Enterprises eye streaming media strategies

NEW YORK — Streaming media is set to flood corporate enterprises in 2002, but experts say a number of barriers could create a dam that blocks adoption.

If fundamental challenges are not met, customers and streaming companies indicate the technology will follow the same path to marginalization as other promising-but-complex technologies that failed to get buy-in from other departments.

That was the undercurrent of “Organizational Issues of Enterprise Streaming,” a panel discussion held Tuesday at the Streaming Media East conference.

The number of unresolved issues under debate was a stark indicator of how much work needs to be done. These include deciding whether to outsource or ‘insource’ streaming production and/or distribution; how streaming proponents should present return on investment (ROI) data to corporate decision-makers; how personnel from other departments can be brought on board; and which corporate executives are most important to impress.

While those questions begin to play out, many streaming insiders say the first step is to simplify tools and promote their ability to abet the enterprise’s overall media strategy.

“I’d say we’re in the transition between developing the core technology and the tools which simplify the technology into things users are accustomed to,” said Neal Page, the senior vice-president and general manager of ViewCast Corp.’s Osprey Video unit.

Examples of creatively integrating streaming into the mainstream include incorporating streamed video with Power Point presentations and making XML tags to publish content on the Web.

Enterprises’ internal structure can work against nascent streaming units, the panel said. Often there is little communication between people whose goal — disseminating information internally or to clients — is the same. “All departments are operating with parallel structures, and no one is setting the rules for other people doing the same thing at the same time,” says Laura Prah, the director of production for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

Departments should therefore agree on a relatively simple technology that is well-understood by all. “Once you establish a simple platform, you can build on it,” she says.

Most importantly, streaming media departments seeking acceptance should work to find — either within their own ranks or elsewhere in the organization — an advocate who understands the concerns of all the affected departments and, to some extent, speaks their language.

“There has got to be someone who is a multilingual champion, a cheerleader,” says Peggy Miles, the president of Intervox Communications, a consulting firm. To some extent, this person must be able to speak the ROI language of the CFO, the jargon of the IT people and the money talk of the sales and marketing department. The person should also know when important contacts move on and who the replacements are. “It really is a huge task just to know who to go to talk to,” Prah says.

Another thorny issue is whether to outsource streaming or build a substantial in-house team. To a great extent, this depends whether streaming will be a regular occurrence, the size of projects, the amount of talent and equipment that already resides in-house, whether outsourcing will retard the enterprises’ ability to grow its own talents or if the learning curve is perceived as cost-prohibitive.

This topic closely ties into how ROI is perceived. Panelists said streaming’s great use is in avoiding expenditures such as travel, but warned that in many cases this isn’t the best approach to gaining support in the CFO’s office. If, for instance, money is saved on corporate travel, the reaction may be to question the need for the meeting itself instead of giving credit to those who made it possible to attend remotely.

A more practicable approach may be to focus on revenue-generating elements, such as the ability to publish a streamed session on the Web, Page said.

Specific metrics for ROI are still being developed and will vary depending on whether the event is internal and external.

In many cases, streaming groups are established as revenue-generating units. This is unfair, said Nicole McLane, a multimedia architect for JPMorganChase. This robs the unit of the time and investment necessary to be successful.

“I think it’s ridiculous to expect a return when adequate time — as long as three years –and reasonable investment is not provided.”

The year ahead shapes up as vital to streaming. “I would say that in the continuum between when streaming became a reality four years ago, it probably is 40 to 50 percent of where it needs to be in four or five years from now,” says ViewCast’s Page.

Streaming Media East runs until Thursday.

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