In the 1 to 3 months it takes to successfully conduct a digital signage sourcing initiative, some aspects lead to success and the fast lane while others are the potholes that hinder progress, and more important sustainable value.
The Request For Proposal (RFP) process really tests the preparedness of an organization to benefit from location-based media. Sourcing also enables the ability to minimize costs and maximize the return on investment.
The RFP process should include stakeholders such as the end user departments, procurements, facilities, information technologies and others that may be affected by the selection decision. This can include representatives of location/branch operations, customer experience, human resources, public affairs, loyalty program, architects, designers, advertising, promotion and other professionals whose activities impact on brand equity, revenue achievements and cost containment.
The express lane is achieved when perspectives of the end-user, information technology and location operations personnel are included in defining the requirements as presented in the RFP, evaluating proposals and ranking the “short list” of possible vendors.
The sourcing process encounters “potholes” when stakeholders that will be impacted by the selection decision are not advised or included in the process.
The range of hardware, software and services that are to be contracted through the RFP process also enables vendors to make their proposals relevant.
Since digital signage is intended to provide competitive advantage, it is common to invite proposals from vendors whose capabilities aligned with the requirements. A nondisclosure agreement can be established with invited vendors to help minimize the broadcasting of the intention to apply digital media as a competitive instrument.
A framework of response should include capabilities, related experience, processes, personnel and pricing to enable vendor comparisons. Each RFP respondents is ultimately expected to answer the question “why are you the best vendor related to our requirements?”
Vendors that response positively to mandatory requirements and show innovation in answering the overarching question of “why us?” will commonly receive higher scores from evaluators toward finding themselves included on a short list.
Presentations by short list vendors will clarify proposal elements, reveal additional information and allow the organization to gain insights into subjective elements of a future possible relationship, which might contribute to ongoing project success. Culture and chemistry matter in every organization and this is particularly true where digital signage is concerned because it is not generally a commodity, but rather a solution to current or anticipated business challenges.
Through shortlisted vendor presentations, which are typically two or more hours in length, consensus can be determined on the preferred and alternate vendor.
Should reference checks, pricing, service levels, remediation and contracting not proceed in a satisfactory manner with the preferred vendor, (this is usually known within 2 to 3 weeks), the sourcing initiative can continue to advance in the fast lane with the alternate provider. This in itself, assures that potholes are addressed and avoided.
Express Lane sourcing means that:
- The business, marketing or communications requirement is clear;
- Possible vendors suitable to the requirement have been identified;
- Stakeholders are included in the sourcing initiative; and,
- A clear path to funding and contrasting are in place.
Potholes occur when:
- The need is not well articulated;
- Users or influencers to project success are not included;
- Vendors that are not suitable to meeting the requirements are invited to respond;
- The weighting of evaluation elements are not appropriately weighted; and,
- The process is not focused on establishing a contract as the core outcome.
Whether it is for digital signage hardware, software, services or any combination of these, at the beginning or expansion of media needs, a strong request for proposal process will assure the highest return on time and investment.
External resources can with in-depth, vendor-neutral experience in digital media objectives definition, system architecting, vendor identification, sourcing and contracting can help mitigate/manage risk and assure a successful procurement initiative toward ongoing, accelerating value from digital signage and enterprise media.
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator in North America’s digital signage sector who has assisted over 300 organizations to benefit from place-based media. He has been acclaimed as a leading industry figure.