What is the most representative way to measure the impact of a digital signage deployment?”
Metrics are one of the most sought-after commodities in digital signage. It is wise to measure the return on our substantial investments in digital signage hardware, software and content development. In many cases, organizations look to quantify the potential outcomes – the impact – they will receive before committing to any investment. However, the nature of digital signage – the many forms it can take and ways in which it can be used — can make generalizations regarding measurement of impact difficult, impractical and often misleading.
I think the most appropriate measurement of impact of any deployment of technology is linked directly to the application to which it is being applied, how it is being applied and the perspective of those applying it. In other words, asking key questions such as “Does it work?” “Does it serve its intended function, and is that function of value?” “Does it operate in a way that is efficient and in alignment with the organization?” In some cases, the impact will able to be measured but often not – or not completely.
A simple case in point would be a deployment of “room signage” within an organization. In a hypothetical case study, digital signs are installed outside of conference rooms for the purpose of displaying the daily schedule of activities in each room. If an individual printing and posting paper schedules is currently filling this function each morning, one could attempt to measure the return/impact of this change in terms of the personnel time saved each day. However, that quantification would likely leave most number crunchers highly in favor of retaining the paper-based solution as the perceived benefits may not justify the investments.
However, the question put to us was “impact” and not necessarily “return on investment.” With that in mind, what potential “impact” can our hypothetical deployment of room signage have? Frankly, I can think of any number of ways to answer that. The key is to put oneself in the place of an organization and pose those key questions from their point of view. In doing so, it is possible to walk through the possibilities and build at least a rudimentary mental model of the appropriate factors related to impact—measureable or not.
In our hypothetical case involving room signage, the potential impact of such a deployment is highly dependent on a multitude of factors only discernable from details that were not given. If given the point of view of academic department on a college campus with a handful of lightly used conference rooms, the impact of adding room signage may be small, or worse, seen as burdensome or even wasteful. To judge impact, one has to identify the motives for deploying for digital signage as well as any unexpected outcomes. Is the only issue at stake the time and effort involved in posting paper schedules? Might there be issues of room utilization? Space is often a highly contested and valuable commodity on campus environments. Could a deployment of room signage, integrated with an existing resource reservation/calendaring solution, and an effort to better train and inform departmental faculty and staff about scheduling resources increase the room utilization? That could very well be measureable but perhaps a difficult case to base an entire deployment on in and of itself.
The motives and values of an academic department will differ of course from those of a large conference center that is in the business of scheduling and hosting events, often simultaneously. The impact of having such a deployment may be seen as a necessity, a mission critical component of not only operations but a strategic necessity to keep pace with competitors. Room utilization, customer experience and pace of operations may change the context to what may have been a relatively identical deployment of hardware, software and content as used in an academic department to have vastly different impacts depending on the details that only those who are deploying can truly judge – and sometimes only after deployment.
In the end, impact is highly contextual and highly subjective. Impact can be negative just as well as positive. If a signage deployment is prone to failure, integrates poorly with existing systems or is simply difficult to use, it can have a negative impact that is both measureable and non-measurable.