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Inside Product Development Strategy with SVP of Products and Solutions, Chris Gahagan

Only published comments... Jul 22 2010, 11:00 PM by Chris Gahagan

 

As Avid’s Senior Vice President of Products and Solutions, I’m responsible for driving the overall product development strategy and making sure customer needs are addressed through timely product releases and updates. I’d like to answer a few questions about product development at Avid, and show how we stay focused on our overall goal of helping customers to be successful.

 

 

How does Avid get ideas for new products and product updates?

 

At Avid, many of our employees have audio and video industry backgrounds. With that many musicians, filmmakers, live sound engineers, DJs, and hobbyists all working together, there is never a shortage of ideas. For example, the concept for Eleven Rack came from guitarists at Avid who were passionate about building something unique for that market.

 

We also spend a lot of time listening to our customers. We’ve organized several Customer Advisory Boards—or “CABs” for short—which meet regularly with us to discuss common issues, concerns, and new product ideas. Each CAB is comprised of 10-14 real customers and focuses on a specific market such as broadcast, post production, education, film editing, or DJing. These groups have proven to be instrumental in driving our product development strategy. For example, after meeting with our Broadcast CAB we realized that customers needed a better way to store, access, and manage their media. As a result, we decided to acquire Blue Order, a leading media asset management company. Now, we’re better able to satisfy customer workflows in media acquisition, production, archive, and distribution.

 

While not every customer can be part of a CAB, there are other ways to provide feedback to us. We’ve set up online IdeaScale pages for Pro Tools and VENUE, and a Media Composer 5 page is currently under construction. This allows users to vote on which new features they would like to see added. These features are then prioritized, and some have even been added to recent releases—such as lockable tools for post production and multi-client drivers for Pro Tools LE.

 

What significant market trends are impacting Avid’s product decisions?

 

Our customers are facing unprecedented changes in the way audio and video is created, shared, and enjoyed. This has influenced many of them to reexamine their creative processes and business models. For broadcasters, it means moving from a single delivery method (over the airwaves) to many (including web and mobile formats). For post-production professionals, it means working with colleagues around the world to finish a project.

 

To meet these needs, we’re developing innovative solutions that will make the collaborative process easier and more flexible. For Media Composer and Pro Tools, this starts with enabling a rich metadata exchange—then allowing people to utilize that information and collaborate in real-time using a well-described workflow. We’ve already made progress on this front with Video Satellite, which helps audio and video professionals work together on the same sessions. And since Media Composer 5 now supports RTAS plug-ins, the team can produce things like passing data back and forth without losing session data.  The potential for interop features are limitless.

It used to be that film was edited, then sent to sound, then passed back to editing. Today’s directors want to do all of this at once—and we’re working to make it possible. We want to make it easier for audio and video professionals to focus on their respective tasks, then merge the results in the conform stage. Today that requires a lot of attention—but we’re moving to a world where that process will happen seamlessly and transparently.

 

Since joining Avid as SVP of Products and Solutions, what changes or improvements have you made that will positively impact customers’ experience with Avid products?

 

Before I joined Avid, the product development team here was split into audio and video groups. Now we’re organized according to customer types—professionals, creative enthusiasts, and live sound are three examples. This helps us focus on the unique needs of our customers instead of just looking at the technology.

 

We’ve also adopted a new software development method (called Agile) that enables us to increase the rate and pace of development. We’re now able to produce stable alpha and beta versions much, much earlier in the process. In fact, customers were so satisfied with the pre-production beta of Media Composer 5, we know of at least one professional customer who used the beta on an active motion picture project. In addition to that,we have a broadcast customer that went live on-the-air with a beta piece of hardware—it worked so well he replaced his competing product with ours before we even announced or released the product to the public.

 

This new development methodology has been used on video products for the past few years, but we’ve recently adopted it company wide. You’ll start seeing the exciting results very soon as our new audio products begin hitting the market.

 

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About Chris Gahagan

As Avid's Senior Vice President of Products and Solutions, I'm at the helm of our audio and video engineering, product management, program management, and market solutions teams. Before joining Avid in July 2009, I was Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Resource Management Software Group at EMC Corporation, where I led a team of 2,400 employees and was responsible for delivering best-in-class operational efficiency for IT businesses.

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