In the crowded space of digital signage solutions, picking one is becoming increasingly difficult. This is further complicated by the multitude of stakeholders with varying requirements – from marketing and communications to operational and most importantly, IT stipulations.
With over a decade’s experience working with buyers across multiple companies and departments, we have come across a lot of variety in the level of sophistication and knowledge about digital signage systems. For the most part, buyers have a fairly clear vision of the overall objective of the signage network and what kind of content they would like to have. But most buyers, even experienced C-level executives, do not know the pros/cons between different digital signage technology architectures say, on-premise vs hosted, or between a solution developed in PHP vs Python or an android-based vs Linux-based solution. Neither do they have the time nor see a need to learn to be an expert. Rightly so.
Gleaning from our direct experience with thousands of digital signage deployments, we draw upon our conversations with CIOs, IT directors, project managers and system engineers. While a cliche assertion, the technical success of a digital signage project depends, to a large part, on its pre-sale evaluation, i.e. the Q&A between the project manager and the vendor.
Don’t Ask These Questions
During a typical 8-10 week evaluation process, we respond to approximately 12-15 “technically-included” questions. While most are relevant and critically important, there are other questions we get asked ALL THE TIME, but in a very imprecise way that leaves a lot to interpretation.
Here are some of our (not-so) favorite questions:
How good is your support?
At Mvix, we are frequently asked this question and we proudly launch ourselves in a monolog of the fact that we provide a 3-pronged support structure which includes 24/7 phone support, help desk tickets, and knowledgebase articles, with 2 hierarchical levels of technical sophistication (which we refer as Level-1 and Level-2 support). But did it “really” answer the question of how “good” our support is? Obviously not.
Is your software easy to use?
Hands-down, one of the most “blah” questions. It’s akin to asking “How easy is it to drive a car?” or “How easy is it to use a computer?” or “How easy is it to ___________ (fill in your favorite task)?” The answer for either of these questions is obvious – it’s not about the software, but the user’s adaptation. No vendor will ever tell you that their software is not easy to use. If they thought so, they would’ve corrected it anyways.
Think again, are these really the best ways to ask such questions to get a detailed, meaningful and valid answer?
So, what questions should IT directors ask to vet digital signage providers?
Regardless of your industry and/or your specific functional needs, the questions listed below are critical to ask of any prospective digital signage providers. Ask them to make sure you are fully identifying business opportunities, analyzing security capabilities, effectively checking references, setting the right implementation expectations, accessing the necessary level of training and support, putting yourself in a position to scale for future company growth, and understanding how to measure the results of your investment.
Ask These Instead
There are several ways to approach this, but for the purpose of simplicity let’s divide into product questions and support questions.
Product and Evolution:
Targeted questions IT directors can ask about applications and platforms:
What language is it developed in? What development methodology is used?
How frequent are new releases? What is your process for rolling these out? Are there fees for upgrades to new versions? Can you give some examples of new features released in the last upgrade?
Has the product offering expanded by acquiring other companies and connecting different solutions, or has the whole code base been developed as one platform?
What percentage of time does the development team spend on support vs R&D?
The goal of these questions is to understand if the product has a ton of legacy code.
More lines of code is NOT good. It means more time spent on maintenance and more work and cost associated with upgrades. Upgrades will take longer and major changes in the user interface become almost impossible.
Support and Onboarding:
Targeted questions that IT directors can ask include:
Will I have an assigned point of contact to support me?
What is the guaranteed uptime per the SLA? What is the average response time?
What percentage of issues are solved in 1 contact or 8 business hours?
The goal here should be to understand if support is Proactive or Reactive.
Most buyers don’t understand that if a product is functioning perfectly, a large amount of support time is taken up responding to “bugs” which are not really bugs. They are really a misunderstanding by the client on how to use the solution. Companies that provide dedicated training resources can prevent this confusion for their clients, providing a much better experience.
This is just the tip of the iceberg; the more specific questions buyers ask, the happier they will be with the digital signage fit and the more successful the relationship will be.
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