Category: DGP Member Interviews

Guru Talk: Bonnie Ladwig – The Integer Group

Bonnie-Ladwig-Cybrarian

Bonnie has been fortunate to conceive a vision for what her DAM system could be, and seen it come to fruition. The experience has delivered priceless insights – that she happily shares.

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

I have been Cybrarian for The Integer Group in Denver since June 2003. I started as Archivist and Asset Manager for the agency. Those first couple of years, I did what I would call “manual DAM,” in which files were posted in a folder-organized system on read-only shares in our network while and also archived to DVD. Nothing was available online, in a database, or searchable except by file name, so a lot of time and effort was put into naming conventions. The only way to access the files was to navigate the folder structure.

Archiving and the idea of better organizing assets for users at the agency led me to get my master’s in Library and Information Science from University of Denver. Early on in my education (2004–2009), the idea of handling born digital assets was more an anomaly than the common practice it is today. While my education provided me a strong foundation in library science—that aligned with archives and records management as well as standard metadata schemas—it lacked in true DAM. But I found that many library science aspects came across.

My official foray into DAM began with a DAM system and the dream of having the archives accessible—with visuals of the final work—via a website for creatives within the agency began to take root. During the next few years, the agency significantly grew which translated to more and more assets that needed to be accessible. I realized that metadata would be key in helping users locate assets because the talent of remembering job numbers from year to year was dying off. This led me to develop a custom metadata schema that fit with information the agency was already capturing. During that same time, we outgrew what we felt our initial DAM system could handle before it could be launched to the agency. Even though the website was not launched, I kept gathering the necessary metadata and could at least search on my machine. I did maintain the read-only file shares as well.

About six years ago we purchased a different DAM system. The goals were to enable users to work off the server as well as archive to tape vs. DVD and have the archives searchable visually via a website available to our studio artists, which is still in use today. This was a huge shift in DAM for us. Of course it proved that the base DAM system didn’t fit all of our needs. While it did have a database to which metadata could be added, the addition of metadata was manual and cumbersome. Three years later, we ended up purchasing a keyword search tool that would allow metadata to be searched. Users across the agency could search for final art reference to determine which files they needed in high resolution be it for a client request or comping purposes. Because of the sheer number of assets we had within the system, both live and on tape, the search proved too sluggish to benefit users.

In late in 2011 the game changed again when we started work on our own homegrown solution with a dedicated developer and a UX designer. This web application would allow users to filter and/or search across smaller set of assets (final reference files) vs. the entire asset library of millions of assets. The metadata schema I had developed back in 2004 was still of value and could finally be used as it was intended! The assets in the web application were downloadable, allowing users to use the assets in presentations or to mark them up for repurposing. The web application also allowed users to request high-resolution assets via a quick asset request system that sent an email to a select group of users to fulfill. While the homegrown solution took roughly a year to build and there were more hurdles than I was expecting it was launched to the agency in the first quarter of 2013. We hit a few stumbling blocks during launch but had a solid system working by spring. It was the first time that the agency had access to past work and the fact that users could filter and search to find what was needed was met with excitement. Nearly half the agency had logged into the system within six months. I was the product owner as well as the agency trainer throughout the entire development process. It was a huge learning curve to get something done from scratch, but it was rewarding.

In January 2015 we realized that improvements to the 1.0 web application needed to be addressed. I once again was product owner and the agency trainer for phase 2.0 development. While 1.0 had functioned decently when it was launched, it was no longer seen as fast enough for our users needs. We also saw the opportunity to change the way it worked to allow the application to be faster for the user as well as more scalable to more libraries. This decision ended up changing the user experience as well. We launched 2.0 in mid September with a whole different look and feel, expanded the libraries available, and made it wicked fast. Now, two months after the 2.0 launch, we are receiving solid feedback on how much better this version is, which is fantastic.

For me, DAM was a long and arduous journey that required constant advocating as well as steep learning curves and many sales pitches. But, in general, what we have out now to our users is in many ways what I had hoped would be possible way back when DAM was in its infancy. It is possible to not completely drown in assets and still get a DAM out.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

The goal of a DAM is to be a one-stop shop for the user to locate needed assets—either current or historical—be it by subject, branch of a business, brand, or client among other. DAM can occur within a department or multiple departments, across an entire business, across various offices, shared to various other business partners, or even open to the public at-large. DAM should help users quickly find what they are looking for. Specifically, in my case, DAM is a web application containing the finished advertising reference visuals created that allows users to quickly find what they are looking for from a previous campaign. The application can also be used by someone new to the client or the agency as a site that allows the user to review the historic work that has been done for a client.

Our DAM enables users to filter criteria and/or search a text field to narrow their searches to a smaller subset. Our DAM libraries are culled to only show the final advertising visuals vs. all the pieces and parts (placed files, stages of retouching, etc.) that make up the visual, which is stored in another archive. Currently our DAM is nearing 200,000 assets whereas our archive contains well over 2 million assets.

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

It’s a huge undertaking to get it done right. Nothing works straight out of the box regardless of what the salesperson says. If you are not overwhelmed by the sheer number of assets you have to wrangle, then you are doing it wrong.

Once you realize just how many assets there are, assess them and determine which ones would offer the most bang for the buck to your users. If you can temporarily reduce the scope to only tackle one or two types of asset collections, then you will have a better chance of success and of getting needed feedback to help determine the course of the next sections of collections that need to be included. Finally, listen to your users! They provide of information of what would best work for them just by talking about the business itself. The best ideas can come from a casual, water-cooler conversation.

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

I would probably be working in a museum archive somewhere, wishing they had the ability to have a DAM. A DAM would be a glorious way to view the collection contents without having to always go into the physical archives.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

We just did a 2.0 launch in September of this year. It proved to be a lengthy redesign of both the user experience as well as how the data is ingested. As usual, the development took longer than I would have liked. Now that we have the shiny new version of our DAM out there, the biggest challenge is maintaining iterative development. Prior to this launch, we were stagnant for nearly two years on development. Because our DAM is only internal at the moment any time client development projects come in, development on the application stagnates. I am sure many people in DAM experience this frustration.

An ongoing challenge that I know all of us face is how to stay on top of the work that needs to be available in the system. I am constantly reevaluating how I can improve my workflow as well as other options for automation and metadata input that would improve the user experience.

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

I believe that the need for DAM will continue to grow in the coming years. I have reviewed several DAM systems in the last year in which vast improvements have been made to allow administrators to get web applications out to users faster than was possible in the recent past. I still do not feel any of the DAM systems truly work 100% out of the box, but with the varying complexity of DAM needs, I do not know how that would ever be possible. The more work one does up front, such as organizing/analyzing assets, having a solid understand of processes, and determining where DAM needs to fit prior to purchasing a DAM solution, the better off one will be.

While some have said that the time for DAM is over, I feel there is still significant growth that will happen in DAM in the coming years. I foresee that the time between purchase and implementation of DAM will become much faster due to additional development of DAM. I also believe there will be additional facets to DAM that may not even be on the radar now. It is going to be exciting to both observe and be a part of what happens.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

I prefer the term hurdle vs. mistake. The biggest hurdle for me during 2.0 development was translating the user requirements into concise developer tasks. Oftentimes I felt I had clearly defined a requirement only to have the developer come back with questions that I didn’t even think would relate to what I was looking to have executed.

While I feel I am making improvements in writing user requirements, I know I still have a lot more to learn, which I will do with each project I work on. Another challenge that I consider a work in progress is ensuring that I provide a use case that allows both scalability as well as capping the scope to prevent developing against all possibilities in the entire universe—it’s a very delicate balance.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Our biggest success is that the web application has reached over 50% of our users in under two months after its launch. Because of its speed and ease of use, users are showing those previously unaware of the site how to use the application as well as how it is a solid resource at their fingertips, which to me is the best indication of success.

For me, personally, my biggest success is seeing what I dreamed as DAM all those years ago actually being in the hands of our users. It was a long journey but not only did I make it through, I am proud of what was produced. Now on to phase 3.0.

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Guru Talk: Joshua Meyer – KieranTimberlake

Joshua Meyer - Knowledge Manager

Joshua explains that adopting new technologies that integrate with a digital asset management system have their benefits, but also can be cause for new and unforeseen issues.

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

My first exposure to digital asset management systems was as a library science intern at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA helping to manage their digital repository of images related to horticulture, allied fields and institutional assets.

After earning my MLIS, I worked for over two years as a Digital Archivist / Data Manager in the Office of the University Architect at the University of Pennsylvania. I managed and was systems administrator for a hybrid DAM/DBMS for architecture, engineering and construction documentation consisting of blueprints, drawings, images, CAD, and associated files.

Earlier this year I was hired as Knowledge Manager at KieranTimberlake, an architecture firm in Philadelphia. I’m currently in the process of implementing a DAM system to help meet many knowledge management goals and objectives.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I owe my success in DAM to my training at Longwood Gardens. They have a one year library science internship that focuses on DAM systems, traditional archives and library management supporting academic, research and special collections. Longwood Gardens’ focus on education as well as sharing intellectual capital creates a great environment for learning. I have found that webinars, white papers and blogs are great for information on best practices and troubleshooting, but nothing beats the act of trialing a product in tandem with its tutorial resources. 15 day trials truly benefit both the buyer and the vendor in the DAM industry.

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

I have a professional degree in landscape architecture as well as graduate degrees in sustainable development and library + information science, so I have always aimed to pursue career interests that support the culmination of my training. Before taking the job at Penn, I was also interviewing for architecture librarian positions at academic institutions [check out the related organization AASL]. I’ve also worked on historic landscape architecture projects including research and cultural landscape reports; I could see myself pursuing these types of projects again later in life, post retirement.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Managing a DAM system in the AEC [architecture, engineering and construction] industry is unique due to the workflows and shear volume of asset creation paired with additional needs for marketing, communication and document management activities. While digital asset management systems function beautifully when used as repository for precisely curated final images, many systems have evolved to also tackle productivity, document management and integration.

While I think these strides are very impressive and speak volumes to the ingenuity of the DAM industry, it has also sparked the major ongoing client/owner activity of testing, researching and soliciting feedback for for these new plug-ins, tools and updates for possible adoption. Many times you’ll look to adopt cutting edge updates to help meet higher level goals and then again once in awhile you may even take a bet on bleeding edge technology.

With the industry being so innovative these days we are given so many options to improve our infrastructure and in some cases our entire knowledge management processes. Having these choices is great, but it requires due diligence. So I’d say the greatest challenge these days is being proactive in learning about the new advances in DAM while at the same time being comfortable with decision making and how it affects one’s organization overall.

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Guru Talk: Jaime McCurry – Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Jaime McCurry - Digital Assets Librarian

Jaime offers some wonderful advice about digital asset management specific to policies and workflows for successful DAM system strategies.

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

I first started thinking about DAM while pursuing my MLIS. After graduating in 2013, I was selected to serve as a resident in the inaugural National Digital Stewardship Residency program, hosted by the Library of Congress, where I was placed at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. as a digital archivist. For nine months I worked to evaluate the digital climate at the library as it related to digital asset management and digital preservation. In addition to working on the Folger’s web archiving program, I generated a file-format inventory of the born-digital assets created and held by the Folger’s theatre and television production departments. That inventory evolved into a prescriptive digital stewardship needs-assessment report, intended to support future institutional digital asset management projects and programs.

I am currently the Digital Assets Librarian at the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C. At Hillwood, I am positioned in the Archives & Special Collections Library where I am responsible for developing, implementing, and sustaining our digital asset management, preservation, and stewardship practices. I administer our newly created institutional digital asset management program and manage our current DAMS. Some of my responsibilities include user-training, the development of local policies and workflows, overseeing any necessary system development work, and the general management of our digital collections.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

As a library science student, I was drawn to all things digital: digital access and digital stewardship/preservation especially. When studying digital stewardship, you come to be familiar with what’s known as the digital lifecycle. The lifecycle model essentially could be considered a core tenet of the DAM profession: a digital asset is created, it is described, managed, preserved, and made discoverable, all to facilitate access, use, and reuse. These principles and their close connection to the DAM profession led me to learn more DAM and how proper digital asset management programs provide access to important collections of content.

Specifically, I found resources such as the Journal of Digital Media Management and blogs like CMSWire and DAM Guru to be very helpful. I’d definitely recommend anyone considering participating in the DAM Guru program to take the leap. I was fortunate to connect with a Guru in 2013 while working as a resident at the Folger and the conversation we had together was incredibly informative and insightful.

There are also tons of helpful resources coming out of the library and information science communities, especially regarding descriptive standards, digital access and preservation technologies, and general digital information management strategies: D-Lib Magazine, the Code4Lib Journal and community, and the Library of Congress’ The Signal to name a few.

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

DAM is both an activity and an environment. These two existences rely on each other to survive. The activities that go into the continual management of your assets and DAMS as a whole rely completely on the working environment that provides the policies, workflows, motivation, and support for those activities to take place. That and while there are universal DAM strategies, each DAM environment will be slightly different at each institution you encounter. The structure, the bones, of your program should be determined by the needs and use-cases of your users. In my experience, solutions and workflows that attempt to complement and optimize native work habits are more likely to be adopted and to survive.

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

Web development. I am learning to code in my spare time and have a growing love for graphic and user-centered web design. It would be so interesting to apply these interests in a cultural heritage/museum setting. I think a lot about sharing digital collections and about what an engaging digital collections portal or online web exhibition might look like. Those are thoughts I intend to explore further in the future.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Well, there will always be the-great-metadata-challenge: how much is too much? How little is too little? Where is the balance? When I introduce the concept of metadata to our content-creators and our general users, I like to draw the connection between metadata and search performance. We’re trying to make sure that our content-creators are equipped with the tools and tips they need to describe their content efficiently so that our search results are as accurate as possible for our general users. I find that the example of searching and successfully finding the items you are looking for really resonates with users.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

The full implementation of our current DAMS at Hillwood. It was, and still is, a definite journey from migrating content from the institution’s past DAMS to working with our terrific creators to describe and provide access to that content, some of it for the very first time! We’ve also undertaken two development projects to optimize the system to our needs and are already starting to see the rewards of such measures.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I would love to learn more about our DAMS’ API and more about APIs in general. There’s such a wealth of content that we’re managing, it would be really amazing to connect to and pull from that wealth in more creative ways to support the discovery of, use of, and interest in our assets.

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Guru Talk: Kim Phillips – Bass Pro Shops

Kim Phillips - Digital Asset Coordinator

Kim knows that the rollout of a digital asset management system can make or break it with the end users. She offers some great tips with regard to introducing a new DAM system company wide.

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

I started learning about the Digital Asset Management industry in 2007/08 while working for my current employer Bass Pro Shops. In 2010 we started using a DAM service and I was involved heavily in the setup of the system from an end user perspective.

At present I’m the Image Asset Coordinator in charge of asset ingestion, taxonomy, training, troubleshooting, and general administration of the database for about 150 users, and the font librarian for the Creative department.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I explain the bare bones of what I do, which is essentially an image librarian for the thousands of assets we have on file. In that scenario DAM is about sorting and filing those assets in a database so the entire company can easily access them, instead of by a single librarian.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

My learning experience was all by touch, which I’ve found is the case for many people in the industry. We had stock photography cd’s sitting in a back room of the photography department that needed to be accessed by the creative department. I was a project traffic person and moved over to organize the assets and started the process of adding metadata to files and moving them to a server for the creative staff. That eventually morphed into the DAM library we have online now.

I actually had two premedia vendors talk to me at length about DAM. One of the vendors was very much ahead of the curve in terms of where DAM was going and I learned a lot from them. They pointed me towards Real Story Group and we were able to purchase the Real Story Group DAM Vendor Evaluation report. That was the best resource I encountered that went straight to the heart of DAM systems that would best meet our needs as a company. I also read articles on CMSWire. My other favorite resource is other Asset managers via LinkedIn groups or networking at DAM functions.

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

DAM requires a lot of groundwork before rollout. I’ve heard stories of partial DAM rollouts that soured the end users on the whole system before it even got off the ground. So here are some tips that helped me:

  • Understand the nature of your company’s assets and who the end users are. When I started out the thought was the assets were just for the creative group. As I started talking with people in various departments I realized more people needed access for a variety of reasons (video stills, press releases, web banners, and print pieces).
  • Get feedback from people across several departments on how they would search for an asset. We found that some groups search by sku (typically merchants) some are more comfortable with keywords and a few just want to browse folders to see what’s out there.
  • Have a good roadmap for implementing the DAM. Most DAM vendors will work with you on this. I’m always cautious if a vendor says at the outset “we can customize that for you”. That usually ends up being costlier in the long run.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are no stupid questions in this business. Also, ask to speak to other users before you make a final decision. A few times I discovered that clients bought a very robust system they were barely using because it didn’t play well with their other databases but they’d already written the check.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Prior to the implementation of the DAM tool most of my time was spent finding and delivering assets to various people throughout the company. Instead of focusing on newer assets and getting them in to the database in a timely manner, I was a courier. Seeing the DAM tool rolled out to the company drastically changed my workload and allowed me to focus more on the user experience and ingesting new assets into the database.

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Guru Talk: Monica Brady – Allied Vaughn

Monica Brady - Content Management Specialist

When it comes to successfully securing and growing a digital asset management system in the corporate world, Monica knows to get the support of multiple departments and to listen to their feedback.

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

I came to digital asset management while working on MLIS at Wayne State University. In addition to the MLIS, I took the extra classes to earn the graduate certificate in archival administration, which required an archival practicum. After creating a digital collection in Archon for a digital archives class, I was placed at the Voice Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive.

While at the Voice Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive I processed the Linda Fredin Cavelero Mid-High children’s book collection. I digitized the book pages, cleaned them, and converted them to a flipping book format for publication on the archive’s website. I later worked in the archive as a research assistant, transcribing audio testimonies and prepping the audio clips and transcripts for the website.

From there, I moved to corporate archives at Henry Ford Health System where I worked in the graphic design and photography department under the marketing umbrella. Five years prior, the department had purchased a DAM system but never completed the process of uploading and indexing content. During my tenure at HFHS, I created the taxonomy and then uploaded and indexed the assets. I managed the general collection of images as well as created and managed several sub-collections, including historic architecture, the physician portrait gallery, and a side collection of dermatology images for the dermatology department’s private use.

In my current position as Content Management Specialist at Allied Vaughn, I work with several different DAM systems in the indexing of marketing and historical still and moving image assets for automotive companies.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

How do I describe DAM to people who ask what I do? I tell them I describe images or other assets by attaching searchable keywords to them, just like a library catalog or how they might search for something on a store’s website or how they might search for “horror” on Netflix. People seem to understand that right away and it piques their interest enough to ask a lot of follow-up questions about the kinds of assets I get to see, especially now that I am in working with assets that a lot of people have as a hobby!

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned digital asset management a little when I was in library school, but that was six years ago, and a lot has changed even within the program I went through, but I did learn a bit in a digital archives class I took. Our capstone project was creating a collection of images in Archon. I worked with two other people who were in the class working on a records management certificate. The project was a good foundation for building the collections at HFHS, which is where I learned most of what I know. So, I guess I was fortunate in that respect since I had to basically learn everything on my own and then teach a team of about ten how to use every aspect of the system.

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

I think the best advice I could give to someone new to the field is to talk up the system across departments as much as you can. If you’re working in the corporate world, your relationship with the IT, marketing, photography and graphic design, and even philanthropy departments could make or break the growth of your system. DAM is not cheap, so if you can “sell” your “product” to other departments to create specialized collections for them, it will benefit the department you’re working in by offsetting your costs and will create value for your company down the road. You also have to be open to suggestions from your users and stakeholders even if it initially requires a bit more work on your end. Always be thinking of how the system might be used in the future!

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

If I wasn’t doing DAM or working in an archive or library, I would probably still be teaching or doing freelance editing. Honestly, I’d really like to be a full-time student if I could!

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My greatest challenge with digital asset management is a tendency to over-index and classify, especially since every collection (even those in the same organization) is different. As information specialists, I think we sometimes tend to want to be armed with as much information as possible, but in DAM, too much information can big time-waster for all involved due to false hits, hits on materials users can’t use due to rights restrictions, and then the time it takes to remove the extra metadata.

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

With my digital asset management origins in a corporate marketing department, I see DAM as an essential part of brand marketing and within the next few years, even becoming the core of corporate marketing departments. I also think it will become a greater source of revenue for companies, both in cost-savings by using repurposed assets but also in the selling and distributing of some assets within collections.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

I would have to say my biggest success with regard to digital asset management was getting the DAM system fully functional for the graphic design team at HFHS. When I left, there was still a large backlog of old assets to upload, but everything new was being entered as it was created, and the rest of the system was beginning to see how valuable the system was to the organization as a whole, and it was really taking off with leadership.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

The area I feel I am most lacking in DAM right now is the back-end architecture. There have been times I’ve had to rely on a “hired gun” to add plug-ins or manipulate the system for me, and it would have been a real time and money-saver if I had known how to do those things. I know there isn’t one system out there that’s perfect for every company or user, but it would be nice to be able to create one.

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Guru Talk: Maile Thiesen – UMass Amherst

Maile-Thiesen

With the speed in which our modern digital asset management industry changes and shifts, Maile knows it’s pretty much a requisite to continually be reading, learning and analyzing DAM forums, discussion groups and educational content currently available online.

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

UMass Amherst is my first job as a Digital Asset Manager, however DAM has been essential throughout my career in photography and the film industry. When I worked in San Francisco, I helped develop and implement taxonomies for a media company with forty video editors. The DAM system housed a large collection of stock music and videos that were instantly accessible to video editors who worked on extremely tight deadlines. We successfully launched the DAM system and the editors’ creativity went through the roof once they had access to searchable collections of music, sound effects, stock videos, and after effects templates.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Dropbox on steroids.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

DAM as a concept is an integral part of any photography or video editing workflow and is a necessary skill when doing any large scale project. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fine Art Photography from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. One of the first things I learned in all of my digital photography and video classes was the importance of organized files and standardized folder structures. I learned DAM (proper) on the job and I am largely self-taught. I spend many hours poring over online resources, forums, and discussion groups. Given the rapid and ongoing changes in the field, continual learning is pretty much requisite.

To start out, I read The DAM Book by Peter Krogh, DAM Survival Guide: Digital Asset Management Initiative Planning by David Diamond, and Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order Out of Media Chaos by Elizabeth Keathley. I also regularly visit controlledvocabulary.com/, digitalassetmanagementnews.org/, cmswire.com/digital-asset-management/, and read several white papers and blogs from around the industry. I read Wired magazine, keep up on all the latest Adobe products, and try to brainstorm and anticipate how new tools can improve our workflow. I’m a big fan of Lightroom, especially their new facial recognition feature.

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

Images don’t tag themselves and consistency in tagging is key. People think they can willy-nilly start tagging images and that it will ‘just work’. Having controlled vocabularies is vital to the success of any DAM.

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

I would be video editing or coding somewhere, learning more about Cinema 4D, After Effects and Ruby on Rails.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Keeping the balance between how much metadata is too much metadata. How much metadata do we need to find the assets now? How much metadata do we need for historical context? How much metadata will people actually enter. It’s an art.

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

In 5 years file sizes will be much smaller and images will be easy to access, from any device anywhere. There will be no one single truth of assets, but rather a myriad of cloud services will be interconnected and you will be able to catalogue images that are stored in any of those locations. So, services like Dropbox and Box, Google Drive, Facebook, and Instagram will all be able to be indexed in some cohesive way. There will be more automation and it will be more accurate. Things like facial recognition and geodata will be available, and the software will be lightening fast.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

DAM and project management go hand in hand. Having well defined and documented project workflows and a project management system will help guide and leverage how the digital asset management system can be used to it’s full potential. I wish I had pushed harder to have these processes documented before our DAM implementation.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success with regard to DAM is definitely the recent implementation of our digital asset management system for the University Relations department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. When I was hired, I was tasked with researching, purchasing, and implementing a new system that would meet a wide variety of needs throughout the campus. The department had gone through two other DAMs, both of which had been abandoned. I modeled the custom metadata schema off of other great higher education schemes, namely those of Corey Chimko from Cornell and Kevin Powell from Brown. Now, at UMass Amherst, we have over 50,000 assets that have been created over 7 years by our extremely talented staff photographer, John Solem, and various freelancers from the Pioneer Valley.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I’d like to learn more about the back-end and get involved in some UX design for a DAM company. I’d love to try and create my own DAM from scratch, and teach myself how to use available APIs to integrate into our project management system.

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Guru Talk: Matthew Patulski – DAM Professional

Matthew Patulski - DAM ProfessionalMatthew knows building a user culture after launch is key to really making a DAM implementation successful. He shares his three-part approach to this.

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

My Digital Asset Management experience began at Capgemini in 2008 as the DAM Solution Manager for Capgemini’s Global Marketing and Communications team, a distributed team of 700 persons in 40 countries enabling 140,000 consultants, subject matter experts, and sales professionals.

To identify our specific needs for DAM, I conducted solution discovery process, which provided us with a business case and project plan for an Enterprise-wide DAM solution. The initial focus of our DAM was to drive branding consistency while addressing delivery challenges being experienced by our marketing and sales teams with our nascent B2B video program.

Once we launched, feedback from online surveys, training sessions, 1:1 meetings, and support requests were all used to programmatically integrate DAM into marketing team processes.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

For a lot of people, Digital Asset Management is a solution that they may not be familiar with by name, but will understand once you start explaining the concepts behind it. Practically speaking, a DAM is a library of your media assets built to your specifications. Leveraging Digital Asset Management drives consistent brand and content strategies because assets are clearly organized and accessible. DAM delivers ROI through the reuse and repurposing of existing content in new ways.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I came to be a DAM Solution Manager out of necessity—DAM was the best way for us to deliver heavy assets like video to a global distributed team. Throughout my time in this role, I drew upon my previous workplace experiences in agencies, pulling the best practices and learned lessons from how each team would organize its content to suit their needs. The DAM field was smaller 8 years ago than it is now, so I spent a lot of time scouring online articles and whatever thought leadership I could find from the application developers of the day.

If I were starting now, I would begin with a great book called ‘Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order out of Media Chaos’ by Elizabeth Ferguson Keathley. Take a look at meetup.com for DAM and content strategy groups in your area. Also check out the Henry Stewart DAM Conferences which are very good for gaining new knowledge and a chance to network with national-level peers.

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

Digital Asset Management is just one of many tools in your kit. You need to know why you want to leverage DAM as part of your workflow landscape. Before researching the technologies, understand your organization’s culture and how your team goes about creating and organizing potential assets. From there, think about how DAM can solve the challenges in your organization when used as part of your workflows through integrations with other communication and content creation tools.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Building a user culture after launch. Having the right technology in place is important. But to really make DAM implementation successful, a three-part approach is needed:

  1. Identify your power users. They can help evangelize and council their colleagues on how to get most out of DAM and give them the content and support need to do it even better.
  2. Build reporting around keyword usage, asset types, record creation, and download activity to see where content generation and interest occurs within your user community. Where you see clusters happening, approach those teams and learn more about what is peaking their activity and discuss how DAM can support and expand it.
  3. Run user surveys to identify pain points and feature requests. These can be integrated into a solution roadmap that you can make part of your budget cycle and validate with your stakeholders to mature your DAM offering.

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

Successful DAM solutions will see the mainstreaming of application ecosystems to support many different physical and digital outcomes. Designers will be able to easily work with creative software suites from within the DAM and be able to save their files while they work and collaborate from within the solution. Publishers will be leveraging historical archives and establishing ‘Create Once, Publish Everywhere’ or COPE workflows, supported by open standards, APIs, and application-specific integrations. This approach will require more sophisticated connections from DAM to web analytic tools for effective reporting on content usage, social media shares, and lead generation.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Making DAM invisible to the go-to-market delivery of marketing materials by leveraging APIs to integrate the Capgemini’s DAM solution into the organization’s go-to-market workflows. Here are 2 examples:

  1. First by leveraging the DAM API to allow a CMS pull an XML feed into the application and populate content. The DAM is searchable through the CMS, allowing a video to be embedded using the CMS’ HTML5 video player. The page editor does not know the file is residing on a Amazon Web Services server, they just insert the content they need and continue on with their editorial workflow. We started offering this an option in 2012. By 2014, 325K video impressions were made on the Capgemini intranet.
  2. Secondly, accessing an external API to push DAM content into social media. For example, we integrated YouTube’s API with our DAM to make the delivery go-to-market video content as seamless and painless as possible. Capgemini’s video approval process was already leveraging the DAM application to manage content and legal sign off with stakeholders. This was a logical conclusion to our existing processes. To drive consistency, we mine the title, description and keyword of the DAM record in the publishing process and a YouTube URL is written back to the DAM record. In 2014, 400 videos were published on YouTube averaging over 1000 views each—which is really good in a niche marketing space like B2B technology services.

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Guru Talk: Michelle Adams – Triad Retail Media

Michelle Adams - Digital Asset ManagerMichelle knows that a successful DAM requires understanding the perspective of the stakeholders. Those who use it daily will ultimately determine the system’s success and adoption rate.

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

I work for Triad Retail Media. We sell, manage and execute Digital Retail Media programs on websites, mobile devices and in-store TVs — in fact, on any Digital Retail Platform targeting consumers. In the last couple of years, we have been expanding globally with offices in the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Australia.

My role as Digital Asset Manager was to find a DAM system that would meet the growing needs of our company, and help with the challenges of collecting large files (print, web, video, audio, etc.) from our clients so that our creative teams, internal and remote, can collaborate and build world-class engaging designs to meet our clients needs to drive sales while keeping their assets secure so that we do not breach our non-disclosure agreements. I was responsible for:

  • spearheading the search for the DAM,
  • leading an internal and outsourced team to collect the assets,
  • working with the DAM vendor and our IT team to customize the DAM to meet our companies needs,
  • determining permissions, taxonomy, metadata attributes,
  • tying-in a custom delivery portal for our clients so that they could drop off files directly into a specified folder within the DAM that would trigger an email to stakeholders that assets have arrived,
  • ingesting the assets from our drives into the new DAM,
  • creating the training docs and train all internal and external end users on the new DAM, and
  • working with the stakeholders to update and improve the process documentation to streamline and incorporate the new DAM.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

A secure repository for all of your assets, (copy docs, video files, audio files, lifestyle imagery, working files and final artwork, banner and page builds), all in one place where they can be easily searched, shared, tracked and repurposed throughout the company and across the globe. Think of it as a virtual library that can be accessed through a secure login through your browser and you can add the items to your cart and quickly download them or send them to others you are collaborating with on any project.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I knew about DAMs through my research for a tool that would meet our company’s needs and through using our clients DAMs when they asked us to search and download items from their sites. Through working with others DAMs, I learned what wasn’t working for them and what systems would not meet the needs of our company. When we decided on a system, I studied all of the documentation from the vendor and did extensive testing of the system to see what would work out-of-the box and what would need to be customized in order to meet my company’s needs and the way we work. DAM Survival Guide has been instrumental in my understanding of DAM principles and framework.

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

It is important that you sit down with the stakeholders (the end users of the DAM) and understand how they intend to use the system. Only by understanding everyone’s role and needs (internal users and external users) will you be able to make sure that the system is customized to meet their needs. Rarely is a DAM ready for use out-of-the box. You will need to do some customization or tweaking so that it will perform the way your end users will be expecting it to perform.

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

Probably something in IT—I love computers and learning new technologies and helping others learn new ways to make their jobs easier.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Getting end users to not be afraid to try a new tool and instead embrace the DAM as something that will help them find things easier, faster and allow them to track content and the contracts associated with them. Also, to get them to understand the concept of virtual folders and that fewer folders are better than too many, and that metadata is your friend and can help you search easier than a multitude of nested folders.

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

I would like it to be more than a repository. I would like for the designers to be able to easily work with creative software suites from within the DAM and be able to save their files while they work and collaborate from within the system. I would also like for there to be a way to send those files securely for approvals and feedback from within the system so that the client can markup and provide feedback directly on the files without them being able to download or email feedback separately. The current system requires 3rd party plugins and is not as secure as it needs to be.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Listening to the concerns of some of the end users who wanted a lot of folders. Because of this, I had to redo the taxonomy multiple times so that it would not overtax the DAM. The final structure was much more streamlined and intuitive and easier to use.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Working with the vendor to create a “blind delivery portal” for our external clients so that we could send out a secure link to multiple clients working on a single project and they could upload their files easily without being able to see anything within the DAM. Thus keeping our client’s assets secure and our company safe from breach of contract worries.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

Everything. I want to learn as much as I can so that I can continue to make sure that it becomes an intuitive tool that is easy to use for everyone, meets the company and clients business needs and becomes something that everyone is eager to use and talk about with others.

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Guru Talk: Emily Hale – AbbVie

Digital Asset Librarian - Emily HaleEmily and her team understand proper training and maintenance is an integral part of a successful DAM system implementation.

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

My DAM experience began in 2006 at the University of Chicago Press, where I worked as a Project Manager. Here I used the DAM to search for cover art for our many academic journals. Using a DAM piqued my curiosity about what happens behind the scenes so I began looking for a job in which I could learn and be more involved with the day to day maintenance and activities.

My current position at AbbVie, a Bio-Pharmaceutical company, is Digital Asset Librarian. I’ve been the Digital Asset Librarian for about a year and a half. While at AbbVie, I have really gotten into the thick of Digital Asset Management. I was involved from the beginning with the implementation of our DAM and subsequent integrations with other systems. I also assist in building all training materials, execute ongoing user training, calculate metrics, support our customers, and perform system administration, maintenance, and cleanup.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

One of the first questions I am asked when meeting someone new is usually, “what do you do?” I try to sum that up in a few sentences. I explain that I work for a pharmaceutical company, helping to manage the company’s digital assets, such as commercials, website materials, and app code. Our digital asset management system is called Compass. I work with marketing, agencies, admins from other integrated systems, and project managers. A big part of my job is sending out assets, helping users locate and download assets, performing system maintenance (such as keeping assets current), and desk-side refresher training.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I have a fantastic mentor at my current position. I would suggest finding someone who knows DAM well and ask every question you can think of, no matter how small. Every DAM is different but the underlying concept is relatively the same. I would also recommend the book DAM Survival Guide by David Diamond. It is written in layman’s terms so it is a great place to get started. It’s important to stay current. Reading blogs and attending conferences are great ways to keep up, and they also offer the added bonus of networking with other DAM users.

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

I have small business called Soapily Ever After. On the weekends, I make soap, shampoo and conditioner bars, perfume, lip balm, etc. My workspace smells fantastic! I would enjoy doing that full time. I also love to travel. If traveling the world counted as a job, I would be all in!

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Training! After spending months rolling out training, we spend countless hours on the phone with our help desk line. Between the revolving doors at agencies, users not paying attention during training sessions, and marketing managers being reassigned, it seems we are always offering additional training or refresh sessions.

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Guru Talk: Travis McElroy – Ivie

Headshot for DAM Guru profile

Travis has a great perspective on digital asset management: always think about the long-term, big picture use case for your DAM and success will follow.

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

I work for Ivie and Associates (@IvieInc) under the title Digital Asset Management Specialist. Ivie employs 550+ associates in 40 offices worldwide providing marketing and advertising services to some of the largest retailers in the United States and Asia. The Image Management department provides marketing images for advertising campaigns, catalogs, circulars signage and web to each of our client sites where our creative and production teams produce collateral. Ivie has experienced tremendous growth; as a result we’ve grown our DAM.

Over the past two years, we reviewed several DAM products to find the best solution for our unique business model. We moved from a product hosted at our corporate office to a ­cloud-based product. My role in the migration was to help with the creation of category structures, metadata schema and group management. Now that our DAM integration is in full swing, I provide access, support and training to our production teams and our clients.

When I’m not working on support, I help our image management team to develop workflows, write user guides and work with the developer to create customizations for our DAM. This is one of my favorite parts of the job. I feel successful when I am able to produce a solution after identifying an issue with user experience.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

In our environment, the primary function of our team is to ensure that users have access to assets that are approved for their use.

For example, if a group on the West Coast shoots a product or purchases a stock image, our team makes sure that the image meets our minimum requirements, that the license is attached to the asset, and that it is distributed to all of the other teams for that client nationally. For seasonal or time sensitive assets, the process would include setting a revised expiration. In addition, we work with our creative teams to maintain adherence to logo and brand guidelines by keeping the most current logos as our published asset.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned DAM on the job. Working in our photography department, I took on the role of populating our previous iteration of DAM. Joining a group on LinkedIn or following related activity on Twitter are great resources to keep up with the latest practices and advancements in the field. Working with a DAM developer doesn’t hurt either. Chances are they have solved issues that you may be facing. They can help you navigate around questionable practices and give you insight in the best way to handle most aspects of your DAM. If you have a clear definition of your business rules, the developer should be able to identify how those rules can be applied within your DAM.

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

Think long term. It can be tricky to identify how users will interact with the DAM; but the more questions you ask up front, the more future-proof your DAM will be. Often a simple question in the development phase will save significant time and energy down the road.

If you are considering a change or plan on making a decision that has a global effect on the DAM, take a day or a few to think about it. Run it by other teams who interact with the DAM in different ways. It can save you a lot of grief down the road.

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

I have a background in Print and Graphic Design. If I hadn’t moved into DAM, I would most likely be working in some form of project management. I’ve always been interested in solving problems. I think my previous and current career put me in a position to develop creative solutions.

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

I recently read an article on the future of design describing how it will continue to become more personal. Rather than a run of 2.5 million catalogs, focus will move from the masses towards the individual. With all of the information that is captured each day about browsing and purchasing habits, DAM becomes essential in the marketing community for putting the right assets in front of the individual to influence a reaction. Whether that’s an image, a text or a video, having data tied to an asset becomes invaluable. In five years I think we’ll see continued integration with systems that automate content based on these captured metrics. APIs make it so easy to interconnect systems to the DAM that there is no reason our industry won’t continue speeding up the campaign to market timelines. Eventually advertising will be precise and instant.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success is when I train a new user and they see the value of our DAM. Every time we bring on a new user, they are impressed with the capabilities and by the work we’ve put in to develop a product that makes their lives easier. Happy users are my biggest success.

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