A service by any other name...
Image credit: Purple Slog
- Logistics Management: Hardware and software inventory control (possibly but not necessarily including purchasing), shipping and receiving management and RMA/warranty management.
- Strategy Consulting: Figuring out what the network is responsible for, setting goals and objectives, establishing measurement criteria for determining whether said goals and objectives have been reached, and possibly translating valid business lingo into management gobblygook to get the deal sold.
- Project Planning: Developing an itemized to-do list of things that must be done before, during and after each screen is installed, parceling these tasks out to the relevant teams/groups, and making sure each team achieves their goals (and dealing with the fallout when they don't).
- Content Strategy Consulting: Upon figuring out the strategic purpose of the network, figuring out how to make content that will work towards those ultimate goals. May include aspects of content creation, but is often confined to a strategic and then editorial capacity.
- Content Production: Making all the pretty content that fills up the screens, and (frequently) cleaning up the not-so-pretty content that other people give you to put on your screens.
- Content Management: Assigning the content to the different screens on the network (and different areas on the screen) as appropriate, and then making sure that the content played correctly, at the right dates and times, and in the proper order and proportion.
- Network/Operations Management: Once the network is up and running, making sure that the screens continue to function properly, watching for systemic errors, and dealing with the random errors and issues that crop up over time.
- Initial Project Management: Some people choose to break out their project management into phases, and have a team dedicated only to the deployment phase. These people are responsible for coordinating site surveys, on-site construction (if needed), installation, shipping/receiving of the various parts that must arrive at each site, and generally making sure that each screen gets installed and turned on according to schedule.
- Ongoing Project Management: For networks that continue to grow over time, these services are very similar to those listed under "initial project management." For those that tend to deploy all-at-once and then stop, the services might look more like those under "network/operations management."
- Installation Services: The art of hanging screens, running power/network cables, drilling, hammering and otherwise making lots of noise all in the name of getting screens installed and lit.
Looking at the overall results
|Service||We do it in-house||We outsource it||We don't bother with it|
|Content Strategy Consulting||74%||23%||3%|
|Initial Project Management||89%||9%||2%|
|Ongoing Project Management||86%||10%||4%|
What do these results mean?
I'm pretty confused by some of the results, and I bet you are too. For example, how can somebody "not bother with" installation services? Is your network in a bunch of boxes in a warehouse somewhere? Likewise, 6% of people opted out of content production. How on earth does that work? I understand that you can do a lot with Twitter and RSS feeds, but seriously, are there really networks out there that don't have any custom content at all? Even throwing the word "Jim" into your "Happy Birthday!" template and hitting "Save" would count in my book. Perhaps that 6% didn't think so.
On the other hand, I was very pleased to see that only 3% of respondents gave no consideration to content strategy consulting, though a large number still do this in-house (and my bet is that a fair number of those aren't doing a great job). Even just a few years ago, that number would have been much higher. For the most part, people today seem to understand that digital signage isn't just nuts-and-bolts. It's also arts-and-crafts. Along a similar vein, strategy consulting is done by all but 4% of the respondents polled, though again the vast majority (86%) are handling this in-house. While I believe that most of the networks coming out in the last few years are dramatically better than their predecessors, I still feel that a few days (or sometimes even hours) with a bona fide digital signage expert would help virtually everyone undertaking a new project or revamping an old one.
Not surprisingly, installation was the service most likely to be outsourced. That makes sense, since most people don't have big crews of carpenters, electricians and A/V installers on hand everywhere they want to place a screen. Project planning, which is certainly a very critical element during every stage of a network's life, was the service most likely to be handled in-house. This is probably how it should be -- provided you have some experience doing project planning in-house, that is.
These results speak volumes about the transition of digital signage from a back-room operation largely handled by AV folks to a kinder, gentler sort of project that is now being approached by people with sales, marketing, corporate communications and other backgrounds. While the variety of people and skill sets can make a digital signage solution a bit challenging to sell (since you have to know your buyer and what his pain points are), it also means more opportunities as the marketplace continues to swell. As I noted earlier, the data I've covered today is just the top-line results from the entire set of 223 respondents. Next week, I'll segment the numbers into our small, large, mixed, and no experience groups to highlight some specific trends. In the meanwhile, I'd certainly appreciate your feedback:
Are there any services missing from my list? If you're a service provider, do you agree with my definitions for the items listed above? Please leave a comment and let me know.