Planning A Digital Signage Network: What You Need To Know

Posted on: February 04, 2016


It is vitally important, early in the process, to clearly understand what the long term goals are when planning to build a new digital signage network. There are many financial and technical implications in planning for all aspects of the network from the head-end to the remote sites. Questions like whether or not to invest in data center hardware and software or utilize a SaaS cloud solution or a hybrid of both. Without proper infrastructure planning and design, a new digital signage network may be very costly over time to maintain or grow. There are a few key areas to consider, in the early stages of designing a new network.

Identify Stakeholders

The first area to consider, is an understanding who the key stakeholders are for planning and design. This will allow for downstream activities to flow much smoother and stay on schedule. These stakeholders will range from end users in marketing, advertising and operations to network and IT. Each group will need representation in the design and planning process in order to consider all perspectives. These stakeholders will bring unique viewpoints to implications on current processes and infrastructure as well as the impacts new infrastructure might have. This early engagement with representation from each organization will also contribute to the long term success of the network. Including these groups and stakeholders to provide specific requirements, will create buy-in and commitment over time and avoid critical road blocks later in the process.

Gather System Requirements

Another key consideration, is the requirements gathering process. It is often overlooked as a non-critical step in the project timeline. In some cases, a supplier or project team will begin with a solution or specific technology and show an end user how it can solve a business need or problem. This however is not the correct approach. It is very important to begin by collecting business or technical requirements from each of the designated end users or stakeholders. This step is key to designing the right solution for all parties involved. Many end users will have a specific business need or problem to solve, so it is incumbent upon the project team to ask enough good questions during the requirements gathering process to fully understand these issues. This will also help shape the criteria that will be used later to measure and understand the long term success of the network implementation.

Recognize Impact

It is also critical to consider and recognize impacts on existing processes or infrastructure. After the dust settles on a new network deployment, there is an ongoing cost of ownership. The cost of ownership is not only a capital or expense impact, it has an impact on many different resources. In many cases these resources will be network bandwidth as well as human bandwidth. These new networks will require ongoing management, maintenance, ‘care and feeding’ and may need to coexist on existing data networks. Many times a business team does not understand or appreciate the implications to an IT infrastructure. This must be considered during the planning process to avoid major difficulties later in the lifecycle. A careful analysis and impact assessment of these resources will help insure each area is considered and long term success is possible. Sometimes the impact may be to a current internal business process or organizational workflow. Often, the impacted organizations will have initial objections to these changes, but with good teamwork and a common goal, these objections can be overcome.

Anticipate Growth

Another area to consider when planning for a digital signage network, is growth. Does the hardware, software or infrastructure solution stand up against the lifecycle test? Does it make sense to outsource all or part of the network? If the financial investment is for the new digital signage network to remain in service for a 3 to 5 year lifecycle, does the infrastructure and technology pass this test? The longer the planned lifecycle is, the more focus must be on ‘future proofing’ the solution. Software and hardware for these networks is typically is offered at varying levels of capabilities at different cost levels. It may be necessary to invest in higher end technology with more capabilities initially, in order to remain relevant for a longer lifecycle. Too often, an end user will invest in a new digital signage network to solve short term needs and not consider what longer term needs may be on the horizon. With these lower end solutions, it will typically cost more over time to replace and upgrade rather than build the network right the first time. 

It is important to remember that engaging all impacted organizations and executing with a proper planning and design process for a new digital signage network may require more time and resources to be done correctly, but the end result will likely be a better more successful long term solution.

About the Author

Tim Johnson
Tim Johnson

Tim is currently working with YCD Multimedia in a sales and business development role with a focus on enterprise clients and strategic partnerships. He recently served as Sr. Technical Director for Concept Development and Innovations (CDI) in the AT&T Mobility IT organization. His group’s specialty was on retail in-store technologies and innovations, with a current focus on interactive experiences and digital signage technologies. The CDI team is responsible for thousands of interactive displays, self-service kiosks and digital signs nationwide inside AT&T retail stores. He attended Georgia State University where he studied Business and Multimedia Communications. Tim has been in and around technology innovation and the human factors industry for over 22 years and has a passion for end user acceptance. His motto is, “If a user can’t use it, it doesn’t work!”.

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