Managing content across increasingly complex digital signage networks is a monumental undertaking. Thankfully, there’s a content management system (CMS) for virtually any digital signage application. In fact, an expansive and growing industry has developed around the CMS function, giving rise to a host of fantastic companies. Some hardware manufacturers have also thrown their hats into the CMS ring by, for example, investing heavily in robust player-management software platforms that include some very capable CMS functionality to complement media player offerings.
The CMS acronym is ubiquitous in any discussion of digital signage — and for good reason. Behind every well-executed digital signage project sits a CMS that made it all possible.
A Commonly Held Belief
A commonly held belief in the AV space is that an advantage lies in using a single CMS. On the surface, it makes sense: After all, it’s easy to believe that working with a sole CMS partner would reduce technical-compatibility issues and perhaps even save some money in the process. In our personal lives, we’ve been conditioned to “standardize” the personal electronics we use. Think Mac versus PC…think Android versus iOS. Most of us appreciate the convenience of standardizing the technology we interact with on a regular basis. So, it stands to reason that the same would hold true in the digital signage space, right? Well, not exactly….
My opinion might not be a popular one, but I believe that the advantages of building a best-of-breed CMS solution to suit each particular element of a project outweigh the benefits of using a single CMS. Content management is unbelievably complex. Every project is different, and most projects have a wide range of elements. Sure, any CMS would tell you that they’re the best, hands down, at every aspect of content management.
However, the truth is that each has its own inherent strengths. Some excel at impressive videowalls, whereas others are great for room scheduling and other internal comms applications. And some CMS platforms are built for scale, whereas others are best suited to more niche applications. No two CMSes are alike, in much the same way that no two digital signage projects are alike.
The Myth of Single CMS Superiority
The CMSes themselves are most likely the origin of the myth of single CMS superiority. Somewhere along the way, what started as a sell-against slide in a pitch deck became generally accepted as rarely challenged conventional wisdom. Although one might easily believe that a single CMS is a jack-of-all-trades solution, capable of meeting the customer’s every need, that’s simply not true.
So, what are the potential risks of going with a single CMS for all your digital signage needs? Let’s explore them.
Leaving Money on the Table
Oftentimes, using a single CMS for the entire project ends up costing more than a custom, best-of-breed CMS solution would. Typically, a CMS solution that offers the broadest array of functionality may result in the customer paying for features they don’t actually use. Conversely, cherry-picking software solutions to fill very specific applications can be cost effective, resulting in an aggregate cost that undercuts the investment that would have been required to keep everything under a single CMS.
When a CMS isn’t able to deliver specifically what’s needed for a particular project, they’ll often suggest slight modifications to the scope of work such that the content management needs more squarely align with the offering. However, this comes at a cost to the customer because the result does not always reflect the original design intent of the project.
As a specialty integrator, we often find ourselves as the de facto intermediary that sits between the customer and the lead integrator. Integrators tap us for our expertise managing digital signage hardware, and, by extension, we’re often consulted on which CMS platform to use.
We learned early on that one size does not fit all when it comes to CMS providers. By seeking out best-of-breed solutions for a broad array of client projects over the years, we’ve learned that CMS platforms have both unique strengths and blind spots. We don’t buy into the myth that a single CMS approach is the only way to go, and, consequently, we deliver a value to our customers that runs deep. Taking a hybrid approach that maximizes the strength of various CMSes ensures our customers’ digital signage vision is fully realized, without comprises and, often, at a significant cost savings.