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Advantages and Pitfalls of Digital Supply Chain Standardization

15 Feb, 2017 By: Stephanie Prange



Andy Shenkler is the EVP and chief solutions and technology officer for Sony DADC New Media Solutions. Since 2009, he has been responsible for the design, development and execution of Sony’s worldwide video supply chain services, overseeing all technology and worldwide infrastructure. In addition, he sets the global operations, technology and business strategy for New Media Solutions, covering all aspects of the content lifecycle from content creation through direct-to-consumer offerings.

He has more than 18 years of experience leading global operations and technology organizations and architecting solutions focused on the media and entertainment industry, including content creation, physical and digital supply chains, direct-to-consumer experiences, and content monetization.

Home Media Magazine talked to Shenkler about the digital supply chain and certain problems with standardization.

HM: What are some of the advantages of standardizing the digital supply chain, as the EMA is planning?

Shenkler: There are absolute merits to standardization of certain aspects of the content fulfillment workflows that we all rely on. As an example, the IMF format is making strides to help provide a standardized container and methodology for how to describe content. Although we have seen the physical world benefit from implementing a defined set of standards, it seems that this heavy application of physical supply chain disciplines, such as what EMA is proposing, will limit the industry at a time when the expansive power of cloud computing is readily available to positively and fundamentally change digital media workflows.

If a service provider is looking to stand up an offering that is just on par with their competitors and provides minimal opportunity for differentiation, then the EMA proposal may benefit them.

HM: What are the key disadvantages of that standardization?

Shenkler: That type of standardization reduces creativity, innovation and differentiation and eliminates uniqueness for the very companies that employ it, which is in direct conflict to the company’s goal of content monetization. It’s at what level a standard is enforced that a problem can arise. Taking artwork as an example. If you have a desire to reimagine an interface for content consumption and are forced to work within a constrained standard which calls for three to four types of “standard” artwork, you will have no choice but to abandon a plan for a creative and unique experience or to do something worse — apply an unratified tweak. We already hear references to: "We want to use a flavor of the EMA spec” versus “We want to implement this exact spec.”

HM: What innovative technologies might be hampered by supply chain standards?

Shenkler: To be clear, supply chain standards themselves do not hinder innovation. Growing out of a business that had 30 years of supply chain expertise, we at Sony DADC NMS understand investing in continuous improvement processes to achieve the most frictionless workflow possible — consistently implementing standards to reduce cycle time, increase quality and reduce cost-to-serve.

As an industry, we provide services to consumers who are becoming more demanding in a make-to-order economy. The level of end-to-end standardization that the EMA is proposing may end up being more restrictive and costly.

This is especially true when applying standardization on a particular set of formats or components.

HM: Is there a way to standardize while maintaining innovative flexibility?

Shenkler: There tends to be a great deal of focus lately on things like video and XML specifications when in actuality the ability to transform between respective format types is presently commonplace. We’ve reached a point where complexity within specifications is no longer a limitation. We are now afforded the opportunity of not having to address pain points of the past, but rather focus on innovation within the consumer experience itself.

The most critical aspect of standardization needed within our industry is the language in which we communicate with each other. How do organizations and the multitude of systems communicate with each other effectively if they don’t speak the same language? We take country codes and currencies as defaults because of ISO standardization, but what is the industry standard nomenclature for device type, OS level, OS version, etc.?

In the next 60 minutes, the Sony DADC NMS infrastructure will make approximately 1.5 million data calls between external parties. Information that can be communicated with a common dictionary (a digital Rosetta Stone as it were) will enable even more end points to consume this data naturally and without significant investment in either cost or time.

HM: What solutions does Sony DADC NMS provide to innovative technologies?

Shenkler: We do our best to deliver technologies and processes that enhance the overall experience for our clients and their customers. Having the benefit of being entirely cloud-based — with more than 1 million hours of content under management, enabling more than 1 billion hours of content to be streamed monthly, and providing services to more than 1,400 companies worldwide — we have a better perspective than most of what is coming next with regard to innovation in our space.

One of the reasons we created our service offering Ven.ue Unlimited was to provide organizations with the ability to have access to all premium licensable content in our repository, but not to enforce any standards upon them. Our clients are able to choose any amount of content in any format, any digital rights management, any metadata spec, and we make it available at a predictable monthly rate. There is no need for someone to have to modify their processes to get all the benefits of “standardization” when we possess the ability to finally realize the industry’s desire to make content available anywhere, anytime, any way.

 

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