Digital signage projects or networks look like IT jobs, but developing a strategy for how that system is going to look, work and operate starts with content, not technology.

To put it very simply: it’s what’s showing on the screens that matters more than the screens or all the other gear out of view that makes them work. Few people would watch TV if there was nothing on worth watching.

When developing a digital signage project, the initial planning discussions should dig deep into why the project is even on the table. What’s the problem screens would fix? What’s the opportunity screens present?

Coming up with objectives will start to shape a strategy, and it’s that strategy that will directly address what kinds of technology are needed for a project.

Here’s an example of what can go wrong: the architects of a new public building put a series of digital displays in the lobby in their conceptual and engineering drawings, and a pro AV firm is contracted to put them all in place. Once there in, the building team gathers and looks at the screens, and somebody asks, “So, what content are we putting on these screens?”

Trust us. This happens all the time.

It may very well turn out that the technology investment in those screens could have and should have been used for a digital directory in the two entry areas for the building, and a big multi-screen cluster on the lobby’s feature wall, showcasing the charitable work of the building’s sole tenant. Problem is, taking those screens down and re-using them would be both costly and impractical – especially since single displays won’t look great tiled together on a big video wall cluster.

The IT team of a company should definitely be directly involved in the planning phases of a digital signage project, but in most cases, the departments that should be guiding the project work on the marketing, HR and communications sides of the business. They have messaging challenges digital signage can resolve or make better.

The IT team should be there, however, to look at areas like: • Connectivity – Can the network use existing building internet, and is it wired or wireless? • Network security – Does a solution need to sit inside or outside a firewall? • Hardware selection – Does IT procurement mandate using certain PC vendors, which can rule out many signage solutions that use specific, usually better-suited solutions? • Management – Does IT want, or does IT have the resources, to handle any or all of the IT operations for the network? Increasingly, IT Departments are happy to see these outsourced to vendors so they can stay focused on mission-critical issues like security.

  • Connectivity – Can the network use existing building internet, and is it wired or wireless?
  • Network security – Does a solution need to sit inside or outside a firewall?
  • Hardware selection – Does IT procurement mandate using certain PC vendors, which can rule out many signage solutions that use specific, usually better-suited solutions?
  • Management – Does IT want, or does IT have the resources, to handle any or all of the IT operations for the network? Increasingly, IT Departments are happy to see these outsourced to vendors so they can stay focused on mission-critical issues like security.

Bottom line for planning: get all stakeholders in an organization – from marketing to building ops – into the initial planning meetings, so they’re informed and as engaged as they need to be. But don’t get fixated early on the idea of putting screens in place.

Instead, first sort out the objectives, and the content that will help meet those objectives.