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Part 4 – How to Scale up your VoD Operations: What do Good Products look like? Bespoke vs. Best of Breed?

If your business needs are totally unique in the world, then in-house development might be the only option available to you. But whilst we all like to think that we work for an exceptional company facing exceptional issues, in our experience, there is a huge commonality of needs in the industry. Mapping your end-to-end workflow should make that apparent, and cement the case for adopting products instead of bespoke development.

Yes, your business may face some unique challenges — often because of its particular history or strategy. But these should be addressed through the development of customisations and integrations with a well-defined narrow scope — rather than through the development of an all-encompassing bespoke solution. Imagine your company has a unique regulatory obligation to make its last x hours of audio-described original content available on free third-party platforms. This specialist requirement might not be met perfectly by any product on the market. But rather than embark on building a complete content ops solution from scratch, you should look for a productised solution and simply develop (or have developed) a small bespoke extension.

It is a key reason why any solution you choose should come with open data and robust APIs — typically nowadays in the form of web services. APIs will allow not only for systems integrations that reduce manual effort; they will also enable the development of any small custom component required to meet the unique needs of your business.

What Do Good Products Look Like?

You’ve mapped your content ops workflows. You’re wary of embarking on bespoke software development. So you’re looking at products on the market, where product maturity reduces your risk, and where the costs of development / enhancements / hosting / support are effectively shared. The key question is – What should you be looking out for in those products?

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is pretty much a given. Ability to work and collaborate from anywhere, ease of deployment and continuous software updates, predictable TCO, and costs of hosting and support properly mutualised, make SaaS a clear winner over on-premise solutions. And good SaaS today comes with enterprise- grade security and service levels.

More crucially, we believe in best–of-breed. There is no shortage of vendors promising to do everything for everyone: scheduling, rights, metadata, transcoding, subscriber management, app development, CDN, you name it. These one-stop shops may be perfect for small organisations with low technology capabilities, looking to outsource the problem entirely. However, relying on a single vendor for so much constitutes a significant business risk. And we believe it’s nigh impossible to be excellent at everything.

So we recommend selecting best-of-breed solutions for each part of your workflow. The good APIs mentioned above, and strong integration credentials from the selected vendors, will mitigate the integration risks.

As an aside, managing overall integration is exactly where your technology teams should be adding value. Your technology teams will also lead the development (internal or external) of any small component required to fill any functional gap identified between your requirements and the selected products. Selecting best-of- breed products means outsourcing much of your technology risks and costs, but doesn’t negate the need for your organisation to retain technology capabilities.

You should make sure the selected products truly are products. To benefit from low TCO and from all future product enhancements made by your vendors, it is crucial that your implementation isn’t running off an orphaned codebase that has been heavily customised for you. So you should ask your vendors: how many versions of their products they are supporting (the higher the number, the louder the alarm bell). And are they confident enough in their product approach to make their API documentation public?

You should ensure you use the selected products to their strengths. Don’t try to replicate your existing processes with new products. Instead, embrace how the selected products model the world. It might be different from your historical view, and it might significantly change how your teams work, but it is needed to realise the new efficiencies.

Watch this space for the final part in our series of How to Scale up your VoD operations: Rolling things out – It’s all about People… Coming Friday 1st July.