High-maintenance signage


Like many modern highrises, the building where I live has digital signage displays in the elevators. And it’s not even the fancy kind that folks like Captivate and OMN provide. Nope, ours are the low-tech variety, with just a series of slides about building info and events.

I really didn’t pay any special attention to the screens until recently, when they started to break a lot. I began seeing messages about files that couldn’t be found, or weird errors with the screen frozen behind them. Based on how often I see the building maintenance crew in the elevator with a laptop plugged into the screen, I’m guessing they spend several hours each week fixing these problems.

Granted, they’re using old technology without any sort of remote updating or diagnostic capability. But the takeaway here is bigger than any one choice of technology. The real question is: do the people in charge, presumably building management, have any clue how much time their staff spends fixing the screens? Has anyone looked into the cost savings of just replacing the flaky technology? I’m guessing no on both counts.

Why don’t the people on the front lines report this sort of thing to their boss? My guess is that they’re afraid of being critized, as if the boss would say the problem is due to the employee’s lack of skill. Obviously, this is a shame. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, since my company sells digital signage technology that’s considerably more reliable than what I’ve talked about today. But no matter what technology or application you’re working with, users have an obligation to let the higher-ups know when things are broken beyond repair. Armed with that info, the powers that be can look at whether it’s cost effective to replace the flaky gear with a more reliable product, rather than keep spending time and money to help the old system limp along.