Home > Communication, Process Management, resources > IT and Streaming Media – Part I

IT and Streaming Media – Part I

Like most other corporate efforts in the modern age, there are two sides to every streaming media deployment – the business side and the technology side.  There’s no real rule about where multimedia efforts lie – sometimes IT owns it, sometimes a business department.  (I happen to be on the business end – our department is part of the marketing arm of the organization.)  The key issue, as you might expect, is the quality of the communication and relationship between the two sides – a strong partnership leads to successful efforts, and antagonism leads to failure.  This is no different from virtually all other corporate activity. I’m going to attempt to highlight some of the possible contentious points and suggest some ideas to prevent them in advance, or short-circuit them before they become insurmountable.

I’m fortunate that I speak passable tech as well as good business priorities.  It’s a lot simpler to have detailed conversations with the IT side if you understand a bit about what they do and how their technology is deployed and administered.  80-90% of the problems between the business and IT sides develop because they aren’t communicating to each other clearly.  As has been said about the US and Great Britain, they are two peoples separated by a common language.In fact, business and IT are rarely speaking the same language; the IT guys understand technology and the effort it takes to keep hundreds or thousands of systems running at peak efficiency.  In many cases their primary focus is that elusive goal of everything running as well as it possibly can, rather than the business goals that require these systems.  On the other side of the coin, the business people have the goals that they’re trying to reach, and they often don’t think about the technical gears and levers that run behind the scenes that make those goals achievable.  Business people grasp that they need the software or hardware to work, but they don’t see the massive effort behind balancing it all.

At the end of the day, both sides really need each other, and they really can partner together so projects are conceived, planned, and executed with the best efforts of both sides.  Projects like that have a much higher success rate because the investment is made with buy-in from everyone, and with clarity for all.  So let’s take a look at some real world issues and situations to see the issues and pitfalls, as well as solutions.

Situation 1: Introduce an E-Learning Platform to the Organization

HR or the corporate learning group have decided (or are tasked) with introducing a Learning Management System or e-Learning platform.  They have a few approaches to take, and we can start to see a decision tree forming – kind of a choose your own adventure scenario if you remember those books of my youth.  Let’s take the scary path first.

HR assigns a staff member to research the options.  Perhaps they know the LMS universe, perhaps not.  They do some web demos, speak to some vendors, and settle on a product, which they present to their own leadership for approval, which they eventually receive.  They may even get budgetary OK to proceed, and they get the contracting taken care of.  They sign off, the vendor signs off, and assigns an install engineer to begin preparation for the install.  HR now calls in IT and says “we’re all set to go with this project – please assign someone to help us get this done.”

If you’re an IT C-level exec, or a senior manager, here’s what you’re thinking.  WTF?  You might say it out loud, put your foot down, and bring the whole thing to a grinding halt – either from pique, or (rightly) because you haven’t been consulted on a major project that affects every department you own.  Or you won’t say it, and you’ll assign a PM to handle the thing, and if it comes off half-baked then such is life.   Either way it’s a failed project from the get-go because the right people were not in the room at the start of the project.

Which leads us to the right path;

the HR manager assigned to the project calls over to IT and says “I have a big project that will hit you in a million ways – can we sit down to discuss it?”  Together the two sides outline the goals, the milestones, the necessary resources, etc.  Hopefully the IT people participate in the demos to understand the functions and the impact on the system.

By the time the install engineer is ready to get on board, he’s got a team of IT people fully up to speed and ready to get to work the right way.

Situation 2:  Convert all Physical Hardware to Virtual Servers

This is a common enough event within the IT universe for any number of reasons – cost savings, better performance, scalability.  It’s almost always planned exclusively within the IT side of the house, with comparatively little discussion with business owners below the executive level.  Months of planning will go into the process, with migration plans, backup plans, disaster recovery plans, and plan plans.  In this case, our fictional IT group is one of those that communicates poorly if at all, so they don’t really tell anyone until they’re ready to put the move into effect.

The PR department owns a media server with some proprietary software on it.  No owner was listed on IT’s documentation for the server, and no one bothered to dig any deeper to find an owner, or determine if there were any special requirements.  When the general notification goes around two weeks before the move, the PR team begins to wonder if there’s any potential issues with the move.  A call to their vendor reveals that the software is not certified for virtual machinery, and there’s a good chance the whole package will fail if loaded on the virtual box.  Everyone now has to scramble to find a way to either A) keep the old box afloat as long as possible, or B) find a new solution for the new environment.

Once again there’s a communication problem; IT, for very good reasons, made a long range plan that impacted a business function.  They considered the overall good, but missed on a key business need that will now impact operations.  Again, the right way involved more due diligence, and far better communication.  Find the owner of the server by hook or crook, find the vendor, and identify a solution before everyone switches to panic mode.  An IT group aware of the business functions, and more cognizant of their partner status will take steps before the fact to communicate effectively and avoid crisis mode.

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