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Part 2 – How to Scale up your VoD operations: In-House Systems Development

Media companies often have significant internal technology capabilities, so in-house development of a bespoke software solution is often seen as a way out of Excel hell. The assumption being the organisation has expert knowledge of its own operational problems and should know better than anyone how to fix them…

Unfortunately, the resulting systems typically lead to a recurrence of exactly the same set of problems as you had before – just a bit further down the road.

The first issue isn’t actually the technical challenge, but the complexity of clearly defining the problem itself – before finding an optimal solution. If you cannot define the issue, you cannot solve it. Running VoD operations at scale, with its many moving parts, is a particularly knotty business problem so articulating it is not easy. Especially when it’s you that is entangled in it. It’s almost certain that if you ask 10 different people in your organisation what the problem is, you will likely get 10 different answers.

To understand what’s really going wrong and define a scalable solution that solves the real issue, you need to understand what is happening across the entire workflow, from one end to the other.

The Challenge of Mapping your Workflow

In the 10+ years we’ve been helping to streamline VoD operations, we’ve rarely found a business with exhaustive and up-to-date documentation of systems and processes. Rather than establish a clearly defined workflow that’s owned and evolved centrally, it’s not unusual for working practices to be left to users to define – resulting in methods of doing things differing from user to user. As people get used to working with a particular tool, they find shortcuts that allow them to cut corners and workarounds to either help them get over obstacles or fill in for features that they need but aren’t available.

What workflow mapping usually makes apparent is overall inefficiency. The same information is repeated in multiple systems, with no clear system of record. The same tasks are being repeated by multiple teams with each department often acting in isolation to optimise their own systems and processes, to the detriment of overall organisational efficiency.

The Devil is in the Details

The second issue is the challenge of identifying all the different elements at play within the workflow and how they interact with each other.

For instance:

  • How should your data model represent the HD and 4K content to your viewers? (The answer lies in 100 places throughout your organisation)
  • How do your licensing deals treat HD vs. 4K?
  • How does your media processing team transcode HD vs. 4K content?
  • How does your consumer app present and price HD vs. 4K content to your viewers?
  • How does your marketing team promote your HD vs. 4K schedules?

Eliciting the correct answers to these questions in your organisation is not easy. It’s often a challenge for people to describe the things they work with and they are often too busy doing the job itself to think about it. The best outcome will be achieved by tapping specialist expert insight from those who have seen the problem 10 times before, who can help you ask the right questions and assess the most suitable option for you.

The problem might seem daunting but it can be solved incrementally. You don’t want (or need) all the answers immediately – get the big picture right, then elicit the details during implementation. You don’t need (or want!) a 2 year business analysis project with a big consultancy promising you the world – just conversations with specialist vendors in the field. Watch this space for Part 3 in our series of How to Scale up your VoD operations: Mapping Workflows – It’s Time to Leave the Sausage Factory behind – coming Tuesday 7th June.

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