This is the second of a series of articles written for the Public Media Alliance, and published in the PSM Weekly newsletter.
The Public Media Alliance is the largest global association of public service broadcasters. Our members are the organisations that communicate daily and free of charge through TV, radio and online with the 2.5 billion citizens living in the 54 countries that our members serve.
The media industry is littered with failed technology projects. For every high-profile disaster like the BBC’s Digital Media Initiative, there are hundreds of other well-intentioned projects that never quite delivered on their original promise.
With thousands of people preparing to visit IBC in two weeks’ time to choose new technology solutions for their media organisation, a few simple measures can help avoid buying a white elephant.
Never forget the end goal
It is all too easy to be side-tracked during a technology project – from ever-shifting business requirements to vendors desperate to convince you that their way is best.
Start the project with three or four clear overall objectives in mind. Know the problems you are trying to solve, and how you will know when you have achieved the right results.
Ensure there is a common understanding throughout your organisation about what a successful project will achieve. Test every potential solution against these high-level goals to avoid getting bogged down in the details.
Beware the business requirements
Good projects begin with a clear understanding of the business needs. But use caution before asking business analysts to produce a long laundry list of requirements. These often end up reflecting the way the business works today – not the end goal you are trying to achieve.
Unless you have very deep pockets and like taking risks, there is little point in designing a solution that cannot be delivered be any existing vendors.
Focus more on the outcomes you want to achieve from a new solution, not on the detail of how it should work. The best solutions are often the most simple.
New technology means compromises
There is no perfect solution out there. Any choice you make will involve compromises. Your users will not be able to do everything on their wish list, and some things will be done differently. Perhaps some activities will have to stop.
The right solution to choose is not one that replicates your current operation – but one that best meets your end goals.
The best vendors will challenge your ideas, and suggest innovative approaches that may offer a better overall answer to your problem – even if it’s not the solution you originally envisaged.
Know (and share) your budget
Buyers are often secretive about their budget for a project. They fear, somehow, that vendors will simply quote up to the budget limit and they may miss out on a better deal.
In fact, discussing budget expectations early with a supplier can only help. When vendors see that an approved budget is in place, they will jump through hoops to help make your project happen within it.
Hours of wasted effort looking at a solution that is much too expensive, or far too simple, can be avoided if both sides know what the target price must be.
Can the vendor deliver?
The right solution is only partly about the technology itself. The vendor must be a company that understands your business and can deliver in your location. Will vendors need to fly in expensive staff to implement the solution? Do their local resellers really have the technical and business knowledge required to ensure your success? Can the vendor deliver effective support in your time zone?
All technology projects will experience problems. You must be confident that you will be able to work effectively with your chosen vendor to find solutions to some tough challenges.
Consider outside help
A small investment in outside help can pay dividends – accelerating a project, and saving money overall. Experienced advisors can sense-check your requirements and highlight potential vendors and solutions that may not be on your radar but could provide a more innovative, better value solution.
Consultants and independent systems integrators (i.e. those not tied to a particular vendor) have wide experience of similar projects, can help you navigate potential pitfalls, and reduce the risk of making an expensive mistake.