Ask the Board – November 7, 2016 | MIKE WHITE

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What role does the integrator play in serving End Users?


The professional AV integrator brings real value to a dynamic digital signage project through his or her experience and ability to ask the right questions.  It is absolutely true that an end user can buy digital signage direct from many manufacturers and distributors today, but based on the sheer number of dynamic digital signage project failures, that carries a very significant risk.  Professional AV integrators can greatly reduce the risk of failure, identify the challenges before you experience them and help you pick the right dynamic digital signage content management software and right hardware.

How hard can it be?

To answer that question, all you have to do is walk around in the mall, airport, corporate office complex, museum or sports venue. Those blank screens you see are screaming a message to passersby and that message is, “I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing, and I am hoping someone can help me soon.”  (It also screams a message to your customers and corporate audience saying, “I don’t care enough about this sign to fix it”).  More often than not, these are not hardware failures … although those still happen when end users choose hardware designed for residential use and assume the displays will stand up to strenuous dynamic digital signage application. But, the most common reasons that screens are blank or blinking no signal is a mismatch in the content management system or the connectivity to the network. Things over the past five years have got much better, but that just means that today’s end users must work that much harder for their system to not be part of the advertising noise that we are all exposed to on a daily basis.

To be specific, here are some of the REAL value benefits to engaging a professional AV integrator with dynamic digital signage experience.

Note: If the integrator you are working with does not bring you these values, then you need to find another integrator with these talents, experiences and skills. Not all that call themselves integrators are true integrators. Some are just suppliers of one or more of the components needed in dynamic digital signage and know a few of the buzz words.  Don’t add to your challenges and don’t waste your money or time with someone that just knows enough to be dangerous.  If they are not asking you these questions and bringing insight and experience on how to strategically accomplish your goals (the Why), then you need to look elsewhere.

  1. An integrator will help you to first identify the “Why.” One should never enter into investment of dynamic digital signage without a clear “Why.”  The integrator should help you to clearly define the value proposition and metrics of how the “Why” will be measured. The integrator will help you to look past the pilot and plan for a long-term, ever-increasing value solution.
  1. An integrator will help you to understand “content strategies.”  In the early years of dynamic digital signage, very little was really known about what makes dynamic digital signage successful and sticky. Yes, I said sticky. Your integrator must have the experience to help you to identify critical information like viewing distance and dwell times. You integrator should challenge your resources to make content specific for your digital signs.  TV commercials do not make good digital signage content as a rule.  If people pass by your sign in 15 seconds and your commercial is 30 seconds or one minute long, you just contributed to the world of advertising noise.  Your integrator should lead you toward having sticky content.  In other words, you want people to look at your signs over and over again. You want them to interact with them by encouraging them to take action on their most precious (non- human) possession, their smart phone, and then by that action, encourage them to be part of your social media world, so that your dynamic digital sign gives far more than entertainment at the point of view.
  1. An integrator should have the competency to help you pick the right dynamic digital signage content management software.  With more than 600 available and believe it or not, more are being created every day, it is imperative that the integrator be capable of interrogating your “Why” and matching your long-term needs to a CMS (content management system) that will match those needs. No one CMS is a great fit for every dynamic digital signage project, so if the integrator you are talking with only has one solution, then you’re most likely going to have a challenge. The last step in choosing the correct CMS is this: The integrator must be able to present the CMS solution to you, the end user, and you must assemble a team that will be using this CMS to make sure you have the right team and the right CMS.  We go as far as saying, if you are not willing to allow us to complete our thorough digital signage assessment with a demo, then we are not a good fit for your project. Sounds pretty hard line, but there are times that an integrator should also say this is not a good fit.
  1. An experienced integrator will ask the tough question about budget.   Many end users will interpret this as a sales ploy to see how much they can charge.  The reality is that an experienced dynamic digital signage integrator has a real good feel for how much it will take to accomplish the “Why.” The end user will equally benefit by a candid discussion to determine if they can indeed afford the investment that will be required by both short-term and long-term to accomplish their “Why.”
  1. An experienced integrator will help you match the right hardware to the right locations.  I no longer suggest that every location for dynamic digital signage has to have the highest-level commercial hardware in place.  Realty is that so much parity exists in the world of hardware, that in many cases, some of the prosumer choices will work. I know this comment might fly in the face of many manufacturers, but the reality is that if the screen is going to have a limited duty cycle and does not have to overcome elements of harsh conditions, there are many cost-effective solutions to be considered. The real key here is that an experienced AV integrator will ask you many questions about your hardware needs and be able to walk you through your options.  Please note, it is far better for you to allow the integrator to purchase and supply everything even though that might come with a 5 to 15 percent greater investment, in the long run, you, the customer are much better off to be able to call one person, one company and tell them to fix a challenge.  The reality is that there will be challenges, even with the best of planning and best of choices, so simplify your long-term support, choose and work with an integrator that has demonstrated their competence elsewhere, can provide references and has a plan for your long-term support.
  1. An integrator should ask if you have other systems that we will need to integrate with?  In other words, databases that already have the updated information and that can be merged into your CMS. Do you have an emergency notification system that we can integrate into your investment?
  1. An integrator should ask for you to include your IT/Network team early in the process. An experienced integrator worthy of your investment knows that they must work hand in hand with your IT department and must include them in the earliest of the discussions.   Again, this is a great metric to use to decide if you have an integrator worthy of your project.

There are many more questions that a true professional integrator should bring to the project, but these questions are essential and will give you a baseline to know that there is value in having an integrator working with you.

 

About Author

Senior Solutions Specialist
Unified Technology Systems

MEMBER OF THE DSE ADVISORY BOARD
Pro AV Council

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