Having spent the past 7 years in the DAM industry, working with Sports Authority and RE/MAX, Crowson understands that in order to achieve success, you must never stop learning.
What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?
Sports Authority Corporate Headquarters: When I accepted the role of Digital Asset Manager at SA, the system they had in place consisted of a singular asset database that was nothing more than a repository for the still-image assets that were being used in the marketing materials. Over the 7 years I was there in the role of DAM, I expanded the system to consist of an image database, production layouts database, studio database, and swipes database. Each of these served a very different purpose, with access to each being determined by the role of the user.
With each of these databases, I developed and managed the workflows for the users. Image database: all final imagery ready for layout use in all marketing materials. Production Layout database: All live and archived project layout production files lived here. The teams would use a check in/out workflow in this database. Studio database: All pre-production imagery lived here that was shot by the studio. This is where all imagery that was approved for final production would follow a digital edit and mark-up notes process. Also, all imagery here followed a color coding system that would communicate the status of an image visually for multiple users at one time, thus eliminating the need to generate an email requesting a status or update. Custom metadata fields communicated all pertinent information that described any/all production projects each asset was being used in.
RE/MAX World Headquarters: I accepted the role of Digital Asset Manager at RE/MAX World Headquarters in January 2014 after they reached out to me expressing a desire to make the jump from Final Cut Server, which is no longer supported, to a new DAM/MAM system that would allow them to replace FCS as well as incorporate multiple departments within the company and introduce a new digital workflow methodology. This project is still evolving and is in the vendor interview process.
How do you describe digital asset management to others?
I describe DAM to others as a very exciting world that allows you to streamline mundane workflows of the past so that we can work more efficiently and effortlessly from day to day. DAM offers us infinite options when it comes to how we address the needs of the modern workplace. Every company is unique, which is what makes the world of DAM so exciting. I love how organic DAM is and how it can be molded to be whatever it is you need it to be.
How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?
I was a self taught DAM guy. My background was in publishing, advertising, 3-d animation, and business management. When the person in the position of the DAM left SA, they were in the process of deciding how to move forward with it. I stepped up and offered a vision and understanding that they were very impressed with. So began my journey into the DAM world. We used a third party resource for our support of the system in place there and I learned so much from them over the 7 years I was there. I actually got so good at supporting it, the only time our third party support personnel would come in is when we were performing a major update on the system. Recommended sources: I read—a lot! I am always digging thru DAM blogs reading about new trends, etc. I have found the DAM professional community to be one of the most supportive and welcoming communities I have ever worked with. I have met many professionals that have always been so willing to listen to me and give me advice over the years.
What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?
DAM is not something that you just open the box, put in a disc, install and it is all good to go. DAM requires you to be extremely engaged within a company. You have to really form those bonds with the users of the DAM; intimately understand and know their needs and wants. Then do what is needed to find a resolve. It doesn’t matter how amazing you think the DAM is if your users do not adopt it into their everyday workflows. That is what I put first and foremost daily. I remind myself, it is never about what I want; is always about what the users want. I am just there to manage the system in the way that best fits the company needs.
If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?
Working with non-profit humane education for animals groups. I currently do lots of work with some of these groups on the side in a freelance environment. If the day ever came that I was not doing DAM work. I would probably just pursue that full time and focus on helping animals in need. Yes, I am an animal lover. They are the single unconditional element we can have in our lives today.
What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?
Adoption is the biggest challenge any DAM professional must face on a daily basis. The modern workplace has such a diverse culture that exists. Eventually, the generations of the pure digital world will make DAM very easy to adopt into environments. But right now, it is very much a challenge to get people that come from the era of “I need to print out everything” and “I like my folders on my desktop” scenarios to shift and allow a system to manage and communicate the needs of the modern workplace. Older generations tend to struggle with the shift of letting a system do the work for you. Not sure if it is a relevancy thing or what. We all remain relevant no matter what. In my opinion, a DAM allows us to show just how much more relevant we can be as individuals in a workplace.
What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?
My vision for DAM is to see it move out of the workplace and into the home environment. We all have such large digital footprints now and, with the advent of all the cloud services, why not introduce a scaled down DAM that works with the cloud services for personal use? In 5 years, I think DAM will be a common as Microsoft Word. We are already seeing such a shift so quickly with DAM beginning to encompass video, workflow automation, analytics, etc. Within 5 years, the DAMs that are simply a repository will not exist or be relevant. I am not even sure if the term DAM will be relevant in 5 years. I think it will be more of a MEP system, Marketing Execution Platform.
What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?
Not listening; rather pushing what I wanted because it was my vision. That was my biggest mistake many years ago. That is why I say now, “it is never about what I want; but always about what will be work for the users of the system.”
What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?
My biggest success with regard to DAM would be that, in a 7 year period, I went from not knowing anything about DAM to being at a pretty knowledgeable level about DAM, and understanding the function of DAM at such a level that a global company like RE/MAX reached out to the DAM community for guidance and a reference of who they should look at to fulfill this task I have now taken on. And the DAM community gave them my name. From that they tracked me down. I am pretty proud of that. Lets me know I have earned a level of professional respect in the DAM community.
What more would you like to learn about DAM?
I would love to learn more about integrating and automating workflows, distribution, analytics within DAM. One thing I hear more and more is how can we automate workflows, how can we track projects so we can understand where things are stalling in the process. I have always found the UI development of DAM to be so intriguing and would love to see it simplified to a more commonsense approach. DAM systems have a really bad habit of being too techy, we need to get away from that as much as possible, at least on the front end. I think that is where I excel the most, the creation of the process and how it needs to run. That is where I would love to learn more.