Ask the Board – May 11, 2020 | DR. ELIZABETH CORNELL


“What is the most frequently overlooked aspect of creating a new digital signage network?”

Perhaps one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of creating a new digital signage network is the amount of time, effort, and number of moving parts involved to bring it to fruition. Whether you’re implementing a digital signage system for the first time or replacing an old one, make sure you’re armed with a well-thought-out plan. Having one ensures your project moves forward smoothly and on time. 

At a college or university, having a well-developed plan is especially important because your new digital signage system will probably cover a large footprint that may include indoor and outdoor spaces. Moreover, different screens may run different playlists simultaneously, tailored for multiple audiences – faculty, students, guests and others. The type of content that appears on those screens will also be diverse. Wayfinding, events, fundraising appeals, social media, emergency alerts, and basic information (such as how to get technical help) are among the kinds of content that might appear on the screens.

If you have a project manager at your disposal, don’t hesitate to bring him or her on board at the start. You’ll discover hundreds of moving parts and thousands of details that need to be overseen. 

Start by identifying your stakeholders. Doing so will enable you to establish what you need to build your digital signage system and what you want it to do. Your stakeholders and their needs, you’ll discover, are quite diverse, which is a reflection of your institution’s myriad community and the many components that make up your school’s operations and mission.

Stakeholders will include the various staff tasked with selecting a new system, installing it, creating the content, and testing it. These individuals will come from different areas of the school and include network engineers, IT, security and risk managers, and communications personnel. Also, consider staff from academic and administrative departments, and other groups in your institution who will use the system for their messages once it’s implemented. The football team and the enrollment office each serve different populations, and they’ll have vastly different needs for signage content and hardware. Engage as many people as you can early on, rather than after the fact. You’ll save time and money, and get more buy-in, which will also save on time and the need for revising your plan later.

Conversations with stakeholders will shape your plan for implementing the new system. Questions that will be raised may include technical requirements for a new system and how to ensure the system’s hardware and software will meet them. Once you’ve settled on a new digital system, determine who will remove the old system and when. Do you want both old and new systems to run simultaneously during the testing period? Who will train new users on the system, and when? Will you need an emergency alert system to run on the new system? Do old screens need to be replaced? The list goes on.

This foundational stage may take a while to get through, so set deadlines and keep the conversation moving. You’ll set your goals and timeline for the project based on these discussions.

Make sure that, before your new system is in place, you’ve made plans for its ongoing maintenance, such as a content calendar, a schedule to regularly refresh the content, software upgrades and hardware inspection. As for the people creating content, know that not everyone has the same level of design skills, even if your digital signage system has a built-in design component. Create templates for people to use, and make sure they’re aware of your school’s branding guidelines that dictate which colors and fonts to use for public-facing messages. If you’re training people to use the system, include some guidance for graphic design best practices. The marketing department may want to offer some governance oversight to ensure that only certain administrators approve content for display and that the content meets your institution’s visual branding standards.

Every school is different, and so no two plans will be alike. That’s what makes implementation challenging and why a good plan right from the start is so essential.

About Author

Director of Internal Communications
Fordham IT

End User Council

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