It was the summer of 2012. The UK was basking in the glory of the Olympics and on the 5th floor of John Lewis in Oxford Street, another landmark event was happening.
As gaggles of shoppers looked on, a variety of professional-looking people, laughed, smiled and waited to have their picture taken with a small black box emblazoned with the word “YouView”.
Some wondered if they were fellow shoppers, or perhaps tourists. The truth was they were the happy but exhausted lot who’d spent the last three years watching a project grow from concept to finished, shelf-ready product. Finally, they’d made it happen.
In among the marketeers, senior directors and assorted YouView staff was a contingent of contented people that perhaps you wouldn’t expect. They were all Accenture people and many had been involved in the project since it began in 2009.
This is their story.
From idea to in-store
Rewind to the beginning
The YouView project began life as something called Project Canvas – an idea dreamt up by some people at the BBC who wanted to see if it would be possible to have a box that behaved as a Sky or Virgin Media box, but had no subscription fee. Essentially a single gateway for all the live and on-demand, free-to-air channel content for anyone that wanted to be part of it.
The initial stakeholders were the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, BT, Talk Talk and Arqiva. An agreement that the initial idea should be researched was carried forward, which turned Project Canvas into a real company – and YouView was formed.
In principle, a single entity that showed multiple provider content was a great idea. But there were always going to be some challenges. Such as, whose platform should they use? Who was going to store the data? Whose way of classifying information was going to work the best? And how was this all going to be managed?
Essentially, they needed an impartial consultant. Someone who could act as an advisor. So, they called us at Accenture.
Things get interesting
Being brought in on a project like this wasn’t out of the ordinary. We’d already worked with BT on developing the BT Sport App, so our track record in technology was pretty solid. And advice has always been a strong suit for us. But then something interesting happened.
With ambitious launch plans, YouView realised that much of their resources would be needed to get the physical box and front-end software and coding in place, meaning that they now needed someone to help build the back-end. Thankfully this was another area of expertise for us.
Making it happen
The team comes together
As with so many Accenture projects, if someone in the local area hasn’t got experience of working with a technology, there’s bound to be someone in the global network who can help.
Which is why we called our embedded software engineering people in Latvia, our experts in Italy and the US, who’d successfully developed integrated video and IPTV projects, developers in India who knew all about application infrastructure, as well as the great tech guys we had in the UK. We didn’t just want answers over the phone, but we needed them to be in London – so to London they came.
One platform to rule them all
The audacity of this project was what made it so exciting. But it also made it incredibly complex. We were basically building an entire digital ecosystem that could house and distribute content from a range of providers. In doing this, we had to make sure that all the information that was coming into the box was compatible, as well as set up all the processes and protocols that would make this as simple as possible.
What’s more, we were building for success straight from the off – making sure that the ecosystem could expand to house any new content providers or technology providers who wanted to come on board – so it had to be on an open platform. Thankfully we had the people who could help us do it. People like Sebastian, our B2B lead.
Testing, testing, 1,2,3
When you’re building something new, the problem is that it can be difficult to foresee the problems. With this project we set out to nullify that by sticking to the adage, ‘if it hasn’t been tested, it doesn’t work’. So, we put in place industrial-strength end-to-end testing, simulating every aspect of the components and building our own in-house test tools that made sure it could handle anything that could be thrown at it.
The launch and beyond
The team comes together
So, after three years, the launch day came. Suddenly it was all so real. We’d developed a real partnership with YouView, helping them go from operating out of BBC offices to a fully-fledged company that was launching a product – and we all had something to show for it. It was in John Lewis. It was bundled up with Talk Talk and BT deals. It was in people’s homes. But what then?
The end is just the beginning. The relationship changes
With the product now launched, we entered a different phase. YouView was its own company, but they still wanted us to be part of their big plans for the future.
They’d gone from a team of a few very talented BBC engineers to a well-resourced business with its own team of developers and coders. But our expertise in handling back-end development, testing and strategy speaks for itself. So, our role changed, and so did the roles of our people.
A changing product
YouView is a company of constant innovation. They want to deliver the first-to-market innovations, the perfect user interaction and the seamless experience that sets the benchmark for the entire industry. Plus, with the explosion in innovation with the individual content providers, it means there’s always something to work on, improve and update.
A changing company
Apart from the day-to-day improvements to the YouView product that users see, there’s a whole host of innovation we’re driving behind the scenes to make sure YouView can deliver on its promise to be the future of television.
Part of this is preparing for even bigger things. YouView’s growing at a massive rate – not only are they looking to get into around 5% more homes per month; tie-ups with television makers and apps mean even more people will be accessing the content we’re hosting. YouView needs to be ready. We’re making sure they are.
A changing industry
With all these changes, many of the people who’ve worked on YouView since the beginning have taken on new roles. We’ve already heard how Sebastian’s job has developed but Kate too is making the most of new opportunities.
The power of analytics is something we’re pretty hot on at Accenture. We know how Big Data can make a difference to companies. And in the realm of television, understanding why and when people are watching programmes has massive ramifications when it comes to creating new content. Kate now heads up the team that makes this happen.
So where does it go from here? Well, that’s the exciting thing. In this sort of partnership, it could go anywhere. YouView trust us to deliver innovative ideas, and all we want is to use the very latest technology to give it to them.
It means great things for us as a business – after all, we can utilise all the cloud computing, big data and technological skills we’re renowned for – and great things for the people who work for us.
So that was the tale of the TV that tunes into you. The story of how we helped a company go from start-up to big business – a business that’s shaping the future of television. It took a lot of hard work and loads of talented people to make it happen. We hope you want to join them. Click here to see all the exciting roles we have within our Digital team.