One of the most important disruptive technologies that businesses can employ today is video. Video can benefit several business activities, including training, corporate communications, collaboration and knowledge sharing, and CRM. In addition, video is not something you are going to have to browbeat your employees to use. In fact, many employees — thanks to the popularity of YouTube and similar consumer video-sharing sites, in conjunction with their rabid obsession with smartphones and tablets — feel quite at home both watching and making videos. And a lot are also quite familiar with turning to consumer video-sharing sites to seek out videos showing them how to do something — whether it’s how to play “Paint It Black” on the guitar or the easiest way to paint their kitchen cabinets.
The number-one benefit that video brings to organizations results from providing increased access to training or instruction. For example, HR can record a short video showing how employees should fill out a travel report in order to get properly reimbursed.
Videos facilitate enhanced communication between management and employees. Executives can record an important video message and distribute it for all to watch. Employees can also “attend” a virtual meeting by watching a live streaming video presentation, regardless of where they are located, thanks to the widespread use of smartphones and tablets.
Videos also promote increased collaboration and knowledge sharing among colleagues. For example, I know of one company whose Big Data gurus created a series of videos explaining some of the tricks they’ve learned from building and managing Hadoop applications — information that others located in the company’s different divisions will undoubtedly find invaluable when they set about implementing their own Hadoop systems.
There are also benefits to be gained through better customer outreach. A good example is a video created by the customer service department explaining a particular product, feature, or function. For instance, I recently bought a portable light tent (for photography) designed to fold up into a small bundle and fit into its own carrying case. But even with the printed directions, it was not easy to figure out how to go about correctly folding it. Turns out, the company had posted a short video on their website that shows (very simply) how to fold the tent. Problem solved. I can’t help but think how many costly phone calls to customer service this one-minute video has prevented.
There are a number of issues to consider when it comes to business video. Some are related to security and compliance and stem from the worry that someone will post inappropriate content that might be embarrassing or even a liability for the company. Other security issues stem from the fact that not all employees should have the same access rights and viewing privileges. Training and instruction (including in the form of video) explaining what constitutes acceptable content can help reduce these concerns as can the application of permission-based controls (more on this in a minute).
But what appears to be the biggest concern among organizations once they actually start using video — at least as far as IT is concerned — is the demand it places on the corporate network. In short, video eats up lots of bandwidth. And the widespread adoption of mobile devices in the enterprise (in particular, the growing acceptance of BYOD) has exacerbated this problem. Today, you have a lot more users accessing resources from various locales and from different devices across different networks.
All these criteria can affect network bandwidth allocations and impact video quality. Simply put, when it comes to video, it can make a big difference whether users are in the corporate headquarters, at a small branch office, in the field at a client site, or sitting in the airport. Network access can vary tremendously for each one of these scenarios, and this can lead to problems with the quality level (i.e., bit rate) of video. While too high of a bit rate can clog up the network, and result in interference with other (nonvideo) traffic. The type of device also matters, because different devices may support different video formats.
Intelligent Video Management Solutions
The growing application of video for business use has led to the development of enterprise video management solutions. In a nutshell, these platforms offer centralized control of business video — including streaming (live) and on-demand video — as well as management of associated content and applications.
If you haven’t taken a look at the current crop of video management solutions, I think you’re in for a surprise. The latest offerings are quite advanced, offering more than just a simple dashboard for controlling access and dissemination of corporate videos. (For starters, I recommend you check out Qumu’s Video Control Center offering.) Their real value is that they provide the functionality to intelligently determine the type of user, their access rights, the (type) of device in use (PC, iPhone, BlackBerry, iPad or Android-based tablet, etc.), the device’s supported format, end-user location, and type of network, in order to (automatically) route the appropriate video content at the optimum bit rate.
Enterprise video management platforms integrate with existing IT infrastructure and access control solutions to manage who is able to upload, share, and view content. This includes directory services (LDAP) and enterprise portals (IBM WebSphere, Microsoft Sharepoint, etc.), as well as corporate content delivery networks (CDNs) like Bluecoat, Cisco, and Riverbed and public/Internet CDNs like AT&T, Akamai, and Amazon.
These platforms also provide functionality for automating the process of preparing video content for optimum distribution. This is accomplished to a large degree through transcoding, which involves taking a video (uploaded by an employee, for instance) and generating multiple versions of the same file but with different video formats and bit rate quality. Through transcoding, each user is able to receive the correct content in the right format and at the right bit rate according to the type of device they are using — in addition to their permission, location, and network capabilities.
Enterprise video management solutions are currently available as (onsite) software platforms, hardware-software appliances, and as SaaS or managed services residing in the cloud. In short, your goal in implementing or licensing enterprise video management platforms is to provide corporate users with a YouTube-like experience for managing and securely sharing business video content.