First Look: RMG Networks’ New Executive Briefing Center
May 8, 2014 by Dave Haynes
Executive Briefing Centers and Customer Experience Centers – both essentially showrooms on steroids – are not terribly new to a lot of technology sectors, but they’re quite new to the digital signage space.
Probably because …
1. Few companies could afford to build them.
2. The competition wasn’t.
That’s started to change as the industry has matured, more money has come in, and more seasoned people with experience outside the sector have found their way into digital signage. Lately, I’ve heard about several companies – display and software – building and opening dedicated spaces designed to show prospective customers their products and solutions, in context and in more interesting surroundings.
I’ve been in lots of software and display hardware showrooms – places in company offices where stuff was set up – but this week I went down to Dallas and had a look at the Executive Briefing Center that RMG Networks is officially opening up later this month.
For disclosure, they invited to fly me down for a no-strings-attached look, and I accepted. First, I was very curious. Second, there was a passing chance this Canadian might feel truly warm outside air for the first time in months. It was 88F or something in Dallas. Halle-freaking-lujah (not that I was outside much.)
The Executive Briefing Center is a genuine experience. All in a good way.
RMG has leased out a substantial ground floor space in the suburban office block it moved into a few months ago, and kitted it out with displays, meeting and hosting spaces. They bring prospective customers in, show them the product in different scenarios – from lobby areas to command and control rooms – and make them comfy the company has its act together.
I know in talking to another company (Four Winds Interactive) that also has experience centers that the spaces are VERY effective in closing business, as well as upselling. In the latter case, people come in to see one thing, and THEN see something else (like interactive) and say, “Gimme some of that, too.”
RMG’s head office space – relocated from Plano to Addison (closer in to downtown Dallas) – has its share of digital bling, but is not really intended for customers. Having been in offices where customers were walked through, I get the attraction of a distinctly separate showroom area.
How it sets up…
There is a big double-sided 4X4 LCD video wall facing into the office block atrium and the inside welcome area. I liked how the content was reasonably tidy, and very well designed – particularly the big many-tiled matrix look. This was all designed and delivered by Alex Hughes and his mob at Amigo Digital in London. If you don’t know Amigo, it’s one of the few creative companies I put in a league with Montreal’s Arsenal Media.
Nice color choices and contrasts. Big fonts. The RMG presentation layer uses Windows Presentation Framework now to handle all the motion effects, but like many companies, the developers are shifting to HTML5 as that standard matures.
Moving inside, there’s a big screen in the welcome/soft seating area.
The reception desk has MicroTiles embedded in the actual desk, and they had my name in there, which made me cry with joy. Ok, maybe not, but it’s the sort of thing that can impress people who haven’t been around this since man discovered fire.
They also have MicroTiles embedded in a wall as accents, and on a cool header in kitchen/buffet area used to water and feed visitors when they’re in the two main meeting rooms.
There are BIG stacked 4K displays in a couple of other areas, as well as an equally big display framed up for infra-red driven touch interactivity.
Around the corner, there’s a full, working Network Operations Center used by RMG staff to monitor deployments in the field, but located there to show enterprise-level customers what a big command and control room can look like with a vast wall of tiled displays and well-executed data visualizations.
The EBC, as its called for short, has a full-time manager and is set up to handle direct RMG customers as well host sessions initiated and guided by partners and larger resellers. The space has a bit of a minimalist art gallery feel that puts the onus on the digital pieces. It can easily host networking sessions, and there’s an area outside in the atrium RMG can also book for even cocktail events.
Overall, very impressive. I don’t know what all it cost, but lots. However, as noted there’s lots of history in the tech sector demonstrating these things pretty quickly pay their way. The thing isn’t supposed to be live for a couple more weeks but customers were already banging on them to visit, and there was some group in while I was there.
I had a chance to hang out with CEO Garry McGuire the night before, eating Tex-Mex and splitting a California cabernet that came in a bottle heavy enough to anchor an aircraft carrier. Good wine.
We talked a lot about how the company has evolved since it acquired Symon Communications, and doing what looked like a very weird merge of a digital out of home media company and a software company that largely owned visual messaging in the contact center world.
Lotsa people left, not all by their own design. The Symon crew relocated from much more rural Plano, north of Dallas, to well inside the bigger city’s beltway. The San Francisco office shut down. The trading price for the newly listed public company took a major slide and settled in there.
Sitting in the digital signage bleachers, watching all this with binoculars, I wondered what all was up.
Now briefed and presented to, I had some pretty clear takeaways:
- The old Symon is gone-gone-gone, though its infrastructure, code base and client base are very much in play;
- This is now a software, solutions and services company first, though most people think very much of RMG as a media company. McGuire confirmed he sees a much bigger, easier opportunity on the tech side than on ad sales;
- RMG is in a great position on the software side because Symon had, for many years, been doing the data integration and data harvesting that will drive what is going to be a big thing in this space – data visualization. This is not show a number or draw a pie chart based on an Excel table. It’s tying into supply chain management systems and doing real-time visualizations on manufacturing and logistics;
- They’ve done the company shake-out and made the pivot, and are poised to go hard at the enterprise-level business most pursued now by Four Winds, Stratacache and Appspace, and a scores of smaller companies.
RMG has about 4,000 customers globally – a lot of that from Symon’s contact center days. It’s a who’s who of the Fortune 1000. While many or most of those companies use RMG software and services for call centers and on manufacturing and distribution center floors, they are all ripe for expanding services into the white collar and public areas of their businesses. It tends to be a LOT easier to upsell when you’re already a vendor than try to come in as a new vendor. Few big companies are looking for MORE vendors and suppliers.
As noted, RMG flew me down. But they already knew me well enough to understand that arrangement didn’t mean I was going to shake my pom-poms and post about the awesomeness of the place … if it really wasn’t all that awesome.
But … the place is genuinely impressive, and the strategy and direction laid out for RMG by McGuire and his senior people all seems pretty sound. My guess is RMG is going to be in the mix on a lot of bigger opportunities going forward.