4 Tips to Build a Better Product Ecosystem

tad_roBy Tad Ro, Director of Product, Verizon Digital Media Services

It’s never easy to develop a new product, let alone one that’s designed to fit into the complex digital media landscape. The difficulty increases even further when the product vision is aimed toward building an entire product ecosystem that comprises multiple interconnected and integrated service components.

I experienced this immense difficulty firsthand while leading the development of Verizon Digital Media Services’ all-new Content Intelligence System, the Verizon Media Xperience Studio.

This service helps our customers manage their content production and distribution workflows, app development, subscription services and business analytics, all within a single, streamlined platform. To achieve these functionalities, we built an aggregate suite of seven distinct service components: MX:Orchestration, MX:Apps, MX:Subscriptions, MX:Syndication, MX:Personalization, MX:Programming and MX:Vision. Though each of these components can function as a standalone entity, their greater purpose is to synergistically create a more cohesive and efficient media service ecosystem.

It should come as no surprise that I learned a lot while building something this expansive in scope; here are four of the most important lessons I took away from the process:

1. Examine the big picture first
Before you can find the solution, you have to understand the problem extremely well.

For myself and all involved teams, this meant educating ourselves on media lifecycles and content management workflows, from production to distribution to consumption. We already offer two core services to content publishers – our Uplynk Video Streaming service and our Edgecast Content Delivery Network – that simplify the encoding, ingestion and delivery of content. However, we quickly realized that there were several gaps in the chain of content management services that a new aggregate of products could address.

We talked to customers and prospects, and learned more about the scope of their content management needs, pain points and concerns. We discovered that while most large broadcasters and studio networks were internally capable and confident about certain downstream aspects of the media lifecycle process, such as app building and subscription services, they had more difficulty coordinating and managing disparate complex systems and processes on the upstream side, including streamlining and automating workflows. After identifying this service gap area, we began conceptualizing and working toward the vision that became the MX:Orchestration component of Media Xperience Studio.

2. Address different use cases
To build a holistic media platform, we had to consider a broad range of customer use cases, including both existing and prospective customers. We’ve worked a lot with broadcast networks and film/television studios, which tend to share similar upstream service needs. When building Media Xperience Studio, though, we wanted to broaden these use cases to include over-the-top (OTT) service providers. For example, smaller to mid-tier media publishers require a more soup-to-nuts approach, one that combines both upstream and downstream content management services and to accommodate reasonable budgets. With these types of publishers in mind, we created MX:Apps, which allows them to build, manage, publish and maintain customized OTT applications.

When developing Media Xperience Studio’s initial proof of concept around MX:Orchestration, MX:Apps and MX:Vision, it was paramount for us to show that our product suite of services would be flexible, modular and customizable. We also wanted to show the ability to automate all-inclusive workflows of complex tasks alongside simpler ones. And, we needed to make sure that customers could pick and choose among the modular services to provide a solution tailored to their specific needs.

That segways into my next point:

3. Think in terms of modularity
Of course, catering to broader customer use cases calls for a more flexible approach to structuring a product ecosystem. We achieved this by designing Media Xperience Studio in a modular sense, rather than as one all-inclusive platform. This approach allows our customers to customize their OTT solutions, utilizing only the services that fit their business needs.

With this modularization comes the need for the MX components to be API-driven. Separate engineering teams work on the various MX components, so it’s imperative they stay in constant communication to ensure the compatibility of our respective APIs. For any integration of modular products, clear, consistent and frequent,  communication between separate and remote teams handling each element is key.

4. Futureproof the product
Technology is constantly evolving, and product owners need to account for this inevitable flux. When conceptualizing MX:Vision, our aggregated intelligence and analytics component, we immediately recognized that shifting technologies would impact its design and rollout. As artificial intelligence and machine learning advances, incorporating learned analytics and interpreting this data will become advantageous in future proofing our system.

Ultimately, this ability to adapt,  whether it’s to new customers, business concerns or advancing technologies,  is key to the success of any product design and development.

Want to learn more about Verizon Digital Media Services’ Content Intelligence System? Get in touch with us and watch our webinar on demand to learn about Content Intelligence and the Business of Streaming Video.