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Pick Your Dance Partner Carefully … Even More So With Technology

Pick Your Dance Partner Carefully … Even More So With Technology

Online video has seen a great deal of change in its 17-plus years of existence.  From the format wars of years past to the current evolution of AVC to HEVC, one thing is evident: change is constant.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Change often means that you are adapting to new trends - maybe even setting them.  Change could mean that you are innovating and creating new value and relevance for your customers who use your product.  Change could also mean that your organization is becoming part of another - or that someone has invested in your business and you are now somewhat obligated to them in how you run your business.  Change can have impact, both good and maybe not so good.  

When you have change, consistency must be in imminent proximity.  Change without consistency is often troublesome and potentially disastrous to any organization.  When you introduce change to culture, product roadmap and customer/colleague touch points, consistency is the rudder that keeps things moving in the same direction.  I’m familiar with this, having been acquired twice as part of the staff at two video-centric companies that became part of two larger organizations.  Acquisitions can be disruptive and complicated.  All too often, the end result isn’t the outcome you’d planned for - whether you’re the customer or employee.  

Dance partners disappearing

It would be an understatement to say that there has been lots of change in the video space over the past several years.  From Verizon to Google to IBM, plenty of large companies looking to bolster their tools, offerings and market position have gobbled up smaller companies you may or may not have heard of.  And we are just a little more than one year removed from Amazon acquiring their way into the video workflow space.  As I mention above, this all means that the market is consolidating.  Sure, there are still ambitious people out there who will look at video workflow from a different direction - perhaps invent a better mousetrap and create a new approach - but the sheer number of viable options has thinned in the past 18 months.  

How all this impacts you depends greatly upon how you view working with a small company versus a massive organization.  And within that view lies the dynamic between a traditional vendor and customer versus one where both parties become partners in success.  There is a big difference in the two.  Let’s explore.

I can clearly recall a moment during my time at Yahoo! when I was about to sign off on a large scale software license that we had vetted extensively and were excited about how it would help grow our video processing pipeline.  Turns out, the day after our transaction went through, I’m reading a technology news site only to find out that my newly hired vendor is being acquired by a larger company.  Conversations ensued, and we were assured that things would be ‘business as usual’, but the untimely event spooked many of us and we were left feeling like a number on a spreadsheet and not a partner.  

Later, I was charged with a mass reinvention of the live/linear video technology platform within Yahoo!, as we moved from systems we’d mostly invented and built by hand to emerging appliances and enterprise software that were coming to market to replace these homegrown systems.  This was a massive project where we needed a partner and not just a vendor to fill blocks on a diagram with solutions.  In this case, both companies worked in lockstep to provide clear dialogue backed by timely and effective action so that the project proceeded on-time and within the parameters defined.  A true partnership.   

Put the white lab coat on - be prescriptive

So given these two examples, what can you do to ensure that you and your organization aren’t forced into a relationship where you lack visibility or feel left out or unheard when it is vital that you and your organization should be?  Communication is the most important tool you have in these scenarios, at every stage of a relationship or transaction.  Here are a few prescriptive items for you to consider:

  • Ask questions of your partner/vendor.  What is their long term goal as a company?  Are they profitable?  

  • How is their product roadmap handled?  How often do they ship minor/major updates?  How do you as customer provide input to that roadmap?  

  • Talk to their other customers - both provided and self-sourced.  Ask about quality of offering, how it is being supported,  How often is the technology updated?  

  • Who are their partners?  Are market leading functionalities augmented or offered as part of a partnership?  

If you are reading this and have doubts or are dealing with a vendor and uncertainty prevails, assess all your options.  Even though the dance card has thinned, there are still a number of great, viable organizations who offer great solutions and are changing for the better by innovating and staying invested as partners in success with their customers.    

Again - change is the operative term here.  Whether immediate or over the course of several months, things often change as part of investments and acquisitions.  Understand the impact to you and be prepared to adjust accordingly.  This is part and parcel of working in the fast moving video space.  Change is inevitable, but armed with the right data and with an educated and perhaps adaptive plan, your organization can be well positioned to succeed.  

I suppose another element I should examine in this discussion is stability, aligned more toward consistency than change.  At Brightcove, we're focused on ensuring that every aspect of our products and services are not only consistent and stable - but also innovative.  You can see this in our recent announcement of Brightcove Social.  This is the result of having discussions as a trusted advisor and partner with our customers, and also keeping a keen eye on what key video elements our customers want and need and we’ve uniquely positioned to deliver.  

I mention focus.  This is important too.  From our platform software to the infrastructure we rely on and how it helps us scale manage and secure our operations,  we are focused and driven to deliver, without distractions or outside interests.  

These terms and technologies are all tenets that we’re ‘all in’ on and frankly, things that media organizations should care about in their key partners.  From stability to reliability, independence (vs. someone else's agenda) to innovation, at Brightcove we are dedicated to customer focus, no matter the changes elsewhere in the industry.