Friday, 1 November 2013

Operational transparency a must for OTT and multiscreen success

With operational transparency, service providers can work proactively and solve problems instantly  before customers start losing faith in the service, says Johan Görsjö, director of product management at Agama Technologies.
Over the last five years, the way customers consume video has changed fundamentally, as has the technology used to deliver it. The transformation is far from complete and we see over-the-top (OTT) and multiscreen services still maturing, both in regards to business models and technology.
In traditional, 'main screen' TV delivery, the customers' high quality expectations ensure that the customer care centre is swamped with calls in a service outage. In the OTT and multiscreen scenario the behaviour can be somewhat different: upset consumers in some cases may vent their frustration on social media, rather than contact customer services. The differences might be cultural or driven by service provider marketing or payment models, but either way it risks leaving providers unaware of the customers' experience and their valuable feedback.
Regardless of how the customer acts on any service hiccup, it is vital, now more than ever, that service providers remedy it as fast as possible and work proactively. As a provider, you must respond before the customer loses faith in the service, shares negative experiences on social media or calls customer support. If you can understand the actual service quality in real-time, you can act to solve problems instantly.
OTT technologies are complex with several links in the chain from service provider to consumer. The first step is service creation in the head-end, where the different profiles are encoded and encrypted. Problems here affect all users. The next step is the origin server, where data gets pushed or pulled to the content delivery network (CDN). As CDNs are typically outsourced, it's essential to check that handover of responsibilities, not least from a service-level agreement (SLA) perspective.
By monitoring these functions continuously, behaviour patterns that are otherwise difficult to identify will become apparent. We refer to this as Operational Transparency  having tools and systems in place that can not only visualise the monitoring information, but also make it actionable. Customers of ours have, for example, been able to optimise their network storage setup and significantly shorten asset start-up time, after deploying Agama Analyzer OTT monitoring probes.
Also, by having quality assurance information from the end-device, the last step in the service delivery, you can understand each individual customer's service experience. As today's end-device environment is so fragmented, such a solution must support the different tablets, phones, PCs, game consoles, smart TVs and set-tops that are out there.
With a solution that can aggregate quality and usage metrics from millions of devices in real-time and correlate it with monitoring in the head-end and network, it's possible to quickly pinpoint any issues and, perhaps even more importantly, to understand the trends and customer behaviours that could have a profound impact long-term. 
Agama has long been a champion and pioneer in end-to-end quality assurance of video services. We're convinced that end-to-end quality assurance, including the actual customer experience, is the only way to create the operational transparency and real-time insight needed for service providers to be able to offer great customer experiences and ultimately more profitable services.


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