Feedback from the IEN 2019 DAM Practitioner’s Summit (Part 2)

This article is the second instalment of feedback about the recent IEN DAM Practitioner’s Summit from delegates who attended.  The first can be read here.  The responses featured in this article are as follows:

What were the most useful insights you gained from the IEN conference?

Jennifer Anna

A consistent thread at the conference revolved around challenges pertaining to stakeholder buy-in, support and user adoption. A lack of organization support and measurable change behavior results in a certain level of professional stagnation. The fate of the digital asset manager is the most interesting subject to me. Organizational support and adoption of digital asset management platforms can resolve many of the issues pertaining to a happy and healthy DAM (and DAM practitioner), e.g. metadata capture, rights managements, vendor selection, and I was pleased to see it addressed at the IEN DAM Summit.

Henrik de Gyor

Great for gaining insight across a number of industries with other colleagues working with Digital Asset Management

Alexandra Lederman

I found the panel on Rights Management helped me understand when/where/why I would recommend investing in a Rights Management product. The presentation on empathetic metadata helped me understand why I removed “Diversity” from my organizations taxonomy. I also really enjoy taking “tours” of other organization’s DAM systems (I wish there were more). I found it interesting to see how DAMs are set up, implemented, and used through a visual tour.

What DAM-related subjects are currently the most interesting for you and was that reflected at IEN?

Margie Foster

I’m interested in how other large organizations customize their DAMs.  It is great to meet with other DAM professionals, especially those that use the same tool I do.  The topics at IEN were great conversation starters and helped me make several new connections.

Henrik de Gyor

Tagging & Empathy

Vendor Selection, Management, and DAM Essentials

Elevating the Role of DAM Professionals Within the Organization and Beyond

Mark DiNoia

Anything to do with metadata is most helpful and interesting. Also the implementation (and fear of) AI. These topics were addressed at IEN in great detail in several presentations.

Alexandra Lederman

I am currently very interested in integrations, APIs, organization theory, asset life cycle, and system models and I personally did not feel that was reflected fully at IEN.

Do you think the ROI from DAM is properly understood by users? If not, what would help to demonstrate its value?

Frank DeCarlo

I come from an advertising/marketing production background, so in many ways I believe I look at DAM a bit differently than others who use it for another solution set or who see it closer to as a ‘nice to have’. For me, it’s been a necessity and a way of streamlining workflows for over 20 years, thus engrained that a DAM system, at a minimum, finds, distributes and protects assets that have been created or obtained at a cost. So, when well-paid creatives who are not using a DAM and spending unnecessary time in the ‘search’ or not being able to find it at all, I see operations generating a loss.

Henrik de Gyor

No. Still needs more work to constantly explain what’s it for, who is it for, where the value is to those who don’t realize it yet and when should they use it.

Jennifer Anna

No.  Companies and organizations tend to be reactive not proactive and lean towards technology solutions with direct financial drivers.  ROI has always been elusive for DAM systems beyond the efficiency arguments. At one point in time, there was a belief DAM would reduce headcount but it’s the opposite, DAM requires a spectrum of professionals with different skill sets.  Without tracking asset usage, cost savings can also be a challenging ROI argument to make.

The DAM community currently understands the need to advocate for the platform, workflows and most importantly organizational change behavior. We’ve evolved from focusing primarily on technology and moved towards thinking about people. We need to continue advocating but frankly, DAM vendors need to do a better job at marketing.  A few years ago, David Diamond wrote an article titled, “Five Reasons Why DAM is NO Photoshop,” which discusses the issues around the failure of DAM to become a common place software similar to the omnipresent software applications Photoshop, Dropbox, and Google Drive. I believe his arguments continue to be true today. We live in a digital realm where companies are beginning to chase after new technologies at every turn. Ironically, the one marketing technology designed to support all the others has done a terrible job marketing itself. 

Mark DiNoia

I think it is understood by users, but it needs to be communicated to management. This doesn’t always translate to ROI in dollars. In my experience, ROI from DAM is directly connected to getting the creative team to focus on their work of being creative and not concerned about file organization, metadata, etc. This will ultimately make them more productive and capable of delivering a more creative product.

Alexandra Lederman

Unfortunately, I do not. I think an actual workshop, not a presentation, with facilitators demonstrating their ROI with their real numbers followed by small groups and individuals working on their own ROI, and ending with a share out (including results, obstacles, surprises/unknowns) within the small groups and the whole conference.

Has DAM really innovated in the last five years and if so, in what ways?

Henrik de Gyor

Yes. Going on to the Cloud (instead of being on-premise). Having many more integration points to be a more useful rich media hub (via API) to many more spokes. Additional cloud services are able to add automated auto-tagging, transcription and translation, however all of these still need human verification.

Alexandra Lederman

I think the UX of DAM has improved which has enhanced user adoption. Cloud storage is another recent innovation that mostly impacts access, but equally important, I believe we will start to see further innovations as APIs advance and as systems thinking and mental models become more popular in society and the workplace as a whole.

What topics would you like to see discussed in greater depth by the DAM community?

Henrik de Gyor

What would maximize value for DAM for its users?

You have an operational DAM. Now what? How to move the DAM needle

Good and bad reasons to switch DAM systems

Jennifer Anna

Professional development and organizational governance.

Mark DiNoia

I would love to hear more about DAM successes versus DAM failures. My experience with DAM (searching for vendors, demos, purchase and implementation) has been very positive and am surprised to hear when other organizations have negative experiences. I think a great panel that could discuss the details with highs and lows would be helpful to anyone who is in the search phase of their DAM journey.

Alexandra Lederman

I would like to see the DAM community discussing how white the profession is and how we can make it more diverse (both in race and gender). Further, how we can use DAM to break down the patriarchal white supremacy that exists in the organizations we work for.

How do you see DAM developing over the next few years based on both what you know from your own experience and what you learned at this event?

Henrik de Gyor

There will many more be issues to address, fix and improve, so no lack of work for us working in Digital Asset Management.

Alexandra Lederman

It seems like there’s a big push for AI to assist with metadata implementation, but I don’t foresee it actualizing as smoothly as the technologists envisage. I do believe it will be important for Digital Asset Managers to learn, understand, and implement natural language processing in order to make AI actually useful to taxonomies and ontologies.

What was your overall experience of IEN and would you go again?

Frank DeCarlo

My experience of the #IENDAM over the past two years has been excellent. The IEN team are true professionals in how they approach all aspects of their informative and thought-provoking networking seminars. Demonstrating a true understanding of where the DAM community has been and where many of us perceive it is going (insert chuckle) I will most certainly be attending future events and look forward to more engaging topics that force attendees to take a real hard look at where they are in their DAM ambit. One of the most valuable attributes I find is the way in which IEN creates a close and intimate interaction between both attendees and speakers with such diverse backgrounds.

Henrik de Gyor

Very satisfying to meet with so many people working in the field of Digital Asset Management. Yes, I would participate again.

Jennifer Anna

Very positive. I appreciated the practitioner heavy panels and audience. The conference felt like a “safe space” to have candid conversations around the challenges and successes involved in the very complicated and difficult work we do as DAM professionals.  I would definitely go again.

Mark DiNoia

This was a very positive experience for me and I would definitely attend again.

Alexandra Lederman

This is my overall experience:

We need more voices and perspectives presenting and participating on panels.

We need to own that the DAM profession is very white and male. And we need to explore why it’s like that and how we can diversify our profession.

I was very surprised by all of the microaggressions displayed at the conference and geared towards assertive women and people of color.

I would definitely attend again because I love hearing different perspectives on DAM and calling out sexist presentations.

 

If you also attended the IEN Practitioner’s Summit, we would be more than happy to hear from you and present your valuable feedback.  Thanks again to the following DAM Guru members who kindly participated in this, and the previous article:

Feedback from the IEN 2019 DAM Practitioner’s Summit

The Insight Exchange Network (IEN) staged its second annual DAM conference in New York this January.  Last year’s conference, ‘The Digital Assets & Content Leadership Exchange’ garnered positive feedback from DAM Guru Program members, which was kindly compiled by Carol Thomas-Knipes and is available to read here.

We posed a series of questions to delegates who attended, the responses for which are presented below.  A number of common themes have emerged from this year’s round of feedback, including the importance of the Digital Asset Manager’s role, the misunderstanding of how to achieve and measure ROI, and the general level of interest aroused by discussions surrounding user-centric issues such as poor adoption due to insufficient training.

A lot of responses were collected, so we have separated the article into two parts.  The first includes insights from the following gurus:

The follow-up piece features the feedback from these delegates:

We would like to thank everyone who responded for giving us their feedback and allowing us to share it with the DAM community.

What were the most useful insights you gained from the IEN conference?

Tracey Wolfe

From Margie Foster in the Executive Roundtable:

 – Set up a side chat channel for DAM team kvetching. Important to commiserate regarding requests and issues from users. Venting is good – sometimes leads to solutions too.

– AI is not an OR situation (AI or humans). At this stage it is an AND – AI must be monitored, auto tagging reviewed by humans.

Anne Graham

My biggest takeaway from the IEN DAM conference was that despite superficial differences like the culture of the organization, type of asset, and location within the corporate structure, everyone is really dealing with the same issues. We’re trying to balance user access versus intellectual property rights, to educate our users and stakeholders on the importance of proactively managing assets, and looking for opportunities to automate to mitigate decreasing headcount. It’s helpful to come together with people who face the same issues and talk to them about their solutions.

Fred Robertson

The focus on end users was really interesting and repeated a lot throughout the conference. Empathy for them, investing in them, listening to them, meeting their needs, speaking for them, etc. We’re nothing without users and it was nice to hear so many folks talk about how they engage with their users and how hard they work towards rewarding them. Quotes like “walk the customer journey”, “meet users where they are” and “listen to the naysayers” have all stayed with me.

 I also especially liked the American Cancer Society (ACS) case study. That was an eye opener. It really showed the amount of dedication that can go into the process and reap huge rewards for everyone involved. Would love to see more of these. The 2018 conference had a couple of these which were also really great.

Pauline Lopez

The best part of the IEN conference were the insights it provided into a Digital Asset Manager’s role in their company, the support they are given or need to seek, and their expectations about their position. While other DAM conference place the focus on new cutting edge technology or impressive large-scale projects, this conference was a great reminder that the success of a Digital Asset Manager is not necessarily linked to the technology that they choose, but instead depends on the relationships that they can develop and the goals that they set for themselves.

What DAM-related subjects are currently the most interesting for you and was that reflected at IEN?

Anne Graham

I’m currently in the process of standing up a couple of new systems, developing a metadata schema, and updating policies and procedures. These initiatives take resources to implement and maintain. I think an overarching theme to the conference this year was effective resource management, whether it’s staffing, funding, or time. I found it informative to learn how DAM professionals are managing their current resources and how they’re trying to expand user services. It’s a topic that’s constantly on my mind.

Fred Robertson

I was quite taken with the ‘Elevating Your Role’ discussion. Allowing a panel to talk about how they came to the role and what they’ve done professionally seemed to be a crowd pleaser topic and one that would really benefit future attendees. It felt like a real and genuine sharing of stories and ideas. I’d love to see more on this topic.

 Coming out of the conference I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of sustainability and ways in which to illustrate the ongoing value in a DAM. Other ideas which were talked about that struck a chord include – committing to maintenance, scaling a DAM and building cross functional relationships. These lead me to thinking about finding ways to communicate with users that are not disruptive and allow for constant engagement with users and hopefully building a user community.

Pauline Lopez

I’m really interested in how to find success and adoption with your user base. While there wasn’t a direct panel on this at IEN, this thread often did come up across panels, since it’s such an important topic for Digital Asset Managers.

Do you think the ROI from DAM is properly understood by users? If not, what would help to demonstrate its value?

Anne Graham

Users don’t understand the value of media management because it’s only apparent when there’s a problem: assets are lost or corrupted, rights holders threaten legal action, or systems interfere with day-to-day activities. If everything is going as it should, media management is invisible to users. I think we as DAM professionals must move beyond the notion of ROI, because we’re always going to be cost centers, to one of added value. As an example, consistent and relevant metadata adds value to an asset. Regular monitoring and reporting ensure long-term preservation of assets. DAM is a value chain.

Fred Robertson

I do think ROI is understood by users. I just don’t think that they spend a lot of time considering it. While they do want to know what’s in it for them, they really just want to get what they need and keep moving.

 To that end, if we’re successful with our DAM, the ROI for users is their ability to work faster and our ability to relieve them of tasks which take up too much of their time or that are better suited as tasks for the digital asset manager. 

 Personally I think management doesn’t properly understand ROI as it applies to DAM. Mostly because they do not understand DAM. Their expectations need to orient more towards having a knowledge base that informs them first (about how DAM works) so they can better focus on ROIs which are both attainable and properly aligned the business need. They also need to fully support and participate in any change management initiative if they want a true and accurate ROI.

Pauline Lopez

Most users I’ve worked with do understand DAM systems can create an ROI through efficiencies gained and errors avoided. However, leadership may not always be so ready to embrace that a DAM can provide ROI, just because they are so far removed from day-to-day tasks.

 I think demonstrating the value of a DAM should be tackled in a few ways. Of course, you can survey your colleagues, gathering numbers about hours spent per task, see where a DAM can save you time and then calculate ROI in dollar amounts. Another approach that I plan on taking is to conduct the Maturity Model survey that Henrik de Gyor spoke about at the conference. I’d like to survey my department currently to get a baseline reading of where they feel we’re at and then continue to send out the survey every six months to see where we’ve made improvements. While the survey doesn’t explicitly relate to ROI, it does a good job of illuminating the frustrations employees feel when operating in the Ad Hoc or Incipient levels and the potentials available to reach Operational and Optimal levels. No one in leadership positions should want to know that their employees are operating based on outdated, unadvanced asset management models and that they’re not putting in any efforts to improve their situation.

Has DAM really innovated in the last five years and if so, in what ways?

Anne Graham

DAM has some significant innovations on the horizon, like AI and machine learning, which may be able to automate some aspects of asset description and preservation. However, I don’t think these have come to fruition. Skilled professionals are still needed to construct and maintain the data models, metadata schema, taxonomies, ontologies, retention schedules, and preservation rules. In some respects, the profession is cutting-edge. In others, it adheres to established practice in archival science, information science, records management, and digital and physical preservation.

Fred Robertson

This one is hard to answer since I’ve only ever been involved with DAM systems I have managed at any one time – which is not a huge variety. Without close examination of other tools it’s hard to know about innovations and difficult to pay attention fully to industry trends.

That said, over the past two years I’ve been involved in the implementations of two different DAM systems. In both cases I felt too many compromises had to be made because the chosen system either couldn’t do simple tasks or required expensive customizations for functionality which really should have been included out of the box. Developers put up too many roadblocks throughout these processes and failed to understand the most basic of needs of a DAM.

 Additionally, throughout both projects I was unable to participate in the process at a level that allowed my expertise to be a constructive addition to development. Here again is where I feel management and even operations or systems managers do not understand the role enough to allow the asset manager to be (at the very least) an equal partner.

 I describe those examples because they’ve left me to wonder why companies (large ones at that) are making sure poor system choices. Systems which show a lack of understanding or innovation in their functionality and the ability to fulfill many basic requirements as DAMs. I’m sure there are systems and innovations which I am unaware of. Admittedly it is an area where I feel my knowledge is lacking.

Pauline Lopez

I think that the image of a perfect end-to-end system that can take a digital asset from its inception to its final home in an archive has not really materialized. It seems that now the goal is to almost make the DAM disappear for the user. The Digital Asset manager continues to provide organizational structure and metadata for the asset through a DAM, but through APIs, the user accesses the assets in the environments where they need to conduct their work.

What topics would you like to see discussed in greater depth by the DAM community?

Anne Graham

Coming from a digital archivist background, I’m always interested in seeing how DAM/MAM vendors and professionals apply the OAIS Reference Model and the Trusted Digital Repository Checklist (ISO 16363) to the preservation of digital objects. I’d like to see more discussion of how adoption is being achieved, as well as dealing with obstacles.

Fred Robertson

I’d love to see more case studies like the ACS one this year. Also, less redundancy of topics or generic overviews – there wasn’t much of this, but a couple of times it felt like we were repeating ourselves. More success stories – or even failures – would be great.

 The Maturity Model discussion was a nice dive into the topic and I found it very useful. I would love to see something similar done covering Governance. A panel or case study with examples of how asset managers build a governance board and what their interactions look like. I think this would be tremendously helpful.

 I’d love to see a panel of systems and/or operations managers – not digital asset managers per se – but DAM Product owners or stake holders within large companies who can speak about the best ways to influence management and instill the need and importance of DAM. There are many stories about tools being purchased by companies where the asset manager is not included in high level conversations around system selection – mine being a first-hand example. I’d love to hear from people in those roles who understood the need to rely on an asset manager for input, to involved them in the process and were successful doing so.

 Lastly, I think a discussion around how to manage both work in progress (WIP) files alongside or separate from final marketing assets and creative file packages is a topic that begs a panel and/or a case study. I think it’s one of the biggest challenges for asset managers and was touched on at the very end of the conference during the final panel and left me wanting more.

How do you see DAM developing over the next few years based on both what you know from your own experience and what you learned at this event?

Anne Graham

It’s my hope that DAM practitioners can move the discussion of asset management from ROI to the value chain framework. I think that will elevate our expertise and experience within organizations and the profession. We have a lot to offer, but I don’t think anyone is currently taking advantage of our true potential.

Fred Robertson

This year’s event reminded us that Artificial Intelligence (AI) still has a way to go before it can be a reliable tool to use as part of any DAM system. But I do see it developing further and likely becoming a useful extension (in some form) of DAM systems in the coming years.

 My hope for DAM over the next few years is for greater adoption by companies large and small and (hopefully) as a result, larger asset management teams. For all our frustrations as asset managers and being (in most cases) a department of one, I feel the move towards building larger teams, either directly focused on asset management or through user groups or governance boards, that the role will continue to be elevated. I realize this is ambitious thinking, but I do think the needle is moving in that direction. No matter how slow.

 The unfortunate development I see continuing with DAM is the continued proliferation of add-on tools and feature sets which are either unnecessary or not universally useful. Various web products designed for social and/or third party posts – Amazon, etc. – which add complexity and confusion rather than providing meaningful functionality. I’ve been on too many sales calls where the pitch never really lands because the tool has to fit into parameters which are so narrowly defined as to be not relevant to the business case.

What was your overall experience of IEN and would you go again?

Anne Graham

I really enjoyed the intimacy of this the IEN DAM 2019 conference. I felt engaged by my fellow attendees in ways that I don’t at larger meetings. The panel discussions were provocative and conversational rather than didactic and I especially enjoyed the discussions that sprang up organically between sessions. I will definitely return.

Fred Robertson

My overall experience was very positive. I’ve been to both IEN DAM conferences and I would go again as well. I think as it evolves it might need to think about new ways to engage repeat attendees who seek further development and communication with their colleagues and who might not need to attend each panel or presentation. I’m not sure what that looks like exactly, because I really do love the intimacy of the room and the way in which we’re able spend focused time discussing things with our table mates between presentations. I liked the breakaway portion in 2018 where we formed groups and collaborated, but again, I’m not exactly sure how that might work if brought back.

 Ultimately the opportunity to meet and talk to other DAM professionals is the real reward. I leave each day wishing I had more time to talk with more attendees and share experiences of working in Digital Asset Management.

 This year’s conference was significantly shorter than last year – a day and half instead of nearly three days – which was unfortunate. I’m sure there was good reason to shorten it but would have loved at the very least a second full day.

Pauline Lopez

I thought IEN provided a great alternative to vendor-heavy conferences. No one was there trying to sell you anything and you got to hear from DAM veterans with 20+ years of experience under their belt. I really found that valuable and I would go again.

The second part of this series presents more feedback from other IEN delegates.