Insight Exchange Network (IEN) staged its third annual DAM Practitioner’s Summit in New York last month. As in 2018 and 2019, we have assembled some feedback from DAM Gurus who attended.
We posed a series of questions to a selection of attendees, the responses for which are presented below. The list of those who gave us feedback are as follows:
1. What were the most useful insights you gained from the IEN conference?
Frank De Carlo
Without question the role of Digital Asset Managers are being taken more seriously as compared to five years ago. The field has and continues to grow at an accelerated rate. Just take a look at the current job opportunities and new titles emerging such as Global DAM Manager and VP of DAM – it’s paving the way for a more refined definition of standards and practices. It’s no longer shades of upstairs/downstairs, it is upstairs and downstairs where DAM managers are being offered a different seat at the table. We have the downstairs, where 50 or 60 people are responsible for keeping the DAM running; and the upstairs, where the DAM managers role is much more involved in how the assets are centralized and going to work throughout an entire enterprise. Exciting things ahead and I am eager to see what transpires over the next five years as compared to the last!
How to keep users adopted beyond the initial launch
Role of DAM professionals and how we can evolve
Governance and rights management
Digital Asset Management (DAM) is performed at a wide range of businesses and institutions. While managing digital assets is often done differently at each of these locations and sometimes within the same organization, there are best practices, standards, and challenges common to all of our work.
Though I embrace technology, I am well aware of the “technology trap” whereby users see tech as a solution for everything. As many speakers attested to, DAM-related problems require people skills sometimes more often than technology skills. Acting as a “translator” or “mediator,” roles that were often repeated during the summit, positions us as conduits to avant-garde technology.
Vendors aren’t the bad guys. Disorganized information is! We must learn to trust and collaborate with vendors and third-party integrators to meet our DAM goals. Otherwise, we’re putting up unnecessary roadblocks. Let’s get in on that blockchain action (Demetrios Vasiadis, Manager of Digital Asset Technologies CONDE NAST). Leveraging this technology to capture a digital asset’s provenance should come standard with every DAM system.
I found it very useful that a number of the sessions were delivered via panel discussions. It was interesting to hear from multiple panelists who are subject matter experts with a broad range of perspectives across various industries. Seems no matter the differences in business we represent, we all find common ground and share similar pain points in the DAM space. Challenges aside, I took away a lot of interesting information and many things to consider relating to AI, rights management, user adoption, system integrations, ranking or scoring assets, and approaches to archiving assets.
This year I was interested in measurement, which can be a real challenge. I especially appreciated the Increasing User Adoption to Maximize Your DAM’s ROI panel as Anne Graham, Leah Carlson, Jessica Berlin, Henrik de Gyor and Frank de Carlo shared their first hand experiences with user adoption and the bottom line.
It was fascinating to hear how organizations are using metrics to gauge user adoption. There were a couple of sessions that discussed metrics and the different methods that are used either on their own or together with a number of measurements to provide a full picture of how DAM is valued within the organization. It reinforced the point for me that to measure and increase DAM adoption you need to understand what your organization values and align the DAM with those core business objectives.
2. What DAM-related subjects are currently the most interesting for you and was that reflected at IEN?
DAM topics I prefer to see discussed include the ongoing management of a DAM system and processes. The sessions at IEN were right on target for me because they covered the topics that we (as DAM professionals) are experiencing, such as the continuous practice of user training and adoption, how to build strong relationships with stakeholders and the vendor, communicating with IT better, and the importance of a governance program.
These are not topics to be addressed only during implementation; these processes are ongoing with no end date. DAM is not a well-oiled machine because DAM can’t be implemented then “left alone” without the ongoing management of the processes and workflows directly affected by it. What you need at the start of implementation may not be what you still need a year later, or even five years later. Processes, people, and technologies change, including the platforms we use to communicate with our customers; DAM can’t remain static and must be maintained to stay relevant and keep up to date with all these changes.
I am fascinated by Artificial Intelligence (AI), especially natural language processing (NLP). Though Rebecca Schneider’s case study on empathic tagging focused on its theoretical use, few speakers focused on its practical application. I overheard several attendees discussing how this technology is still incipient and seemingly useless. Including presentations that focus on real-world, or practical, implementations of AI would interest me and, I think, other attendees.
I’m always curious about DAM system evaluation, implementation and rollout. Approaches to this vary widely, so I enjoy hearing how organizations are doing this. There were hints of discussion about this in a couple of the panels, but I think there would have been value in discussing these in a more concentrated way.
3. Do you think DAM and particularly the role of Digital Asset Managers is being taken more seriously by senior management now compared with five years ago?
Senior management is starting to recognize that DAM overlaps with many departments across the organization. Even five years ago, leadership may have seen the need to have at least one fulltime staff for DAM without realizing that it takes more than one individual to manage cross-collaboration across multiple teams. I think that present-day DAM management is already an improvement from five years ago because senior management has now recognized that successful DAM systems (integrations, trainings, adoption, governance, etc.) must come from top-down and not bottom-up (in other words, not from a single individual).
Unfortunately, with few exceptions, digital asset management has yet to garner the support it deserves from senior management. Much of the onus to change this misconception seems to be on the shoulders of practitioners (with some consultants banging on the proverbial drum) . Unfortunately, several speakers spoke of “failures” prompting investment in DAM. For example, Digital Rights Management seem to be an afterthought for companies until a copyright lawsuit is brought forward. Thus, the perception of our value may be tied to convincing managers to be proactive to anticipated risk rather than reactive to realized trouble.
Know your audience – meaning the role of Digital Asset Management (DAM) can depend largely on the industry, the company, strategic goals and the context in which DAM can help senior leaders achieve those goals. For instance, trying to talk about the benefits or value of using DAM technology to centrally store a company’s digital assets may feel like a futile effort. However, drive the discussion to focus helping senior leaders achieve the vision of data-driven marketing decisions using insights extracted from the DAM – now you have their attention. I think it’s our job as DAM practitioners to reinvent or transform the way we communicate about DAM in a way that’s meaningful or impactful to our stakeholders – DAM users and senior leaders.
I think it depends! I definitely have seen an uptick in organizations valuing DAM and Digital Asset Managers, but I have also seen organizations who still do not prioritize having a dedicated Digital Asset Manager once they have rolled out a system. Overall I do see things moving in a positive direction, but there are cases where more work needs to be done to show the value that a full-time, dedicated Digital Asset Manager can provide.
4. In what ways do you see the DAM market evolving over the next decade?
Improved AI and automation (eg: metadata tagging and image recognition).
Improved file transfer methods.
I am a bit of a pessimist when it comes to the DAM market outlook: and I’ve only been doing it for six years! I foresee little significant DAM evolution in the next decade. For things to change, they need to get worse before they get better. Until senior management place DAM on equal footing as technology, finance, operations, etc., it/we will be treading water. In other words, we will continue suffering from a lack resources until the DAM ball is dropped and decision-makers notice. Maybe it IS time to finally take that vacation, especially if you are a solo DAM librarian!
Keep your eye on the bigger picture.
DAM supports the digital supply chain and is part of a larger digital ecosystem.
It’s important DAM technology evolve to support the end-to-end life cycle of content.
Robust ability to enable analytics, incorporate workflows, track campaigns, publish content, and integrate with creative authoring tools – are key to name a few. It’s an exciting time to be working in DAM.
5. What was your overall experience of IEN and would you go again?
Frank De Carlo
Each year I find the IEN DAM summit both thought-provoking and useful. I can think of several occasions when I’ve changed the approach or direction of specific projects as a direct result of insight or thinking from some of the sessions, speakers and audience. As well, I feel IEN continues to do three things really well. First, it is smart about flagging up the big issues leaders need to be conscious of today and on the horizon. Second, IEN has an excellent eye for strong speakers, and consistently hits the right balance between established thought leaders who have been there, done it and filtered out what really matters, and the bright young stars who are shaping the future. Third, IEN has mastered creating an easy atmosphere where conversation flows – I consistently have surprising conversations with interesting industry leaders. Speaking at IEN is always a pleasure – the people and program are consistently spot on. I am very much looking forward to next year!
IEN exceeded my expectations and I would absolutely attend again.
I would definitely attend another DAM Summit. As practitioners, we often get wrapped up in our own digital ecosystem. It is important to be exposed to our community of practice so that we can improve our work, commiserate, and have fun!
The IEN DAM Summit is the best sort of conference, where practitioners outnumber vendors and real peer to peer connections can be made. It’s a great opportunity to learn best practices and compare use cases. It is a very engaging environment where no questions are too basic or too esoteric. The experience and problem-solving creativity in the room is very positive. It is especially an oasis for team-of-one DAM managers and a great source for strategic planning.
6. What topics would you like to see discussed in greater depth by the DAM community?
I’d love for someone to conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of the DAM industry and present their key findings at every summit. Knowing about new and emerging technologies, for example, and how they may affect our work is key to remain at the top of our game.
Please bring back the salary survey! The collected data and derived conclusions will help all DAM professionals attain the pay they deserve. I have certainly benefited from this survey in the past: my leveraging of it earned me a hefty pay increase.
DAM evaluation, implementation and rollout. Different approaches and methods and how they worked (or didn’t) for the organization.