Digital Signage: Steps to Take Before Starting the RFP Process

RFP – those three little letters seem so simple but they can make a technology project highly successful or breed the things that nightmares are made of.
RFP or “Request for Proposal” is what some would consider the start of a technology initiative. But, besides actual implementation, the RFP should actually be one of the last steps of a technology initiative. This is particularly true as it pertains to digital signage.
A suggested outline for the basic steps of approaching an RFP for any digital signage project is:
1 – Have a good understanding of the anatomy of a digital signage network
2 – Define the objectives that your network needs to meet
3 – Think about the workflow to support that network – network design
4 – Conduct the RFI/RFP (you may uncover information that leads you to redefine objectives and network design)
5 - Execution
Having spoken about digital signage in many contexts, I always start the conversation by answering the most important two questions:
  • What are the objectives of your installation?
  • Who are your stakeholders?

In fact, when I speak to other end-users on digital signage, I like to back up even further and make sure they understand all the components that make up digital signage as it goes far beyond the screen that is installed.
As you consider the digital signage project and the investment to be made in that project, be sure you include all seven elements* for the short and long term, as:

1 – Business; Objectives, Return on Investment, Return on Objectives, Partnering, Revenue
2 – Content; Media, Advertising, Marketing
3 – Design; Deployment, Purpose, Environment
4 – Software; Scheduling, Player, Control, Creation
5 – Hardware; Displays, Mounts, Players, Infrastructure
6 – Connectivity; Wired, Wireless, Cellular, Internet
7 – Operations; Installation, Network, Maintenance, Service, Support

*Note: The seven elements of digital signage is a term coined by Alan Brawn at Brawn Consulting
Once familiar with these components, the next step is to outline the objectives for the network. The best way to determine these objectives is to have a conversation or conduct an interview with all stakeholders. Sometimes determining who the stakeholders are can even be a challenge, as there may be stakeholders that may not have much involvement in the network other than helping to outline your objectives.
At American Dairy Queen Corporation, we had many stakeholders that gave us feedback and some that were involved in the RFP process. These stakeholders ranged from; marketing and creative services; operations, supply chain and equipment divisions; IT/IS and retail technology; among others and then the most important: our DQ franchisees. We had to look at what each of these groups expected from a digital signage network and what involvement they wanted or needed on a day-to-day basis. Having all that information helped us determine the objectives, parameters, and even the functionality of the network.
The best way to really get at these answers is to conduct a use case study. Such a study takes each of the seven elements* of digital signage and addresses the execution to every stakeholder.
At a very broad stroke, some the questions that need to be asked are:

  • What is the objective or purpose of this installation?
  • Who is the intended audience/viewer?
  • What information do you want to communicate?
  • Is local input from remote sites required to allow users at the screens to make updates?
  • Will you need to integrate additional building operations, such as paging, security, or fire alarms into the digital system?

Another thing to consider is how an installation’s objectives may change over time. Are the objectives foreseen to be the same in five years? 10 years? If your crystal ball is on the fritz, I know that might be hard to determine, but it is something that should be considered. Many industries are changing and the objectives and technology that are relevant today, might not be tomorrow. As RFP interviews are conducted with potential suppliers, insist that they present their vision of the future.
To recap, when considering starting the RFP process, take the time to prep for that RFP.

  • Educate yourself and your team.
  • Identify and engage your stakeholders.
  • Identify stakeholder expectations.
  • Think about the network design, the supporting work flow it will require and how and who will do the work.
  • Clearly define the overall objective of the digital signage installation.

After those step have been complete, then, and only then, should you begin writing the RFP.
Author Janna Rider will present Seminar 18 titled, “How to Create Excellent RFIs and RFPs,” on Thursday, March 30 at 9 a.m. at DSE 2017 to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information on this or any educational program offered at DSE 2017 or to learn more about digital signage go to
Since 2010 Janna Rider has been managing American Dairy Queen Corporation’s digital signage program. During the past six years, she has directed the request for information (RFI), request for proposal (RFP) and implementation of the digital signage network as well as an additional RFI and RFP and transition of the network to a new provider. The DQ digital signage network consists of approximately 1700 screens in 790 locations. Rider holds a BFA in graphic design from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., is DSCE, Digital Signage Certified Expert, and a member of the Digital Signage Federation where she just completed two terms on the Board of Directors. Janna has been involved in retail space design and implementation for 20 years.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds