Don’t focus on cloud. Focus on opportunities from new generation operating models that the cloud enables
By Debra Slater, Managing Director, Three Media
At the moment there is a huge amount of noise in the media industry concerning the cloud. Vendors are clamouring to say their solution offers something new, while users are, by and large, unsure and nervous on its exact value.
The simple view of the cloud which is often quoted – giving all our data and processing to AWS or Alibaba or one of the others – is really not helpful when trying to navigate its value. The cloud is a far greater opportunity to reshape your business than simply where you host technical infrastructure.
We should also stop obsessing with the cloud. If we have to talk technology, what is really important is the possibility of building software-defined solutions within a virtualised ecosystem, bringing together applications from all the best media specialist vendors. That virtualised ecosystem can just as easily be on premises as in the cloud, or in a hybrid architecture.
This solution should obviously accomplish what businesses want today, but it should also provide a clear pathway to what they are going to need in the future. It is not just about choosing to run software-defined systems on someone else’s hardware, it is much more than that. It is important to take a step back and decide what the end game is. What are you, as a business, trying to achieve? How will you take your creative talents, plus your operational and technical skills, and make money from them?
At Three Media we talk about the next generation operating model. What the software-defined approach allows us to do is to pick just the functionality we need and put it together in a way that makes sense to our customers’ specific requirements and commercial drivers.
This is really important. From the day, exactly 100 years ago, when the BBC launched the first public radio station until this moment, the media industry has been defined by what the technology allowed us to do. We see the software-defined revolution as allowing media enterprises to define and realise goals across technical, operational, commercial and business operations in a way that no other technology change has allowed. Indeed, the commercial re-engineering is as exciting as the changes to legacy broadcast heavy iron!
We see this as a great opportunity to realign the media enterprise. We should all be asking questions, and deliberating answers, around how to use smart business transformation to lead to better ways of working, to re-imagine the optimal business model, then realise it.
Along the way, it means aligning your resources in technology, in people and in work processes, to perfect your value proposition. As technology today includes artificial intelligence and machine learning, it is perfectly reasonable to build a high degree of automation into the new generation operating model, so people are used for what people do best.
These choices, these re-architectures, are business decisions. They may well be influenced by creative or operational decisions. But they are not technological decisions: the technology is evolving to be able support the most demanding business ambitions. Simply moving your current models, processes and workflows into the cloud is a lost opportunity. The opportunity comes in reimagining and optimising your operating model.
It is important to accept that there is no one-size-fits-all. Each media business will have its own definition of its next generation operating model, and its own pathway to get there.
While creativity is still central to what we do and content is king, from a business perspective we have to move towards the concept of the virtual media supply chain. That approach cannot be piecemeal: it has to be glass-to-glass. But the pathways to getting there are very manageable.
Content on its own does not give you the keys to the kingdom. Metadata carries that supporting role but in reality carries equal importance as we move towards a virtualised world. it is the backbone and engine driving the business but we have to work the data harder and we have to know what it is telling us about our processes and then use them to optimise the supply chain.
At Three Media we are strong believers in process mining, which Wikipedia defines as “a family of techniques to support the analysis of operational processes, with the goal to turn event data into insights and actions”. Establishing it can appear complex and scary, but once it is running it can tell you all you need to know about how your business is performing, where the pinch points are, and where you can win new revenues with no extra investment.
As a consultancy we have been fortunate to work with some of the biggest broadcasters and media companies around the world, tackling just these issues (and will be very happy to talk to many more). Our real world experience suggests that, in the software-defined domain, the problems of interoperability and interconnectivity go away. The technology becomes the servant of the business, where solutions are led by service and customer defined needs.
And you really do not need to throw away what you have today. Once you have decided where you want to go – in business terms – then you can structure transition at your pace to meet your business case, continually evaluating what you have achieved so you can respond to new operating opportunities and sector demands.
You will find that the digital dividend never ends. It will give you the flexibility to evolve quickly and easily to ensure your competitive and service advantage is realised.
We talk a lot about agility in the cloud but it is more important to be agile in the ways you tackle your goals. Do not think of this business transformation as three years of intensive analysis and coding leading up to a big bang. That is not the real route to seizing much greater opportunities. Agility is the key. Each step must be defined carefully so that once achieved it can be learnt from and count the benefits.
Yes, we are in a transition from ground to cloud. But the important part is not the technology, it is the business transformation these new technologies allow us, in operations and in our commercial models. The new generation business model – the media supply chain – if done properly, will create competitive advantage, retain and boost audiences, control costs and maximise revenues.
This article first appeared in print and online with the IABM.