Comment: The secret to ensuring business continuity through remote operation in response to COVID-19
The last few months have been an incredibly challenging time for us all, writes Norbert Paquet, head of product management at Sony Professional Solutions Europe.
The live sports industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors, presenting many challenges which could not have been anticipated. However, it’s been encouraging to see an incredibly positive step-change in how our partners have responded. Taking immediate action, applying agile methodologies to new workflows and adapting to the sudden requirements imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reality is that the COVID-19 situation means both the short and long-term future of broadcasting will be very different from what we predicted before the pandemic. There will still be a need for cloud-based and IP solutions but now we need to consider multiple new factors to ensure business continuity. Every aspect of the process, from cleaning camera equipment to leveraging partner expertise for effective risk management, must be considered.
As aspects of the live sector begin to return, such as football leagues across Europe, Sony has had to remain agile. Not just sharing expertise but learning from our partner relationships, looking beyond what we already know and adapting to be able to support with tailored and comprehensive solutions.
We’re working closely with clients and customers to understand what the future will hold, both for the immediate and longer-term delivery of high-quality content.
Looking at the challenges both on a macro and industry-wide level clearly shows there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. But there are three key areas we know customers value immediately, where the industry needs to proactively partner and support through this difficult period.
With most sporting events cancelled in recent months, the whole ecosystem of the industry has been disrupted. Although we’ve seen some uplift in areas such as news and streaming subscriptions, this will not make up the shortfall in advertising revenues that broadcasters are now facing. While it’s positive to see some events begin to return, cash flow is one of the most pressing issues we know customers are dealing with.
We’re working with our partners to find specific solutions. For some, we have put in place SaaS/PaaS models specifically to help customers get some stability to their operations. We’re working on a case by case basis to consider the best course of action given the financial and operational challenges our partners are facing.
We’re also directly providing service and financial support to the global creative industry through initiatives including the Sony Global Relief Fund for COVID-19. While also exploring ways to ease financial problems through innovating and evolving partners to ensure they grow and expand into the future.
“Centralised production, cloud-based solutions and services and IP connectivity models have enabled productions to operate with reduced crews, limit the need for physical interaction and operate through travel restrictions.”
As a global organisation with a stable and robust heritage, this is where Sony’s vast expertise and longevity in the industry can prove extremely valuable as a trusted partner. As an organisation with products and solutions that span the entire process, from capture to consumption of media, customers can trust they will receive practical and immediate solutions to address issues at any stage in their workflow.
2020 should have been the year of two huge live sporting events: The Summer Olympic Games and the Euro 2020. Many customers were planning to increase their technological inventory significantly, but the COVID-19 pandemic again forced an immediate refocus.
We have subsequently helped customers rapidly adapt their plans. With our unique scale and supply chain, we’ve been able to offer customers more flexibility in buying hardware and solutions. We’ve also been able to advise where legacy systems can be adapted in the short-term to develop workarounds for the new operating models.
In many ways, advances in broadcast technology have allowed our partners to get back to something resembling business as usual as quickly as possible. Centralised production, cloud-based solutions and services and IP connectivity models have enabled productions to operate with reduced crews, limit the need for physical interaction and operate through travel restrictions.
The global pandemic has accelerated the adoption of the next-generation technologies, increased the use of connectivity across ranges and made it necessary to adopt innovative production practices. We’ve been working with customers across Europe to put into place remote operations and can expect this to continue, as businesses recognise the importance these practices will have to their business operations going forward.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly when it comes to ensuring business continuity, is having the right skillsets in the workforce to deploy new technologies and workflows quickly. As broadcasters have been forced to reduce staff numbers, either due to social distancing measures in studio settings, or to adhere to leaner budgets, the result has been fewer people, needing to deliver more, while using a potentially new workflow solution.
Tech without the skills to use it is redundant. Increasing our product training support is just one recent example of how we have adapted here. Our expert product trainers have been working much more closely with our partners in recent months to ensure a smooth transition to newer ways of working. We take a holistic view of businesses as a strategic partner and we’re advising on the implementation of technology into operations and infrastructures.
This is where our team of experts bring unique value – and experts are not only “trainers” but our consulting architects, solution specialists and field engineering members. Who have kept a very close relationship to our customers across countries, as well as our R&D in the backend in Europe and Japan, who are supporting with core technology know-how.
“It’s clear that the impact of COVID-19 will be felt by all of us in this industry and, at present, the answers to how things may look in the future remain to be seen.”
In addition to these immediate needs, we’ve also been helping customers to take a slightly longer-term look at which of these current workarounds will become permanent measures, and which are more temporary fixes. This also extends to the more innovative ways in which broadcasters can trial the delivery of new and engaging content.
As football grounds are set to remain absent of fans for some time to come, it has prompted broadcasters to look at ‘the art of the possible’ when it comes to offering viewers more ways to enjoy their content and replace the atmosphere lost due to empty stadia.
It’s clear that the impact of COVID-19 will be felt by all of us in this industry and, at present, the answers to how things may look in the future remain to be seen. We are providing an immediate response and working with our partners to find those long-term solutions. Sony’s aim has always been to help customers work seamlessly and beautifully to live their vision.
At times such as these, that is more important than ever. We will continue to strive to find the solutions and look forward to navigating through this difficult period with both existing and new partners.