Interview with Sabrina Fuhrer, Head of Course Management. Implementation of a digital signage complete solution at the Federal Training Centre in Schwarzenburg EAZS.
Simon Wegmüller, Swiss IT Magazine No.11 | November 2019
The Federal Training Centre in Schwarzenburg EAZS, which consists of two school buildings, the central building with catering area and auditorium as well as five assembled accommodation buildings, is used, among other things, for civil protection courses and public conferences and seminars. At the centre, instructors from the Federal Office for Civil Protection FOCP also run courses, especially for teaching staff, command bodies and civil defence cadres and specialists. The training centre offers around 33 classrooms, three larger plenary halls and 125 accommodation rooms with a total of 175 beds. The available rooms are also rented out to other federal agencies, customers from the entire civil protection sector and interested parties from the private sector.
"Clear objectives are enormously important. What do I want, what do we actually need?
Sabrina Fuhrer, Head of Course Management EASZ Schwarzenburg
Digital signage specialist Kilchenmann, based in the canton of Bern, was commissioned to equip the facility with a modern digital signage complete solution. The client's most important need here was the ability to book rooms simultaneously while maintaining high security requirements. According to Sabrina Fuhrer, Head of Course Management at the EAZS Schwarzenburg, this was made possible in particular thanks to the cloud-based solution from Easescreen. Today, there are three steles and an additional three screens at the main entrance, which are used as a wayfinding system through the buildings. The corresponding layout was coordinated and implemented by Kilchenmann for the customer, Fuhrer continues.
Objective and requirements
The overall infrastructure at the EAZS training centre has not changed too much as a result of the cooperation with Kilchenmann, explains Fuhrer. But the goal of finding a newer and user-friendly solution to better guide customers in the centre to the appropriate seminar rooms could be realised. "The existing system was getting on in years and needed to be replaced," Sabrina Fuhrer sums it up. The decision that this should be made possible via a digital signage system was therefore made quickly. "Since our centre is divided into several buildings that are not connected to each other, a targeted signage system is absolutely necessary," explains Fuhrer. "We wanted better visibility for the customer as well as easier handling for us." So the main requirement was clear visibility for the customer as well as clear, easy-to-understand handling for the training centre as operator as well as for the users.
How the system should look and work was also clear from the beginning: "The system had to work via online access, as no software could be installed," explains Fuhrer and adds: "It had to offer different possibilities for presentation. On the one hand, we wanted to guide the customers, on the other hand, we wanted to be able to show pictures, videos or presentations on the displays. We wanted to be able to adapt these flexibly and to our needs."
Schwarzenburg is happy with the current state of affairs, because the original idea could be turned into reality, even if minor adjustments were necessary. "Our ideas were completely fulfilled. We expected some adjustments beforehand, but were surprised that all our requirements could be met," says Fuhrer with satisfaction.
The search for the right partner
The decision for and the search for the right implementation partner was crucial for the successful implementation of the project: "At first we looked for existing solutions at the federal level, but this did not bring us any viable solutions," reveals Fuhrer. "Since we had already worked with Kilchenmann in other cases, we approached them directly with our request. The support offer played an important role, and the safety regulations also had to be complied with by the implementation partner Kilchenmann. In addition, Kilchenmann already had experience in working with other federal offices and also with the EASZ itself - so the right partner was quickly found."
The coordination with Kilchenmann went more or less smoothly, Sabrina Fuhrer continues: "There were one or two technical challenges, such as the server, but we managed to get these hurdles sorted out within a reasonable time. Kilchenmann was able to present the EAZS with a solution that was tailored to the training centre and within budget.
After choosing the partner, the implementation of the project began. And since the team at the EAZS was ultimately to use and manage the solution itself, it was important, according to Fuhrer, to define clear requirements and also to take the lead in the implementation. During the evaluation phase, for example, Kilchenmann already had a staff member who assisted the EAZS.
"During the implementation phase, there was then a new contact person who already knew the tool well and accompanied us from A to Z," adds Fuhrer. "From the site visit to discussing the locations for the displays to the layout of the individual screens, we had to deal with this one person."
The project was launched in September 2018, and the effective collaboration with Kilchenmann began in November. The project was then implemented during our summer holidays and the effective Go Live was then on 5 August 2019," Fuhrer summarises the schedule from start to completion. Regarding the costs, however, the head of course management only reveals that they were significantly below the WTO threshold.
Address problems early
But as with every project, there were also difficulties and hurdles to overcome. "We had allowed enough time, however, because we knew from previous projects that the procurement law requirements took time," says Fuhrer and admits: "There was also a change in the project team in the initial phase, which set us back quite a bit.
This change could clearly have been avoided, says Fuhrer: "If there had been more transparent communication among the project team members." The second major problem that arose was a technical one. Here, lack of communication was also the trigger. "A timely extended round of the project would have helped us to identify this hurdle earlier. In the end, we were able to implement the project on time thanks to the flexibility and commitment of everyone involved," says Fuhrer and advises: "My tip is to have open communication and a core project team that can be expanded by experts if necessary.
Flexibility and fast response times
The final product of the project today consists of an outdoor display and five displays in the various buildings. "We present the current events at the centre on each of the screens, as well as the associated name of the seminar room," Fuhrer explains. "There are changing news tickers as well as pictures, videos and presentations. The room management itself runs through SAP for us." In addition, the information is entered weekly or manually as needed.
The system offers the training centre a flexible way to react to everyday events, Fuhrer continues. "Clients can make requests for their seminar at short notice, and the system's response time is fast. It is much more user-friendly than its predecessor and already had a better acceptance by my team from the moment it was introduced."
For other companies in similar situations to EAZS and considering the implementation of a digital signage project, Fuhrer advises: "It's best to walk the place through the eyes of a customer. In our case, I sent new learners through the centre to find their way around. They were able to give me some pointers with 'fresh' eyes." Clear objectives are also hugely important, he says. "What do I want, what do we actually need? What has been positive so far, where would need to be optimised? I found it helpful to first collect my ideas and only then check the technical possibilities to do so. This way you avoid early censorship, which might not have been necessary at all," Fuhrer concludes.