January 17, 2022
Trust and clarity: The essential elements for success in a video streaming integration project
In the latest of our Spotlight blogs focusing on the work of 24i’s brilliant people, CEO Joachim Bergman talks to Michal Konečný, who leads our team of Solutions Architects, to get a sense of what drives success when you’re integrating new and existing technologies for a Pay TV or OTT streaming service.
Although as a team at 24i we’re incredibly proud of our end-to-end video streaming solutions for OTT services, we also recognize that not every streaming service is in the market for a fully turnkey solution. Indeed, we have many customers who have already invested heavily in some elements of their infrastructure - from encoding and transcoding devices to subscriber management capabilities or in-field set-top boxes. It makes sense for them to extract the best possible value from those prior investments, and we’re always ready to support them in those goals.
Architecting an ideal video streaming solution
This is where our team of solutions architects play an absolutely critical role in the success of our customers’ streaming operations. Michal Konečný has been with 24i since 2017 and now heads-up the solutions architecture function based out of our office in Brno, Czech Republic. He has worked with countless 24i clients of all kinds, from Slovak Telekom and Pure Flix to Flow Sports and NewsMax, Sinclair Digital and Post Luxembourg.
Michal explains the importance of this role in a project: “From the very first days of any customer engagement, we work very closely with the teams on the customer’s side, doing business analysis and creating specifications. This includes talking to both marketing and product owners for the end solution, but also the internal technical teams that might support the customer’s existing content management, user management or transcoding systems. It also includes liaison with any third parties that need to be integrated into the solution - maybe a recommendation engine, an analytics platform, a DRM provider or a device manufacturer. Often these will be our existing partners, but sometimes there’s a full integration to be done with new APIs to understand and implement.
Then, once work on delivering the project really gets going, we remain very involved because our initial focus on requirements gathering means we can answer many of the questions that arise from the team, and we have the contacts within the customer’s organisation to help escalate any issues. If we have done our job correctly, we can soon step back and let the project managers do their work, keeping an eye on a project from a distance as it goes live and grows.”
The “man-in-the-middle”: making sure everyone is on the same page
With all his years of experience in the software industry, Michal now sees himself as a kind of translator between the practical needs of the customer and the technical needs of the solutions they’re integrating. “Clear communication is essential and I find the business analysis process fascinating. I don’t think you would go into this job if you weren’t as interested in the communication as the technical part. We become the person in the middle, translating sometimes confusing business requirements into the precise technical specifications and settings that will ensure the solution works seamlessly with third party systems to meet the customer’s business needs.”
“Very often, we realise there is a disconnect between what the customer says they want and what they actually want - because different people use industry terms like ‘pay-per-view’ or ‘SVOD’ or ‘authentication’ in subtly different ways and these apparently minor differences can have really big implications for the way you implement the technology. So, first we need to find common ground and make sure we understand each other. And then we start investigating more details.”
Meeting streaming customers around the world
With our global customer base, Michal has typically relished the chance to travel and meet customers face to face, something that’s been off the table for the past couple of years with COVID restrictions. “Personally, I hate video calls”, laughs Michal. “To be effective in this job, it’s really important to have a really strong relationship with the customer based on mutual trust and confidence. You can build that over Zoom, of course, and we’ve become pretty good at doing it online after all this time, but I can’t wait to get back to face-to-face meetings, especially for this really critical business analysis phase. When you’re in a room with the key people involved in a project you can see much more clearly whether you’re all on the same page with how something should work.”
There’s another benefit to being face-to-face that is equally critical to the success of a complex streaming project, as Michal explains: “Sometimes in these meetings you can see the look on someone’s face when their own colleagues are speaking, and you realise quickly that there is a lack of agreement within the customer’s own organisation on how something should be implemented or what the timeline should be - perhaps the marketing and technical departments are not aligned, but this only becomes clear when they’re all talking to us. This happens quite often and our job is to help identify these areas of risk and get clarity before we start work.”
Integration and migration - a challenge that’s worth the effort
Right now, Michal is heavily involved in a project to ensure there’s a clear migration path for a number of 24i’s OTT customers who wish to move over to our end-to-end video streaming platform, 24i Mod Studio, rather than remaining on the custom-built front-end solutions that they have been evolving over the past few years. The benefits of moving to our latest platform and getting away from the costs of maintaining a fully custom solution are clear, but it can’t be done at the flick of a switch. “A migration like this doesn’t happen overnight and we’re taking our time to ensure we have the right pathway,” explains Michal, “but the individual customer services can’t stand still in the meantime. So, we are effectively changing the tyres of the car while it’s speeding down the outside lane of the highway! And in the meantime we’re still adding new features to the customers’ legacy apps while we’re working on the migration in the background. As a solutions architect, it’s my job to make sure that we’ve documented everything that’s supported in the current, custom solutions and to liaise with the product team to find the best way to match them with the migration.”
The secret of success? It's a matter of trust and sincerity
Whether it’s a new implementation or a migration of existing solutions, Michal is clear about the most important element in a project: mutual trust. “The customers need to know that I am working hard to understand their needs and get the very best solution for them. Of course we have account managers and project managers who care deeply about the success of a project, but we want the customer to know that they can trust the technology and the way it’s configured for them. So it’s a trust and sincerity thing.”
If you’d like to talk to 24i’s team about your integration needs, why not book a meeting?
By Joachim Bergman