Back when she was Vice President of Global Media at Twitter, Katie Jacobs Stanton said, “The more up-to-date the information, the more valuable it is.” Wyatt Earp once said, “Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” Updates and accuracy are paramount when thinking about your mid-year digital signage plan. Schools and universities have greatly reduced class loads in the summer, and even companies will have more people taking vacation this time of the year. Use this opportunity for digital signage updates, so the second half of your year is even better than the first half.
Like many organizations, your IT department might already have a regular update plan (Microsoft has “Patch Tuesday”). But what’s meant here is a thorough overhaul and evaluation of everything that makes your digital signage system work. It’s a good time to peek under the hood and make sure everything’s running as smoothly as possible, so you can deliver the greatest value to your audience.
Plan It Out
Before you do anything, go take a look at current and recommended specs for everything you’re using, both hardware and software. You may find, for example, that in order to use the latest version of your digital signage software, you first have to upgrade your media player hardware. Figure out everything that needs to be done, and the best order for digital signage updates to happen.
You’ll want to apply updates during off hours or some period when there’s more downtime. You certainly don’t want to slow down or shut down your digital signage system during peak weekday hours. Be sure to have a detailed task list with who is doing what, when, and give everyone in your organization notice of when updates will take place.
First of all, you’ll want to ensure all your drivers are current. Now, some people advise that you should only update drivers when there’s an actual problem. But what if a problem develops during a busy communications cycle and part or all of your digital signage system goes down while you do that? It might be better to be safe than sorry. And video drivers actually need to be updated regularly or performance will almost certainly suffer.
You can get updates from the chipset manufacturer’s website, or from the hardware manufacturer. Or you can try Windows’ generic drivers, but these are sometimes just the bare minimum you need to actually operate your hardware.
There are also physical components of your server and media player hardware that should be checked out. Cards, cabling, connectors, and the screens themselves. At the very least, you’ll want to give everything a good cleaning (for example, every media player has a fan that’s been sucking in dust for who-knows-how-long, and interactive screens tend to get smudged pretty quickly).
And since everything you have is powered by computers, you’ll want to make sure your hard drives are in order. If you have a hard disk drive (HDD), defrag it and do a disk cleanup. However, if your computers have solid-state drives (SSD), don’t defrag them – you will actually reduce their life spans.
Your computers need an OS to do anything at all, and getting all the latest features, patches, bug fixes and security updates is important. Many organizations have firewalls that block automatic updates, so you’ll have to go in and do this manually. And yes, if it’s been a long time since you allowed updates, it could take a long while to get current. But you need to do this just the same. If you don’t, you risk loss of functionality, no longer being able to use some third-party software, not being aligned with HIPAA requirements, and many other issues. Plus, updates often have new features which can ultimately save you time.
If, for some reason, you’re using an OS that’s no longer supported (like Microsoft XP), then you absolutely must get a new version. Newer software simply won’t work on it, or won’t work well, and if something goes wrong there is literally no support for you. Not to mention the security vulnerabilities.
Are you running the more current version of your digital signage content management software? Because you certainly should be. In order to stay competitive, software companies are constantly correcting issues, fixing bugs, tightening security and adding features their users say they want. Ignoring these corrections and improvements while your competitors keep current makes your organization far less competitive itself – not to mention inefficient. You can also use this updating time to look at new features, or discontinue old ones that are no longer relevant for you.
Be sure to backup before you update! You can see more here about Digital Signage Software Updates, Migration and Backup here.
You probably also use other software in your digital signage strategy that should be updated – PowerPoint, Adobe apps, VLC, etc. – anything you use to design or feed your beautiful digital signage content. And if you have integrated your digital signage with an event calendaring system or other data source, you should also make sure that those are up to date.
Policies and Workflows
While you’re looking at your hardware and software, why not also use this time to double check your IT and system policies? Are they still accurate? Can they be reworded to be shorter and clearer? After the software updates take place, will they still be accurate?
The same goes for workflows – new features will offer new possibilities, but also have different steps in order to get what you want done. Make sure that everything is updated and accurate so that a new person could take over your digital signage system and know exactly what to do.
If you haven’t done so earlier in the year, you should also seriously consider a content refresh. Update your standard messages with new images and layouts, change the order of things in the playlist, create a couple long-tail campaigns that use storytelling, think of ways to use gamification to increase participation.
It’s also a good time to think about some new possibilities. Could now be the time to go to a hosted cloud digital signage system? Is it possible to expand into additional locations? Maybe you want more targeted communications in more places, so you’d need additional media players and screens. Are you ready to go interactive in some spots? What about increasing space management efficiencies by adding a few room signs?
You also might want to seriously consider some content or data subscriptions. Current information that’s been curated specifically for digital signs can greatly enhance your offering while reducing overhead and workloads.