Choosing the right technologies has never been more complex, nor key to the success of the digital signage installation and everyone involved. As part of Integrator education during DSE17, I’ll demystify the process and provide a framework for making hardware and software choices that fit the requirement.
Photo credit: Intel Corp.
Integrators constantly ask, “What software, flat panels and media player should I use?” — in particular as these technologies and end user needs are constantly advancing. The most suitable technologies serve current needs and future-proof the digital signage network. The selection process must serve the interests and concerns of a range of departments within the end user organization and make sense for the integrator that is putting its reputation on the line.
Integrator opportunities are coming from new projects, expanding systems, upgrades and corrections (i.e., right-sizing) as many existing installations have proven their value to brands and end users and are poised for expansion.
In the major markets served by digital signage, physical retail is challenged by online shopping, food services and grocery battle daily for share of $1.6 trillion in annual North America food spending and new nutritional posting regulations become effective Dec. 1, 2016. Banking and credit unions are challenged to succeed in a low interest rate economy and all forward-looking organizations are seeking greater productivity of places, processes and staff and the need for improved customer experience.
End users have benefited from a wide range of supply options, but at the same time have experienced sourcing confusion that has stalled projects. End users’ expectations of software providers have increased since media management is at the core of efficient digital signage system operations. Total cost of ownership relates primarily to system operations and poor vendor selection can become the most expensive mistake of any project. Because Content Management Software (CMS) functionality from many providers looks very similar, the key selection criteria for CMS is increasingly based on relevant application experience, stability of the provider and value-added services by or through the primary provider.
Source: Google images
Technology selection starts with knowing the business objectives that are to be accomplished by the digital signage investment. This allows a definition of what content must be presented to achieve the results. Content awareness then enables selection of the most suitable technologies to present the content that achieves the return on investment.
Integrators need to describe why they are recommending certain technologies, and their ability to do this well results in both their business success and that of the project. Mistakes are the most expensive part of any project — there are so many supply options available to end users that the ability of an integrator to describe how they are delivering value becomes a strength toward winning the service opportunity.
Many flat panel options look similar, but each offers unique value in multiple ways. The lines appear to have been blurring between consumer and commercial grade with descriptors such as “prosumer” or “light duty commercial,” which calls on deeper assessment of the flat panel options available. It is what is “under the hood” that matters most in the cost/benefit decision.
The term “good enough” too often defines the relationship between cost and benefit. Cost reflects production, service and mark-up while benefits reflect functionality in the context of the overall technology ecosystem and expected life.
All flat panels models are not created equal. Connectivity, features and adjustment control all add to the benefits that the display can deliver over its service life. Unlike the plug-and-play of home TV, which requires minimal set up, digital signage is a demanding application of media presentation requiring long hours of reliable use. They must often be set for optimal performance in the environment in which they will operate with internal adjustments automatically applied for optimal performance. Assure that optimal performance is part of your Total Cost of Ownership assessment.
Content management software (CMS) is the most impactful contribution to total cost of operations over the four+ year life of the system. Functions available, ease of use and the stability of the CMS provider are the primary selection criteria, but within these are multiple characteristics. I will address these issues in his DSE17 presentation in the Integrator education track.
The way that technology selection relates to the Request for Proposal and proposal submission processes is another topic I’ll address in this session. The intention is to save the integrator time and money in the supply process while helping them to reduce project risk and maximum return on investment.
As digital signage becomes of ever-increasing importance to the achievement of revenue, margin, cost containment and customer experience goals of end users, integrators are challenged to improve their supply capabilities. Part of this lies in being more rigorous in defining the technology elements that they propose and provide. Doing this well will assure their own success.
Author Lyle Bunn will present Seminar 24 entitled, “Buying Digital Signage – Sourcing Pre-RFP to Contracting,” on Thursday, March 30 at 11am at DSE 2017 to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information on this or any educational program offered at DSE 2017 or to learn more about digital signage go to www.dse2017.com
Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon.) is North America’s longest-serving independent digital signage industry analyst, advisor and educator. Lyle has assisted hundreds of end user and supply organizations to benefit from digital signage, has published over 350 articles, whitepapers and guidebooks and has helped to train more than 10,000 professionals through live and online presentations. Reach him at Lyle@LyleBunn.com.
Technology selection is a major section of the Digital Signage Planning Guide by Lyle Bunn, now in its sixth edition. See it here.