5 Questions That Get Digital Signage Projects Off To A Solid Start

start-s

So, you’ve been told you’re now in charge of your company’s first digital signage project, and having pounded “digital signage” into your browser’s search bar, you’re scouring the web looking for direction and advice.

Digital signage doesn’t look all that complicated. Screens on walls. Content. Updated over the Internet.

Easy-peasy.

But something’s telling you that’s not quite true … and that something is right.

To get a digital signage project off to a decent start, here are five important questions you want to ask and then get answered.

1 – Objective, aka Why?

Why is your organization – national retailer, regional college or community church – going down this path? What’s the problem they’re trying to fix, or the circumstance they’re trying to improve.

It could be timeliness of messaging. Accurate targeting by location. Something that draws attention. A means to finally communicate to the hard to reach, like staff on a factory floor that don’t have desks, PCs, mail slots or company e-mails.

Whatever it is, you need that “Why?” question asked and answered. The answers will guide not only the overall project, but the programming and then technology choices. If you know why, you’ll understand that maybe a low-cost, barebones solution won’t handle the programming and display demands and you need to budget up. On the flip side, it might tell you you don’t need the Airbus 380 version of a content platform, when the software equivalent of a kite will do for the modest programming and scheduling model.

2 – Who is your audience?

You’re fixing a problem, or making something better, but possibly not for you. You’re the producer, but not really the target viewer. It’s critical to define and profile the intended viewing audiences for these screens.

What are the dynamics in play? Are people on the move? Are they lost and looking for direction? How long will they be around the screens? From what distance? There’s a lot of questions, and they can have different answers based on where screens are and the “moments” people are in. That moment can be people waiting in line, but in other cases, it’s the moment when people are arriving or leaving.

Tune the display locations and screen size, and the style, tone and duration of the content, to the audience and dynamics, and don’t assume the same content pieces work just as well wherever they go. They probably don’t.

3 – Who Owns It?

Somebody needs to be in charge. Projects by committee or projects by assigned tasks tend to drift. Somebody needs to own the project, develop the roles and responsibilities, and figure out what this thing is going to cost.

That last bit, the budget, needs to not only encompass the costs of putting a project in and lighting it up, but also sustain it over a defined period, like three to five years. Many, many signage projects get off to great starts and are then orphaned, because no one baked in and got approval (or at least understanding) that content would need to be regularly refreshed, and the equipment maintained.

4 – Where Do You Stop?

Many software companies and solutions providers sell what they generally call managed services – taking on the work that organizations can’t or don’t want to do internally. In some cases, clients don’t do much more than indicate what they need done, and the vendor does the rest. I had a QSR client who’d never seen the software that ran their menu boards, never mind logged in and used it. The vendor did EVERYTHING.

In others, a service provider may just cover certain tasks – like monitoring the state of the media players in the field, and fixing problems – remotely or on site – for agreed fees. The client handles the programming and scheduling.

What you need to determine is where your organization starts and stops, and where the service provider takes over. Even organizations that need just a few hours per month allocated to managing a network may get that outsourced, because they want to stay focused on core business activities.

In your planning, figure out what your organization wants to take on, and make no assumptions that certain departments – like IT – will happily absorb new work. That would be rare. They’re already busy. And they’ll rarely make signage a priority.

5 – How Will You Know It’s Working?

There are exceptions, of course, but generally, it’s pretty hard to determine if a project is delivering on objectives without some kind of measurement criteria.

Did sales go up, when the screen could be the only reason? Did sales stay the same somewhere else, with a similar audience and set-up and content?

Did customer satisfaction ratings go up? Did fewer people ask for directions? Is morale up? Are workplace injuries down?

There are many ways to measure, and data to apply, so start with a baseline and ensure what gets measured will be credible to report and compare. It’s important not only to validate the effort and get a sense on the return on the investment. But measurement is evidence that gets renewed internal support, new budget, and perhaps the OK for expansion and upgrades.

Without that, winning support can get really, really hard.

Strategy Is Power

Soooo many digital signage projects end up being “skunkworks” efforts, pulled together with limited resources, and tepid buy-in. While some projects, miraculously, grow from those humble beginnings into very large, robust programs, many more putter along as skunkworks – never quite realizing their potential in terms of impact.

If you know what you want to do, and why, and know who needs to be involved, what kind of budget you need, and how things will play out, you’re in a much better position to skip the skunkworks phase. You can launch a tangible project that can thrive, and have an impact.

Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes

Editor/Founder at Sixteen:Nine
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than a decade. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He's based near Toronto.
Dave Haynes

@sixteennine

Decade-old blog about digital signage and related tech, written by industry consultant and shit-disturber Dave Haynes.
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