With a clear understanding in the importance of managing a company’s digital assets, Graham has been able to efficiently increase brand awareness throughout the academic sector.
What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?
I first became involved with digital asset management in 2004 when I was working in the corporate communications team at King’s College London. I was charged with finding a solution to a long held, but vaguely articulated, need for an image library. It was a project which led to a journey into digital asset management and related areas like digitisation, workflow, and process improvement.
The project had originated from the need to promote a consistent visual identity across a complex organisation, but we quickly realised that there was scope for broadening the use of DAM to impact a range of business areas such as information management, heritage and preservation, and legal compliance. Appropriate management of digital assets and their metadata in this sector can improve research in the arts and sciences, and facilitate collaboration between academics, digital asset owners, and businesses seeking new knowledge and content that they can use to maintain a competitive edge. This is especially true of universities in the UK, many of which are facing a challenging funding environment.
I went on to manage another six DAM projects over the next decade, most recently at the University of Cambridge where our brand toolkit, an integration of celum IMAGINE and Typo3, is now a vital tool in improving marketing effectiveness after a recent rebranding.
Although I aim to keep a strategic perspective I can’t deny that my particular interest is in brand asset management. Well-crafted self-service toolkits build belief in a brand and encourage engagement and advocacy – particularly when complemented by other tools like online guidelines, web-to-print functionality, and a best practice showcase.
What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?
If I had one piece of counsel to offer someone new to digital asset management it would be that DAM systems really do have the potential to produce order from chaos, but only as an integrated part of a comprehensive strategy. They need support, resourcing and a genuine organisational commitment. It’s always vital to ask what you want to achieve and why you need to do this. Don’t get too concerned if scope changes over time – that’s the nature of the beast, but the important thing is to be agile, and prepared to adapt and embrace change.
What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?
It’s an interesting market at the moment and there’s a layer of obfuscation which some vendors have used to their advantage – a lack of transparency about DAM, and what clients should expect, has made it easier to sell inferior products. This is beneficial to vendors whose products are significantly behind the best of breed, but customers suffer. I’m supportive of the DAM Guru initiative as a positive opportunity to dispel some of the confusion and I’d like to see the DAM community making more of an effort to share knowledge and insight.
The features of many digital asset management systems have reached a plateau of stability. On one hand this means that the sector is mature, but also indicates a lack of innovation and potentially a challenging period as Cloud-based file sharing services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Skydrive also reach maturity. Articulating value and distinctiveness is going to be a survival challenge for some vendors if they’re unwilling or unable to move to higher value.
Hosted DAM systems are now undoubtedly convenient and cost-effective alternatives to the traditional in-house models, but in many large institutions there’s still a need for a cultural change to accept that hosting has become a commoditised service. Further growth in cloud-based services is inevitable and this is huge area of interest and opportunity for DAM, as with many other enterprise systems.
One area where I’d like to see DAM vendors make rapid progress is in user interface design. I can count the number of genuinely intuitive user interfaces on the fingers of one hand – to be truly successful DAM systems need to offer a choreographed experience which is engaging and as effectively integrated as possible.