On this episode of My TechDecisions Podcast, host and TD Managing Editor Jonathan Blackwood interviews Sean Matthews, CEO and President of Visix, about digital signage. Specifically, Matthews discusses digital signage in corporate office settings, as a tool for engaging staff. Where most digital signage is placed in customer-facing areas, there are major benefits to digital signage in the office.
Digital signage is a tool that can be used in so many areas that are often overlooked. This discussion focuses on the office itself. Digital signage in the office is used as an employee outreach tool when it’s put in office environments. Upcoming events for the company, information about products, and anything from social media feeds to the weather can effectively be utilized to spur employee engagement.
Matthews discusses these use cases for corporate spaces and so much more. He explains the practical needs tech decisions makers need to consider – what a digital signage system is made of and how to get content. He calls on data that discusses the benefits of having engaged employees. He discusses the best places to hang digital signage in order to get the most eyeballs on it. He talks about alternative uses for digital signage, such as emergency management. He even explains some of the factors to focus on when determining ROI for a digital signage system.
Anyone interested in digital signage should listen to this interview to learn more about how and why to implement such a solution.
Jonathan Blackwood is Managing Editor of My TechDecisions. Jonathan joined TechDecisions in 2014 and writes about technologies that help to innovate and improve practices for companies of all sizes, K-12 and higher education, government, healthcare, hospitality, retail and large venue spaces. TechDecisions covers the business of technology implementation for decision makers in commercial environments. Follow him @BlackwoodTweets.
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Jonathan Blackwood: My name is Jonathan Blackwood. Welcome to MyTechDecisions Podcast. Today’s guest is Sean Matthews, president and CEO of Visix. Sean and I discuss digital signage applications, specifically in corporate offices. We talk about the kind of content that you can put on digital signage; the importance of creating engagement and involvement from the workforce, and how digital signage can play into that; the different pieces of digital signage systems; and the potential to justify the return on investment for digital signage systems in corporate offices. Anyone looking to implement digital signage within their offices should give this interview a listen.
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My name is Jonathan Blackwood. Welcome to MyTechDecisions Podcast. Today’s guest is Sean Matthews, President and CEO of Visix. Sean, thank you so much for joining us.
Sean Matthews: Hey Jonathan. Thanks for having me on the show today. I appreciate it.
Jonathan Blackwood: It’s a pleasure to have you. If you’re a regular on TechDecisions, you’ll notice that a lot of content that comes from Visix. And one of the reasons for that is Visix is really a thought leader in the digital signage space. And they write a lot for us specifically. They write a lot about employee engagement and how to use digital signage in corporate spaces to really give messaging to employees. So, Sean, many people understand the benefits of digital signage in areas like public transportation and retail, but it can really be a benefit in corporate offices as well. How is that, how so?
Sean Matthews: Well, fortunately, or unfortunately, the entire employee workspace has changed dramatically, certainly over the past 10 years. And there are more millennials and even Gen Z people working their way into the workforce today. In fact, the millennials make up more than half of the current workforce that’s employed right now and they want a more consumer-like experience. You know, they’re already digital natives and they expect information and other materials to be delivered in a digital fashion. So, it’s a key piece to the entire working office environment.
Jonathan Blackwood: Where do you put this digital signage? I mean, people understand that in a retail environment you want it front-facing and you want it in heavily-trafficked areas. Is it sort of the same for in the office? Do we want it in the cafeteria, do we want it near the cubes or near the tables? If it’s an open office plan, where should we be putting it so that employees get engaged?
Sean Matthews: Well, of course you want to put it in as many places as possible, but there are some key places where digital signs do very, very well in terms of communicating information to employees specifically. So, you see really well-placed signs at hallway intersections, outside of restrooms, certainly you mentioned the break room or cafeteria. Elevator bays are another place where signs do very well. But certainly, in open workspace or open floor plan facilities, you know, suspending signs from the ceiling that face in many different directions. You know, those are all good areas.
In the manufacturing environments, of course, you want to see signs out on the manufacturing floor, so that those employees that don’t typically have access, let’s say to workstations, they’ll see those signs with key performance indicators and other things that will affect their behavior on the production floor.
Jonathan Blackwood: You know, with digital signage, I think that a lot of companies, especially smaller companies, think “Okay, well we could get digital signage for our employees and put it throughout the office”, but then they think, “We’ll have to hire someone to create content for it and to manage that.” But that’s not really the case, at least not anymore. Can you tell us a little bit more about content management systems and what they’re able to do for end users and for their organizations?
Sean Matthews: Yeah, that’s a great question. Everybody has always talked in the past about content being king – though content is extremely important because if the information on the screen isn’t lively, if it’s not timely and not relevant, of course it’s going to get tuned out. And a lot of digital signage deployments, particularly on the corporate communications side, people have a tendency to tune them out because the content just isn’t relevant and it’s not lively. And often for a deployment to be successful, you do need a key stakeholder. You do need people that are involved in planning what the signs are going to look like and the information that’s going to be on screen. It has to be stuff that people care about. So, it does take time, energy and effort.
The two easiest ways to make that job easier is to utilize auto-updating content and data-triggered content. And when you use auto-updated things – you know, we have hundreds of ideas in terms of auto-updated content, but some of it’s just very basic stuff. Date and time, weather, news, events, local traffic, even social media and financial data. All of that stuff is readily available in the open market and can easily populate signs to keep them engaged, or keep them engaging, so that people will pay attention to the message that you’re really trying to convey.
And those messages are often, important announcements that the organization is going to craft; data visualizations that are often auto-populating that reference employee productivity or corporate productivity; KPIs are very powerful in terms of manipulating employee behavior and keeping them engaged at the task at hand. Whether you’re producing widgets or you’re addressing calls on hold at the help desk. I mean those are just two simple examples, but it’s important that you have enough timely, relevant, engaging content on the screen. And unfortunately, it does take some resources to make that stuff happen. You can’t just publish webpages or PowerPoint presentations and think that’s going to be enough to make it really work in a true corporate deployment.
Jonathan Blackwood: When it comes to actually picking the display itself, what are some considerations that end users should keep in mind for the size of the screen or whether HD or 4k or… Are there any tips or tricks that you guys give your customers to determine, okay, depending on the amount of employees or the size of the office or what it might be, which display or what size display they should go with?
Sean Matthews: Yeah, usually the size of the display is not as important as the overall saturation of the display’s environment as well. Because, you know if you think about yourself driving down the interstate, and particularly in the southern part of the United States, you see a lot of digital billboards on the interstate. Well, if you think about those billboards, they might have a queue of seven, eight, ten ads that are running. But you know, if we’re going 65, 70 miles an hour, we only have a second or two to even do one of those ads, much less if we get caught in a transition between those two ads.
So, if you think about the workplace environment, you think about individuals as cars passing through/across the interstate at a pretty high rate of speed – they’re distracted by conversations, by their mobile devices – so, saturation is a key component in that environment. So size isn’t quite as important.
Often, we talk to clients about the fact that they get excited about maybe doing a big video wall or something like that. And of course, AV integrators love the idea of a big video wall, but often that just becomes a showpiece visual that you know – it’s in the lobby, and how many times do employees pass through the lobby? Often, they have their own entrances and exits, you know, just for them and they may not even pass by that lobby. So, I guess really, to say it again, saturation is much more important than physical size.
But one thing to consider is whether or not the displays are going to be interactive. And the reason I bring this up, it’s because millennials and others who are already digitally native, they’re used to a customized or personal experience with the mobile device that they have. So, if the screens are interactive and you incorporate interactive elements into that screen, they can actually personalize their experience and their engagement with the screen versus it being just like a billboard and pushing one piece of information out to you.
And that’s the one key thing I would consider and suggest you consider when thinking about the displays – not size, but certainly some interactivity. You did bring up 4K and other technologies that are out there. We’re seeing more and more adoption of 4K. The challenge with 4K, particularly in a corporate communications environment, is that if you want to take advantage of that investment, you really have to have 4K content to put on those displays. And most organizations just don’t have the resources to produce that kind of material on a daily or weekly or even monthly basis.
Jonathan Blackwood: If a company is coming to, let’s say Visix, to fulfill their digital signage needs, and they do need a little bit of help in the process – if it’s creating content or otherwise – what resources do you guys offer or who should they go to? Should they go to a company like Visix? Should they go to an AV integrator? Are there third-party content creation firms that I’m not even aware of that they should reach out to? If they want to outsource that work, is there the ability to do so?
Sean Matthews: Yeah. I mean it’s a great question. Typically, the AV integrator in our world or the IT VAR is really involved in the technology specification and can provide certainly the client with the ins and outs of various platforms and other distribution or AV visual technologies that might be associated with the deployment. But when it comes to actually creating content, we have our own creative services team and there are other competitors like us that have creative services teams. And those teams are often very good at what we call “launch content”. So, the day that be the signs go live, there is something that matches the brand, the look and feel of the organization. And you know, it makes sense on screen, because often people who are web developers or web designers or even print designers – graphic artists even – they’re not really accustomed to what this medium should look like and how it might be best utilized. You know, the surface space has many different zones that could be utilized for different purposes. And they might be new to the entire approach. So, I would certainly suggest that they consider someone like Visix or again, even a competitor that has those creative services teams that can help with that launch content.
Now after the materials launch that first day, of course there’s the challenge of maintaining it. We do offer a managed service where we will provide daily or weekly or monthly updates and content refresh to help keep the screens alive. And the way that model basically works is, we have a team of people that are assigned to an account, and you simply either call or email that team and say, “Hey, we’re going to host a blood drive next Friday and we’d like to announce when the drive is going to happen and where the location is”, and we’ll go ahead and create art that matches your brand standards, publish it to you for approval and then, if that’s what you want, it hits the screens, and really you didn’t have to do a lot to keep it alive and fresh.
I’m not really familiar with groups that are producing corporate communications content for digital signs. I hear a lot of companies out there that handle corporate communication, but I’m just not really aware of somebody that does it specifically for digital signs. So, you know, I would suggest looking for someone like Visix, that can help not only with the software but also the content management over the long haul.
Jonathan Blackwood: Well, let’s go a little bit more into that software for those in our audience that don’t have a system like that or are thinking about a system like that, but really haven’t learned enough about it quite yet. Let’s say I have a building with three floors, and on the bottom floor there’s a lot of clients and customers that are coming in and I have digital signage there. On the second floor I have a lot of employees. And then on the third floor I have some of the C-Suite, and I want different messaging on each of those floors. Is that going to be a situation where, essentially, I’m paying and producing three completely separate systems, so that I can push three completely different sets of content out to each out to each of those floors or is it a little bit simpler than that?
Sean Matthews: It’s a good bit simpler than that. You know, anybody that’s touting that they have an enterprise-type solution should be able to handle all three pieces of content, or content styles among the different floors, through one system. And so, when you think about the technology, there are three main components to the signage piece of it. There is some sort of digital media player that’s either associated with a display or some sort of infrastructure that distributes to those displays from a single player. So, there’s the player itself, there is the content management system, which most of the systems are hosted in the cloud or at least have some sort of web interface if it’s an on-premise solution. And then typically there’s some sort of design tool that helps you design the screens and/or the content that you might deliver to those screens.
Now some people put that design tool in their web browser, and some people have a native solution. And really there are pros and cons to each one of those (it doesn’t really matter). But those are the three main pieces. And again, if it’s an enterprise solution, it should have the flexibility to recognize the organization and the organizational structure, so that you can provide user rights and roles and privileges to different people that are going to create and/or manage content for those three different audiences.
So, the reality is – let’s say the HR department is responsible for that middle floor, which is employee communication. That person may, or that team, may only have access to the playlist that publishes to that particular floor. And so, the marketing department might handle the first floor because it’s very customer-facing and customer-centric. And then of course on that C-Suite level, you know, there may be somebody even on the administrative team that supports the C-Suite with a different access level to publish to that floor. And of course, you can intermix what we call playlists. So, some of the playlists that are on that first floor may also play on the second and third floor because the C-Suite may want to know “What is our visiting audience even viewing?” because they might not even use that entrance. So, you can intersperse or interleave playlists on different floors so you can repurpose content that might be relevant to other audiences.
Jonathan Blackwood: I’ve also heard about applications in which a company with a sort of vast digital signage suite throughout the offices have kind of taken over in an emergency situation and displayed emergency instructions for whatever that situation might be. Is this something that’s common, and is this something that’s relatively easy if you have a digital signage system to set up for yourself?
Sean Matthews: Yes. So, you typically see alert notification on college campuses. However, obviously, some corporate campuses are as large as college campuses. And if you think about big companies – names that we might know like Federal Express, with facilities all over the place – the best way to handle it is through a standard protocol. And the protocol that is used for alert notification is called CAP, which stands for Common Alerting Protocol. It is the subset of the federal government’s protocol called IPAWS, which is now used post-9/11 to alert local law enforcement and other first responders throughout the country to some sort of disaster let’s say. But CAP protocol is a trigger that is used, again, in most alert notification platforms.
The most common alert notification platform is SMS for phones, right? We all have them. It seems to be a ubiquitous platform for delivering alert information. Well, most of those platforms that alert individuals at the phone level produce CAP-compliant triggers and those triggers, once initiated from that platform, can change what happens to the screens in the facility itself.
So alert notification commands are predefined by subject matter. And so, if the alert trigger from the SMS system is, let’s say, you know, “fire”, we’ll just use that as a good one. So, not only did the fire alarms go off in the building, but the signs change to provide the consumer with a different set of information, which is not typically “There’s a fire in the building”, but big instructions as to what to do now that the fire exists in the building. So, “Don’t take the elevators, use the stairwells”. And often, if it’s programatically done right, the signs even have arrows that point the consumer (to) which direction to get to the stairwell. So, they can be extremely effective, but the key is to have a CAP-compliant product.
Our product is CAP-compliant, and there are a few others in this market that do that. But retail guys, as you might expect, aren’t focused on workflows like CAP-compliance because it wouldn’t make much sense when you’re trying to sell beauty products at the Clinique counter.
Jonathan Blackwood: Sure, I think that makes a lot of sense. And the reason that I brought it up was because there are a lot of use cases to digital signage in the office, and, partly at least for our audience, that’s part of what they need in order to justify the return on investment. And for digital signage, it’s tough to quantify the dollars and cents that you’re either saving or creating by using this digital signage. But what are some of the things that our audience should focus on to kind of justify the purchase of a system like this through the return that they see on their initial investment?
Sean Matthews: You’re right, it’s a little more difficult in a corporate communication environment because it’s hard to measure. But there are some key things to know about employee engagement in general. You know, when you look at some of the data that’s out there, employee engagement leads to 21% higher productivity, 20+% higher profitability, I think it’s like 30-some-odd-percent lower absenteeism. So, there’s a lot of things. But when you really start drilling into some of those stats, you look at things like 50% fewer safety incidents, 40-some-odd-percent fewer quality defects and less shrinkage. So those are key pieces, and particularly when you start looking at the new workforce and millennials, the most recent study I saw said that 29% of millennials say they are engaged at work, right? 16% say they are actively disengaged. So that leaves about 50% that are just like somewhat engaged.
So, when you start measuring productivity based on engagement and how we can recognize the workforce and how we can educate the workforce – not just in seminars or email or even social feeds – but we can deliver it throughout the facility. We can reinforce it day in and day out. That’s one key measure. Of course, another key measure is when you look at participation. So often companies will say things like, “Well, our 401K enrollment is not where we want it to be. In fact, we failed the 401K analysis test this past year. We need to get more people involved.” So, when you look at things like involvement, that’s a key key-indicator.
And you know, you can measure involvement through simple things like QR tags or SMS response to things that are post(ed), when people take pictures and share them, you know, via social media (or) whatever, and even surveys and polls. If you post them, you know, on these interactive signs and the results are instantaneous, you get more people engaged, more people involved, and that really becomes a key component. Because you can measure things like how long calls are on hold and that kind of stuff, and encourage people not to take restroom breaks when the indicator is red, that kind of thing. But really the big key is measuring engagement and productivity, and gearing your efforts towards that improvement through signs. And that’s a, that’s a key measure.
Jonathan Blackwood: Well, we touched upon it earlier, and Visix is a company that can help our audience and end users with everything that we’ve talked about today. Sean, can you tell us a little bit more about what Visix provides for customers and then let our audience know how they can find out more about the company and get in touch?
Sean Matthews: Sure. Visix is a provider of complete digital signage solutions. We work through integration partners who can go onsite and understand a customer’s physical needs based on the technologies that we provide. Not only do we offer the digital signage solution that extends to interactive room signs that are mounted outside of conference rooms and classrooms, which can be an extension of the digital signage solution or a standalone product.
We have a complete line of professional services which include project managers, implementation specialists, consultants, creative teams, support teams, all of those kinds of things. So, it is a complete solution for enterprise or campus-type communications. That’s what we’re focused on. Our workflows follow those working constructs. And that’s what we do. We don’t do retail. Again, we’re focused merely on institutional or organizational communications.
And the best way to learn about Visix is to visit us online at Visix.com, and that’s the best place to get information from us and better understand what we do and see case studies and samples of the clients that we serve.
Jonathan Blackwood: Well, I encourage our audience to do so. We’ve also got a ton of contributed content on TechDecisions from Visix. They know what they’re doing, they know what they’re talking about. Sean, thank you so much for joining us and hopefully we’ll have you on again soon.
Sean Matthews: All right, thank you, Jonathan.
Jonathan Blackwood: Thank you for listening to MyTechDecisions Podcast. Here at TechDecisions, it’s our mission to help you do your job better. If you’d like to learn more, head over to www.mytechdecisions.com or follow us on Twitter – @mytechdecisions. I’m your host, Jonathan Blackwood, managing editor of TechDecisions and you can find me at @blackwoodtweets. Thank you again for listening and good luck with all of your installations and implementations.