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Part 3 – How to Scale up your VoD Operations: Mapping Workflows… It’s Time to Leave the Sausage Factory behind

When mapping workflows, we find that legacy content ops processes are often organised around weekly or monthly cycles. Activities are arranged in a sequential order: plan, acquire rights, schedule, prepare media and metadata, and publish. And these activities run against a prescribed frequency — typically monthly. This is often a product of organic changes over time, and of limitations of systems designed around availability of the media. But it creates big peaks and troughs in resource utilisation. And it generates a lot of stress for the ops teams, as well as a lot of quality issues. Once a month, ALL transcoding issues, ALL rights issues, ALL metadata issues come to the fore and need to be solved urgently. 

We recommend you design processes that smooth out the operational activities over time. There should be no arbitrary deadline in the way your teams work. Your users should produce small, low-risk deliverables every day, several times a day. Different stakeholders (e.g. rights executives and metadata editors) should be working simultaneously, in parallel, on the same titles. Operational progress on each schedule entry should be made as early as possible — and well before any media is available: start resolving rights issues as soon as a content plan has been put together, or start preparing images and metadata as soon as a schedule entry has been confirmed. 

To do so, you need systems that don’t couple workflows to arbitrary deadlines and that enable collaboration. And they should come with events-based APIs, to enable real-time integration with your other systems. Your content ops teams should work in a fluid fashion and easily respond to change. Small continuous updates should be propagated throughout your organisation in near real-time. 

Who’s Carrying the Risks and Supporting the Costs? 

Assuming you have mapped the problem, on to the not-so-small matter of developing a bespoke solution for it. Software development is hard and expensive. Developing good user interfaces (UIs) and good APIs requires specialist skills — and these are very much in demand. Software development projects have a bad habit of running late, over budget, under scope and quality. And the problem doesn’t get easier over time: in-house software tends to build up technical debt, run off an obsolete tech stack, and become hard-to-maintain black boxes. 

Embarking on in-house development means accepting you will support the entire cost and carry the entire risk of the proposed solution. And the total cost of ownership of a bespoke solution that is fit-for-purpose is high. It includes not only the costs of initial development, but also the costs of all future enhancements, hosting, user support, security compliance, disaster recovery and so on. And if anything goes wrong with your internal software development, there is no- one to turn to. 

You should look at this complete picture and ask yourself: is your business willing to take on these risks and costs — forever? 

You’ve mapped your content ops workflows, you’re considering bespoke software development, but wary. So you’re looking at products on the market too – but what should you be looking out for in those products and what is right for your business?  Watch this space for Part 4 in our series of How to Scale up your VoD operations: What do Good Products look like? Bespoke vs. Best of Breed? Coming Tuesday 21st June.