The Top Ten Enterprise Video Trends: Where Business Is in 2016
Apps like Facebook Live are giving organizations the impression that they should be able to stream a webcast to their entire organization in real time from a mobile phone. Would you want to stake your career on this? Probably not. “The reality of it is Facebook is really a best effort. I’ve been on a lot of Facebook Live streams that cut off. When that happens in the enterprise, you’ve failed,” says streaming industry consultant Nico McLane.
While consumer applications have always influenced the enterprise, the enterprise has its own specific needs. This year’s look at enterprise video trends is an opinionated walk through the topics our experts agree are top-of-mind. Occasionally they agree with each other, but many times they don’t. Only one expert mentioned redundancy, and that was in passing, so that seems to be table stakes.
“Streaming has become more strategic,” says Andy Howard, founder and managing director of Howard & Associates. “I think in most organizations, the majority of use is still internal, but if you think 5 years down the line, I think the majority will be external. You’re starting to talk about video literally impacting your sales, your revenue, how you interface with your customers, and customer service.”
In its “The State of Video in the Enterprise 2015” report, Kaltura noted the most popular uses for video was either external (82 percent) or internal training (80 percent), marketing (77 percent), user-generated content (75 percent), and coverage of executive communications and meetings (74 percent). Here are 10 things to think about regardless of the type of content you’re producing.
1. Use Cases and Vendor Conversations
“I think one of the biggest challenges that faces IT departments, business units, and consumers of enterprise video is the desire and naivete that there is a one-size-fits-all solution out there. No two networks are the same, and so, there is no single solution,” says Simon Ball, associate vice president of digital media solutions for Nasdaq. “I think you need to understand your use case and adopt the right mechanism for delivering against those use cases.”
Ball says live, professionally produced content is Nasdaq’s core focus. Investor relations is the most common content, though the company has several other common uses cases: 1) an informal meeting of a group of people in a room (which may be interactive); 2) an informal presentation to a medium-sized group possibly across a couple of locations (which may be interactive); 3) a formal presentation from a senior executive to all employees; and 4) a presentation to an outside audience that is also delivered behind the firewall.
“In the case of a [live] earnings call, for example, corporations may want to make [the information] available to their investor audience, but also to their employees,” says Ball. “Enterprise communication inherently has challenges. Is my network capable of that much data being transferred around it to allow people to view it in video or sometimes even in audio? Do I have the appropriate software, desktop build, browser versions, and network topology to be able to cope with that?”
Another use case that several experts mentioned involves presenters in different geographical locations. The key here is coordination of feeds. “A lot of people [at other organizations] are now using their video conferencing equipment as inputs into streaming events. Especially for room systems, it becomes a remote studio with good lighting, cameras, and audio,” says Howard. “We typically recommend to customers to bring their content back to a central production studio and then distribute it out from there. This creates a very repeatable and consistent process.”
Identifying use cases gives you the basis for conversations with vendors about how to create the best solution for your particular environment. McLane says some of the things you should talk about include the capacity testing the vendor has done, security and authentication features, failover rate, what aspects can be virtualized, and what proof they have that their assets can be virtual. “It important to understand what the requirements are and why,” she says. “When you interview vendors, you have to say, ‘What can you do today?’ because that’s the reality you’ll be working with.”
2. Best of Breed
“Different people are using different technologies to do different things,” says Howard. “The marketing department may have contracted with one particular vendor that’s more focused on the external delivery, whereas the corporate communications folks may have been working with a vendor to do more of the internally focused distribution. I think there’s going to be an intersection of these things and some of the providers that are more focused on the external stuff are starting to try to move into the internal distribution and vice versa.
“A lot of providers have started to come out with all these end-to-end solutions—encoder, management software, streaming servers, distribution servers, and CDNs [content delivery networks]. You can get it all from one provider, which is good if you have limited staff,” says Howard.
Still, Howard says he prefers a best-of-breed approach, taking pieces from multiple vendors. “APIs make it very easy to assemble those pieces together,” he says. “Then if you need to change a piece you can, but you don’t have to change the whole environment. Find the production tools that make the most sense; find an encoding tech that is best-of-breed that can grow; find a management software you like.” Part of your software choice depends on your existing infrastructure, but now you can also look at your vendors with a critical eye to ensure they are supporting the formats and features you need.
3. Content Production
There are two primary types of enterprise content: professionally produced material and user-generated content (UGC). Both have their place, but it’s the quality of the message that determines whether people watch. While you may
think this goes without saying, it’s vital to make sure your audience can hear well-produced audio. Several experts said they still struggle with content produced with bad audio. Matt Calder, senior content developer of online learning at Microsoft, says he’s had to remind people of the importance of good audio throughout his career. “A lot of what we deliver in other languages is actually created in our subsidiary offices. We spend time documenting how to set up a good studio, here’s how you set up your lighting, make sure you have good audio,” says Calder. The biggest issue is that, while technology has improved, the human part of the equation is still based on providing solid advice on best practices for production. “As the tools have gotten easier to use, the skills haven’t necessarily come along with that.”
Ball says that while technology has made it vastly easier to create content on desktop and mobile devices, there are times that require the professional, high production setup. “We can introduce a production value,” says Ball. That means the CEO is well lit and looks good, and a high-quality image with a good background is used. It “looks professional like you would expect to see on the TV,” says Ball.
4. Go Live?
“I don’t think there are very many organizations out there that don’t want to have their executive management team being able to talk to their employees over video,” says Howard. “It’s a hugely popular application.” Everyone interviewed for this article said they do live all-hands meetings, but one company looked at their analytics and decided to make a few changes.
“There’s still a lot of emphasis on live and especially when somebody’s first coming in to do enterprise-level streaming. The CEO wants to talk to everybody,” says Mark Tarleton, services manager for web broadcast at Raytheon Company. “I think that the longer you do this, the more you realize that the audience ... prefers video on-demand.”
Rather than produce hour-long town hall meetings, Raytheon would take that same bit of content and split it up into 5- or 10-minute sessions and present a new video on-demand once a day, where it can be promoted repeatedly so people are more inclined to watch. The result: “One business, when they first did that, their viewership went up by 400 percent,” says Tarleton.
5. The Cloud
“There is a big move to put the content management or media management out in the cloud. It makes it much easier to set up and deploy so they can reach a broader set of customers,” says Howard. “Now, the management and the origin streaming servers are moving out to the cloud, and that’s really across the board. The reason for that is, no. 1: It makes it much easier to set up and deploy so they can reach a broader set of customers. No. 2: If you’re delivering a lot of content externally, then it makes a lot more sense to make those users access a cloud-based system rather than coming into your organization to access internal servers.”
While externally focused content may be more cloud friendly, when it comes to internal content, there’s still a healthy skepticism. “Security’s always a big thing. Being able to encrypt the content [is important]. A lot of enterprises are very nervous about their sensitive internal content being out in a cloud-based system, but I think people are becoming more and more comfortable over time with that environment,” says Howard. “If you think about it, your Salesforce .com is out in the cloud, that’s your customer information. If you’re using Office 365, your email and communications are all out in the cloud. As long as the company and your providers can describe how they’re going to secure your content, I think people are becoming more and more comfortable with that over time.”
All the companies interviewed for this article have said they’re considering the cloud but have yet to move there, except for Microsoft, which has moved to the cloud for scalability reasons. “But it’s not just scalability of the video, the scalability of all the systems. We have moved everything to the cloud, and then we moved it to multiple instances of the cloud,” says Calder.
The rest of our interviewees are more cautious. “When you start looking at cloud computing and putting stuff on the edge, you start looking at security issues. That’s the biggest hurdle that we have. Hanging content in the cloud and then trusting the providers that it’s secure. As far as streaming live through the cloud, that’s a stretch,” says Alan Tardiff, technology specialist at Prudential Financial.
So the dream would be to virtualize everything, but because of the nature of cloud services, it spreads the responsibility so thin that it’s hard to fix things when they go wrong. In the context of a live webcast, there’s no time to spare.
“For certain components like databasing and the actual streaming servers, still to this day it’s not a best practice to virtualize those kind of services, the ones that need that 99.99 percent SLA [service-level agreement] uptime,” says McLane. “There are certain parts, especially in live, where it’s not worth the risk. If you have a dedicated server, you can guarantee the resources will be available for your live stream. The only place where you can go and do virtualization or cloud-based stuff is when you have an enterprise that also provides content externally. External clouds are much more cost-efficient.”
A look at the varied approaches to delivering video in the corporate environment, including wi-fi, WebRTC, software-defined networking, and software-defined enterprise content delivery networks
Security, mobility, formats, and location lead the list of considerations when choosing an EVP. Here's how to shop for and test a solution.
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.