Once in a while we receive a blast from the past, a contact from a prospect that had gone dark for a long period of time, sometimes years. When a name rings a bell, a quick email search often turns up past correspondence and provides a great backdrop to renewed discussions. This happened recently and one of the aging emails had a spreadsheet attached with quotes for everything that would be required to get a network up and running: hardware, software and services. I smiled when I looked at the pricing, acknowledging the truth of Moore’s Law and the normal lifecycle of technology pricing, especially hardware. I chuckled because I remember how potential network owners complained about costs in 2004 when I entered this industry; as they did when in 2009 when capabilities had taken quantum leaps while costs dropped; and as they do today in the face of even lower costs while capabilities and options have jumped forward yet again. Back to the future, indeed.
To a certain extent, the angst over costs will always be relative to where costs are at the time, not to where they were 5 years ago, so the ongoing moaning makes perfect sense. In today’s environment, however, it seems very clear to this observer that one of the key factors that will differentiate a successful digital signage effort from an unsuccessful one is the ability to understand the why and the how before concerning themselves with the how much. This applies to ad-supported networks as well as branded or non ad-supported networks. And here is why: unless you have objectives from which you can develop metrics of success (the why), you can not possibly develop a sense of what it will take to optimize the chance of achieving success (the how). One must consider so much more than initial investment and ongoing expenses to calculate the true ROI on a network investment. Undue emphasis on the cost side in absence of clear objectives often results in an infrastructure and services deemed “good enough”, when in fact they are not well matched to a required solution. Low bidder mentality does not always end well.
Buyers should recognize that there is a path to purchase in technology just as there is in a grocery store. An efficient and successful trip to the grocery store often includes a list or a recipe. So it is with technology purchases, except that the list should only be developed after a careful analysis of the why and the how. All too often, buyers caught at the early stages are convinced by salespeople to put the cart before the horse. My fellow observer, Phil Cohen, has ranted more than twice about choosing technology before developing a content strategy. He is clearly correct. I would add that development of an overall strategy driven by clear objectives would lead to a content strategy that together are the horses that should precede the cart that is technology.