Agile in Action: A Shared Online Video and Audio Platform for US International Media

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The Office of Digital and Design Innovation is leading the effort to bring a new enterprise-level online video and audio platform to all BBG entities. These new shared services will allow digital video and audio producers throughout the agency to benefit from a more streamlined workflow that is tightly integrated with the Pangea CMS and enable individual language services to reach new audiences through improved presentation, delivery and syndication of BBG programming to an expanding range of digital channels and connected devices.

Launching a comprehensive suite of products and services that impact multiple areas within IT, broadcast operations and the newsroom requires close collaboration among many groups and a willingness from individuals at all levels of the BBG to adopt agile principles to deliver the greatest value to the agency in the shortest amount of time.

The ODDI product and technical teams, RFE/RL’s Pangea development team and the project team from Kaltura Open Source Video worked together over six, two-week agile sprints to deliver new digital video and audio services for asset management, file encoding, publishing and syndication for all VOA language services, MBN’s Radio Sawa and Al Hurra TV and OCB’s Radio Marti.

The success of this project required the collaborative efforts of the teams involved, contributions from supporting divisions within the BBG and the confidence of executive stakeholders from each of the entities who enabled the teams to work together and make decisions on the scope of the project and individual feature requests from a diverse group of ‘customers’. With an Agile framework in place at all levels of the organization, the project team was able to make decisions with positive outcomes that allowed the team to deliver on the project goals under an aggressive timeline.

Managing an Agile project with core team members spread across multiple geographic locations and time zones was an added challenge for this project but one that represents how our office will work more and more as we move into the future. The success of the Kaltura online video and audio platform depended on a strong commitment from the Pangea team at RFE/RL in Prague and the Kaltura project team in New York to be flexible with their time and willing to adapt to changing priorities during the twelve weeks of the project.

While the ODDI team held daily morning stand-ups in its DC offices to track project progress, additional twice-weekly meetings were held over Skype with the Kaltura and RFER/RL teams to address the ‘big picture’ of bringing the Kaltura system online with integration into the Pangea CMS before the end of the calendar year. While these scheduled virtual meetings were necessary to keep the project on schedule, individuals from each of the three teams also communicated every day using a combination of email, Skype, phone calls, agile project software and even face-to-face, in-person conversations to manage new tasks as they emerged and keep the focus on delivering the highest amount of value to the customers.

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“The ‘Big Picture”  – Completed Kaltura Integration with BBG Digital + Broadcast Services

With the teams were focused on their tasks and delivering on the ‘big picture’, bi-weekly sprint demos were held for BBG division and entity stakeholders to maintain a high-level of transparency into the project’s process and receive valuable feedback that was shared with the team to help prioritize remaining tasks and shape the focus of upcoming sprints.

Providing working demonstrations to the stakeholders at the end of each sprint and allowing them to offer feedback kept the project on course to deliver on its stated goals and also helped the team make important decisions about when individual components, of what would be the complete system, were ready to be put into production. This type of collaborative decision making and stakeholder support for the work done at the team-level is what ultimately allowed the project to succeed and launch on schedule.

The launch of the Kaltura online video and audio services is an important first-step toward bringing all BBG entities onto a single, common shared platform for all digital content creation, management and publishing. It is also an important early success in demonstrating how adopting an Agile framework at all levels of an organization and focusing on the core principles of the Agile process, early and continuous delivery of valuable software and providing a supportive, trusting environment to promote sustainable development, are critical to ODDI’s ability to deliver on its mission within the agency and help the BBG reach its strategic, organizational goals.

The project teams from ODDI, RFE/RL and Kaltura as well as the key stakeholders from BBG IT, Broadcast Operations and at the entity-level will continue to work together throughout 2013 to further integrate the Kaltura system with the Pangea CMS, develop new digital video and audio products for a growing global audience and bring even greater value to the organization.

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Adam Martin

Adam Martin

Adam Martin is the Director of Innovation for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation at the BBG. Follow him on Twitter: @adamjmartin

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