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BBC's Technology Strategy Update: summary road maps

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Spencer Piggott | 12:27 UK time, Monday, 7 March 2011

It's been a while since my last blog on the BBC's technology strategy and I wanted to give an update on what we've done and observed.

The paper published last year was the first step towards sharing the BBC's technology direction and ambitions. Publishing detail about what we hope to achieve, we believe, will lead to much more fruitful conversations with our technology partners and suppliers over the coming years. Innovation needs to be at the heart of what we do in the BBC and that means harnessing good ideas that are generated both internally and from our partners.

The technology strategy describes the BBC's intent to leverage technologies such as virtualisation, cloud and consumer technologies but the next step was to translate those ambitions into specific areas of technology to start achieving them. We identified 35 different areas of technology and set out to create an individual roadmap or strategy for each. The roadmaps cover all major areas from core infrastructure such as networks and data centres through to content production technology and audience facing such as Red Button and online search.

The roadmaps are being used as a guide to inform the technology decisions that are made throughout the corporation and as a way to align all the projects into the same direction. They are not a commitment to spend and are not linked to the organisational changes and cuts the BBC has committed to make. However, the BBC has to invest in these technologies to remain efficient and meet our targets such as the reduction in overheads to be no more than 10% of public service budget.

What's been really interesting is the movement in technology over the past year and how important it is to make sure that the strategies are regularly reviewed. For example, we expected consumerisation to have a big impact and it hasn't disappointed. The iPad has changed the way a lot of people want to work and people with their privately owned devices want to be able to use it in the workplace as much as at home, with all the extra IT security considerations this brings.

The growth of online consumer services and the capabilities we take for granted as a home user are now being expected within the enterprise too. Central storage for our documents which is accessible anywhere, multi device support for our smart phone, tablet, PC and fast connection speeds are all enjoyed at home so why not at the office?

The nature of production and broadcasting lends itself to working outside the normal office environment and so identifying the tools and services that can bridge the consumer and enterprise space presents a real opportunity.

There are no doubt going to be even more new consumer services and rival tablet devices coming through this year and corporations have a difficult balancing act between supporting consumer devices and maintaining effective data management, IT security and resilience.

An observation that came from developing the strategies is the importance of enterprise architecture. The BBC is at a tipping point where integration is the focus for both our content production and our enterprise systems. Integration will enable the BBC to deliver efficiencies and better ways of working but it's not trivial to deliver. For the BBC to achieve its goals the role of architectural frameworks, interoperability standards (such as minimal metadata standards) and shared services are vital.

Attached to this blog is a summary of all the individual strategy roadmaps. It should provide you with a view of where the BBC would like to focus its efforts across each area of technology. Achieving many of these ambitions is dependant on the relationship the BBC has with technology partners and the innovation and creativity that exists in the market.

I hope you find them interesting.

Click here for a PowerPoint of the BBC's technology strategy as of March 2011

Update: 6 p.m. Click here for a PDF of the BBC's technology strategy as of March 2011.

Spencer Piggott is Head of Technology Direction, BBC Technology


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm not able to open the PowePpoint strategy document in OpenOffice.org 3.2 on Ubuntu - it's giving me an error message saying the document in password protected.

    Is it possible to convert the document to PDF?

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi tonys - try pressing the "read only" button when you try to access the document.


  • Comment number 3.

    Same problem as tonys on LibreOffice 3.3 (OS X):

    "Read Error
    The loading of password-encrypted Microsoft PowerPoint presentations is not supported"

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Nick - No success with OpenOffice.org - getting following error message "Move background page assignment. The loading of password-encrypted Microsoft PowerPoint presentations is not supported".

    This happens when both opening the PPT directly or from OO.o already open.

    A Google search reveal this to be OO.o bug.

    However - I've also not been able to open it by uploading (tried twice) to Google Docs - I get a "We have encountered an error, which we will investigate immediately. Sorry for the inconvenience".

    Since I don't have MS Office I've now reached a brick wall - anyone got any suggestions?

  • Comment number 5.

    It seems no non-Microsoft applications can open this document. Even Keynote fails.

    A (plain, ordinary, unencrypted) version is rather essential. An PDF (with the same constraints) would be a distinct nice-to-have, as PDF viewers are much more prevalent than PowerPoint viewers in any case.

  • Comment number 6.

    No good for me either WITH my trusty Microsoft application. Powerpoint 2008 for Mac says "This presentation is protected by a password or Digital Rights Management (DRM). To access the presentation, you must have a version that is not protected by a password or DRM."

  • Comment number 7.

    Thanks for your comments and patience. We're working on a new version, possibly a PDF.

  • Comment number 8.

    Yes, we've tried to convert to pdf but the formatting it not displaying properly. We need to create a new version which will take a little time. We will post a .pdf of the file up as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience. Spencer

  • Comment number 9.

    All of the above is a window on the world of technology strategy when the receivers of media are all incompatible. Lesson number one!

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Nick and Spencer - Looking forward to the new version.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi - I've just put a link in to a PDF of the document. I've also reactivated the blog's long dormant slideshare account and will try and embed that too.

    Apologies for the inconvenience. Perhaps now we can start commenting on what's actually in the presentation!


  • Comment number 12.

    Nick - many thanks for posting the PDF.


  • Comment number 13.

    Brilliant, thanks Nick!

  • Comment number 14.

    I note under “Transcoding and Media Movement”, there's no mention of lossy versus lossless encodings: MXF is an excellent archival format, and the BBC is to be commended for its development, but this is of course only part of the puzzle. With many cameras producing lossily-encoded digital video from the outset, what's the strategy for ensuring the archived content is of a high quality as possible (beyond the stated “avoid transcoding”)? Is the BBC in active discussion with manufacturers with a view towards ensuring losslessly-encoded source material can be archived moving forward?

  • Comment number 15.

    Transparency & openness ++. Thanks for sharing.

  • Comment number 16.


    Yes there are cameras that can acquire content losslessly but anything lossless or uncompressed would be as a pass through to another storage device external to the camera. Because of the file sizes associated with it the challenge is the management/movement of the content through the production chain and the substantial costs that would be associated with storage. We have to strike a balance so the BBC’s policy in this area is that once content is recorded in it’s native format then we aim to maintain that format all the way through production and into the archive. We do use compression standards that limit the loss of quality from acquisition through to the platform or device it's consumed on such as H.264. On an ongoing basis the BBC does work with manufacturers to help them improve their compression codecs to minimise loss of quality and improve performance. This is of course a fast moving area and are seeing regular advances that we would always try and take advantage of.

  • Comment number 17.

    14. At 11:48am on 8th Mar 2011, Mo wrote:
    I note under “Transcoding and Media Movement”, there's no mention of lossy versus lossless encodings: MXF is an excellent archival format, and the BBC is to be commended for its development........

    Back in the early 1980s I was horrified to discover that the British Movietone News film archives were being telecined to PAL 1" C format videotape and then the originals destroyed. Anyone working in broadcast at the time could tell that a future revolution in digital quality was likely before too long.

    The problem as always is that archiving costs money and the process never ends as any format needs to be kept usable. Those Movietone archives must have been through a few tape incarnations and are hopefully file based by now, but limited to the lowest quality incarnation on the way there.

    At least they did spend a bit of money and restored the film versions of what they listed at the time as historically valuable items although this was a tiny percentage.


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