Business video libraries aren’t a new thing.
Even before streaming video over the internet was viable, enterprises were creating DVD, and even further back, VHS libraries for important corporate videos. Despite its long history, the corporate video library is only now beginning to reach its full potential. The drastic upswing in the potential ROI for these systems is the result of the confluence of recent technology and user behavior trends. I recently spoke with Cara Daly (Product Marketing Manager) and Andy Cuneo (Sr Mgr Corp Comms) from Polycom to learn how their solution in this space has developed in response to these trends.
Important note: Recording video meetings themselves is not the primary concern of organizations, or use case for this solution. While some meetings are recorded for compliance reasons, or for the benefit of absentees, it is just one possible use case for this technology. A better example of the real use case for this technology would be HR training videos, but even that is just one of many uses.
Polycom has actually had a streaming/recording solution for some time now. The need and use case for such a solution was apparent from day one. Polycom’s enterprise customers have these high quality Polycom video cameras already installed in all of their meeting rooms. They also have a historic need to create recorded videos. It seems more than obvious that they would want to use these existing systems, and use their meeting rooms as ad-hoc recording studios, rather than building a separate designated studio and purchasing additional cameras and equipment. Unfortunately, while Polycom had the camera and codec angle covered, their VC systems just weren’t initially designed to record and store video.
Polycom sought to address this need some time ago by offering a streaming and recording server which worked in concert with their VC solutions. I did some extensive testing on this system 5+ years ago and found it capable, but my opinion at the time was that it required a little too much IT support for mass adoption. The basic concept was simple enough. From your meeting room system you call the recording server (just as you would call another video system). When the server “answers” the call it immediately begins recording. Unfortunately, at this point in the process a user would require IT support. An admin would then have to go into the recording server which just was not very user friendly. Don’t get me wrong, the UI was clean, logical, and functional; but it was an admin UI, not a user UI. The workflow was also a bit tricky, as there were a few manual steps between capturing the video, processing the video, and making it available for viewing. Finally, the resulting library was also usable, but not user friendly.
Well, a lot has changed since then and I was extremely pleased by the demo I saw at the last InfoComm show (please see the video of Cara performing a similar demo, above). My recent chat with Cara and Andy confirmed what I learned at InfoComm. The latest version of their “Video Content Management” (VCM) offering is designed to cater to the workflow and preferences of the “self-service” YouTube generation (industry insiders will trace this back, at least in part, to the 2011 acquisition of Accordent).
It isn’t hard to imagine the user feedback which prompted the development of this solution. “At home I can record a video of my kid’s baseball game, pop it up on YouTube and share it with everyone. Why can’t it be this easy to make business videos at work?” The result is a business version of YouTube. All of the convenience and ease of use of YouTube, but with business class quality, security, management, permissioning, and additional features/capabilities. This provides the best of all worlds for today’s video savvy business environments. From the user side, a self-service Youtube-like video portal, with all of the expected rating, commenting, sharing capabilities. From the administrative side, a fully manageable video library structure with the ability to create rules and logic behind who can upload videos, how they will be organized, etc.
One of the more interesting, and potentially valuable, aspects of this solution is its flexibility, which allows it to be used for a lot more than simply making a few training videos. For example, in addition to recording, it can be used to stream live video. In fact, one of Polycom’s customers uses it for regular webcasts with over 20,000 attendees (obviously this is a very large customer organization). While most of their customers limit streaming to 1000 or less attendees, it is nice to know that it can scale up to meet just about any need. The streaming capability (and the overall solution for that matter) is particularly popular in the EDU and Healthcare verticals, where live lectures and events are an intrinsic part of the landscape.
Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that Polycom has designed this solution with an open integration framework. In other words, with the market moving as fast as it is, they want to enable partners and developers to add additional value with 3rd party applications. One example is an engine that automatically transcribes text from recorded videos. This can make thousands of hours of video instantly searchable to find the exact moment, as users can “jump” to specific keywords, without having to rely on memory, or hours of reviewing and rewinding. It can also enable big data analytics, as the text can be more easily quantified and processed. Again, as cool as this capability may be, it is just one example of potential third party integrations with a fully empowered video library.
In many ways, video is the new document, and it may be the best way to capture tacit knowledge (stuff that’s hard to learn from reading a manual). I know that when I need to learn how to do something around the house, whether it be to cook a new recipe, make a minor repair, start a new hobby, or just about any unfamiliar task, I go straight to YouTube. How many of the common employee guides and handbooks would be more effective in video format? Or what better way could there be for a retiring worker to pass on her knowledge to future employees? Some of you may be saying, “Yes, we understand the need. It is obvious. We don’t need to be convinced of the value, we will be happy to use this at the office as soon as it is as easy as YouTube.” According to Polycom, we are already there.