Q&A: VBrick on Video Streaming

Paul Milligan spoke to Paul Reeves, VBrick's director, international, about all things video streaming.

What are the common mistakes people make in choosing a video on demand system?

Organisations tend to be looking at requirements in isolation, rather than the requirements of the whole business.  They might be looking at video for training, or for a CEO broadcast, or seeing if they can integrate it with their UC platform.  What we are seeing is that we get a request to do a CEO or town hall broadcast and its obviously been initialed by the CEO or the comms director, and they want to communicate to all the staff for a one-off event.  What we are trying to do is go back to the organisations and say Ok, that’s one event you have other requirements that are coming out of your business, for training, for recording video conference environments. 

We are trying to get organisations to think of the bigger picture, whether its live or on demand.  What often happens is that they might come to us for a CEO broadcast in 3 months, we need you to provide a system for that.  What they’ve often not done is budgeted appropriately for a complete solution for the entire organization.  What we try and say to them is that we are also getting contacted by your marketing department and your IT department, and they all have very distinct needs, and they can all be wrapped into a single video solution which manages all your video assets.  We see companies look at live and VoD as very separate things, and we are providing an infrastructure to do both.   It doesn’t cost any more to have that infrastructure.  That’s often the challenges, you are talking to different departments with different drivers, different budget timings, different allocations of budgets, getting that to coincide is often a challenge.

What questions should you be asking your supplier?

I would say they should ask a vendor to lease explain how your system can manage all of our video assets across the whole organisation.  There are lots of companies that can manage a webcast, or can manage VoD files.  What you tend to see is companies will try and push a particular technology, whether is WAN acceleration or optimization for video, or a portal to manage VoD or a live webcasting tool.  We would like end uses to think beyond the narrow needs they have at the initial time and ask a vendor how it manages video across the entire organization and manages those assets as the use if video inevitably grows.

Do clients know how to manage a video streaming system?

Those who are coming at this from event management are sometimes looking for maybe a third party company to manage that event for them, that includes camera, lighting etc.  Those people who are coming at it from a VoD point of view are looking at it from a ‘how do we manage our training assets?’ point of view.  Like anything, if you put in place a relatively complex system, you need people to invest in it, to drive adoption within the business, if you create an event, and it goes well on day one it doesn’t mean you can forget about it, you have to think about other parts of your business, to invest in training and think about how this technology can work appropriately with other technologies in your business, like learning management.  It’s not necessarily purely an IT function, if involves marketing, HR, training, event services.

Just like video conferencing, just because you have a few people talking to each other, it doesn’t mean you can’t forget about it, you have to invest time and money in training, teaching people how to use it properly, about how to use those assets properly once you have them.  

How do you get the buy-in from the whole organisation and not just individual departments (events team/IT/training/comms etc) when deploying a system?

Stats on our system show us that clients may get the system in use on day one because they have had a problem with a previous system. Because we have fixed that problem, the organization then has a level of confidence in the product and it begins to be rolled out to other people in the company.  Because it works people start sing it.

You may have a particular department which uses it and when other staff get called in to those calls they see how it works, and want to use it as well.  

There are a lot of parallels to video conferencing when it first started.  Its often the CEO who wants to have a chat with his/her executives around the world, but once its installed in the whole organization its often the middle management who are using it on a daily basis.  Adoption is driven because it just works and is easy to use.  In theory the usage of the product becomes second nature because it’s easy to use.  

Is it becoming a company-wide practice now or is it primarily a senior exec tool?

Often the budget required for a company-wide system will be driven by the CEO or senior execs, but the usage stats we have seen show that once the system is in place, the adoption of both live and VoD is very rapid, because they realise its easy to use, the quality is good, its not that complicated.   You don’t need a technican to set up a call or broadcast.  People are setting up broadcasts to the entire staff to go out first thing on Monday morning on their mobile phones.  

What is driving usage of video streaming services?

Number one is that it works.  Organisations have a had a challenging time doing an exec broadcast, if a CEO stand up and half the staff cant watch it, it’s a miserable experience.  Once they get over the fact the technology works, and they can view a broadcast with no issues then adoption grows because other people want to do it.  IT staff are not scared of a wider deployment because its not something they necessarily have to manage aggressively.   If it’s a town hall broadcast you will have all hands on deck, waiting for things to go wrong.  If it just works, it becomes part of the IT infrastructure.  You can do a lot more with video than you can with email or word of mouth.   People are using mobile technology to create video.

We have tried to concentrate on providing scalability, we re-architected the product three years ago to be cloud native.  That means when an orgainsation;s use of video grows we have the capability to scale the solution very quickly.  Its designed for the cloud but can also be put on the premises.  People are also more comfortable with video in their daily lives, more and more people are sitting in front of video conferences.  4-5 years ago those numbers weren’t the same, its like using a telephone now.    
We have tried to make it easy to use, it has a lot of familiarity with tools they use in their daily lives like Netflix and YouTube.  

If the right technology has the right interface then adoption drives itself. There was supposedly no room for another mobile phone manufacturer than Nokia then along came Apple. Five years later Nokia were out of business.  We have spent a lot of time investing in ease of use.  

Streaming video with unified comms – how do you merge the two? Can it be done? What do you need to know? What are the best methods to use?

We have a partnership with Cisco, so we have invested in integrating with their UC environment, which means anything from a large conference room you can share with a colleague through to recording a Webex and making it searchable across the organization.  I don’t think systems like ours can live in isolation, they have to integrate into the environment in which customers are using day to day tools, if they are using Jabber or Jive as a communication tool then we have to receive and deliver to those environments.  We see a lot of organisations ask how we integrate into third party environments. Ultimately its down to the workflow of how businesses use UC and video and we have to work with that.   

We supply open APIs so that if any organisation wants to link their third party environment to ours then we have an API set that allows us to do that.  

Do integrators/consultants really understand the full capabilities of video streaming services?

No I don’t think they do, they are often, understandably, driven by their clients who are telling them ‘we need a CEO broadcast tool’, they will naturally try and find the best tool to do that.  Like any end user, we know you need to solve the problem of the CEO broadcast, but have you asked the question of what you are  going to do with that asset once you have recorded it? Will you be able to share it with your users in different countries? What is the requirement in your business for VoD? What we are asking organization to do is to use it as a catalyst for wider us of video in the organization.  Often we are gathering different people from different businesses, and putting then in a room and asking them to pool those requirements together in a an appropriate budget.  

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