The State of Enterprise Video 2013
Video is transforming the enterprise, with ease of production, distribution, and access making it an ideal form of communication.
Once upon a time, enterprise video was the preserve of well-funded companies and government departments. They had to be well-funded to shoot, edit, and distribute professional-quality training videos on tape. Live video events were also expensive to produce, due to the need for remote crews and leased telephone/satellite circuits to distribute the feed. And for viewing? It had to be on TV sets. Nothing else would do.
Today, times have changed. Although there is still a place for top-end recorded and live video productions, the advent of high-quality consumer video cameras and computer-based editors has brought enterprise video production within everyone's reach. Factor in the web -- broadband and mobile -- and distribution is no longer expensive, especially when enterprises can simply upload their videos onto YouTube for global distribution.
Then there's viewing: No longer are TV sets required. Today, enterprise video consumers can watch content on their computers, tablets, smartphones, and whatever other viewing technology is at hand. In particular, the availability of 4G LTE broadband wireless is motivating many users to view on their smartphones, wherever they might be.
An interesting fact: According to research conducted by online advertising solutions provider Tremor Video and Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc., long-form content accounts for 40% of all video viewed on smartphones.
When it comes to online video in general, "We've discovered that the device doesn't matter," says Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors, a division of Frank N. Magid Associates. Moreover, "The belief that people want to avoid long-form content on a mobile device is a myth."
The ubiquity of accessible video is transforming the very nature of enterprise video. "It is increasingly being seen as the ideal form of communication in many situations," says David Boyll, Oracle Marketing's director of digital media. "The ease of production, distribution and access means that enterprise video is becoming a preferred option for training, internal communications, and sales enablement."
Oracle Marketing has turned to video as the preferred option for training, internal communications, and sales.
In other words, enterprise video has gone mass market. In doing so, it is reflecting the explosive growth of online video as a whole. In the U.S. alone, 183 million users watched more than 37 billion online videos, according to comScore, Inc.'s Video Metrix service.
Focusing on enterprise video, "[G]rowth is being driven by several factors, including the rising usage of videoconferencing," says Boyll. "Top sales execs are pushing for videoconferencing to increase their own sales success, and to keep in touch with other employees and potential clients."
Making this possible is the wide range of consumer devices that are videoconferencing-capable; especially Wi-Fi-connected iPads, Android, and BlackBerry tablets. Suddenly, video communication between employees and clients is easy to execute, especially using affordable services such as Skype and WebEx.
"Add to this the many products entering the enterprise video space that include recording, the live broadcast of videoconferencing, and desktop webcam sources, and the explosive potential of enterprise video content is daunting," says Eric Hards, manager of Lockheed Martin's enterprise digital media services.
Even without videoconferencing, the fact that video capture, production, and distribution has become "cheap and easy" has opened up enterprise video to the smallest of mom-and-pop businesses. "As a result, enterprise video is becoming commonplace, simply because most people can now afford it, and access it," says Austin Blair, Zappos.com's photo and video manager.
Zappos.com is a good example of this trend. The shoes/clothing retailer plans to produce a whopping 104,000 videos to support the products it sells online. Zappos.com does its shooting with Canon 60D DSLRs and edits its videos using Final Cut Pro.
"We use video to walk the customer through each product's specific qualities, so that they get a true feel for it," Blair says. "Online video also lets us add our own quirky spin to the sales pitch, which reinforces our brand." Using online video also allows Zappos.com to present a consistent message to its consumers that has been polished and approved. It is a lot less risky than using live chat or other in-person sales communications, which can be prone to inconsistencies and errors.
Challenges and Concerns
The migration of enterprise video to the mass market is a trend that cannot be denied. It is also a trend that poses some challenges and concerns to IT managers, on a wide variety of levels. Moreover, this trend has caught many companies by surprise. They built their networks to handle data and perhaps voice. Enterprise video was never factored into the equation; at least not to any great degree of usage.
Many of the challenges posed by widespread video viewing can be pooled under the heading of Scalability. The fact that enterprise video is becoming commonplace does not mean that the technology and systems that support it can ramp up seamlessly to cope with growing demand.
Among the scalability challenges are usability, says Matt Kaminski, GE Capital's video collaboration leader. Due to the proliferation of competing computer and mobile platforms, "[U]sers have inconsistent experiences across devices," Kaminski notes. It can also be "very difficult to integrate videoconferencing in to business apps, potentially limiting the availability [and] the reach of corporate communications systems," he adds.
The existence of incompatible platforms can result in "proprietary ‘video islands,'" Matt Kaminski says, where IT departments have to separately serve out video to iPad, Android, and BlackBerry users. Not only does this result in duplication -- actually, triplication -- of effort on the part of IT support staff and resources, but it can also result in "silos" where users of one platform have a hard time fully communicating with users of another. "It can be difficult to maintain user experience while pursuing device interoperability," says Kaminski.
As mentioned earlier, the diversity of viewing platforms, plus the range of enterprise video production and delivery systems, can result in inconsistent user experiences inside the corporation, and when interacting with third parties outside the firewall, says Oracle's Boyll. But this concern pales against the issue of security, "which is becoming increasingly hard to maintain in the emerging BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) workplace," he says.
"The influx of video-capable tablets and smartphones is pushing IT departments to their limits," Boyll notes. "There is a real lack of core competencies to deal with the influx of iPads and other consumer devices, whether they are being used for enterprise video or other forms of web-based communication."
BYOD has become a big issue for IT departments. Many are scrambling to devise rules to govern where and when employees can use their own devices at work. In fact "BYOD governance" has become a big debate point in the IT industry, as companies struggle to deal with this subject. (Streaming Media's sister publication, KMWorld, will be looking at BYOD governance in an upcoming issue.)
"Some firms are simply forbidding the use of BYOD," Boyll says. "Other firms are taking a more enlightened approach, working with employees to iron out security and privacy issues. But wherever a corporation/government agency stands, the fact is that BYODs are putting a real strain on IT departments. This, in turn, affects their ability to devote time and resources to enterprise video. It can motivate them to block enterprise videos that have been uploaded to YouTube and other public sites -- even if it's their own company's content."
Balancing the need for security with employees' desire to use their own devices at work, enterprise video delivery platforms are more than just a pale imitation of consumer platforms.
In an exciting period of revival, new features and new formats stemming from last year's entertainment solutions bring significant changes to the enterprise. Here are seven areas to watch.