If you ask most broadcast managers about “going digital,” you will probably get a response like, “It's not a question of if; it's a question of when.”
However, there is a greater question: how are you going to “go digital?” This question really begs the issue of planning your digital transition.
Often, when asked about plans for investment in new technology, managers will talk about how much money they are spending.
The implication is that the greater the cost, the better the investment. While this approach is great news for broadcast equipment vendors, it can also result in too much money spent for too little return. This is why we need to adopt a strategic planning process for converting to digital.
Strategic planning can be incredibly practical. A strategic plan is all about deliverables — what you should achieve from your investment. There are many ways to design a strategic plan. If you have time for nothing else, follow this simple four-step model, and you will be on the fast track toward investing your capital dollars wisely:
Establish a purpose for your transition. Why are you really making this transition? Do you need to improve your on-air sound? Are you trying to reduce operational costs? Do you want facilities that are better than your competition? Unless you have been blessed with unlimited funding, you will face difficult choices between competing deliverables. If everybody on your team agrees on why you are investing your money, you will have an easier time designing achievable goals.
Establish goals that can be measured. It's too easy to write a goal that says “install a cost-effective digital audio routing system.” How will you know if your routing system is cost-effective? Instead, consider writing a goal to “install a digital audio routing system that every staff producer can operate with one day of training.”
Prioritize your goals. Every capital project brings with it the unexpected. Most unexpected issues consume additional funding. Ask your staff, “If we run into problems — and run out of money — what are the most important goals that we must achieve?”
Publicize your plan. Keep your plan out of the file cabinet — and on the wall, where it belongs. Make sure that everyone sees your goals regularly. We tend to achieve goals in direct proportion to the amount of time we spend thinking about them. Therefore, wise managers look for every opportunity to encourage their staff to think digital.
Jim Paluzzi, Ph. D., is general manager of Boise State Radio, Boise, ID, Professor of Broadcast Technology at Boise State University, and serves on the National Public Radio Board of Directors.