Digital Signage in corporate communications - Interview with Dave Haynes, Sixteen:Nine

March 7, 2018


Dave Haynes


Today we are talking about Digital Signage in corporate communications with an old industry friend Dave Haynes.



He is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than a decade. Dave also does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, so he knows his stuff. 



We asked questions about the trends of digital signage, the moonshots and advice for first timers. As an example, you might learn why it's important to start with "Why".



Digital Signage in Corporate Communications


Q: There’s a lot of talk about data-driven communications and how that’s driving employee engagement. From your point of view, where is digital signage in corporate communications right now and what direction will it develop in the near future?


A: A lot of the work, to date, has tended to be focused on the more traditional arguments and benefits of going digital in the workplace. The simple stuff, like replacing posters with digital displays, so you can have more messages, and ensure they do up and come down when they need to.


I also think much of the content focus has been on pretty standard corporate messaging, and I don’t think that’s bad, because a lot of workplaces have some very basic issues with not being good about telling employees what’s going on, and motivating to perform well in their roles and stick around.


But things are shifting. The most obvious rise in digital signage in workplaces is the use of digital meeting room signs, which is seeing explosive growth, at least in terms of the numbers of solutions out there. There were maybe a dozen options a year ago, and now there are more than 50.

In terms of content, that move to data-driven content is starting to happen.


I’ve seen offices that use Slack and other team messaging as the basis for celebrating good work on larger displays. I’ve also seen analytics dashboards that used to be just on a manager’s screen in  his or her office now showing up on production floors, so everyone knows where things are at. That said, it is still very early days, given what’s possible.



Digital Signage Use Cases


Q: We deal with initiatives such as health and safety, sales excellence and production data.  Could you give some examples what are typical use cases that you have been seeing?


A: I’ve seen examples of all those things, and it has carried from some fairly simplistic charting or even just names, photos and numbers, to some pretty sophisticated visualizations. However, I’d say just a tiny fraction of businesses have started to really use the data available to them.


Q: (regarding to the question above) Which use case has the highest business impact in your opinion?


A: They all have potential to drive very big impacts, so I don't think they can be ranked. One may be far more important to a business, while in another company the priorities and needs may be very different.


Health and safety is important from the sheer human aspects of it, but safer workplaces have big financial benefits for companies, in terms of limited lost production hours and lowered insurance premiums.


But production data could be huge on a manufacturing floor if a little readout no one notices is replaced with a big display that tells everyone when a machine is not working properly, and will affect quality and uptime. If you see it, you can stop it quickly.



The Five Ws for Digital Signage



Q: What advice would you give for a customer that is reading this and going to use digital signage for the first time in internal communications?


A: I always stress the Five Ws, and always stress the first W is Why. Why do you want to use digital signage? What are the objectives? Where does communications need to be placed. When are communications most needed? Who’s going to manage the program?


There are a lot of Why, What, When, Where and Who questions, and they all need to be discussed and sorted before anyone should even start thinking about what screens and software to use.


That’s a big part of the work I do with end-user clients – so they don’t waste a lot of time and money and the wrong things, and start running before they’ve figured out how to crawl.


The Trends


Q: What is your moonshot for 2020, where will digital signage be then?

The biggest challenge of signage projects is keeping the content fresh, and data – done right – solves much of that.


A: I don’t think it’s a moonshot. Just an education process, as it can already be done. It’s signage that’s largely data-driven, using tools like HTML5 to constantly, dynamically generate content that’s relevant and timely.  The biggest challenge of signage projects is keeping the content fresh, and data – done right – solves much of that.


Getting Started


Q: What are some good resources for people getting started?


A: Well, my online publication Sixteen:Nine has 5,000-plus articles about digital signage, so that’s a good foundation. There’s also a companion podcast of the same name.


Develop a content model that addresses communications challenges, and only then start thinking about where screens should be and they type of software needed to drive those screens.

But I’d strongly stress that your plan should not get fixated on the technology. Screens and software just enable communications.


The real questions that need answers are about the communications challenges of the organization. Is there high staff turnover? Then why? Is training an issue? Why? Are there efficiency problems, and if so, would better, faster information help that?


Develop a content model that addresses communications challenges, and only then start thinking about where screens should be and they type of software needed to drive those screens.




We appreciate Dave taking this time to talk with us and share his opinion and knowledge on this blog. Many thanks Dave!

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