Get Ready for the Video Era

Author: Jim Lundy                          Date: August 15, 2011

Topic:  Collaboration                       Research Note Number: 2011-6

Issue: What are the technologies and architectures that enterprises should leverage?

Summary: The video era is here. Enterprises face increasing pressure from users to support video for communicating, collaborating and sharing content. Users no longer wait for permission, and forge ahead with or without IT. 
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*Note: This is part of our archived research. For up-to-date research, please see our Research Page.

Video use has exploded. Both consumers and business users have unlocked its value in communication, collaboration and learning. Not so long ago, video in the enterprise was a specialized and elite tool, only found in the realm of shareholder communications and the executive suite. That has all changed. A new era in which video is used everywhere creates an elevated sense of urgency for enterprises and for suppliers of video technologies. Four essential areas are critical to success in enabling video, and enterprises must attend to each of them (see Note 1).

The Video Dilemma

Enterprises today face a real dilemma regarding the deployment and support of video. On one hand, video is taking root in different forms and usage models at an explosive rate. YouTube is a prime example, with its content growth surpassing everything on the Internet. Creation and consumption of video is at an all-time high, and many enterprise applications, such as web video conferencing, are becoming mainstream.

Yet on the other hand, the tools remain fragmented and often disconnected from other collaboration and workplace systems. Further, most enterprises are not ready for a major video ramp-up. The current generation of installed windows PCs (desktop and laptop) was not deployed with video in mind, and most enterprise networks do not yet have the bandwidth or the quality of service to support the video explosion.

Generational Issues

To complicate things further, enterprises face a generational issue: many older users often resist using video, while a younger cohort will demand extensive support for it. Many users are happy to watch a YouTube video shared by a co-worker, but frequently are uncomfortable seeing themselves on video. By contrast, the younger generations – millenials or “digital natives” – have spent years viewing and making YouTube videos and are the first to exploit video on mobile phones.

Often today, knowledge workers do not wish to use video for interpersonal communications. However, with a little training, users often become much more comfortable. The precept “everyone likes to be on TV” applies to enterprise workers as well.

To confront these issues, it is important that enterprise strategies around video technology, creation, storage, management and delivery align with other core elements of collaboration and workplace strategies. Due to the explosion of video and the multiple pressure points enterprises face regarding it, Aragon has identified four areas that require enterprise planning:

  • Video collaboration (chat and conferencing)
  • Video content management
  • Video capture and editing
  • PC and mobile platforms

Use these categories to understand the differing areas of demand, review existing projects and proposals, and coordinate new usage with a planned destination.

Video Communication (Conferencing, Calls)

Video chat and calling is already here, but the capabilities are spread across different products such as instant messaging, Web conferencing and pure videoconferencing. Because of this, outside of dedicated systems such as telepresence, video has not had the traction in the enterprise that one would expect.

Much of this can be attributed to continued technical difficulties and to PC and network bandwidth limitations. However, many of these difficulties are being resolved, and the use of video for chat and calling will increase as application user friendliness, bandwidth and device processor power increase.

For example, instant messaging platforms now provide a webcam video option, albeit so far only from a PC. Providers are now racing to provide this support on tablets. Web conferencing providers are also expanding their video support, including High Definition. However, Web conferencing video reliability still suffers because of network bandwidth and packet-management limitations. As a result, users often limit their use of video in web conferences because of poor performance.

Many Web conferencing products also lack interoperability with other collaboration applications. In the future, online meetings will have to integrate with the rest of the collaboration stack, and both Web and telecom standards bodies are addressing this need.

High-end “telepresence” videoconferencing systems (from Cisco and others) work because they have dedicated bandwidth (often, in fact, a dedicated point-to-point physical circuit). Between the endpoints and the lavish transmission provisioning, these systems can be very expensive. That said, even the most expensive don’t begin to approach the cost of travel and lodgings for physical meetings. Large enterprises need to start looking at their overall approach to video.

Planning Assumption: By 2015, video will be a standard part of a knowledge worker’s daily activity in half of all enterprises.

Mobile Video Calls: Apple is promoting point-to-point video calling with FaceTime, a product on the iPhone similar to Skype. FaceTime and Skype use the phone-call metaphor to initiate an audio/video conference. We expect video to continue to evolve at the consumer level and this will morph over into the enterprise side. Enterprises should experiment with these evolving technologies, as many will be good enough for workgroup level use.

Managing Video Content

Video is the new learning medium. It is the way people are accustomed to processing information. After all, nearly everyone alive today in the industrial world grew up with television. That said, in this context, technology has not caught up with human nature. The tools that allow an enterprise to manage thousand of videos in a content management system are not there. Most content management systems were designed to manage text documents and are just now evolving to support this very much larger media type.

For example, the largest file that Microsoft SharePoint can store is 2.0 GB, which is insufficient for video content objects, which may greatly exceed that size. Many traditional enterprise content or document management systems have digital asset management (DAM) modules that are good at managing rich media, but those tools were not designed for the masses, either from the standpoint of cost or complexity. That said, much of the new investment in video will be coming from new cloud startups such as Brightcove, which provide content management options for many television and news sites.

KEY ACTION: Understand your video strategy and take steps now to figure out policies and procedures for managing this new data type. Video sharing policies should be added to existing content sharing policies (e.g. no use of public video sites like YouTube).

For many, the question will be how to safely and securely manage and distribute video. The Cloud model is viable partly because scalability and security are factored into the design. An enterprise’s portal can easily be integrated with one of the new emerging video content management providers, and with streaming servers for content distribution.

Video Capture and Editing

With the advent of high definition cameras on smartphones and tablets, video capture has never been easier. Sharing is also easy, but users often skip the step of editing because they don’t have the tools.

The YouTube generation and its sound-bite attention span has helped to reduce the demand for long video segments. Today’s “shorter is better” approach has brought video attention spans down to 3 to 5 minutes with no exact timing required, whereas in the past content was expected to fit into precise 30- or 60-minute blocks. This brevity doesn’t diminish the persuasive or informative power of a presentation, partially because so much information can be packed into a very short segment.

Editing choices are also getting better and easier to use. Prior to the release of the iMovie application by Apple, video editing was highly complex and not for the faint of heart. With iMovie, Apple has created a simpler, albeit somewhat less sophisticated, video editing tool, and the average user can now edit video and excel at it (see Note 2). Make no mistake, users coming into the workforce will have had to create and edit video for school presentations. They will be very comfortable with video creation and editing.

The question that should be asked is where are all the other providers? iMovie is not just a Mac platform tool, as it now supports the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad platforms. Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, Sony, and a number of smaller providers offer Windows-based editing tools that let users drag video clips together the same way they would assemble slides (see Note 3).

Exploiting The Knowledge Angle: The amount of information that can be shared in just 60 seconds of video outpaces an hour of PowerPoint slides – and may not take more time or resources to create. This improvement in information sharing is the key reason enterprises need to empower their users. Business professionals now realize that rich media is a way to speed things up, increase comprehension, retention, and the overall collaboration and learning experience. Video isn’t luxury or a necessary evil anymore. It is here to stay.

PC and Mobile Platforms

The majority of most enterprises’ PCs were not configured for video, especially HD video, and don’t have the processing power to deal with video effectively. Conversely, mobile devices, with a faster refresh/replacement rate and a higher level of demand from media-hungry consumers, are perfectly suited to serve up video files (see Winning in Mobile: The Five Essential Components of a Mobile Ecosystem).

While the PC industry is now taking steps to improve their standard capabilities, enterprises need to step back, look at their needs and determine the right footprint. A stripped down sub-500MHz PC may not be the answer – but this is exactly where tablets come into play. Tablets are already designed to process and display HD video with no issues at all. Smartphones are also more capable video devices than many PCs, and since they are also highly convenient camera/recorders, and have their own transmission facilities, in this arena the smallest tools may end up having the largest impact for many video use cases.

Aragon Advisory

Make video part of your collaboration strategy. Enterprises need to change their perspective on video and look at it holistically. Video is now an enabler that can speed up business processes and improve the effectiveness of information sharing and communication. An enterprise’s overall collaboration and communication strategy needs to take a long-term view of video, partly due to the pace of innovation that will make it commonplace in just 3 years.

To be successful, enterprises need to understand the following:

  • How much video they use today, what it is used for, how much more they will use in the future, and what needs to be done to prepare the enterprise infrastructure for that increase.
  • What creation, management and delivery tools they currently use, how user demands will drive new requirements and how product roadmaps will evolve to meet those needs.
  • How to weave together a cohesive architecture that spans products, content types and use cases across and between enterprises.

Bottom Line: Video is on the cusp of an explosion in the enterprise and most are not prepared for it. By understanding the use cases and by making video a part of the overall architecture, enterprises can be prepared to make video a part of the knowledge worker’s daily life.

Note 1: Four Areas of Enterprise Video

  • Video collaboration (chat and conferencing)
  • Video capture and editing
  • Video content management
  • PC and mobile platforms

Note 2: The iMovie “Good Enough” Approach.As, they did with music, Apple has quietly been attacking the video-editing dilemma. iMovie is a simple video-editing tool that started life as a Mac only tool. However, millions of people don’t have a Mac. They do have an iPad or an iPhone and now iMovie is available on both of those devices as well. The result has been literally millions of video clips posted on YouTube and elsewhere for humor, drama, politics and every other purpose. No one notices his or her low quality, and no one cares. As communication, they simply work.

Note 3: Other Video Editing Options

Adobe, Autodesk, Avid, Microsoft, Sony, and a number of providers offer video editing tools that let users drag video clips together the same way they would assemble slides. On the Apple side, Final Cut Pro is so powerful it has become a broadcast industry standard and is even used to edit feature films.

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