Feb 23 2016

Today's Technical Deep Divers Can't Succeed Without Collaboration

The process of bringing relevant stakeholders together is crucial to truly campuswide solutions.

Whether at the cutting-edge pace of innovation as an early adopter, the conservative, carefully planned speed of a master craftsperson or, like most of us, somewhere in between, we in academia have embraced technology and turned ideas into working systems that support teaching, learning and the campus experience.

We have linked together labs, libraries and institutions, first with copper, then with fiber and wireless, networks. We have enhanced our classrooms with projection, sound, and lecture capture. We have pulled course management systems out from under desks and into the data centers and clouds where they quickly became mission-critical services.

"As our technological appetites grew, so did the dependencies between technologies."

The World Wide Web shattered the old world of brick and mortar, and together we have rebuilt it with bits and pixels spread around the globe in just seconds.

The innovations we take for granted today are based on deep technological knowledge found in specific fields. Experts in these fields were doing their deep dives to learn what worked and what didn’t and to continually improve upon what did.

The web could not have existed without foundations such as the general availability of Internet access nor without less obvious advances in digital image, video and document technologies. Think about the evolution in web scripting technologies and browsers or the increasing bandwidth of networks that allowed for more pages, more images and more video to be delivered across the globe.

While impressive, deep dives into technical areas are mostly incremental improvements on what preceded them. We have upgraded our wired networks, improved our wireless coverage, reduced costs, gathered more metrics and optimized help-desk response times. Even moving to the cloud – embracing the current trend in IT management – is simply an evolution in models. But this by no means diminishes the importance of the people or work being done in these areas.

"Deep divers today are more important than ever before."

Today's deep divers must not only know their own discipline but also be able to work collaboratively with deep divers in other disciplines. New and idiosyncratic services such as digital signage rely on not just one person or group of individuals using their expertise to drive a project or service to success, but also on the ability to bring many concepts, practices and people together to address common goals and to simultaneously satisfy myriad important requirements steeped in the disciplines – no easy task.

For example, with interactive wayfinding, one must consider various incarnations of customers, content developers, graphic designers, project managers, IT managers, network administrators, architects, accessibility and usability specialists, audio video engineers, electricians, carpenters, emergency-communications liaisons, marketing managers and others. Each offers specialized knowledge and skills that help shape digital signage networks.

This also represents one of our biggest challenges. The leader of any large digital signage deployment effort (regardless of discipline) is responsible for all outcomes. This demands execution at lower costs, faster deployments and simpler solutions. Inviting more departmental participation means more meetings, more questions, more in-depth discussions, more requirements, more complex solutions and longer timelines. But this massive collaboration also means a better cross section of perspectives are gathered that result in workable and scalable solutions.

"The process of bringing relevant stakeholders together is crucial to truly campuswide solutions."

Previously, I would have said that opting for lower costs, faster deployments and simpler solutions should always be standard operating procedure. But that was then and this is now: when, at this very moment, I’m looking at a newly deployed interactive digital sign that violates Americans with Disabilities Act regulations in three ways and is in a location where, if someone were using it, he would be blocking access into a narrow doorway leading to the main corridor of the building.

The location may have been chosen because of its close proximity to a PBX closet. Regardless, the cable was run through a hole in the wall, rather than a terminated jack. This suggests that those responsible for the project did not consult with the proper experts who would have been able to prevent these mistakes. In this case, I would say that bringing in the right folks to do the “deep dive” from the start would have been well worth the effort.

Author Thomas Kunka will present two industry discussion groups at Digital Signage Expo 2016: Higher Education Roundtable: Financial Deep Dive, on Wednesday, March 16, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.; and Higher Education Roundtable: Technical Deep Dive, on March 17 from 11:00 a.m. to noon, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information on these or any other educational programs being offered at DSE 2016, or to learn more about digital signage, visit www.dse2016.com.


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