In the interconnected post production world that we operate in, a well-designed media supply chain cannot exist or be built in isolation. To be effective, it must be built around users. It should be designed with users' needs in mind, as opposed to being designed in a restrictive way that tries to shoehorn media teams into a certain way of working. Good infrastructure does so much more than simply store media or manage assets and workflows. It streamlines operations and simplifies processes by removing obstacles from users' day-to-day jobs.
The need for intuitive infrastructure has become increasingly important for media businesses. The increased demand for content that we have seen over recent years, has led to media companies needing to process more assets than ever before. The ability to search and discover specific content quickly is required for effective monetization. So technology vendors should be responding to the needs of users throughout the post production chain. A well-designed interface makes for efficient processes because it can streamline and automate repetitive and time-consuming actions, and save media operator's valuable time.
Addressing common challenges
Without building an intuitive infrastructure centered around the needs of users, large media companies are likely to face a number of difficulties. Resistance to change is another challenge that needs to be addressed when changing the infrastructure design dynamic. It is encountered on both an individual and on a corporate basis. This is to be expected, because after all, as human beings, we are hardwired to be resistant to change. The level of resistance encountered tends to increase the larger the organization is, so it needs to be managed very carefully.
Media organizations often have internal systems, processes and user groups that are not interconnected or integrated in any way. This can result in a lot of duplication throughout the chain and across different departments, which is obviously not a cost-efficient way of working. If media assets and metadata are locked in siloed systems, this can become a daily challenge for users and mean that many teams need to find workarounds. The inability to easily integrate systems is paralyzing large media organizations.
Inadequate data sharing and asset management processes are unfortunately common throughout the industry. If metadata is not recorded early on and retained throughout the media supply chain for all to use, duplication is unavoidable. Files are duplicated, and multiple renders of one video, plus multiple versions for different regions in the required languages are created. Poor asset management and metadata recording can also make it difficult to retain the relationships between assets. If not recorded correctly, new types of assets linked to one production can essentially be lost. All of these practices are extremely damaging for media businesses. Teams are too often wasting time duplicating tasks, which is an inefficient use of a skilled workforce. Additional files can end up being created, often sorted by folders and filename, and this makes it more difficult to search and locate specific content. The problem can quickly snowball.
Another consideration is that, as the demand for higher-resolution content increases, media file sizes are getting larger. Existing media storage infrastructure was often not designed with these growing file sizes in mind.
Mapping the user journey
It is generally accepted that traditional media infrastructure is no longer fit for purpose because it doesn't meet users' needs, or support changing workflows. So, how can we find out what facilitates media operators' day to day, and help them to have a more enjoyable and intuitive experience?
A central part of the infrastructure design process has to be identifying users' pain points. Very early on in the process, it's necessary to build a picture of how people are involved with media processes, production or projects. It's important to identify how teams interact with each other, the assets and the system. Determining the correct levels of access is another key stage of mapping out the user journey. Authentication must be used to ensure that access is both straight forward, and security is maximized.
Mapping out the user journey is a vital process, because the end result must deliver a system that is enjoyable to use. After all, if the media operator is motivated and enjoys using the system, then they are more productive and the quality of their output improves.
Managing the transition
Transitioning to a more integrated way of working does not happen overnight, nor is it easy. One thing is clear, as the volume of content media organizations are producing increases exponentially, the need to manage content effectively is critical for business continuity. It's worth remembering that an out-of-the-box solution is not always the right fit. Sometimes a more tailored solution will result in the best outcome. But whatever the solution, its ability to integrate with other parts of the content supply chain is essential.
For an effective system, the user must be at core of all design decisions. It is important not to force functionality on users but instead, engage in a collaborative process with them. To ensure successful user adoption, the design process needs to start with a carefully crafted consultation. If the people using the system are left as an afterthought, it will cause problems throughout the chain. Listening to media professionals, in order to understand their pain-points results in better solutions, not only for individual companies, but also for the industry as a whole.
Rickard Lönneborg is the CEO of Codemill (https://www.codemill.se), which provides media workflow applications that enable M&E companies to save time and money.