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How Vimeo, Electronic Arts, and Splunk used tech to bolster connections during lockdowns

October 14, 2021, 7:00 PM UTC

Video game giant Electronic Arts was in a bind when the pandemic hit. The company was on a tight deadline to finish Star Wars: Squadrons, but the musical score hadn’t been recorded.  

“And as you would imagine, Lucasfilm are very particular about the quality, particularly on sound and music,” said EA chief operating officer Laura Miele at this week’s Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C. “But there was no world, no place that we were going to be getting a symphony, an orchestra together.”

But the sound designers and music directors pivoted. They recorded one instrument at a time, then pieced the elements together.

Another constraint, Miele explained, was that the game production required motion capture of human movement. It typically takes place on large soundstages, backed by large crews. As a workaround, EA sent the special suits to employees’ homes. In many cases, even family members would don the suits at home during quarantine to help EA collect the motion capture data it needed for the game.

“If you would have told us three days before this pandemic happened, we would have said it’ll take us two years to make this happen working remotely,” Miele said. “It could not have happened without technology, but it also could not have happened without just the incredible creativity and resilience of our teams.”

When most people think of how technology kept people connected during the pandemic, the first thing that comes to mind is video. For Vimeo, which in recent years has shifted to the business-to-business space with a focus on livestreaming, marketing, and employee engagement tools, shelter-in-place highlighted lesser-known use cases for its technology. “Basically, think of it as everything outside of what Zoom and videoconferencing does—all the other ways video can be used,” Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud said. 

One collaboration method that the team at Vimeo began using internally more often was “asynchronous” video. Not everything needs to be a group conference call. In many cases, one employee can record themselves doing a demonstration, then share it with those colleagues who need to know. The company came to a similar conclusion about gathering customer feedback, and how logistically complicated focus groups and client meetings can slow innovation. 

“Now we’re using video and data and all of these ways to get really quick, rapid feedback,” Sud said. “Instead of, ‘Let’s wait three months to have this dinner so that we can get all our customers together,’ it’s like, ‘No, let’s just do it digitally.’”

Teresa Carlson, who joined data monitoring and analytics company Splunk as president and chief growth officer earlier this year, echoed points about how the shift to remote work has challenged her team not only to find new ways to work together, but also to help customers adjust to the tech hurdles that have come with the pandemic. One way is by synthesizing data in ways that help remote teams understand and act on it.

“During COVID all of us who have had to work remotely, we’re used to being in a building and being able to walk down the hall or get access to somebody, and now you’re doing it through video or Slack or email,” Carlson said. “So putting all that data and information together so we can solve problems more rapidly became so relevant.”

On the “dark side” of things, Carlson said, cybersecurity attacks have become more prevalent over the last year and a half. She said she’s met with government officials that have admitted repeatedly paying off ransomware hackers to keep the attacks secret from their stakeholders and the public. “[We need to] understand and capture [data] so we can react, and be very planful in how we’re protecting our assets, our people, our IP, and our nations,” Carlson said.

“If you have data and you don’t understand how to use it, it’s going to be a huge problem,” she added. “How is your data used? How is other people’s data used? Is it the right information? Is it misinformation?”

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