Category: DGP Member Interviews

Guru Talk: Kristy Smith – SBC Advertising

Kristy Smith - Digital Asset Manager

When building a digital asset management system, Smith knows it’s most effective to start small and do what makes sense to your organization.

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

I started my career at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, located in Columbus Ohio. Recently I became the digital asset management administrator for a large advertising agency, also in Columbus, called SBC Advertising.

I started as an assistant in the photography department for Nationwide Children’s. This was a new role created to fill a need on the photography team. My main focus was to assist the in-house photographers in managing day-to-day task like: coordinating and assisting on photo shoots and creating new standards for how we digitally manage assets on our network servers. At the time I was hired, the hospital was growing very quickly, and so was the need for a DAM system to manage the growing number of assets and accessibly to these assets. The Marketing & Public Relations department was charged with acquiring a DAM provider and implementing the new system. Since I was already managing the photography assets, I took the lead in the implementation of the new system. I continued to work with Photography and also started to work with the in-house Design team, so I could effectively manage all assets going through the creative services team.

At SBC, I have just begun the process of implementing a new DAM system for the agency and their clients. We are at the beginning stages of implementation but the goal is to improve the way assets are ingested, managed and distributed through the agency and to our clients.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned by doing. I definitely fell into this field- because I am good at problem solving and have borderline OCD tendencies when it comes to organization, I naturally excelled at managing assets and the data associated with them. I was also fortunate enough to work with an amazing DAM provider (Widen) on my very first implementation. They have an excellent resource library where you can access white papers, videos and webinars.

http://www.widen.com/resource-library/

I also subscribe to CMSwire news and they provide a lot of relevant DAM content and free webinars.

http://www.cmswire.com/news/topic/dam

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

If you are implementing a DAM system for the first time- start small and grow the DAM in a smart way that makes sense to your organization.

I also think it is important to take the time to talk to as many groups/teams as possible within your organization- understand how they currently interact with assets and in what ways the DAM could help alleviate some of the pain points in their workflow. By gaining this insight, you can later provide personalized examples of how the DAM is going to help improve the efficiency of their daily tasks and in-turn receive valuable DAM buy-in from your core user groups.

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

I went to school to be a commercial photographer. I think the end goal was to eventually get a job with a large commercial studio or retailer and take product shots for their ecommerce sites. But it didn’t take long for my roadmap to change. I think you start in a field that you are interested in and you will naturally go in a direction that fits your personality and individual strengths.

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Guru Talk: Don Middlebrook – Hyatt Hotels

Don Middlebrook - Sr. Analyst – Digital Asset Management

Having worked for three major enterprise companies, Middlebrook knows the value of a solid digital asset management system is derived from sound taxonomy structures.

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

I have worked as a Digital Asset Management professional with three companies. The first one was with Baker Hughes an oil and gas company. And the second was with ContinentalAirlines/United Airlines. I started off as a contractor with Continental, then the two companies merged. Currently, I am Associate Product Development Manager with Hyatt Hotels.

At Baker Hughes I was a Web Content Specialist and maintained all of the assets from marketing materials to the source files and illustrations for those documents. The company used the system called MediaBin. I started off as an illustrator for the company coloring the engineering drawings of the tools the company produced. From there I placed each image on the intranet on individual pages in order for the marketing and engineering employees to have a single place to retrieve the assets.  This was the dawning of my DAM career.

With Continental/United they also Used MediaBin as their DAM tool. But my job there was much more extensive than with the previous company. Not only did I maintain marketing assets (web campaign assets) but also the photos and licenses for all the source photography. I set up and maintained the brand design teams SharePoint. And also managed the brand portal. This was the point of contact for the company for all branded assets such as logos, photography, brand statements and guidelines. I also helped with the setting up the taxonomy for the assets and created new metadata fields as the company assets and needs evolved. One way that it evolved was with the integration with the CMS from the web production team. We used MediaBin to store all assets and used the CMS to pull assets into templates that would then get pushed to the website.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

My description of digital asset management has evolved over the years because of the change in type of management I have done. I originally just told people that I maintain files in a database and added meta tags to the files so that they are searchable.  These days I go into more detail on what all I manage, such as photography and all of its derivatives. I explain that I also manage the licenses for the photography and describe how those licenses differ from agency to agency. And I explain about the brand portal and how managing those assets in one central website allows for easy access from internal employees and external agencies to the companies branded assets and content.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I was doing DAM before I even knew of the term. It was only until the company purchased MediaBin that I came to understand what DAM was and what it meant for a company to start managing assets. And from there it has just been a continuing learning process. For me DAM blogs have been my main source for information.

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

Being thoughtful about setting up proper taxonomies and metadata is important. It took me a while to understand that concept. Because I was the only person overseeing the digital assets I created taxonomies and metadata based on how easy it would be for me to find assets. I quickly found out that it wasn’t about how easy it was for me to locate assets, rather it was more about being thoughtful in how the end user would search for files…and customizing the data for their benefit.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success with DAM is in continuing to grow my career by expanding outside of just maintaining files within one system but across many systems. With my last positions I oversaw the DAM along with the companies brand portal and I was reaching out to other groups to utilize the system for their work as well. The DAM was also integrated with the CMS for easy access to files that would be pushed to the web. In essence I was working towards creating a corporate solution for managing all files.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

Learning is what makes you a stronger in the field. I attend conferences, read blogs and network with others in the field to learn more about DAM. My main goal is to learn from what others are doing with their DAM in order to draw inspiration on how I will use a DAM.

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Guru Talk: Irina Guseva – DAM Counselor

Irina Guseva - Digital Asset Management Counselor

Having the benefit of exposure to many different digital asset management systems, Guseva understands that success is more often measured by the value a company places on the staffing and change management with a new DAM system, as opposed to the software selected.

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

My career in DAM started when it wasn’t called Digital Asset Management yet, and when I published my first article in a local newspaper at the age of 12. I brought a paper-based asset to go along with that article – a photograph I took on my great uncle’s Zenit, and then processed and printed (all by hand) with him in a bathroom “studio,” deep down in the middle of (really) nowhere, in a small Siberian town.

Later, I worked as a journalist in print, radio and TV, and eventually online, getting exposure and experience with various content management technologies like MAM, DAM, ECM, WCM, etc, in various roles and capacities.

I’ve also implemented or managed implementations of DAM systems, researched and analyzed the DAM marketplace and vendors/software. As an independent DAM consultant, I help my clients make educated decisions in either selecting a DAM system that’s appropriate for their needs, or devising a DAM strategy according to industry best practices.

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

DAM is one of the more exciting pieces of software out there. But it can also be very complex. To anyone starting out in DAM, I would advise to understand the marketplace, the vendors and the software they offer. You will see that an apple can indeed fall far from the tree, and not all DAM systems are created equal.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

In many projects I’ve consulted on, one of the biggest challenges is Digital Asset Management staffing. Too often, organizations tend to overlook the human resources aspect of the DAM system and do not properly plan for who will implement the change in the organization and what types of professionals will be needed on the team to make the DAM project successful.

Digital asset managers, librarians, developers, system administrators – these are some of the examples of the roles critical to DAM success from a staffing perspective. When creating a budget for the DAM project, keep in mind that your spending will not stop at the licensing of the DAM software: add to that the implementation (and who will take that on), training and education (who in your organization will be the DAM ambassador?), and ongoing support and enhancements (what is your DAM team?).

In other words, successful DAM is not only about software. You cannot take full advantage of your DAM system and innovate with it if you don’t have proper people in place.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

It’s always tough to talk about mistakes, but we all make them every now and then, right? I would say that my biggest DAM mistake was related to not being able to help a client choose a DAM vendor that was more appropriate for the needs of the organization at the time. They didn’t end up in a DAM disaster, but it was not entirely ideal. DAM selection can be a very difficult process with many stakeholders involved across any given organization. There are certain procurement practices one must follow. Emotions often run high in light of the organizational change that a DAM brings. So it is understandable that some decisions that are made are not always ideal. And that’s OK, as long as you consider all the advantages and drawbacks of a certain decision and are willing to live with it, happily thereafter. Risk management and change management planning certainly helps.

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Guru Talk: Sid Anand – Accenture

Sid Anand

Relatively new to the industry of Digital Asset Management, Anand still understands that technology does not fix people/process problems; rather you must first educate the user to enable successful outcomes in a DAM system.

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

I spent 7 years at The Vanguard Group, with my last role working on their ECM solution(TeamSite). It was during that role as ECM product lead where I first discovered the DAM concept and ended up attending the Createasphere DAM conference in LA in May 2013.  This was my first exposure to the DAM world. Vanguard was interested in defining the future of content at their company at the time, and obviously understanding the world of digital assets is at the forefront. I met David Diamond of Picturepark at the conference and he introduced me to DAM Guru Program. In October 2013, months after the conference, I joined the Accenture Digital practice as an Integration Manager where I concentrate on the delivery content strategies, ECM solutions, and growing our DAM practice.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I describe digital asset management as the logical organization, understanding, and distribution of the meaningful media a company wants to share with its audience.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

My DAM expertise is a very primitive work in progress.  My first exposure came at Createasphere 2013. Ever since then, online references of specific products (HP, Adobe, aDAM, etc) have been great technical resources for me to understand capabilities. Within Accenture we have a great training program that exposes us to DAM principles, best practices, and case studies from our past experiences.

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

I would say that it is great to understand product capabilities and what X product can do versus Y product. However, the fundamental DAM principles of getting the basic system requirements and fitting the business processes that need to be in place are the most important concepts related to implementing a successful DAM or any piece of enterprise software. I believe in the school of thought that technology does not fix people/process problems. Fix the process and people’s behaviors first, then optimize it all with a great fitting technology.

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

I have been a men’s high school basketball official since I graduated college in 2006 working leagues in the Philadelphia area. If I was not working in the digital world now, concentrating on DAM work, I would busting my tail up the officiating ladder hoping to make the college ranks.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My biggest challenge is developing the expertise on my own. I am a lifelong learner and I love working with creative people. Finding the balance of the career to take time out to attend DAM specific conferences is something I wish I could do more of, as those experiences are what got me here and I would love to make more time to be more involved in providing direction to someone else looking to get started.

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

In 5 years, DAM will be a standard required piece of software for any enterprise marketing department. The software products are there and they all provide flexible solutions; however, companies need to understand the value that a DAM brings to a company’s bottom line.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

I do wish I got involved in it a few years back. Getting exposed to the ECM world 5+ years ago got me going in the right direction, the DAM explosion is currently in-flight and I do wish I saw it prior to hopping on the truck later.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

I would like to think that I have not reached my successful point in the world of DAM software, being a novice to the industry, I aim to have my best days ahead of me and hope that I can mentor the next generation of voices in the industry.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I always value the case studies that are shared with the communities and within my company. I do believe that every implementation case is different and I enjoy learning the intricacies of clients, their unique requirements, and the custom features that clients request for implementations. The breadth of knowledge only aids in developing a better understanding to how DAM fits in every situation.

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Guru Talk: Scott Pereira – EA Games

Scott Pereira - Metadata Taxonomist

Scott has experience working with several enterprise companies, and values strong naming structures for assets.

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

I have mainly been in the role of Digital Asset Coordinator and/or Metadata Taxonomist, adding keyword metadata to images as they are added to our databases. I’ve done this role for NBC-Universal Pictures, Disney Animation Research Library, and Disney Consumer Products.

My current role at EA (Electronic Arts) is a little more advanced, I oversee the incoming assets being added to our database and I check for accuracy. I also check that the correct user permissions have been assigned to each asset to ensure the correct users have access to them, and that restricted assets are not shared with the wrong user groups. I also add and remove user accounts from our system and resolve user login or technical issues. I have the ability to modify our DAM user interface by adding metadata fields as needed. I also create user-training videos on how to navigate and use the tools available on our DAM site.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

The best way to track, monetize, and archive your digital assets.

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

Create a unique file naming structure and stay consistent with your file naming.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I would like to learn how to build and maintain a DAM system.

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Guru Talk: Faith Robinson – Digital Strategist

Faith Robinson - Digital StrategistWith a long history of experiences in diverse digital asset management solutions, Robinson understands the importance and need in respecting the technology, the process and the content to ensure quality outcomes.

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

My career in DAM is now nearly 18 years old and I have worked at companies like Getty, Sony Music, International Paper, Yale and most recently Hasbro. In those companies I specialized in DAM and Content Platform development.

I also spent several years as a Director of a hosted DAM platform in the professional services, working with companies like the Academy Awards Foundation, Stila Cosmetics, ESPN and other SMB clients. That was a very diverse experience and allowed me time to explore content monetization more deeply. I think having been in the industry so long, there isn’t much I haven’t been tasked with; business analysis, metadata development, training, project management which has been very valuable. Currently I am looking at new opportunities in the industry while I freelance and work on a series of articles.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

My mom asked me this early on in my career and I described it as organizing digital files, stakeholders, workflows and software so that artists, marketers, websites, and video producers could more easily search and distribute content. I think there are lots of ways and processes to do that, but most roads all lead back to some sort of DAM solution in order to grow and thrive.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I actually didn’t realize I was learning DAM when I first started out. I went to school for photography – back when everyone still used film. I remember our retouching class was with film, ink and dyes. I graduated and took a seminar on this new thing called Photoshop. I was hooked on digital photography from then on. So my first experience (after a brief attempt at a recording career), was working at Getty Images. Getty had just acquired the Hulton Archive. It is an amazing collection and my role was to start working on digitization and ways to monetize those assets it in a Web 1.0 world.

From there my mind was just absorbed with DAM and I loved everything around content management. Now there are such great ways to explore the industry. I enjoy traditional class settings but I also really support and like that you can take substantial classes at conferences as well as learn virtually through vendor webinars.

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

I think it depends on the role you are tasked with – but for anyone who manages content, technology or creative processes – I would offer this:  Not everyone can see the value of DAM or the change that needs to happen in order make it successful. Be a communicator and advocate – of the technology, of the process and of the content itself.  If you are passionate about your work – you will become a natural subject matter expert – always seek to learn more.  Learn about the latest technologies as well as traditional production processes.  And don’t overlook preservation – it’s a vital part of what will be your grandchildren’s content experience.

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

I suppose going back to a recording career might be worth considering. Although I’d likely be so hung up on controlling my brand and how it all looked and worked that in the end I’d be back into a content management career before my first album was released.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

I’m a person that loves DAM strategy and vision. It’s challenging to get companies adopting and continuously improving a DAM system. It seems to be a very hard commitment for some. With probably the exception of  Universities, Libraries and Museums – companies today that are struggling to manage content just don’t seem to really understand the strategy or practice of DAM. A friend and I were talking the other night about companies that ‘ghost ride’ their content technologies. The concept is like ghost riding your bike when you were young – you peddle really fast and then jump off. The bike continues on based on the initial momentum and if you line it up okay it stays upright and pretty straight for a while.  But ghost riding always ends with a spectacular crash – and to be fair that’s what most folks are waiting to see. I’ve seen a lot of companies do this with DAM implementations and then sort of wonder why they never achieved certain integrations or greater value from the platform.

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

In 5 years – I believe DAM won’t be such a talked-about acronym. Most companies won’t buy DAM software separately – it will be a foundation module that drives content solutions like CEM/CXM. Transformation and BPM engines will be an essential component of DAM as consumers will have even more multi-screen experiences.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Hmm – my early mistakes were mostly just opportunities to learn. Underestimating change management that DAM introduces is always tricky. If there isn’t support and constant messaging – both top down and bottom up, things can quickly slip off-track.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

I have taken on some major implementations and upgrades in my career. I have never been afraid to undertake those types of tricky projects. I am only successful on those ventures when I have been able to lead a diverse team of people much smarter than me. I adore and admire all the folks who were my most recent colleagues, staff and interns. They worked so hard for the last couple of years on such difficult upgrades and to expand global content platform. I’ve been lucky to work with some of the smartest engineers and technical staff from the very beginning of my career – it makes a tremendous difference when you have that knowledge base and can design solutions that truly meet business needs and goals.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

Right now I am really focused on User Experience and what that will look like in future DAM software. I love the study and practice of developing interfaces that are intuitive and drive fluid (and proper) use of content from concept to end-user consumption.

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Guru Talk: Sue Barrett – Arizona State University

Sue Barrett - Educational TechnologistWorking in the field of Digital Asset Management for multiple higher education institutions, Barrett understands the importance of planning for high volume content to avoid costly mistakes.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?
I currently provide project planning and guide metadata management in the institutional repository and curricular management systems for a public university. I have worked for several websites and two universities as a DAM professional. Managing the online image libraries for websites started my interest in DAMS.

I learned a lot about digital access and electronic information workflows in those positions. At the two public universities, I worked in eLearning, technical project management, information lifecycle analysis and records management. I specialize in moving image and digital film preservation.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

DAM is a stewardship plan that mitigates the risk of loss by providing a strategy to curate and preserve digital assets. Digital assets are dependent upon technology, and access is the key to all DAM systems. There will always be new technology tools, and creating an adaptable strategy for digital survival allows your staff and DAM system to be agile and responsive to change.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned DAM as part of a master’s program in library and information science, where I trained as an audiovisual archivist, and through on-the-job training. There is a selection of digital preservation resources available on my website at http://dmia.drupalgardens.com/content/resources, and I have found the following resources to be helpful:

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

Plan and take your time. DAM is a permanent part of information management and extensive planning will help avoid costly mistakes. Take time to query other institutions, gather feedback and collaborate with peers and professionals.

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

Running the empire for George Lucas.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Convincing institutional administrators to provide the necessary people and financial resources to support a robust, secure and long-term DAM system is my greatest challenge.

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

I sincerely hope that international federated systems and Web scale operations are available for DAM in the next five years. Creating a system for shared data will enable collaboration between diverse institutions and support the creation of new knowledge by eliminating data silos.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

My biggest DAM mistake was trying to retroactively assign metadata elements to an existing repository collection. I quickly realized that I had gone down a rabbit hole and the Red Queen was on her head. Now I plan controlled vocabularies in advance and add as much metadata as possible at ingest to improve access. We have limited time and resources, and I learned to keep moving forward with existing projects. I only retroactively adjust metadata when absolutely necessary now.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My greatest DAM success was managing implementation of a university-wide tenure review process, which transformed an inefficient paper process. Each year, university faculty members collect evidence of their academic and research efforts in pursuit of tenure or promotion, and submit up to nine linear feet of documents for evaluation. Multiply each portfolio by more than 250 individuals and you can imagine the complexity and volume of the document management. Faculty members with multimedia materials would print still frames or generate transcripts. Digitizing this workflow resulted in considerable savings in staff time and physical material handling. The DAM system is available 24/7, provides analytics and secures protected information for long-term management. While it was not the largest DAM project I have managed, it delivered the greatest return on investment and user satisfaction.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?
I would like to learn more about employing metadata schema crosswalks and interoperability methods.

[box]More from Sue Barrett: In July of 2014, Sue presented the webinar, “Essential DAM Planning for Museums.” Click the link to view the webinar recording.[/box]
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Guru Talk: Jill Fisher – Ithaca College

Jill Fischer - Publications Assistant

Having worked in digital asset management since 2000, Fischer notes that server compatibility to DAM systems is a key component to maintaining up-to-date versions of DAM software.

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

I have been at Ithaca College for the last 20 years doing work in DAM since 2000. My previous work experience was in offset printing for many years before coming to Ithaca College. I was hired primarily to work with the Manager of Printing Services in scheduling, quoting, and producing work with printers and graphic designers. I was also managing the slide collection and a good portion of the black & white picture collection. The slide collection was really the original assets that were added to our DAM. We sent them to be scanned as Kodak PCD files and then loaded them for use. In the beginning I was backup to the graphic designer that started the work on the asset management system. She has since retired and I have been managing it since 2006. We are now adding the digital images, our packaged print files and videos to our system.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I explain to others that it is where we put images and print files to make them available to the campus community and those who need to use or access them.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I have learned mostly by using the system and using the technical manuals. When this was started there wasn’t much information out there and very few choices in systems. I also went to a vendor show in New York City in 2000. Maybe it’s time to do that again! There is much more web information available now.

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

Setting up how you organize your assets is very important. Our system began by filing images in the same manner as our slide and picture collection. It can be hard as people interpret images in very different ways as to how they should be sorted. Be open to suggestions as to how the structure works best for as many as possible.

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

Since I have most of my experience in the printing field I would probably be working at something there.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

It has been hard to have the DAM vendor keep up with software upgrades. I have to be careful about just upgrading the graphic software by testing that the plug-ins for the system will work, or that they have plugins. I went for about 6 months not being able to add new files because the system wouldn’t display the files correctly. I currently can’t upgrade to the newest DAM software because our server is not compatible.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

A consultant came in to look at our system when I first took it over and directed me to organize the assets on the server in numerous folders within folders. Six years later the vendor said this was causing the system to over work in searching for assets. I had to reorganize assets and it took about a year. I don’t know that I would have done this differently but it made for a lot of extra work.

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Guru Talk: Shannon Davis – Alberta Tourism

 

Shannon Davis - Tead Lead - Alberta Tourism Digital Assets Library

Having held multiple roles in the Digital Asset Management field, Davis understands the importance of conferences and networking events within the industry.

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

Although I recently transitioned to another position within Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation, I was the Acting Team Lead for the Digital Assets Library for the Ministry.  I managed all aspects of the Digital Assets Library, including consulting and collaborating with industry stakeholders, tourism industry and all levels of government to develop needs assessments and asset acquisition plans.

Identifying industry needs and marketing opportunities when coordinating image and footage shoots, and then managing the distribution out to industry professionals, media and other government agencies through, first, an in-house built DAM system, and then later a purchased DAM system.

My team was responsible for asset distribution, license tracking, content audits and data analysis. Prior to being the Team Lead, I was a Digital Assets Consultant with the Ministry, dealing with distribution on our in-house DAM and working with the tourism industry on content audits and asset acquisition.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned DAM through trial and error.  I was originally hired because I was an Alberta content expert.  It was a challenging process. I would certainly recommend additional training or mentorship.

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

Technology changes very quickly, so you need to be on top of trends, and it is important to continually evaluate your requirements. Continual learning is essential. Try to get to some of the conferences so that you can network. Don’t work in a vacuum! Being able to share experiences—both wins and learnings—is essential to creating and maintaining a successful DAM.

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Guru Talk: Adam Hess – Arcadia University

Digital Asset Manager

With the understanding that digital asset management is completely organic and needs to be able to grow in a natural progression, Hess has been able to find success with many types of DAM systems in his career.

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

I started as a DAM professional in graduate school, during a Master of Fine Arts in Studio Arts program at Louisiana State University (LSU). For three years, I digitized oversized materials such as maps, posters and fine art prints, for Hill Memorial Library Special Collections and the main library, Middleton, as well as the Cartographic Information Center within the Department of Geography and Anthropology. What started as a simple technician job grew into a full DAM position, as I was generating, cataloging, and providing access to these digitized collections.

When I graduated I was contacted by the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Studies at LSU to manage a grant funded project to digitize a collection of 35,000 color transparencies of the Gulf of Mexico ocean floor. The project took roughly 9 months, and was a great chance to work on a single project and see it to completion. When the grant ended, I was still at LSU teaching art and was contracted by the Special Collections library to continue to lend my expertise to digital projects. As a part time job, I was also working for Baton Rouge Public Radio, WRKF, where I was a weekend board operator and was digitizing and archiving their audio for a few years.

For the last two years I was the Digital Asset Manager at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. While the institution was not new to DAM, they had not had a person managing their DAMS. Therefore, I had a lot of work ahead of me in regard to bringing more users online, as well as creating smarter workflows and efficiencies. The first task was to design and implement a standardized metadata schema, which was followed by a massive reorganization of the assets. By the time I left, we had more users and departments online than ever before, including a few “departmental content managers” that had been trained to manage their own assets with little oversight.

Currently I am back in academia as the Digital Resources Librarian at Arcadia University. Arcadia, like many institutions, has an institutional digital repository containing the scholarship of their community. The repository was launched just a year ago and it is in the initial phase of growing its collections. My goal is to centralize all scholarship done at the university, and hold as much of this research in our open access repository. Along with building our collections, I am educating the faculty and students about open access, author’s rights and copyright, and new opportunities in scholarly publishing. The goal is to launch a Center for Scholarly Communication within the year.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Typically, I like to describe digital asset management as the collecting, storing, searching and retrieving of digital assets, such as images or scholarly articles. I liken it to most information jobs – we are storing and preserving items for future access and dissemination.

Like most in our profession, I tend to say that I manage a database of images or digital objects. Since I have managed many types of databases, I usually just say, “I am an information professional and database administrator.” It sounds more important when you say “information professional” – at least that is what I tell myself. Though we do so much more, most understand and even use a database of some kind, so I like to use an analogy that is practical to everyone’s daily lives.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

As cliché as it is, I learned DAM on the job. In fact, for the first few years of working in the Special Collections library at LSU, I had no idea that what I was doing was digital asset management. As I am a photographer, I was already experienced in generating quality digital images. At the library, I started to build on those skills with cataloging, documenting workflows, and creating access points via digital libraries and other resources. By the time I finished my tenure at LSU Libraries, I had grown into a full digital asset manager.

I do not have any recommended sources other than the open Internet. There are heaps of articles, general guidelines, and communities that have immense value. There is no one resource for DAM. The other suggestion is to network and find fellow DAM-ers, and even a mentor in the field.

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

There is no one, correct way for DAM; it is completely organic; it needs to be able to bend and fit within your organization, and needs to be able to grow in a natural progression. No one can just copy a DAM plan initiated elsewhere; it won’t translate. However, the best foot forward is to look at what others are doing—all others. Survey the field and learn some lessons others learned the hard way. Digest as much as you can, connect with as many as you can, and identify others in the trenches with you.

Above all, the seed for DAM—its initial implementation in any organization—needs to be planted by the organization’s upper management. These people need to be fully educated and vested so they are not asking, “how has DAM improved productivity?”; but rather they are asking, “what more do you need for DAM to continue to make an impact here?” Too often the “yearly review” with the CEO is usually another round of educating and advocating for DAM, and not updates on the impact DAM has had on the institution.

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

I’d be teaching photography. Photography is my first love, and it laid a solid foundation for my career with DAM. When I started my MFA program, I was planning on teaching art; but that all changed when I began building experience in the libraries. That, or opening a coffee bar, because I can never have enough coffee! Oh, or selling hotdogs at baseball games—just seems like fun.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Educating and advocating for DAM with upper management. There can sometimes be a disconnect between upper management and DAM. In most institutions, upper management does not utilize the DAMS, though they are the one’s with the decision-making power. Therefore, it is vital that these decision makers fully understand DAM and all it’s pros and cons, how DAM will function within their institution, and what the missions and goals are. Upper management needs to be a key stakeholder, and that is a huge challenge.

The other biggest challenge is documentation and policy development. When working in a digital environment, there can be resistance to taking the time to write down all the details of workflows and other solutions. This is crucial for standardization and evaluation of these solutions. Above all, developing a DAM policy document is essential to framing any DAM initiative. The “why are we doing this?” mission statement needs to be developed and adopted by all key stakeholders, as well as concrete goals that everyone is working towards together.

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

Total open source DAM solutions, and a wave of agreed-upon standards. Right now there are just way too many DAM software and hardware solutions, and not one of them does the same exact thing. There are very sophisticated “enterprise-level” solutions that are almost too complicated for daily DAM activities. These systems are trying to do too many things, watering down the essential functions like the search and retrieval of assets. The lower-tier, open-source solutions are great. They are simple to use, easy to adapt to address specific needs, and they come with a community of users interested in one thing—advancing the solution and making it better for all. I see these open source solutions winning out over expensive, enterprise-level DAM software as more and more information professionals are looking to solutions they can adapt to their environment and not fight with a vendor about a certain function or place an “engineering request.” (ugh!)

I also see a DAM world with better standardization. Metadata schemas alone vary greatly, yet we would all love to be interoperable with all systems. Of course there is no one schema that will rule them all, but the DAM community can come together and make a few sweeping agreements about IPTC, Dublin Core, VRA Core, etc., that will benefit everyone.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Policy building and metadata schema creation were the two areas I would say I made a few missteps. Developing an official DAM policy was very important to me early on but it failed to gain any traction with upper management for the most part. Instead of championing the cause, I regressed and decided it was not as important as I thought it was. I was wrong—a proper DAM Policy is vital. In fact, I would say a DAM policy needs to come before investigating software solutions.

Metadata schema creation was not so much a misstep as it was a longer process than it needed to be. I tend to overthink and over prepare, so my initial metadata schema at the Guggenheim was over 30 fields. After a few months of evaluation, I realized the schema only needed to be about 12 fields, and we could build on from there. In the end, I wish I had started off with a few fields first, as it felt like it took a long time to get to where we needed to be.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

The biggest success would be bringing the entire Education department at the Guggenheim “online” to the DAMS. Before I started working with the department, almost all of their assets were on local and networked file shares. This meant loads of emails, copying of assets, and lost images in the shuffle. Working with the department, I reorganized all their content in the DAMS, and had them develop their own controlled vocabulary to use with metadata application. The final piece was training a group of 10-12 departmental content managers who are now fluent in using the DAMS to load and organization assets, as well as apply metadata. This department is now essentially serving themselves, with some oversight for larger projects. The department is still working on their legacy collections, which are still on networked file shares, but all new content is now being loaded to the DAMS directly.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I want to learn more about the technical side of DAM—server management, database construction and programming, software development, and systems integration. I have a solid foundation in the management side of DAM but I lack a deep understanding of the technical framework we all work in. Like any professional, I want to know everything I can about the tools I use daily.

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