest names in Hollywood, evolving from being a traditional agency to a broad entertainment company handling consulting, marketing, podcasting, and even investment banking on behalf of its clients.

But in a conversation we recently had with UTA CIO Michael Keithley, he said one thing has never changed: “We still think that great storytelling, regardless of distribution and medium, will always take the day.” The stories UTA helps tell are enabled by hundreds of employees, and it’s Keithley’s job to support all of them with the ideal tools for digital work.

When Keithley joined UTA as CIO, he set in motion an aggressive move to the cloud using best-of-breed SaaS solutions, coupled with a work-from-anywhere philosophy. That was long before COVID-19 was on anyone’s radar, and he told us, “The combination of those two things turned out to be a real blessing in this current environment.”

A single source of truth, but versatility for users

When designing a technology system, Keithley’s starts with real people and works backwards to the systems and devices that best support them. “Having a great user experience, letting users work from anywhere on any device, having frictionless security that doesn’t get in the way — these are all table-stakes,” he says.

He pushed to replace legacy on-premises technology with best-of-breed SaaS solutions, then tie them together with cloud-based identity and access tools. Today, UTA uses Netsuite, Concur, Kyriba, Workday, ServiceNow, Slack, Office 365, Zoom, Salesforce, and, of course, Box. “I’ve really pushed for Box to be the single place to store everything,” he says. This approach also allows UTA to stay continuously compliant across lines of business and geographic boundaries even as new regulations like GDPR come out. Box and other tools do the compliance heavy lifting in a way that’s seamless. As Keithley puts it, “It just works; nobody has to think about it.”

Driving an architecture of agility

The cloud has given UTA flexibility — and allowed it to respond to unforeseen events like COVID-19. Keithley was building an architecture of agility way before a pandemic loomed. He knew it would enable UTA to deliver new products and services, change business models, and rapidly acquire and integrate new businesses. 

“Whatever the universe threw at us,” Keithley explains, “I wanted to have an architecture that could pivot quickly.” That paid off when there was a sudden urgency around remote work. He says, “It wasn’t much of a shift. People just…. worked from home.” 

The reality check of remote capability 

Many companies are now realizing how important it is to be set up for remote work. Keithley told us: “All the security, cost, reliability, and control issues people have talked about in the past — this experiment of working from home has proven that those are not valid concerns. If you haven’t already done so, you need to shift to a work-from-anywhere strategy.”

He recommends four anchors for a seamless transition to cloud-based technology:

  1. Start with a cloud-based identity platform.
  2. Transition all of your on-prem workmodes to best-of-breed SaaS or custom apps in the cloud. 
  3. Bring your master data and security tools to the cloud.
  4. Self-fund a majority of that transformation by replacing expensive on-premises solutions and network architectures with the cloud.

So what will the future of in-office work be like? “Definitely different,” Keithley admits. At the very least, working from home is going to be much more common and acceptable. The metrics of evaluating employees will be about results rather than time spent. And hopefully, IT leaders will be ready when the next call for agility comes down.

Watch the full session with Michael Keithley below.