The cornerstones of a successful digital signage pilot program? Clear requirements and established acceptance criteria

Embarking on a new digital signage initiative can sometimes feel like a daunting task. In order to avoid many sleepless nights or even a partially implemented solution, it is best to develop your new initiative following a focused path, all the way from the initial business case to successful pilot and full deployment.

Once the enterprise has developed a clear business case and effective digital signage content and strategy, the project manager can develop a pilot program that leads to a full-scale deployment. Any mistake or miscalculation discovered during the pilot program will cost a lot less than one found during deployment. An effective pilot program will ensure that your digital signage implementation takes off gracefully.

Staying Focused
The cornerstones of a successful digital signage pilot program are clear requirements and established acceptance criteria. The answers to the questions “What needs to be done?” and “What defines the goal achievement” must be clear.

Project managers have a number of tools at their disposal to flush out requirements and ensure that the project’s sponsors and stakeholder’s needs are being met. During the planning stage of the pilot, conducting surveys and reviewing lessons learned from previous projects can help to establish the scope of work and ensure that your pilot reflects the needs of your enterprise.

The Pilot Phase
In an enterprise with multiple locations, the use of a survey will help to discover site-specific nuances. Typical information requested on a survey may include photos, ceiling heights, measurements and the number of point of sale terminals. For example, after the survey process it might become apparent that some of the locations require a special layout design for menu boards due to obstructions, such as structural columns or low ceilings. Locations presenting unique challenges can be an excellent pilot site to test the solution, as specific challenges may reappear in other locations during the deployment phase.

Another tool for choosing a pilot site is to review the lessons learned from previous digital signage projects. Reviewing any notes or files from previous projects can help a project manager understand the challenges faced and how they were resolved. For example, a previous project may have required two digital signage media players. By pushing the media player’s hardware or software, it may be possible to eliminate the need for the additional player and lower the overall cost of the current project.

The framework of the pilot program can be established by meeting with stakeholders and project sponsors to determine the requirements, establish the scope and define success or acceptance criteria. Clearly documenting the scope of the pilot helps to produce a workflow or process for the installation that can be reproduced, distributed and crafted for a future full-scale rollout. These documents can then be sent to the installation team for the deployment phase of the project.

By defining acceptance or success criteria from the outset, this will eliminate a potential disagreement between a stakeholder who just wants to get the job done and one who wants the job done well. It is advisable to document the agreed-upon success criteria to ensure that once the pilot site is installed, all stakeholders can agree that the site has been properly completed. Once everyone is working together and towards a common goal, the pilot program will surely get off the ground.

Developing strong vendor and partner relationships will aid in the success of the pilot program. Panel, mount and player manufacturers can be challenged to deliver a tailored solution that is on time and designed to meet the project's performance needs. During the pilot program, vendors can be readily contacted to perform any corrective action, bug fixes or customizations. It will certainly be easier and much less costly for your vendors and your enterprise to modify five players instead of 500.

Location, Location, Location
We have all heard the phrase in regard to real estate, but it is just as important for your digital signage pilot. Stakeholders and project sponsors will likely need to make multiple visits to the pilot sites to evaluate the quality of the pilot, its success and opportunities for improvement.

While a new location may have the latest and greatest infrastructure and technology or be a showpiece for your brand, it may be impractical in other ways. Pilot sites should always be selected to suit your enterprise’s needs and the goals of the project. For example, branches or store locations may have varied product offerings, hours of operation, languages or same-store sales. These factors can result in challenges during the larger deployment if they are not tested and explored during the pilot program.

By carefully planning, executing and achieving the success criteria of your pilot, you will be able to build support and enthusiasm for your project. Deploying your project across the enterprise will become easier once the usual growing pains have been exposed, corrected and resolved in the pilot phase. By developing a pilot program, an enterprise will be able to explore new opportunities and refine a solution before a full-scale deployment. Once momentum builds behind the completed pilot, the rollout will seem much less daunting—even if you have completed only five of 500 sites.