What are some common pitfalls that can cause integration to go over budget?”
The most common pitfalls or “gotchas” that cause digital signage integration projects to go over budget are very seldom obvious. Over the past 15-plus years of providing digital signage solutions both in the retail and corporate environments, the “gotchas” are ever present. At the top of the list is connectivity. It seems simple and straightforward, but just getting rock solid connectivity in place for your digital signage players tends to be a constant challenge. You ask for an active network drop, you confirm with your customer a couple of days before you send your installation team, and you get there, and there is no network drop or there is no Wi-Fi to be found. You ask if there is any special provisioning that you need to make for the digital signage players or server to reside on their network, and you get no feedback and then you bring your digital signage players to the site, and they cannot talk to the server or get to the Internet because of domain policies or proxy servers. Working through this challenge can be a real profit killer and have a major impact on your delivery timeline. So, to avoid this costly pitfall, ask proactively to test your players and server on their network and do your best to know in advance what you are up against.
Another “gotcha” that seems to play a consistent role is availability to the workspace. Today, with security concerns higher than they have ever been, you have to check and recheck the availability of the workspace where your team is going to install. You must also check to make sure, especially in the larger corporate space, that there are no special safety classes that your team must attend to be able to access areas where your players need to go. In retail digital signage, you will always need to check to see if there is any special provisioning you have to make to have your team there during the hours your customer has allowed you to do the install. Sometimes, you might have to hire independent approved security to essentially babysit your installation team. This can run into the hundreds and even thousands on larger, multi-day installations.
Never underestimate working with new construction. These common delays are caused by others, which means we cannot overemphasize the need for provisioning change orders in your contracts with your customer. You will need the ability to fall back on such change orders if your team is delayed by construction delays of other sub-contractors. It has been painfully common for my teams to be on-site working and be asked to cease their work based on the work others are doing, which can include activities by management that cause your team to lose hours and days because they dynamically change their schedule and want to have meetings in areas that your team needs to work. Remember you still have to pay your team to be there, even if they are not actively working. This can cost you both productivity and cut into other unrelated jobs challenged by such schedule changes.
Large projects tend to take a while. Yes, it is great to have large projects, but they can take months and sometimes years to close. Make sure that your statement of work includes the understanding that if the contract is engaged more than 60 days from the submitted proposal, that there will likely be model changes, and numbers could change as a result of those model changes. No one likes to talk about this, but the reality is that every 90 to 120 days, there is new model of some flat panel or projector or mount. And guess what, now your customer pulls the trigger and expects it to happen the next week. You can lose significant margin and endure great stress IF you don’t have provisions for this certain challenge. Our industry is constantly churning through new and improved models, most of the time in the favor of the consumer. Either way, these are changes that the integrator has to deal with, and they can cause massive stress and delays that effect your bottom line significantly.
The most costly gotcha: content. Without question, the most important, cost-significant and ongoing investment in digital signage is content. So often when I speak to clients about provisioning for content, they tell me they have it taken care of, but I cannot over-emphasize the importance of content and the fact that it will require an on-going commitment. How does this impact your profitability as an integrator? Very simply, if the digital signage network that you help put in place fails due to poor content, it will reflect negatively on you. The integrator will likely be burdened with the blame and lose all hope of future sales and references from that sale. Yeah, I know it is their responsibility and you tried your best to warn them, but the outcome is still the same. Bad content equals bad results equals less opportunity and no reference. So there is a need for the integrator to ensure that the installation’s content will be on-target to accomplish the client’s goals. Good content has a major impact to your long-term bottom line.
Do whatever it takes, including walking away from the opportunity. If you recognize that the client is not committed to content that will deliver value, this would be the best time to say, “This is not a project for me.” You will be better off walking away than enduring the outcome of a digital signage network that unfairly reflects badly on you.