Guru Talk: Carol Thomas-Knipes – LogicSource

Director of Digital Asset Management - Carol Thomas-Knipes

Carol’s experience with knowing the why, who and how of digital asset management implementations has enabled her to streamline digital assets and information relevant to the audiences her DAM system serves.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I was first introduced to DAM technologies a long time ago as an Art Director at DoubleDay Direct. They rolled out a DAM to centralize product imagery, and I was one of the designers willing to bang around on it, offer feedback, and test things out. I found the whole thing really fascinating. But like so many others, building a DAM did sort of fall into my lap.

I was working for LLNS, a pharmaceutical advertising agency, and they bought a DAM to tame the creative production workflow, and provide better rights management for stock art buying terms. It was the same platform they used at Doubleday, so I let my supervisor know, and next thing I knew, it was mine. I became the System Administrator, and eventually the Creative Technology Director at LLNS, mantles I took on gladly.

I have always loved creative technologies as an early Mac adopter, and I was looking to branch out from the purely design and print worlds. At LLNS, for many years while administering the DAM, I was also a Senior Production Specialist, so I had the opportunity to define DAM workflows, procedures and configurations from the inside, knowing the expected user experience. I think it was very helpful for me to have the knowledge of how people worked to foster the change management needed and maintain system relevance. That still helps me to  this day, and is something that I think is often overlooked in technology deployments.

At LogicSource, I am the Product Manager and all around DAM/Creative & Marketing Technology Subject Matter Expert. I work with a wide range of clients in different industries, implementing DAM and other technologies to provide operational efficiency. I manage everything DAM-related, from discovery and requirements, to configuration, integrations, development, training, and rollout.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

Know and understand, fully, why you are getting a DAM, who is going to use it, and how. Even if you are not getting a huge, expensive enterprise DAM, you need to consider the long game—especially in terms of metadata, organization and governance. I am a big fan of not trying to boil the ocean on a DAM deployment. Take it on in chunks. But always try to looks a few steps ahead. Look to what other processes and systems you may want to tie into your system and for what reasons.

DAMs are powerful tools that really can become the hub of asset information, but they are only as good as what you put into them. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to put every possible tag on every possible asset. You’ll never get the thing rolled out. But be mindful of what the most important asset information is, and be firm about at least getting that on your assets initially. The why, who and how will help you narrow your scope in this regard, and are crucially important to providing your best arguments when dealing with change management. Understand your audiences, and make the digital assets and info relevant to the audiences.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

So much information, so little time! Referring to my answer above, even if you don’t go nuts on asset types and metadata, overseeing a DAM is a big job because you and your team are managing “the hub.” Especially if you have integrations, and interconnecting systems. Lots of spokes, though very cool, also equals lots of spinning plates. You need to be a master air traffic controller, and that can be hard when you hit challenges in one area or another.

Also, the landscape is really changing in terms of user expectations with regard to user experience for enterprise software. People want their DAM to be as easy and slick as a mobile app or Facebook. But you’re not posting vacation pictures. It’s still enterprise software. And to that end, while trying to improve UX, we are all still trying to discern just how far the tentacles of DAM can and should go. For example, though it makes a lot of sense on paper for a WIP (work-in-progress) DAM to be your PIM (Product Information System) or eCommerce system, and a Project Management tool, and a host of other things; the ongoing question is always if it is really the best idea. And the answer to that is very individual to an enterprise.

The industry, I believe is trying to figure out where to pivot their software to become these mega-hybrids. Being practical while wading into that unknown is a delicate balance.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

I think whether we all like it or not, DAM will be slicker, less complicated, and more connected to other systems and platforms. I think that will be a great thing, as I’ve often been frustrated with just how static these types of system can be. I also think DAM will morph into these other types of systems to become more of the information hub of a larger system that serves various needs. But at the end of the day, that information still needs to go into the system and on the files, somehow, by people with a mind for that long game. So while DAM will change, I think the need for DAM people will continue.

Be a DAM Superhero! Carol was featured in a 2013 webinar in which she provides advice for those managing digital asset management systems on their own, without large teams. View the “Be a DAM Superhero” webinar » (no signup required)

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Guru Talk: Mary McMahon – DICK’S Sporting Goods

Mary McMahon - Digital Asset SpecialistMary McMahon discusses the value in being open to questioning existing processes and designs with regard to digital asset management. This approach frees you to bring a new perspective that can lead to breakthroughs in an organization’s DAM system.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I’ve worked as a DAM professional at the University of Pittsburgh and DICK’S Sporting Goods. While pursuing my MLIS at Pitt, I worked in the marketing department leading the university’s DAM vendor selection process. We began with a needs assessment, and by the end of the year-long project, had narrowed the field to a single vendor.

Currently, I am the Digital Asset Specialist at DICK’S Sporting Goods. I came on board after vendor selection, and implemented the Company’s enterprise DAM system. Now that the system has been established, my team is responsible for continuously improving our DAM program and system, as well as cataloging the lifestyle photography used in customer-facing vehicles.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

In my specific role, it’s maintaining and utilizing relevant rights (administrative), keywords and product info (descriptive), and technical metadata for the photography and logos we use in order to increase productivity and reduce risk of using our assets in ways that make them liabilities.

Increasing productivity for my users can range from simply being able to search for assets based on a style number or name to developing consistent processes that follow the creation of photography through its ultimate use in a Sunday circular or digital experience. As part of these processes, we add in system integrations and automation. Digital asset management is more than a library of images used by creatives; it’s a larger program that touches many areas of the Company.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned about DAM while studying and working at Pitt, and have continued to learn on the job, through conferences and webinars, and by reading. I keep a Google alert for Digital Asset Management, I am a member of various DAM and taxonomy groups on LinkedIn, and read a lot of the same sources that other gurus have noted in their posts. I’m especially indebted to Tracy Wolfe’s ModLibrarian blog. She does a great job at compiling interesting articles and tidbits each week with the “5 Things Thursday” posts.

I take away different things from each type of learning material. When I’m on the job and with my vendor’s resources (developers and support technicians as well as knowledge center material), I can dive into the intricacies that are unique to my particular DAM solution. Conversely, webinars, conferences, and industry articles keep me up to date on the larger DAM environment.

I love learning from photographers and their crews. I work with people who interact with a number of clients; understanding best practices from their experiences helps us build a better program and process from image capture to delivery in print or online.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

The need to question assumptions is one of the most important things for someone new to digital asset management to understand. A great part about being new to a company or an industry is not having a mindset that if something’s been done one way for a long time, that it’s necessarily the right or only way. Use the lack of experience to your advantage by questioning processes and designs — you’ll bring a new perspective that can lead to breakthroughs and improvement. When you take ownership of your naiveté, you free yourself to build a solid foundation based on best practices rather than the status quo. I know that tip is not specific to DAM, but it is helpful to remember.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

I love what I’m doing now, and have made peace with being in front of a computer for hours a day, but if I had to switch careers tomorrow, I’d likely be in preservation and outreach at a rural historic cemetery — and then supplementing that endeavor with something that pays my student loans.

I’d get back outside, coordinating preservation projects and getting my hands dirty resetting headstones. I’d research and organize information — creating content — for use in outreach programs. I’d be back out in the community getting to know a patron or visitor base.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Not everyone on my greater digital asset management team lives and breathes DAM every day like my immediate team does. Being on the front lines is great for learning from my users, and I want to be able to adapt quickly and make changes. My greatest challenge is balancing the desire to push forward and improve, while not overpromising on enhancement requests and bug fixes. It’s one thing for me to work to find the solution; it’s entirely another to commit to finding a solution that requires resources that aren’t mine to allocate.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

Digital asset management programs will be ingrained in the daily processes of the business, and that most users won’t even realize they’re using it. If I’m doing my job well, we’re creating seamless integrations that support the entire content ecosystem.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Change management when you haven’t questioned those assumptions enough. Onboarding new user groups to a new system and process is an exciting challenge, and if the users don’t feel as though you’ve listened to them or taken their needs into account, you’re going to have a lot of miserable people and poor user adoption.

So go on — ask questions, present suggestions, and challenge assumptions. Know that when you’re implementing a new system, program, or process it’s for a reason. Keep the user as your focus, and work with them to find good ways forward.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success goes along with my greatest challenge. Knowing that a DAM project didn’t exist for a time period in one case, and that the user concerns I wanted to address were out of scope for the current project in another, I researched ways to solve the problem and implement solutions that limit the required resources from the greater team. I utilized our governance process to gain buy-in from the team, and kept people in the loop on testing and implementation of the enhancements.

I view this continual improvement as my biggest success because it’s fostering ongoing relationships with my partners on the team as well as my user base. This success wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t proactively work to understand both my users and my system.

I’m fortunate to have great users who reach out to my immediate team for help with navigation and understanding usage rights, as well as partners throughout the Company who enable me to dive deep into the technical aspects of our system.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I’d love to learn more about the bits and bytes that make up digital assets. The more we repurpose our photography and add in video, the more the structure of the assets themselves is altered. By having a better understanding of how rich content is structured at a technical level, I will be able to build processes that balance the needs of different delivery channels.

I’m also always interested to hear from other DAM professionals working in a retail environment. At a conference earlier this year, I was able to sit down with another retailer that uses the same software that we do at DICK’S. We shared stories of our users’ distinct needs and compared how we solved similar challenges in different ways. Sometimes just getting out of my regular environment, and conversing with others in the field is a great way to put whatever minutia is bogging me down at a given moment into perspective.

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Guru Talk: Alec Wadey – Tahzoo

Alec WadeyAlec understands that a digital asset management system can become the core of any business, but with that development comes challenges.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I have worked for a number of different end clients within my role as Senior Solutions Architect at Tahzoo.  Generally, my responsibility on a project has been to work with the client from the initial pre-sales stage where they have been making the choice around the DAM they will be purchasing for their implementation.

Once this has been completed, I then work with the client during the initial requirements workshops where we define the functional and technical requirements for the actual solution that will be deployed to the end-users. After this stage I generally hand over the project to the delivery team and take on more of an advisory role.

Clients I have worked with during my DAM “tenure” have included JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft, LEGO, The British Museum, Samsonite, Nordstrom and TUI Travel.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

To be honest, I pretty much fell into DAM! One of the consultancies I was working with back in 2007 had signed a partnership with a DAM Vendor and I was asked to get involved in a project and deliver technical training to our clients. The consultancy moved away from DAM so I moved consultancies, since I really enjoyed running DAM projects and all the different business touch points involved.

I think the best sources for DAM are the communities. There are a lot of different vendors, analysts and consultancies with everyone having their own agenda. That being said, people are happy to help. You only have to look at the Henry Stewart conferences, where you can see vendors talking to other vendors, consultancies who are not working with a specific client giving them advice and so on.

I also think that the LinkedIn groups and various DAM websites that are out there can really help.  Almost every question I see raised in a forum has a myriad of different answers from different perspectives.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Definitely on integration and defining the scope of a project! DAM is great because it very quickly becomes a core element of any business no matter how small or how large, so it is never boring and there is always something new to learn.

However, that also creates the biggest challenge, clients can get so overawed by how big a DAM project can get. With different touch points needed into other systems for everything to meet everyone’s requirements, it can quickly get too confusing. For me, it’s about breaking all of the problems down into smaller tasks and chipping away at them one at a time. You soon find you’re where you want to be, but start small and don’t get too concerned about the size of the project ahead of you.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

I am not completely convinced DAM will be around in 5 years! Does that mean everyone will be out of a job, absolutely not. As I’ve previously said, DAM is intertwined into so many other elements of the business, I don’t think it will exist in its own right, it will be part of a wider solution offering.

Currently consultancies are involved on DAM projects, integrating all of the different incumbent systems in a client’s infrastructure together. However, more and more we are seeing partnerships between DAM vendors and vendors of other solutions (Product Content Management, Marketing Resource Management, Web Content Management, Workflow, etc), DAM Vendors extending their offering or larger software companies purchasing DAM vendors and integrating the DAM piece into their wider offering.

I believe this will be the direction of DAM in the future. Will this be good, who knows, it has already happened with some vendors to varying degrees of success. What we can be sure of, is there are exciting times ahead and it will be interesting to see where we actually are in 5 years and what the journey has been like.

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