The toughest phase of a digital signage initiative is not the management or optimization of a system, but rather the first deployment of the solution. This initial step has challenged organizations of all types for years on end, even as software systems have become easier to adopt and employees grow more tech savvy overall. How can a brand deploy its signage systems in a confident and risk-averse manner, while exceeding the expectations of stakeholders and ensuring strong returns on investment?

While there's no easy answer to this question, there are several guidelines that a company can follow to properly launch an enterprise-quality signage strategy. By following these five steps, brands will be well on their way to leveraging signage that brings them closer to their loftiest marketing, advertising and customer engagement goals. 

It may take some time to form a winning signage strategy, but the payoff will be worth the work.It may take some time to form a winning signage strategy, but the payoff will be worth the work.

1. Establish objectives: Far too many companies approach digital signage as an ancillary promotional tool rather than a powerful driver of their brand message. This is apparent in the lack of pre-deployment strategy across organizations, something that should be quickly remedied with a concrete game plan from the start. Brand strategists should determine some clear-cut metrics to pursue, as well as a handful of content types they want to focus on. Additionally, technological aspects, such as advanced networking and hosted services tactics, must be explored in this initial phase. 

2. Empower IT champions: Every company has a few IT idealists in each department, and it's up to signage project leaders to identify these tech champions across the organization. With this support on hand, initiators will quickly gather a wide range of strategic insight from multiple perspectives, allowing them to launch a digital signage system that addresses the needs of each stakeholder group. As an article from IT Business Edge contributor Arthur Cole noted, the most impactful IT strategies take root in each corner of the enterprise, gaining strength in a unified manner. 

"With IT no longer the supplier of data resources at most organizations, business units have gained the freedom to experiment and grow according to their own needs and to foster more efficient ways of sharing information with other departments, partners and even customers," Cole wrote. 

"Garner strong support from in-house IT advocates."

3. Create a partnership: Once a company has garnered strong support from in-house IT advocates, it must turn to a third-party service provider to select the most appropriate signage solutions for its needs. This should be more than a standard vendor relationship, however, as the best deployments are defined by ongoing communication and partnership with the systems provider. Project leaders should not hesitate to consult with third-parties to develop a strategy that best fits with their offerings and technical strengths. 

4. Deploy and support: Finally, a brand can launch its digital signage system once all strategic and IT demands are accounted for. While this may offer a moment of relief for hard-working project managers, they'll need to stay focused as they deploy their monitors, networks and content streams. After all, even the most reliable systems require support from the outset, as schedules and displays will need to be tweaked to provide the most compelling experience for users. 

5. Improve continuously: Long after a system has been launched, a company will likely want to gauge the effectiveness of its investment and use metrics to identify areas of potential improvement. With information gathered from analytics systems and ROI reports, a brand can target certain aspects of its campaigns that need additional attention. A commitment to optimization will help any brand in its efforts to generate ever more value from its signage deployments.