In the public eye

A day in the life of... VIP

Call To Life — Dec 2019 by Joana Trigueiros Rocha

VIP usually stands for Very Important Person, right? But on the 6th floor of the Vodafone Building, VIP means Video Insights Platform.

The VIP project started last year, as part of the Vodafone TV programme and has changed the way we see TV today.

The team starts the day with a daily stand-up session around a whiteboard, where they have placed their 3-week sprint backlog. Individually each team member shares how far they've reached their tasks, and if there are any flags to raise. There is a curiosity about this team. After a year of development, they are now on their first sprint, starting their journey following Agile Principles and Values.

So, why change now?

The team shared with me how difficult it was to have every requirement defined at the beginning of the project. And therefore, by having the opportunity to refine backlog iteratively, the team found the opportunity of defining their path with the client. They value collaboration more than contract negotiation, and they have the space to be curious and creative.

And what is VIP?

VIP is a platform developed by a cross-functional team - there are developers, architects, data scientists, to receive and analyze data from different Vodafone devices, like your TV box or the app on Smartphones, Tablets, or Smart TVs.

For example, did you change the volume during a commercial? Paused and restarted your favourite TV show? Rented a movie on a Sunday afternoon?

All this data is stored and analysed on Kibana using disguised IDs. And why disguised? Well, because we are now protected by GDPR! This data is then evaluated based on factors like devices, number of views, number of rentals and households involved, among many other conditions, which, combined, are used to interpret the users’ behaviours. (Did you know that The Lion King was the most rented movie by Vodafone clients in Portugal, in the last month?)

There is infinite data, but how valuable is it? The magic happens when you make it actionable! By understanding how to organize information that provides more value to the client.

In parallel, one of the challenges is guaranteeing that all data received is accurate, meaning that this team has joined all the information, from marketing to operations, and validated it. They started by migrating it, and then reworked it on their dashboards. Right now, as they are continuously collecting it, they are also responsible for understanding if anomalies happen, or if the volume of data is inexplicably high, which may mean it is doubled, so the team can act on it, and assure its quality.

The truth is that by collecting more accurate data, they can keep Vodafone better informed, and therefore provide a better user experience.

Who’s the client?

VIP works with Vodafone Group, and 9 different Opcos, and is probably one of the few projects at Celfocus working with that many clients, and that is something they are proud of. Their work reaches Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany and New Zealand (after listing all of these, they even add “For now”, which tells me, that they are not done yet).

This requires the solution to have specificities for each client and that they have to show an incredible ability to adapt. For example, Italy does not have Video-on-demand, so reporting about it is not valuable, but maybe there is a country where this is a big market. The team needs to differentiate between what is reusable and what is customisable for each Opco. They join all their knowledge and customize it to each market.

What happens next?

In an ever-changing environment like TV, ideas are always emerging and the team already has a plan.

Since one of the challenges is guaranteeing that the quality of the data is good, then, why not transform this into an automatic process? Imagine that the files feeding VIP are not okay, for example, there are duplicates, or from a different country they are supposed to belong to. This cause for concern can be avoided with a process that learns from file history and validations which are done before, and therefore improve the teams’ performance and quality.

Also, if we have all this information, and what, when and how everyone is watching TV, why not use this to anticipate unusual events? We all remember the end of Game of Thrones, right? And how it made us feel? While so many of us were glued to the screens, behind the scenes, Vodafone had to provide good network support so we wouldn’t lose critical moments. And what is going to be the next big sensation? We don’t know yet, but this team aims to create something attentive to patterns, understanding how our TV boxes are behaving and automatically creating tickets to solve an issue we didn’t even know we had.

VIP usually stands for “Very Important Person”, right? But it has now become a Very Important Project, and we should be curious to see how it develops.