Whether it’s used for consumer or enterprise applications, streaming media is measured by the same gauge today as it always has been and always will be—return on investment. If you can push sales and show a profit in consumer markets, you are doing well. In the enterprise, if you are saving money or showing a well-defined transitional savings, you are meeting the business expectation.
Nothing has changed as far as what we need to make the technology evolve, and looking to the future, the same measures for success stand in the forefront. We can expect to see three significant trends emerge for streaming media in the enterprise in 2008:
1. Enterprise leaders will work smarter with what they have in place and will deploy solutions that can be scaled up rather than might need to be scaled down (or out).
2. Enterprise leaders will partner with suppliers (who will partner with other suppliers) who offer the tools to enhance user experience, to capture accurate statistical data, and to make their own products work better.
3. Enterprise leaders will integrate long-term strategies and will work to view their IT landscapes from all angles. Convergence will happen over time, just not tomorrow.
What is different as we look toward 2008 is how the partnerships between the technology leaders, advertisers, and publishers align and how the winning strategy will be defined and executed by the strength of these partnerships.
The media players and codecs are not going to make as much of a difference as the technology partnerships that are being forged. As a developer and an everyday user of technology, I will still recommend to my clients that they build products that are resilient and that compensate for real-world use cases by developing, say, for both Windows Media and Adobe Flash player in order to fulfill the end user’s expectations and to provide a seamless end-user experience—as is determined by the demographics of the target audience.
However, if I am hired by a client that has engaged in a partnership with Microsoft, I’ll likely be limited by the need to develop and produce for Silverlight; the same would likely be true of a request to develop in Flash for an Adobe partner.
As a former enterprise department head and lead project manager for consumer-facing initiatives, I’m equally concerned about how the technology of streaming media is deployed and how well we identify and measure success or compensate for failure dynamically, before it takes a project into the red. It’s my belief that in the months and years to come, the technology will be steered by decided partnerships and by "funnels" of calculated participation—not just in the traditional marketing sense, where an end user is steered through a series of choices that lead to a predetermined result, but rather how we as an industry will be funneled by the partnerships of industry leaders, employers, and telecom providers and how these partnerships make choices for us.
Getting Past the Gatekeepers
Entry into the enterprise space has always been complex and coveted, and it will continue to be that way in 2008. The ability for a company to become a preferred vendor in this space is a rigorous process that includes master service-level agreements (SLAs) and tedious redlining sessions with procurement arbitration. It is much easier for a technology solutions provider to gain entry into an enterprise as a preferred partner or affiliate of a preferred partner than as a new entry into the enterprise space. This factor will drive many new implementations of streaming media if introduced to the decision makers with the right partnerships in place.
A technology partner will enter into an enterprise agreement under the veil of another vendor that already has an MSA in place with a given organization. Let’s call it a loophole.
This is happening more and more as vendors recognize the true value of a preferred partnership relationship. And as press releases are sent out in the year to come, keep an eye on who is driving the partnerships.