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Navigating the Complexities and Unpredictabilities of Media Operations
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By Emilio L. Zapata, Founder

The landscape of the media industry has undergone a remarkable transformation, fueled by the rapid evolution of software technology and the proliferation of omnichannel streaming platforms. The swift advancements in digital cloud technology are placing considerable strain on applications and solutions vendors within the Media and Entertainment (M&E) market.      

The unease is evident when communicating that media operations are inherently intricate and unpredictable. Anyone claiming simplicity or ease has likely not experienced the challenges present in the real-world scenario. This scenario is not novel; a similar shift occurred over a decade ago in more established IT markets, such as health, finance, and retail. During that time, vendors justified shortcomings and high budgets by emphasizing the inherent complexities of supply chains.

To expedite digital transformation in the M&E market, software technology vendors must embrace best practices and tools developed in more mature IT markets. This entails adopting no-code solutions that ensure interoperability, scalability, resilience, and security.

 

What is No-Code?

As the M&E market embraces a more expansive array of software, IP, cloud, and cross-platform technologies, the onus falls on technology vendors to furnish capabilities that facilitate the creation of impactful software. This, in turn, propels tangible business outcomes and catalyzes foundational cultural shifts for M&E companies.

No-code represents a revolutionary software development approach that doesn’t demand prior knowledge of traditional programming languages to craft applications. This is facilitated by no-code development platforms, encompassing visual modeling of business logic, allowing developers to seamlessly drag and drop preconfigured functional blocks to construct sophisticated applications. No-code platforms leverage technology to augment individuals’ innovation capabilities, boasting numerous advantages, with three standing out prominently:

  • Shortened Time to Market: The visual drag-and-drop functionality of no-code platforms expedites rapid prototyping, enabling products to reach the market far quicker than traditional programming methods.
  • Enhanced Solutions through Citizen Development: Leveraging the unique insights of business professionals who understand processes and customers intimately enriches the software development process. Collaboration between business and IT teams proves invaluable, harnessing diverse skills and experiences.
  • Reduced Development Costs: Graphical design of applications using preconfigured functional blocks facilitates component reuse, accelerating service design and production.

The critical question arises: how can users and the software team collaborate effectively in the initial stages of an automation project using software-defined workflows? The optimal approach involves starting with the design of simple processes (prototypes), progressively implementing them, and iteratively refining based on feedback. Prototypes serve as a validation mechanism for business ideas, allowing for rapid expression of concepts. This iterative process ensures that the development team quickly grasps needs and translates ideas into the application without months of comprehension time.

Market’s analysts stress the importance of no-code technology to accelerate digital transformation in the M&E market, compared to the old method of using scripts in the development of solutions.

 

MovieLabs’s Levels of interoperability

MovieLabs* has recently released an insightful paper titled “Interoperability in Media Creation: Enabling Flexibility and Efficiency through Interoperable and Composable Software-Defined Workflows.” This document outlines a set of interoperability principles designed to serve as guidelines for the industry in implementing solutions and benchmarks for measuring progress.

Interoperability, broadly defined as “the ability of a system to work with or use the parts or equipment of another system,” takes on a crucial role in the context of media creation workflows. It refers to the tasks and processes’ capacity to be recomposed, even when integrated into software-defined workflows. The evolution from lower to higher levels of interoperability transforms the creation and recomposition of a Software-Defined Workflow from a process that:

  • Requires the writing or rewriting of software to
  • Low-code solutions, such as modifying translation plug-ins or mapping tables, using custom scripts, and eventually to
  • No-code solutions, where a simple drag and drop of desired components builds and deploys a new workflow.

While custom scripts played a pivotal role in automating workflows, providing efficient control over media assets, the challenges of maintaining and updating these scripts due to their complexity and technical expertise requirements were significant.

No-code platforms represent a modern approach to tackling the complexity and unpredictability of media operations. Equipped with pre-built modules and templates, such as package business capabilities and smart packs, these platforms can be quickly configured to align with a company’s specific needs, leading to faster deployment times.

The transition from custom scripts to no-code platform solutions reflects the natural evolution of software technology to address the evolving needs of the media industry. Acknowledging that this shift can be both painful and costly for some vendors, the paper establishes that the highest level of interoperability is achieved with no-code solutions. Ideally, software-defined workflows become fully recomposable, allowing for a plug-and-play scenario when replacing one component with another, providing the same workflow function.

Various architectural patterns can be chosen for integrating components into SDWs. Point-to-point integrations, particularly when using component-specific mechanisms or patterns, tend to be less reusable. Common integration Platforms as a Service (iPaaS) offer the promise of a one-time integration, especially for aspects covered by the platform. Communication through a common platform based on a unified data model facilitates easier recomposition compared to integration relying on custom point-to-point connectors.

We recommend exploring the paper, as its principles align seamlessly with the annual analyses conducted by the prestigious technology consulting firm Gartner on iPaaS integration platforms.

 

Gartner’s iPaaS criteria

 

Gartner** defines integration platform as a service (iPaaS) as a vendor-managed cloud service that enables end users to implement integrations between a variety of applications, services and data sources. iPaaS emerged as the fastest-growing segment of the integration software technologies market in 2021 while many customers adopt iPaaS as an alternative to traditional integration platform software.

The iPaaS market started as a collection of unique products that were differentiated from their integration platform software counterparts due to ease of use, lower cost of entry and ease of access. Over time, iPaaS has evolved into an operating model that delivers all possible types of integration technologies. Moreover, for the most common integration scenarios, iPaaS vendors are providing packaged integration processes targeted to business users. Let’s look at some relevant characteristics of iPaaS:

  • iPaaS can Implement the following use cases for integration technology:
    • Data consistency to ensure applications are operating with the right information.
    • Multistep process to automate business processes and workflows.
    • Composite service to create new services composed from existing applications, services and data sources.
  • Enable end users to implement integrations directly and not mandate the use of vendor- or partner-provided professional services.
  • A low-code/no-code user experience (UX) for building workflows, user interfaces and forms.
  • The ability to deploy the iPaaS platform in a hybrid mode, including multicloud options across the iPaaS public clouds and IaaS public clouds, and within the customer’s data centers.
  • Provide secure connectivity for on-premises applications and data sources via some form of secure agent without having to open inbound firewall rules.
  • The organization’s security and regulatory compliance needs.
  • The long-term cost expectations and available budget.
 
smartWork
smartWork: no-code iPaaS for Media

iPaaS ensures interoperability and data consistency between applications and data sources, orchestrates multistep processes internally and for external business partners, and creates composite services.

Conclusions

In an era where there’s an abundance of tools across every aspect of the media supply chain, and an increasing reliance on multiple software applications and vendors, maintaining seamless connectivity amid software updates and new tools poses a daunting challenge. The paramount importance of interoperability between applications and systems cannot be overstated.

Interoperability between components of a media supply chain enhances their reusability and simplifies the reconfiguration of SDWs, while minimizing the amount of custom translation and reintegration work, reducing both cost and risk.

No-code integration platforms empower digital citizens to become creators of their own applications, representing a transformative wave in technology that allows business users to engage with technology without necessitating IT expertise. We assert that no-code software signifies the future of software development, offering companies reliable, scalable, and user-friendly solutions.

The synergy of diverse skills, encompassing both technical and business acumen, dismantles hierarchies and functional silos, fostering a culture of innovation and business agility. Our belief is rooted in the notion that automation should be accessible to all, enabling individuals to work smarter, not harder. No-code iPaaS platforms emerge as catalysts, simplifying and expediting process automation in the dynamic M&E market, where constant innovation and the need to rethink or refine business processes are prevalent.

In the realm of media operations, characterized by complexity and unpredictability, no-code iPaaS platforms stand out as a solution, fostering component reuse, interoperability, reduced engineering costs, and the scalability and resilience of solutions. Insights from technology influencers and experiences in other mature IT markets converge to affirm that no-code iPaaS platforms form a robust foundation for accelerating the digital transformation of M&E organizations, steering clear of vendor lock-in.

*https://movielabs.com/production-technology/the-2030-vision/

** https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/4023272

The full article is published on the IABM website and a short version is published in the IABM Journal for the first quarter of 2024.

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