Ask the Board – March 11, 2019 | MIKE WHITE


“What are the top three questions you should ask when considering digital signage as a communication medium?”

Digital signage, with all of its complexities, has three key questions that are common to all projects. In order of importance, they are:

  1. What is the desired ROI, ROO or ROA? (ROI = Return on Investment, ROO = Return on Objective, ROA = Return on Attention). One of the most common mistakes made by both seller and buyer of digital signage as a communication medium is to focus on hardware or the CMS (Content Management System) thereby overlooking the required foundational element of objective. My dear recently departed friend Lyle Bunn would cover this in every single presentation or article he ever wrote.  Paraphrasing, Lyle would say that the most important element of making a decision to invest in digital signage has to be “How will this investment increase the value of my company or organization?” He would go further to say, “If you don’t take the time to identify the metrics in place to measure the return on your investment, your digital signage investment has a high probability of failing.” So I always lead with the question, “What have you identified as the key reasons you are considering this investment, and how are you going to measure them?”
  2. What functionality will you need in your digital signage system so it can function effectively as a communication medium, and what if any CMS systems have you considered? While most CMS providers have achieved parity over the past five to six years, there are still significant differences in CMS offerings by manufacturer. For instance, there are systems that are designed for and definitely work better in the retail sector, while others have been designed with corporate communication clients in mind, while still others focus on verticals like QSR. Choosing the right CMS is absolutely one of the most intimidating elements for both reseller and buyer because, with well over 600 available, where do you start?  Who really has time to evaluate 600+ CMS packages?  Bear in mind that there is no single solution or CMS that will work in any specific instance. There are many workable solutions. 

One of the biggest values of working with a qualified reseller/integrator is that they have knowledge of what current and up-to-date CMS solutions will best fit the customer’s needs. Professional resellers/integrators should always sell value and not pre-packaged solutions or boxes. Warning: If the first question that you are asked is, “How many screens and how big a network are you envisioning?,” you’re not talking with someone who can translate your needs into a successful digital signage installation. Instead, a qualified professional knows to ask the right questions in order to provide the value of their experience and expertise.

Conversely, a buyer should always require an in-depth demonstration. Vaporware is not common now, but resellers who have only limited knowledge of the market choices are abundant.  The unfortunate result has been that most large digital signage deployments have had to change CMS solutions at least once, some many times, and as a customer, you never want to be one of those who has to go to that unnecessary expense.  Instead, work with someone that can offer an in-depth explanation of their reason for recommending any CMS.

  1.  My third question always addresses connectivity.One might think hardware should be next on the list to discuss, and while important, hardware does not impact the value proposition. And, as the easiest element to identify, hardware would follow as the fourth question. Connectivity, on the other hand, is still a challenge. Many want to jump right to wireless solutions, and while wireless can work, wireless connectivity frequently raises additional challenges. Digital signage content is often bandwidth intensive and hard-wired connectivity, if possible, is always preferable. Regardless of your choice of connectivity, one must recognize that connectivity is a make or break point in the success of your investment. One cannot have a digital signage display on a factory line or in a transportation center connecting only intermittently and get away with providing information only every few minutes.  Connectivity must be faultless and flawless to ensure continual service. Digital signage is a dynamic communication system, and connectivity is absolutely core to the success of the investment.

In summary:

  1. Identify the objectives of any proposed digital signage installation, and establish the metrics you will depend upon to ensure that your objectives are being met.
  2. Identify what the system will need to accomplish, and select the CMS that can best deliver what you need.
  3. Make sure your connectivity is rock solid.

About Author

Senior Solutions Specialist
Unified Technology Systems, A Solutionz, Inc. Company

Pro AV Council

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