As we lead up to Ignite for our session on “When To Use What” in Office 365 we thought we would share some insight into when to use Video and when not to use Video. This article is not about Office 365 Video, though we have found customers who have taken advantage of Office 365 video need more time and attention put to this question. Instead it is about when Video works well, and when there might be better alternatives (depending on the production costs and effort).

If you aren’t yet aware Office 365 provides something called Office 365 Video to customers and users who have purchase the suite. Office Video is a great way to easily and rapidly deliver a modern (and pretty incredible) Video Portal for your enterprise. Take a look at “Meet Office 365 Video” if you are still getting started with Office 365 Video.

What follows is a summary of when to use video and when not to use video. We are lucky and at 2toLead we use video quite a bit when building Intranet trailers or teasers as well as for educational purposes. In many situations we have provided short how-to’s, webcasts and even multiple series of webcasts. Microsoft has published a great collection of video content that can help users with understand Office 365, and sometimes with the introduction of Office Video, Delve, and Groups actually uses video to introduce new UIs and concepts which is also a great use for video. That is actually what this is all about – when to use video and when to sometimes avoid using video.

When Should Video Be Used?

Here is a listing of the typical times when video should or could be used to improve delivery of key information or messaging.

1. When Introducing New Features & UI Tours

Video can be a great way to help show users where new features are and how to use them.  It often especially important to give a tour of a brand new or drastically-altered UI. As written or even image comparisons can often still lead to confusion. It is much, much easier to show these types of things than it is to write about them.

2. When Introducing New Concepts, New Solutions Or Scenarios

New concepts, solutions and scenarios are much easier to grasp when we combine a spoken explanation with a demonstration.  Additionally, the narrator can show his/her excitement about the new concept and personalize the message.

3. When Providing Quick Tips And Tricks

These are often interspersed in other written content. As an example perhaps there is a procedure that is easily codified in writing, but has one complex or confusing step. In that instance adding a quick short video that provides a tip or trick to help the user avoid a mistake, missing something, or helps them understand/emphasize something can be extremely useful.

4. When Documenting Or Sharing Complicated Tasks/Processes With Many Steps (If And Branching Topics)

We do a lot of business process analysis, design and development for customers using SharePoint and 3rd party products. Often long processes can be daunting in text, but video can show the UI with the steps being taken so there is considerably less room for misunderstanding. Video as opposed to text often can explain something much faster than text. Lastly to write the same amount of content that can often be quickly recorded can take many, many pages. Since processes sometimes change it’s also easier to update a video later or a section of video than many pages of steps and process notes.

Some of the hardest content to write well is procedures with branching options.  These are very difficult to follow in written format.  With video, being able to show the options and the actions helps orient the learner.  Breaking the procedure up into separate-but-related videos also helps.

5. When Communicating Connected Or Related Tasks

Often connected or related tasks can be presented as a video series.  They become more digestible when seen as in smaller separate videos. This can also be useful if there are related learnings which aren’t required but might be interesting to the learner. The long text required to document connected or related tasks can be extremely time consuming and so video can save quite a bit of time here as well.

6. When We Are Not Completely Sure Of The Expertise Of The Learner(s)

In our writing we often need to make assumptions about the knowledge of the learner and write accordingly. Video is more explicit and shows you everything, even if the speaker doesn’t tell you everything they are doing.  With video you can satisfy many levels of learning at once, because video shows everything that is captured.  It also avoid you leaving out something in the details that might have helped the learner achieve their results faster.

7. When Sharing Difficult Or Unpopular Messages

If you anticipate resistance, video adds the personal touch to counteract (or at least lessen) the negative reaction to a message.  The speaker can take the time to offer background and explanation without interruption. The speaker can also show enthusiasm and passion for the change/decision and comfort or alignment with other speakers more easily.

8. When Learning Across Devices

Video is an effective cross-platform learning tool.  With Office 365 users can watch the video in many different formats specialized for the phone, tablet or device they are using. It also provides opportunities to learn in situations where a user may be multitasking – especially if the audio is provided as well.

When Not To Use Video

We must consider not only what content doesn’t lend itself to video but also when the additional expense does not warrant the effort of producing a video (unless editing quality can be reduced based on viewer expectations).  A piece of content may be a great candidate for video, but it might not be a priority to have that content be available to be consumed in video format.

For Cost Or Practicality Reasons

There are many things that may work great in video format, but may be too costly or too challenging from a logistical standpoint and wouldn’t make as much sense as simpler or lower cost alternatives.

  1. The cost in time and resources is not worth the investment. Think of the ROI the video returns. It takes a team to produce a video and the cost for projects that require a large team and a large time investment may be prohibitive, especially when you consider how that time could be better spent.
  2. There might be situational challenges:
    • The experts needed to make the video are not available or does not have time available for video (they or their managers do not see this video as a priority).
    • There is not enough lead time available to go live with a video (or there may be other time sensitivity that encourages other methods of faster communication). In other words the content is urgent and timely.  Producing a video may take too long.
    • Resources (technology, video editor, equipment, etc) not available.
  3. The life-cycle of the message is not worth the investment due to how frequently it changes. Producing a new video or adding new content is much more difficult and time consuming than updating text (there are exceptions for UI processes here and based on quality, but typically this is true).
  4. The audience size is not worth the investment.
  5. Your audience has accessibility issues (e.g., low bandwidth, sight-impaired, etc.)
    • Keep in mind that you can use specially designed accessible friendly video players. At 2toLead we partnered with Accessible Media Inc. to develop a SharePoint based accessible video player. Read about it here.
  6. Your learners are not comfortable or proficient launching or watching video. Keep in mind that most of the time you want to roll out multiple education mediums for your key messages.
  7. Your learners do not have a way or the option to watch video (e.g., workplace rules against it) or do not have capable browsers (not sure if this is really valid anymore, but bandwidth and other things might be logistical challenges that influence this).
  8. Your target audience will not likely view the information. Your research tells you that this particular audience prefers other sources of information. Additionally a level of credibility may come into play.
  9. Somebody else has already created video content for this same topic and its good enough. For us this includes Microsoft as well as community-created content (or content we can buy for less).

Because There Are Better Options – Video Limitations

These are examples of things that often lead to video content not being the right medium due to limitations of video delivery.

  1. The video is not enhancing your content or primary message.  The content is better presented in another format, such as text or images.  For example, in reference topics, glossaries, definitions, maps, interactive guides, TOCs, etc.
  2. Conceptual topics that don’t involve steps or potentially unpopular content.
  3. It confuses or annoys your primary audience (not appropriate). Keep in mind that video with production value can also be seen as a significant investment, so you want the audience to not find it a poor investment as this can have other negative consequences.
  4. For embedded video or video linked to written content, the video content does not add anything new or does not improve the learning process.
  5. The type of video you create is not appropriate or effective for your audience. For example, re-purposing an English-language video for other markets without researching those other markets, or cultural implications.
  6. For quick answer content. Learners just need an answer to a question – much easier to find quickly in text format and via Search. This can also be more easily embedded in appropriate locations.

Conclusion On When To Use Video

As you look to increase your production of video, you will likely find even more cases where video is appropriate, and less where it is not appropriate. Especially as costs go down and it becomes easier to develop great video content without the additional expense. Be sure to use Office 365 Video in your own organization to help improve learning, and find better ways to communicate internal messaging.