Workflow Solutions: Do-it-Yourself, Do-What’s-Easy, or Do-it-Best?

Joe French
CEO & President

Every discussion I have with a broadcaster ultimately revolves around the same core topic: workflow. Specifications, formats, pricing, deployment models – they all come up, of course, but it always comes back to workflow.

Whether a company’s evaluation of a new solution stems from a decision to implement a new standalone application or enterprise MAM, or a replacement forced by the discontinuation of their existing product, an in-depth discussion of their workflows is critical to their future success. Customers know that workflows are essential to optimizing their media environment, but they are often unaware of the pitfalls of the self-administered, seemingly easy-to-use workflow solutions that tout a “do it yourself” approach.

Would you build or modify the foundation of your facility’s building yourself? All of the tools and supplies you need are readily available at your local “big-box” hardware store. But you can’t buy skills or engineering expertise at a checkout, nor keep up in-depth with all the latest standards and practices.

While there are no regulatory building codes for media workflows, properly creating them is no less critical. Your software workflows are the foundation of your technical and business operations, and mistakes can be costly, whether in the short term or long term.

blocksAs media organizations are finding out – sometimes, unfortunately, too late – creating and modifying workflows can be complicated, no matter how easy the tools appear to make it. Even something seemingly as simple as defining a new storage location can be fraught with issues. And when mistakes are made, resolving the resulting problem is often complex, time-consuming and expensive.

There continues to be frustration by broadcasters as they try to find the right solution to create and power their workflows. My personal observation has been that even though some appliances and solutions on the market today emphasize “easy-to-use workflow creation interfaces”, it’s also all too easy for users to inadvertently create nightmare situations.

By portraying the creation of workflows as so simple, many overlook or obscure the fact that efficient workflows can actually get very complex, with long-term repercussions if not assessed and implemented properly. Such interfaces invite users to take easy short cuts that may not be ideal for the organization’s long-term operations.

My advice to broadcasters is to look past the interfaces, as regardless of the tool, you should engage professional assistance in defining, creating and engineering the optimal workflow for your business. These workflows have a direct impact on your efficiency and success, and evaluating, documenting, designing and testing them is not a casual task.

You should also consider whether the workflow tool is itself a complete solution. Workflow systems need key elements to be successful, including a powerful logic engine, transformation and transcoding capabilities, and an extensive library of interfaces to third-party systems for facility-wide integration. While many mainstream products have some of these components, unlike our offerings, almost all of them require third-party partner products to achieve a complete solution.

Every End is an Opportunity for a Better Beginning

ThisWayThatWayThe recent discontinuation of legacy transcoding and content aggregation products from a particular mainstream vendor has reminded me that clients often feel bullied into their next solution because they are led to believe there are no alternatives. Some customers feel like they must follow the replacement path set out by their existing vendor, believing it to be the “easy” approach. But the “end of life” of an existing system should be viewed as an opportunity: it can be the start of a new life with a new foundation of solutions superior to the existing vendor’s offerings.

Such transitions are a perfect time for broadcasters to explore solutions on the market that may not be as mainstream, but are still proven and established. They may be somewhat smaller in scope, but highly focused on the broadcast market and rightly priced, offering customers cost-effective solutions that solve their immediate needs while providing additional growth paths.

As a company that has years of experience with creating optimal workflows for our customers, I must stress that such workflows are key to achieving a highly-integrated and efficient broadcast environment. It is critical that broadcasters find the right vendor to partner with, not just an appliance or piece of software that seems easy to use but can cause more trouble than it’s worth when deployed.