By Frank Kenna
Digital Signage (DS) means many things to many people. To some, it means going to Best Buy, buying a cheap TV, and hooking it up to an extra computer running PowerPoint to display memos and announcements. Sure, that’ll work, but that’s really just an electronic bulletin board. DS can do so much more for you, it’s a shame to stop there.
When “man meets machine,” the combination should be synergistic, that is, the combination should ideally produce results that are beyond the simple substitution of manual means. For example, the first automobile was actually a steam-driven artillery tractor for the French army with the aim of replacing the horse. But it wasn’t until there were paved roads and super highways that the benefit of getting places faster than ever before changed everything. Eliminating the horse had an advantage, but it was the addition of the roads that leveraged the benefit.
DS is similar. Simply buying hardware that will digitally recreate and replace bulletin boards is ignoring the huge leap in usability that well-designed DS software can deliver. Because it’s the combination of a human with the software that can deliver organization-changing benefits.
Another example is early computers. The typical company had a ‘mainframe’ down the hall in a special room that no one other than the anointed tech staff could touch. While those mainframes did deliver benefits, it wasn’t until personal computers with flexible software and applications came around that the computer revolution was launched. That’s happened because millions of people now had a tool with which they could interact, modify and think up ideas.
A good DS system does this. It gives the user a platform to work with, one that the user can easily experiment with, to leverage ideas and communication not possible before.
For instance, that guy who bought his own do-it-yourself system could indeed post a Word doc or PowerPoint show. But if he had a powerful DS instead, he’d be able to schedule that show in advance to play when he’s away. He could add a survey to it that employees could respond to on their smartphones. He could let them download it at the same time. He could run the show from a network location so it refreshed automatically each week with new content. He could display the show across his enterprise and time zones, showing it to certain groups of employees at certain times – and then get feedback from them.
This is just one very small difference that a well-designed DS system can make. Like the difference between the French guy trying to replace a horse, versus the mass production techniques that led to superhighways and modern civilization, the approach you take to buying and implementing your DS can make a vast difference.