Case Study: Sprint Nextel Connects With Video

This case study is part of the Profiles in Success series produced by Interactive Media Strategies as part of the Excellence in Enterprise Video Awards program (EEVA), recognizing thought leadership and best practices in the deployment of video by leading organizations. Sprint is a 2009 recipient of the EEVA award, and this case study outlines the challenges the company addressed through the successful deployment of live and on-demand webcasts as part of its corporate communications initiatives.

Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses, and government users. Sprint Nextel is widely recognized for developing, engineering, and deploying innovative technologies, including two wireless networks serving more than 49 million customers at the end of 1Q 2009; industry-leading mobile data services; instant national and international walkie-talkie capabilities; and a global Tier 1 internet backbone.

The Challenges
When first contemplating the deployment of online video in the 1990s, Sprint faced numerous challenges and had a number of key business goals to achieve as part of its corporate communications initiative. One key goal was to continually provide its employee base with information about the company’s initiatives and current operations. In particular was the need to keep employees well-informed during the period of the merger between Sprint and Nextel, which was initially announced in 2004 and was finalized the following year. Even after the merger was complete, the combined company wanted to be sure that all employees, regardless of location, network access, or desktop configuration, could keep up-to-date on company operations and announcements.

The evolution in Sprint’s adoption of webcasting reads like a road map for historical adoption patterns for online video in the enterprise. Sprint has been doing webcasting and providing multimedia presentations such as audio events with PowerPoint slides for more than a decade.

The way the company has put the technology to work (and the solutions deployed to enable employee use of online video) has changed over time. It continually strives to stay on top of current technologies and to offer employees the ability to participate in company meetings and announcements from offices, meeting rooms, or remotely.

To continue to provide audio and video presentations and webcasts to all employees, including new employees coming on board with the merger in 2005, the company needed a robust, flexible, and scalable solution. Furthermore, the combined companies had different networks, platforms, and solutions in place for providing multimedia content to employees, and a flexible solution was needed that could bring together the various components into a seamless solution.

Important Evaluation Criteria
When examining available technologies and solutions for its particular needs and objectives, Sally Nellor, Sprint’s operations manager for the Creative Media Services Group, reports they considered a number of important criteria in the evaluation process. These included the following:
• Cost of the solution—In challenging economic times in all parts of the country and across all industry sectors, it is important to consider potential costs and cost-saving opportunities wherever possible.
• Consistent experience and ease of use—of location, work environment, or type of available access, would have the same opportunity to experience the content being provided by the corporate communications department. Employees should be able to access the multimedia content with a minimal amount of effort or need to configure their systems to view the content. It should be as seamless and straightforward as humanly possible.
• Scalability and expandability—It was essential that the system deployed could handle large-scale events that could range as high as 25,000 simultaneous users. The system is likely to experience 15,000–20,000 concurrent users, and it has been tested successfully using a simulated load of 40,000 concurrent users. The ability to be able to handle new content types and integrate other software or hardware components was also very important.
• Ease of use for content creators and publishers—As important to the process as ease of use for employees, it was also desired to have a system that would be easy for content creators to use when creating, publishing, and distributing content out to end users, with minimal headaches, training difficulties, or technical snafus.
• High-quality audio and video—The company’s goal was to be able to provide a consistent experience with high-quality content to be viewed by end users. One of the core missions of the corporate communications department is to provide consistent, informative, and interesting content to employees in a manner they find simple and enjoyable. There are "a few bells and whistles," according to Nellor, that make the viewing experience a bit more engaging, such as allowing users to set up "Favorites" and offer personal ratings of content.
• Detailed tracking and reporting—To help gauge the effectiveness of the webcasting initiatives and to ensure a process of continually evaluating and improving content being provided, the team wanted a robust set of tools for tracking and reporting on viewership. It was important to be able to analyze far more than just the number of views; it was also important to understand who was watching what content, for how long, and how often and to be able to analyze important metrics such as time of day, day of week, repeat visits, etc., to help evaluate success. If, for example, most people joining in to watch a webcast of the CEO stay to watch the whole event, then the event was successful from the standpoint of engaging the viewers and keeping their attention for the duration. Midevent polls and postevent surveys to gauge participants’ level of interest and satisfaction have also helped to ensure success.

Metrics for Success
Sprint has seen a substantial increase in the number of live audio and video webcasts over the years. In 2008, the company did 355 live events, compared to 311 produced in 2007, a 14% increase year over year. The company has seen a steady increase since 2002, when it presented 84 events for the year. "We are continually trending upward in the number of interesting events and subjects we are making available to employees," reports Nellor.

Some of the types of events and presentations the company has offered recently are listed here:
• New product launches—When a new phone or a plan is announced to the public, a webcast is often produced to communicate to or train frontline retail and customer care employees.• Topical events—These events include health forums or presentations by outside speakers who talk about subjects such as smoking cessation, healthy eating, and other topics of interest to employees.
• Human resource webcasts—These webcasts are intended to outline programs such as new benefits plans or other subjects related to insurance programs or company benefits plans. • "All Hands Meetings"—Entire departments conduct meetings or make presentations to all the staff members, such as in IT or finance.
• "All Employee Meetings"—This includes other presentations hosted by Sprint’s senior executives to give employees the opportunity to hear about new products, company strategy, and other relevant news from their leaders. With live events, employees are able to ask questions via text and post reviews on the meeting (see Figure 1).

Live Q&A
Live Q&A During live events, employees are able to ask questions via text and post reviews on the meeting.

In order to achieve broad-scale adoption of enterprise video, Sprint employs a solution marrying the best attributes of a range of technology vendors.

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