Candyspace Partner, Martin Brierley, explains how media companies can fast track their product development roadmap in the middle of a global talent crisis  

During the COVID pandemic, Video-on-Demand (VOD) platforms benefited from substantial growth. For instance, Netflix saw an uplift of 28 million new subscribers in the first six months of 2020, and Disney Plus netted 32 million new subscribers between January and June of 2020. Now, post-lockdown and with restrictions lifted, many VOD platforms are struggling to balance the changed behaviours and expectations of their customers now that they’re mobile again with their growth ambitions. All the talk is of digital transformation and the urgency with which it needs to happen.  

This scenario will be undoubtedly familiar to you if you work in an ambitious growth-focused business. (And who doesn’t?)

Your VOD service may need an upgrade, new features or a complete overhaul. Your business will expect any of those to happen tomorrow. Unfortunately your in-house UX, development and delivery teams already have too much on their plate managing their BAU responsibilities and the hygiene requirements of your properties.

Easy. You will have to recruit additional headcount to ensure delivery.

But right now you happen to be in the middle of a perfect recruitment storm. It’s never been harder to recruit in tech. The demand for skilled resource has never been so high. Not only are all of your competitors trying to expand their teams but it has coincided with a number of issues leading to a diminished recruitment pool. 

The global talent crisis 

Gartner reported back in 2021 that talent problems were the single greatest blocker to the adoption of new technologies. According to the Gartner survey, businesses believe a shortage of talent to be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of 64 percent of new tech they’d like to adopt. Although in 75 percent of cases, the issue is associated with IT automation technologies, a similar predicament is developing across computer infrastructure, platform services, networking, security, storage and database—to name a few.

According to Everest Group, this global IT talent crisis impacts just under 70 percent of enterprises.

The reasons for this scarcity appear to be diverse, from a historical decline in the birthrate to an education skills gap and shortfall in vocational training. According to a survey fromTalentLMS and Workable, a staggering 72 percent of tech employees in the US are considering leaving their jobs in the next year. 

About 40 percent of them say that limited opportunities for career progression play a role. Other common reasons include non-flexible work hours, a lack of remote working options, feeling under-appreciated, and a toxic work environment. A whopping 85 percent said they felt their company focused more on attracting new talent than investing in existing staff.

That talent scarcity has led to employees having higher expectations of employers, be it remote working, flexibility, benefits or simply pay. Company culture, a lack of focus on the soft benefits of career development, and perhaps a lack of clear purpose embedded in the business can also be reasons for employee disaffection or recruitment shortfall. 

All of the above have made scaling up at speed for larger organisations a near impossible task. Overlay the costs of recruitment, often cumbersome and inflexible internal processes for onboarding and the difficulty of matching your competitors’ generous benefit packages.

Some businesses will consider scaling up with near or off-shore resources, but in a market that’s pressed this is neither a guarantee of affordability and certainly not of rapid efficiency. Indeed, running remote teams at arm’s length can cause significant problems and blockers in your development pipeline, compromising quality through communication difficulties, time difference or simply culture. 

Agile product squads

But there is a solution and it’s close to home. My former colleague Rico Sturridge has written persuasively of the make up of agile working squads – constituted typically, but not always, of a product manager, engineering lead, three to six engineers, product designer, BA and a data analyst.

What’s interesting about the agile process is the ability to drop these squads into 

interdisciplinary/cross-functional teams to augment existing resource and fast track key feature development. Working over short or long periods, under the guidance of a strong product owner, these teams achieve high velocity and bring real value, fast. 

At Candyspace we have been successfully recruiting squad members with a robust onboarding process, a clear corporate vision, and benefits which appeal to the very best talent, building loyal teams who enjoy the rich variety of projects to which they are able to contribute.

Our squads, tailored to the specific needs of the product, are currently deployed on both short and long contracts for clients augmenting existing in-house resources. It’s a win for our clients’ businesses, providing much needed flexibility, taking away the pain and cost of recruitment; and it’s a significant win for our talented employees who enjoy the diversity of opportunity and the well managed ability to build new and exciting product features.

So when you find yourself hard pressed to find a rapid solution to your product development roadmap for your VOD player, don’t despair. Team augmentation with a highly trained, purpose-built agile squad is surely the solution. 


Kauser Kanji has been working in online video for 19 years, formerly at Virgin Media, ITN and NBC Universal, and founded VOD Professional in 2011. He has since completed major OTT projects for, amongst others, A+E Networks, the BBC, BBC Studios, Channel 4, DR (Denmark), Liberty Global, Netflix, Sony Pictures, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation and UKTV. He now writes industry analyses, hosts an online debate show, OTT Question Time, as well as its in-person sister event, OTT Question Time Live

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