Lessons Learned from Managing Digital Signage Installations
by: Jessie Budd, Digital Media Specialist, Student Affairs Marketing at the University of Texas at Dallas
When working with technology we the encounter many struggles, and in some cases are faced with the unknown factors that come along with a constantly evolving work front. Over the last few years, I’ve learned the ins and outs of digital signage, from installation to content creation. I can say with confidence that I’ve made many mistakes along the way. But with each stumble, I’ve learned valuable lessons that I can now share.
In early 2015, I was given the task of upgrading our outdoor electronic sign. An old dinosaur, the giant pixelated LED display had come to the end of its cycle. While fluent in indoor digital signage, I was completely lost when it came to the hardware of this scale. I did my research around town looking for any, and all LED signs. Meeting with several vendors, I created a plan of action that was discussed with my team. When I received the OK to move forward, it seemed as if everything was going to go smoothly. Boy, was I mistaken!
We started in the spring and so did the rain, delaying the project again and again. When we were able to move forward, the heat was on literally, sending trickles of anxiety and stress down from upper management. The main setback in the project ended up being the vendor, that overnight transformed from kind and caring into a nightmare; always moving our needs to the back burner, not communicating problems or setbacks, and making it so we could only communicate with the sales representative off-site, not the technicians on-site. When the upgrades came to completion, I was relieved, to say the least, but as many may not know, the University of Texas at Dallas is a quickly expanding university and with that growth comes heavy construction. Before starting the assignment, I had worked with individuals from our facilities team to ensure the sign was out of any possible areas of expansion. Still, a mere six months later we were instructed to move the sign. Because the display was under new warranty due to upgrades, it meant working again with my vendor from the infernal regions.
When I heard this, I was filled with dread, but came to the realizati that I needed to transcend my fears and use them to ensure the mistakes made on my last assignment did not come into play during this move. There are a few things I have found are crucial when working on a project like this.
• One: no one is an expert at everything, so build a strong team you can fall back on for support. For me, this meant making connections with individuals in our electric shop; networking and housing departments who could back me up when things got rough.
• Two: always communicate with the team. Probably the most valuable thing I’ve started is creating an email group that throughout the project gets daily updates. This means no surprises, removing a huge amount of stress from upper management because they know what’s happening every step of the way. It also creates a level of expectation for those hard to manage vendors.
• Bringing me to number three: find and stick with a trusted vendor who has the same high standards for their work. I’ve discussed with my preferred vendor everything from hardware to installation and aesthetics, knowing I can trust in their suggestions and experiences. Keeping in mind and applying these three tips has morphed how I handled issues and improved my overall results.
While there are no perfect projects or ways to avoid every problem, these tips will help in the ability to foresee possible issues and plan solutions. There are many days I think ‘I wish I would’ve known this was going to happen’ but that’s not always possible, which is why with digital signage, it’s not how often we avoid technology issues, but how we overcome them. Each struggle we face poses as a new opportunity to step forward in understanding and in improving our solutions. With enthusiasm, I can say although the result is never quite what we planned, as issues rear their ugly heads, with problem-solving skills and a well-rounded team the result is always stronger.
Author Jessie Budd will serve as a panelist in Seminar 34 entitled, “Questions We Wish We Had Asked Before We Started,” on Thursday, March 30 at 2 pm at DSE 2017 to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information on this or any educational program offered at DSE 2017, or to learn more about digital signage go to www.dse2017.com
Jessie Budd is a Digital Media Specialist at the University of Texas at Dallas, acting as content and technology guru. Early this year, she was published in College Planning & Management on Reaching and Engaging Students with Digital Signage. Her passion is design and how it can be used to better communicate our ideas. Budd is pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts and will be continuing to explore the interaction between arts and technology, and how it applies to digital media.