Amazingly, fewer than half of new digital signage deployments are successful, according to a report by the consultant firm Futuresource. With so much time and money invested in digital signage, why is it that so many customers’ projects fail?
One reason may be that many networks aren’t fully vetted before they go live. It’s vital to consider every angle of a digital signage project before “pulling the trigger.” If your network isn’t completely ready, you and your customer could waste time and resources trying to make it successful against the odds. Or, in a worse-case scenario, deploying your content before the network is ready could have a negative impact on the customer’s brand.
The Network Readiness Process
Network readiness isn’t a simple, one-step accomplishment. There are many different angles to consider throughout the process of designing and deploying a digital signage network. To help ensure your next project is a success for both you and your customer, assess network readiness by keeping the following considerations in mind:
1. The exact makeup of the network infrastructure.
Your first main step is to think about how the network topography is actually designed. Consider how end points and network connections are going to interact with digital signage software and hardware. Are you working with wireless or wired networks? Will you be using any mesh or cellular connectivity? These factors will play a large role in the design of your digital signage backbone.
2. Network policies for end devices.
What are the existing network policies for end devices? Does your customer have any firewalls in place that could alter the effectiveness of the network? It’s especially important to note whether you will need to poke holes in any firewalls to allow the media player and the software communicate to the server. Most of the time, this is a red flag for a customer’s IT department and may require some additional time up front.
3. The nature of the application.
Without careful consideration, the actual nature of the digital signage could also impact your entire network’s readiness. Different applications have to be handled differently, so think about where each sign will be placed and what network it will reside on. For example, a digital sign that displays donor names in a hospital waiting room can be run on any network, since it doesn’t deal with any confidential information. However, a sign that displays patient-specific health information in an examination room requires a closed, highly secure network.
4. Handling outside traffic.
Make sure the digital signage network adheres to any security mandates the organization may have. What is the customer’s policy concerning allowing outside, unsecured traffic on the network? Your answer will be very different if the network is being designed for a retailer versus a hospital or bank, for example. End users in the healthcare and financial industries have far more stringent rules regarding outside traffic on internal networks, and many have express policies against it.
5. Bandwidth requirements.
How much bandwidth is the digital signage network going to require? Take a holistic approach to this question; not only will the content itself require bandwidth, but the normal day-to-day operation of a network also eats up part of the pipeline. Networks can experience bandwidth congestion from a variety of sources, some as simple as the regular diagnostic “pings” sent from your media player to its server.
6. Content readiness.
The old adage is still true: You want to get the right message to the right audience at the right time. And you can only do that if your content is optimized for digital signage. Spare your IT department the headache of having to manage a lot of data by making sure your content files are as compact as possible. Schedule large file downloads during non-critical times of the day and week to avoid using up valuable network bandwidth. For example, in a retail environment, you might not want to have content files downloading during business hours, when the end user needs bandwidth for processing credit card transactions.
7. Various stakeholders. Remember that the IT administrator or network operator that you’re working with on a given project isn’t the only person with a stake in its success. Marketing will want to know that their message is effectively broadcast; the CIO will want things to stay on-budget; and the CEO will want to see that the company objectives are being met. Before your network goes live, make sure that you’ve considered the perspective of each stakeholder so that you don’t find yourself playing catch-up afterward.
This type of careful preparation will, in the long run, save you and your customers valuable time and money, while also ensuring that their new digital signage network makes the positive, lasting impression that it should.
You Tell Us
Based on your experience, what steps do you use to ensure that a digital signage network is ready to go live? Have you ever had a customer push for a quicker deployment when you knew the network wasn’t quite ready? How did you handle it?