Questions to Ask when Shopping for Digital Signage Software

EPISODE 35 | Guest: Ellyce Kelly, client relationship manager, Visix, Inc.

Digital signage software isn’t an off-the-shelf product. The content management system (CMS) you’ll need will depend on what you want to accomplish with it. We’ve put together a list of questions to ask when you’re shopping around to help you determine which system is right for your organization.

Knowing for what you want to do now – and what you might want to do in the future – before starting the purchasing process can save you a lot of headaches and money down the road.

  • Learn how your audience and goals will affect workflows
  • Map out who is going to use it and how
  • Plan for both design freedom and limitations
  • Consider data integration, interactivity and alerts
  • Think about expansion to other screens and BYOD endpoints
  • Don’t ignore support and services

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Learn more about this topic in our Masterclass Guide 1: Digital Signage Systems Overview

Get our infographic 10 Questions to Ask When Buying Digital Signage


Derek DeWitt: So, you’re out and about, you’re living your life and you walk past some kind of a screen, and there’s a cool image or some animation on it. There’s a short message with this intriguing and easy-to-follow call to action, and you think, “Wow, that’s really engaging. It’s fantastic. I think I want that in my organization. I’ve been seeing this everywhere. It’s showing up in more and more places. I think it’s time that we also got this. I wonder how much it will cost?” And of course, the answer to that question is it depends; and that’s not just a way to avoid having the conversation. It really does depend; it’s not a cop out.

And a lot of organizations, to be honest, they go about it the wrong way, cause problems for themselves down the road. They might even end up with a less effective system than they needed or that they wanted because they don’t really know the right questions to ask as they’re shopping.

 I mean you’re looking at not just hardware but software. In fact, you should look for the software first. That’s the thing that people use every day, and so on. It’s the CMS, it’s the software where the magic happens. And different companies have different kinds of software available. How do you know which one’s the right one for you? I mean, there are now hundreds (no joke) of companies in the marketplace. So how are we supposed to sift through all this and find the one that’s right for us?

To help us answer some of those questions we have with us today. Ellyce Kelly, client relationship manager for Visix. Hi Ellyce.

Ellyce Kelly: Hi Derek. Great to see you.

Derek DeWitt: Good to see you. I’d like to thank Ellyce for talking to me today, and we’d like to thank all of you for listening.

Okay, so when I was thinking about this, I kind of came up with what I anticipate are the first four questions somebody might ask.

Ellyce Kelly: All right.

Derek DeWitt: So, I’m going to ask them to you, you’re the expert.

Ellyce Kelly: Whew! Pressure. Okay!

Derek DeWitt: No pressure, right? So first off: I saw it, I think it’s cool, but my boss is going to ask me, what’s the purpose of digital signage? What is it for? Isn’t it just electronic posters? What’s the answer to that? What do I tell him? Or her?

Ellyce Kelly: That really depends on how it’s going to be used. Is it only for organizational communications? Meaning is it an internal audience?

Derek DeWitt: Right, employees and so on.

Ellyce Kelly: Employees, yep. Or is it going to be also for public? Or is it just going to be for public? So maybe in a lobby, for example, an atrium.

Derek DeWitt: Right. So actually, that’s the first thing you’ve got to ask is what’s it for? Because I think it’d be different workflows in the CMS.

Ellyce Kelly: It would be different workflows and also it could be a combination.

Derek DeWitt: Like, we see it a lot in airports or shopping centers. And that particular kind of software is designed for that environment.

Ellyce Kelly: Very specifically. For example, retail. So, you will see this in retail. So, that’s typically, we’ll use a point of sale software and that is different. There are a lot of different softwares out there.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. It’s not going to work so great at a manufacturing hub or a corporate hub, or a college.

Ellyce Kelly: It’s not, it’s not going to be able to show, you know, KPIs at a manufacturing facility.

Derek DeWitt: All right. So unfortunately, there’s no easy answer there. The answer to “What’s the overall purpose?” is “What do you want to use it for?”

Ellyce Kelly: Who’s your audience? Start with that.

Derek DeWitt: All right. How big a budget should I start asking for? Because they’re going to ask me about money.

Ellyce Kelly: They are going to ask you about money, but don’t fall into a trap of thinking shortsightedly okay? Because the budget is going to be for at least 18 to 24 months, if not longer. But you’ll also, you’re going to need to do a networking survey to make sure you’re covering all costs for installing the system. Gotta get qualified IT people to look at power, network connectivity (put a bunch of Power over Ethernet, beautiful room signs). How are we going to do that? Where do we have a switch? All that good stuff.

You really, this all comes down to, too, you’ve got to get the right people involved, which we’ll talk about it a little bit later, but you want to do this before you start hanging screens all over the place and installing room signs and then say, “Well, how are we going to get that thing powered on? Oh, it’s Power over Ethernet; just stick it in the back.”

Derek DeWitt: Well, we can’t drill a hole through there and stick a cable. This is a historic building.

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly. There you go. You’ve hit the nail on the head.

Derek DeWitt: Well, I mean, the truth is though, now (maybe a few years ago, not so much, but now) I type in “digital signage” into a search engine, and I see a lot of free digital signage. So why shouldn’t I just use this free digital signage? Why should I pay money for it?

Ellyce Kelly: Is it really free?

Derek DeWitt: I don’t know.

Ellyce Kelly: That’s my first question when I see that. And a lot of folks that have had free software, (quote unquote free) end up coming to us and it turns out it’s really not free.

Derek DeWitt: So why not? What are the hidden costs?

Ellyce Kelly: It could be a number of things. So, they might have proprietary hardware that goes, you know.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, so the software only plays on their hardware, and (by the way) it’s got quite a price tag.

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly.

Derek DeWitt: Right, I got you.

Ellyce Kelly: Even better is, their software features are so limited that there’s no real support or service.

Derek DeWitt: Right. So, it’s like, “Hey, you bought it and we don’t offer support.”

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly. “We don’t have a support team.”

Derek DeWitt: So, it’s maybe too simple for what you’re trying to accomplish.

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly.

Derek DeWitt: Because, the fact of the matter is not all digital signage is the same thing.

Ellyce Kelly: No, it’s really not.

Derek DeWitt: There are gourmet hamburgers, there’s a hundred-dollar hamburger, there’s a dirt-cheap cheap hamburger.

Ellyce Kelly: A hamburger stand.

Derek DeWitt: White Castle. Hamburger stand.

Ellyce Kelly: Nothing wrong with White Castle, though.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, you eat ’em.

Ellyce Kelly: But yeah, if you need an entire campus though, you’re not going to probably want some free software. I mean, does it have alert features? Can you trigger from a third party, CAP compliant? No. Most likely not.

Derek DeWitt: So, you’ve got to think again, about your circumstances, but if you’re looking for something larger, something that’s made for enterprise-level.

Ellyce Kelly: Yeah, don’t fall into the free trap. I know that’s a big good word that, you know, gets people’s attention, but…

Derek DeWitt: So, you said get the right people involved. Who? Who should be involved in the buying process?

Ellyce Kelly: Well, I can tell you who it’s not, and it’s not one person.

Derek DeWitt: Joseph? It’s all on you!

Ellyce Kelly: It’s all on you.

Derek DeWitt: I expect a report on my desk in ten days.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. Then Joseph is going to be looking for another job, right? So, certainly not at the beginning. This needs to be a team effort.

I would say the biggest mistake is when, maybe an IT person buys the system and has not consulted with anyone else, and then they hand it off to somebody to use and to get all the content up and they’re literally blindsided. I have experienced this quite a bit in my life, here. And they just don’t even know what they’re supposed to do. They don’t know what they even…

Derek DeWitt: Right. “Now you do this!” “What is it?” “Bye!”

Ellyce Kelly: Think about it, they already have a day job, and now they have a digital signage responsibility job, or task, that’s been added to them. So, let’s get a group together, not just an individual. Make it a team effort, so that you’ve basically got continuity, right? No matter what happens with your staff, you’ve got a team of people, they’re going to take it to its fullest potential.

Because the last thing you want to do is buy something that you, even if you get content up, what if it doesn’t change? It just stays on the same stuff you had on day one.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, we don’t want that.

Ellyce Kelly: You just literally threw away all of your money.

Derek DeWitt: So, these are basically four things we look at. How much money, should we go free, what are we going to use it for, and who should we get involved in this buying process?

So, if you do that, you probably eliminated a good number of the companies out there. We’re not saying they’re bad companies, but they’re not right for us.

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly.

Derek DeWitt: And now we’re looking at a few companies. So, then we have more specific questions you might want to ask. And I think the first one obviously is – I’m assuming I’m a medium, medium-sized to large-sized organization, company, college manufacturer, whatever, whatever the heck it is. Next question is, is it specifically for organizational communications? Because if it isn’t, I’m going to run into trouble. Right?

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. You mentioned this earlier, actually, you said workflows. Workflows are different in offices and on campuses, right? So, you don’t want digital signage software that’s made for retailers or airports.

Derek DeWitt: Right, right, right, because they’re totally different.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. Because there’s going to be just a few features you might be able to use, and then you’re not going to use all of these other features.

Derek DeWitt: Because they don’t exist.

Ellyce Kelly: It’s a waste of money. Right.

Derek DeWitt: Because airport digital signage doesn’t need to be able to do this and that and the other thing.

Ellyce Kelly: Yup, yup.

Derek DeWitt: And another question I think is going to be, should I get an on-premise, native application or should I do a cloud-hosted solution? I mean, they both have pluses and minuses, right?

Ellyce Kelly: They do. So, I would say desktop software’s going to limit you to a single computer.

Derek DeWitt: Usually.

Ellyce Kelly: Usually.

Derek DeWitt: Unless you get a site license.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes, that’s true. And so, but then you get web-based software and it lets anyone in your organization with a browser access, with a password of course, to be able to post. And of course, you give them all the access you want or not all.

Derek DeWitt: You can control it.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes, you can control it. But that certainly makes it a lot easier than, say, a desktop application.

Derek DeWitt: And then there’s this idea, too, of having web-based CMSs, which I know you guys at Visix make a lot of. And this kind of allows more people to, provided they have the credentials, the authorities, they can contribute. So it’s not just, “Hey, this computer on this desk in this room is the only one that can create and schedule content.” People can do it from wherever if it’s web based.

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly.

Derek DeWitt: And then obviously the next thing to look at is, okay, is it friendly? I mean, does it have a good interface? Does it have good friendly tools? Does it have templates so that I can control my content and how it looks?

Ellyce Kelly: So we talk about, you know, like I said, day one, I mean if you don’t have any content to show at work, if you get content up on day one and it’s just a big old still image, then you’re just looking at a poster, right? And then you bought a really fancy digital poster.

Derek DeWitt: The good news is it won’t tear.

Ellyce Kelly: It will not tear. This is a very good point. So, but here’s the thing, and I’m one of these people, not everybody is a graphic designer.

Derek DeWitt: Though, I’ve got to be honest and say, as someone who’s married to a designer, a lot of people sure think they are.

Ellyce Kelly: I was going to say! I like to joke that I’m a PowerPoint master design expert because I can click on a template and it can make it pretty, and then I think it looks…

Derek DeWitt: Slide Master!

Ellyce Kelly: Slide Master. That’s right. That is not the same as a graphic designer or a multimedia artist. And let’s just face it, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I am not good at any of that. So, make sure that your software has some very easy design and scheduling tools. So, in addition to the designer piece, I’m also, maybe I’m not super great at computers. Or, let’s make it easy. I mean, right?

Derek DeWitt: Why not?

Ellyce Kelly: Make it easy? So, you want good-looking templates. Now everybody knows as soon as you get a template, you want to change it. Well, it’s also nice if the software maybe allows you to allow the designer to not let someone change that template. That’s something that’s a little deeper of a feature, but I’d make sure it’s got it if you really care about what’s on those screens.

Derek DeWitt: Well, again, it depends on if you know you’re going to only have one or two people making content, then you don’t need a CMS that has that. If you’d know that you want to do something web-based, that is going to have multiple contributors, then maybe you should at least have the capability of limiting what they do.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes.

Derek DeWitt: So that you make sure it always looks good. Because yeah, I mean, I’m not saying people are doing it to be evil, to be trolls or something, but there are people who just think “That looks great!” and it just doesn’t.

Ellyce Kelly: Some folks still like clip art.

Derek DeWitt: Back to the clip art.

Ellyce Kelly: I’m back to the clip art, I know.

Derek DeWitt: Damn you, clip art!

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. So you know, you’ve got to make sure, again, those workflows, that’s something else that’s important. Make sure that folks are comfortable with those workflows. I mean if it’s really complicated and if, let’s say we do have somebody in IT who’s looking at this, if they think it’s clunky…

Derek DeWitt: I’ve talked to the sales folks and still the primary purchaser of digital signage, that Visix has found anyway, is it’s usually given to the IT department. But they are not the people who use it.

Ellyce Kelly: Right.

Derek DeWitt: So, they have a whole different way of approaching how they look at the software and so on. Because they’re like “Well, this workflow makes total sense. It’s only 15 steps.”

Ellyce Kelly: Right. Exactly!

Derek DeWitt: And the person who’s actually in charge of it is going, “Oh my God, it’s 15 steps!”

Ellyce Kelly: Yeah. And you’ve got to learn it, right? So, there’s a lot of pieces. And you know, there’s little things like drag and drop. I mean I say that’s a little thing; we have it, so to me it’s a little thing.

Derek DeWitt: It is great to be able to just go whip, and drag it on there and drop it in. Are the workflows intuitive to a non-IT person?

Ellyce Kelly: Yeah. And can you design in the software? Or can you only import stuff and that’s it? You can import, you can’t do anything else. You don’t get to change the templates. Can you imagine if you had someone who was expecting, “Well, we need to make this look like our brand, and this needs to look like our school with our school colors” and “No, all you can do is import, and you can’t change that color”? That’s not going to work for you.

Derek DeWitt: That’s our colors, said the software CMS company. That’s not going to work for me.

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly. I don’t know who does that, but we don’t.

Derek DeWitt: And then again, what are you going to use it for? So, what features, what bells and whistles you want? Does it daypart? That could be very useful.

Ellyce Kelly: That recurring schedule is critical.

Derek DeWitt: Maybe you might want to create your own templates.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. Everybody wants to get a template and change it. Right?

Derek DeWitt: That’s for sure. So, those are the kinds of things you’re looking for. What about, you said it allows you to import things. What about data integration? Is that something I should be looking at maybe?

Ellyce Kelly: Yes! Absolutely. So, if you think about it, a lot of what you’re going to put on your screen is already in another system, or is another system.

Derek DeWitt: So, like an event calendar or something.

Ellyce Kelly: Event calendar. EMS, Google, Exchange. You know, you can easily import this information if you think about it. Weather, news, Excel, data, dashboards.

Derek DeWitt: So, there I’m not really creating the content, I’m simply gathering the content and, in my design, saying, “Okay, put it here, put it here, put it here.”

Ellyce Kelly: Think about KPIs. In my own experience, within literally the last week. A KPI that is already being produced, it’s already being generated by another software, and now it’s up on our screens in the hallway.

Derek DeWitt: In your branded colors, with your wheels or bar graphs or whatever you want.

Ellyce Kelly: And that literally just shows graphics based on these numbers. But it makes you do something, makes you respond. I mean that’s critical. But not all software allows you to do that.

Derek DeWitt: If you’re not going to have dedicated, a full-time job, or two or three…this is what you do, you deal with the digital signage. If it is going to be part time, having some kind of data integration, automated content takes a massive load off of those contract creator’s shoulders.

Ellyce Kelly: It really does and it’s something you’re already utilizing. It’s something that people need to know.

If you think about it, a lot of folks are not just dedicated to digital signage, that’s what they do all day, every day; they have already had a job in place and, “Oh by the way, now you’re responsible for this.” So, let’s make it a little easy on them, and also get the audience some useful info.

Derek DeWitt: Right. What about alert messaging modes?

Ellyce Kelly: This is obviously very popular. If you think about it, severe weather. So, we get a few, a bazillion tornado warnings every now and then, right? A lot of our customers see those, too. Those are pretty much everywhere, certainly in the US.

Derek DeWitt: Well, not in California. We don’t have tornadoes.

Ellyce Kelly: Well, they got a firenado last year in California.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, I saw that in the news. That’s crazy!

Ellyce Kelly: And I’d want to know about that if that were coming.

Derek DeWitt: That’s probably not a template yet. Firenado! Sharknado!

Ellyce Kelly: If you’re triggering that from your CAP-compliant third party, Rave Alert or Alertus.

Derek DeWitt: Oh that’s true, it would automatically do it, right?

Ellyce Kelly: There’s many more, I’m just naming those two off the top of my head. But yes, I bet they’ve got one.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. And if not, they can do it.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes, and they probably will now. So, safety alerts. Other types of emergency notifications or, you know, you could have a hazmat situation in a science lab or something on those [lines] or a construction issue where, you know, the earth cracked.

Derek DeWitt: Ah, sinkhole.

Ellyce Kelly: It’s a sinkhole. I mean there’s all sorts of things. You can…

Derek DeWitt: It doesn’t always need to be dire though, right?

Ellyce Kelly: Definitely not.

Derek DeWitt: I could be something like the cell tower is under maintenance and the network is down, going to be down for half an hour. And that’s also kind of an alert.

Ellyce Kelly: It is kind of an alert because it’s making you aware of something that’s going to impact your day, but it doesn’t, yeah it doesn’t have to be necessarily something that is dire.

Derek DeWitt: What about interactivity? More and more and more, we see everybody wants to interact with screens. We’re interacting with screens all the time anyway. Every screen I see has fingerprints on it. Is this something I should think about when I’m looking for a CMS?

Ellyce Kelly: Absolutely. And I’ll tell you what, if you think about it, you’re on a touchscreen all day, every day, right? I mean there’s times when you’re not, like right now when you’re doing this. But if you think about it, your phone is a touchscreen, your iPad is a touchscreen, right?

They’re a great way to engage your audience. It’s something that’s obviously going on in our everyday lives anyway. If you don’t have touchscreens right now, you may want to plan for them. And does the software allow you to take advantage of interactivity without having touchscreens? I know ours does.

Derek DeWitt: Oh! What do you mean?

Ellyce Kelly: So, you can set things to time. So if someone can’t walk up to a screen, can you go ahead and tell the product to do something totally different, for the screen to change after a certain amount of time, or after this video plays, then it goes back to something else, and you have that video take over the whole screen on a recurring schedule? Or some ad or something else?

Even though you don’t have maybe a touchscreen now, does the software allow you to build that type of content? And then when you do have touchscreens, and you can add in your interactivity and your wayfinding and your directories, and be able to find, you know, where the professor is on this level or the doctor is on this level, you don’t want to buy something that doesn’t support that for when are ready. If you don’t already have it.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that would be a real bummer to spend all this time getting the software, get everything up and going.

Ellyce Kelly: You’ll need new software!

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. A year later you say, “You know what, let’s get some interactivity in there. Oh, this software does not support that.”

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly. Yeah. Because then you’re going to go through all of this; you’re going to spend more money.

Derek DeWitt: And of course, I mean you don’t even need interactive screens per se. I know that there are overlays that work, with some varying success, that you can just place on top of a static display or screen and it kinda sorta makes it interactive.

Ellyce Kelly: That is true. I’ll tell you something even better. What if you just talk to the screen? So, we call ours Andrew, which is named…

Derek DeWitt: So, these are VUIs. These are voice user interfaces.

Ellyce Kelly: This is VUI. And this is the coolest thing ever, right? Imagine if you, I mean, do you really want to touch a screen now that’s in a…

Derek DeWitt: Not that children have touched!

Ellyce Kelly: And then there’s that. Yes.

Derek DeWitt: I don’t know where those hands have been.

Ellyce Kelly: That’s true.

Derek DeWitt: But they’re moist.

Ellyce Kelly: That’s a good [point]. That’s so true. So a lot of, for example, healthcare facilities love this idea of talking to the display to tell it what you need. “Show me how to get to level five.”

Derek DeWitt: So, this is like a smart speaker like Alexa.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes, but yes, it’s just “Andrew” here at Visix, but yes, named after the developer.

Derek DeWitt: So, you actually say, “Hey Andrew, show me this.”

Ellyce Kelly: “Hey Andrew, show me how to get to level five.”

Derek DeWitt: Really?

Ellyce Kelly: “Hey Andrew, how do I get to the library?”

Derek DeWitt: Wow. And it does it, it just changes it automatically?

Ellyce Kelly: It does it.

Derek DeWitt: Is it only wayfinding or does it, can it be for other parts?

Ellyce Kelly: Oh, you can do it for directories. Oh, you can do it for a number of things.

Derek DeWitt: Really? So, anything that’s interactive through touchscreens could also be voice.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. You can tell it to scroll five names. Like if you’re, if for a directory, so you need to get to professor DeWitt’s office.

Derek DeWitt: Right, and you’re starting in “A”s, so skip five, skip five.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes, but you can’t remember if it’s Dewitt or if it’s, I don’t know, DeWhat, right? So, you tell it to scroll five. That was a terrible example, but you get the idea.

Derek DeWitt: Is it Dewitt or is it Pruitt?

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. So you’re in the “D”s, so at least you can say, “Scroll five. Oh, there he is. That’s him. Professor DeWhat.”

Derek DeWitt: But if the software doesn’t support that, that’s not an option for you without changing your whole CMS. And that’s a whole thing.

Ellyce Kelly: A whole ‘nother budget.

Derek DeWitt: Basically, that’s why you want to ask all of these questions in advance, so that you get what you want and what you need and something you can grow into.

Ellyce Kelly: Sure. Yes. And there’s no surprises.

Derek DeWitt: It’s like buying clothing for children, you want something they’re going to grow into or else you’ve got to change clothes every six months.

Ellyce Kelly: Right. And can you grow into it? Is it a platform that allows you to grow, or is it a one and done and, “oops, sorry, you’re going to actually have to buy a whole other platform – this tier that we have over here, we can’t actually add to that one.”

Derek DeWitt: “Oh, did we forget to tell you? Oh sorry.”

Ellyce Kelly: That gets back to that free stuff, that free software.

Derek DeWitt: What about sending stuff to, I don’t know, tablets, BYOD devices (bring your own device type things) smartphones, things like this ?

Ellyce Kelly: Critical. Unless you’re just interested in that single display that you might have, you know, I don’t know, on your countertop, right? Because again, our phones are always in front of us, right? So, your audience isn’t always going to be in front of your digital displays in your hallways and atrium.

Derek DeWitt: Well, hopefully they go home once in a while and sleep.

Ellyce Kelly: Well, that’s a good idea. Stop going to class, right? Don’t sleep up in the student center.

You definitely want to be able to publish, too. If you can publish to desktops, like even in computer labs, that’s a big thing. We still have a lot of folks that are doing that. It’s a very popular feature.

Make sure you can publish to smartphones, websites, other bring-your-own-device devices, so that people don’t miss your messages. So, all of those places that I named might not be critical to what you’re trying to achieve. But it’s good to ask to see if it’s even there.

Derek DeWitt: Is it there? Maybe we might want to do that.

Ellyce Kelly: You might want to. I mean…

Derek DeWitt: Kind of all of this, the last few things we’ve been talking about, and we’re really just asking is it scalable? In many, in many ways. I mean scalable in size? We’ve been talking about scalability in features. But also, like, I might start with five screens or five displays or in one building, but it might end up taking over a whole bunch of buildings.

Ellyce Kelly: Yea. You may end up with 500.

Derek DeWitt: In different geographical locations.

Ellyce Kelly: I was going to say, across the country, across continents.

Derek DeWitt: Or beyond, honestly. Like, I know that there are companies that have, it’s the same digital signage system; we have it in Denver, which is our hub, and we can control the content from there to a certain extent. We’ve got one in Atlanta. We’ve got one in Saskatoon. We’ve got one in São Paulo.

It’s very tempting to go, “Well, let’s just get the cheapest thing we can.” If you go too simple, you really just might end up paying down the line. And that’s why you need to plan it all out, right.

Ellyce Kelly: Yep.

Derek DeWitt: How about like when we get to things like purchasing options?

Ellyce Kelly: This is a big question that comes up when we’re at trade shows, “What are my purchasing options?” You may already have some hardware. You might need hardware and the software. You might need, again, if you already have the hardware, you might need software only. So, ask vendors if they offer bundled solutions, right? Software-only sales, cloud-based subscriptions.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Do I have a lot of different possibilities there?

Ellyce Kelly: Yup. Because everybody’s needs are a little bit different. Something we do very well is we do the best we can to fit your needs. And I know that sounds salesy and I’m not in sales, but that’s a big deal.

Derek DeWitt: That’s the service industry. Everything’s a service now.

Ellyce Kelly: It’s a big deal. I mean that question comes up. I would say that’s one of the biggest questions that I get.

Derek DeWitt: Can I get a site license or is it, like you said, is there a subscription? Can I get a bulk discount if I’m buying a whole bunch of stuff? “Hey, how about you help me out here brother?”

Ellyce Kelly: Yep, absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: Or sister, or sister.

Ellyce Kelly: And, what are the options? I mean for our OPEX and CAPEX? That all comes into play.

Derek DeWitt: And I think the last thing you’d have to ask is, you’d have to look at support. Because I know that that’s very often one of the big bugaboos of these, these free (quote unquote free) digital signage software companies is they have zero support.

Ellyce Kelly: So, you’ve got to make sure that they do have support because, hey, you could have a lightning strike, right? I mean it could be an act of God, if you will, that could cause something to go out. And maybe you’re not 100% positive of how to get this back on, or how do I know if my player’s still working, or I don’t remember where the on button is.

Derek DeWitt: I haven’t had to reboot it in so long!

Ellyce Kelly: I have never had to touch this thing since it was deployed. So, having some technical support handy is really helpful. Also does the vendor offer training? I mean even if it’s easy to use, it’s new, right?

Derek DeWitt: And there are going to be updates and bug fixes and stuff.

Ellyce Kelly: There’s going to be updates. There’s going to be new features. How do I know about those new features?

Derek DeWitt: And do they cost?

Ellyce Kelly: Yeah. Do they cost money or are they included? So, it’s critical.

Derek DeWitt: What about like looking at if the vendor also has other things like, I don’t know, design services or will do consulting or things like this? Again, a company that also offers those would seem to me to be potentially valuable for a larger-scale customer.

Ellyce Kelly: Absolutely. Because if you think about it, again, this all comes down to human resources, right? And who’s available, who has the talent to be that graphic designer? Or maybe we don’t have a graphic designer. Maybe we have Ellyce, who thinks she’s a graphic designer, but she’s really just a PowerPoint…

Derek DeWitt: She’s actually just super ambitious.

Ellyce Kelly: Right. Super ambitious and not really even a PowerPoint pro, even though she thinks she is. So, it’s great if the company offers these types of services, like an award-winning creative team, not to just throw that out there.

Derek DeWitt: Ahem. Who could you be talking about?

Ellyce Kelly: Visix has that award-winning creative team.

Derek DeWitt: Hint-hint.

Ellyce Kelly: There are so many awards in the hallways that you can barely walk down the hall.

Derek DeWitt: It’s actually a little bit comical.

Ellyce Kelly: I think it’s great. I don’t mind tripping over some awards.

Derek DeWitt: Depending on the answers to these questions you may not need, you may not be a university or something like that; you know you’re a junior college, let’s just say. Let’s use education. You’re a junior college. You might expand your campus one day. You’ve got a handful of buildings on there. It’s not that you want to have this, but you know, “Hey, you know what, infrastructure-wise, we’re pretty set, and we’re not really going to be changing too much. So we’re looking for this.” Some other kind of an organization is going to be a whole different, you know, a medical clinic is going to be different than a hospital, which is going to be different than a general hospital.

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly.

Derek DeWitt: So, the answers to these questions will help you decide which company and which CMS is the right one for you.

Look at the software before you look at the hardware. People very often want to go hardware first because it’s easy and they understand it, or they think they understand it. The hardware is easy to find. And again, very often if you’re working with an integrator or a reseller or even some of these vendors, they may have a bunch of displays and players and things like this that they can offer as sort of a package deal. It may become a one-stop shop for you.

The hardware should be second because hardware is just what’s out there. You’ve got to think about the people who are using this software every day, and you need to make it easy for them. The better the workflow is, and the faster that they can create and schedule messages that look great, the more reactive it can be, the more sort of realtime it can be. And this is, I think, one of the strengths of digital signage.

Ellyce Kelly: It really is.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, there’s a news item and suddenly it’s all over social media. Well, it shouldn’t then take three days for that to get up on my digital signage. Three days today is a year.

Ellyce Kelly: No. Exactly. In digital signage, it is.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. In dog years.

Ellyce Kelly: In dog years. Or cat years.

Derek DeWitt: And the interesting thing is, as you address these questions as, as you answer them, it also helps you focus. And you may find that your buying criteria starts changing. “Oh, I hadn’t thought about that.”

Ellyce Kelly: You would be surprised at how often that happens. For example, during a pilot that comes up quite a bit. “Oh, we just want to do this. “And then all of a sudden there’s more.

Derek DeWitt: Right. They’re playing around with it and going, “Oh!”

Ellyce Kelly: “Oh. I didn’t know you could do that!”

Derek DeWitt: “Well, what about this? And can it do this?” “No, but here’s another way to accomplish the same goal.” “Ah, how interesting!” Right.

And, I think something that you said early on there, get as many people as you can involved – all the stakeholders need to get involved in this so that they’re a part of that process. So, everybody’s on the same page. So, when launch day finally comes and you’re ready to unveil it to the expectant world, everybody knows what to expect and it’s going to be fantastic. And then the audience, you put in all this hard work and the audience just goes, “Aaaah! A constantly flowing spigot of quality information!”

Ellyce Kelly: Yep.

Derek DeWitt: That’s beautiful.

Ellyce Kelly: Isn’t that great?

Derek DeWitt: That’s a beautiful thing. So, thank you very much for talking to me, Ellyce.

Ellyce Kelly: Thank you, Derek. It’s always a pleasure to see you.

Derek DeWitt: Indeed. And, thank you everybody out there for listening.