Category: DGP Member Interviews

Guru Talk: Greg Crowson – RE/MAX

Digital Asset Management Specialist

Having spent the past 7 years in the DAM industry, working with Sports Authority and RE/MAX, Crowson understands that in order to achieve success, you must never stop learning.

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

Sports Authority Corporate Headquarters: When I accepted the role of Digital Asset Manager at SA, the system they had in place consisted of a singular asset database that was nothing more than a repository for the still-image assets that were being used in the marketing materials. Over the 7 years I was there in the role of DAM, I expanded the system to consist of an image database, production layouts database, studio database, and swipes database. Each of these served a very different purpose, with access to each being determined by the role of the user.

With each of these databases, I developed and managed the workflows for the users. Image database: all final imagery ready for layout use in all marketing materials. Production Layout database: All live and archived project layout production files lived here. The teams would use a check in/out workflow in this database. Studio database: All pre-production imagery lived here that was shot by the studio. This is where all imagery that was approved for final production would follow a digital edit and mark-up notes process. Also, all imagery here followed a color coding system that would communicate the status of an image visually for multiple users at one time, thus eliminating the need to generate an email requesting a status or update. Custom metadata fields communicated all pertinent information that described any/all production projects each asset was being used in.

RE/MAX World Headquarters: I accepted the role of Digital Asset Manager at RE/MAX World Headquarters in January 2014 after they reached out to me expressing a desire to make the jump from Final Cut Server, which is no longer supported, to a new DAM/MAM system that would allow them to replace FCS as well as incorporate multiple departments within the company and introduce a new digital workflow methodology. This project is still evolving and is in the vendor interview process.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I describe DAM to others as a very exciting world that allows you to streamline mundane workflows of the past so that we can work more efficiently and effortlessly from day to day. DAM offers us infinite options when it comes to how we address the needs of the modern workplace. Every company is unique, which is what makes the world of DAM so exciting. I love how organic DAM is and how it can be molded to be whatever it is you need it to be.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I was a self taught DAM guy. My background was in publishing, advertising, 3-d animation, and business management. When the person in the position of the DAM left SA, they were in the process of deciding how to move forward with it. I stepped up and offered a vision and understanding that they were very impressed with. So began my journey into the DAM world. We used a third party resource for our support of the system in place there and I learned so much from them over the 7 years I was there. I actually got so good at supporting it, the only time our third party support personnel would come in is when we were performing a major update on the system.  Recommended sources: I read—a lot! I am always digging thru DAM blogs reading about new trends, etc. I have found the DAM professional community to be one of the most supportive and welcoming communities I have ever worked with. I have met many professionals that have always been so willing to listen to me and give me advice over the years.

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

DAM is not something that you just open the box, put in a disc, install and it is all good to go. DAM requires you to be extremely engaged within a company. You have to really form those bonds with the users of the DAM; intimately understand and know their needs and wants. Then do what is needed to find a resolve. It doesn’t matter how amazing you think the DAM is if your users do not adopt it into their everyday workflows. That is what I put first and foremost daily. I remind myself, it is never about what I want; is always about what the users want. I am just there to manage the system in the way that best fits the company needs.

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

Working with non-profit humane education for animals groups. I currently do lots of work with some of these groups on the side in a freelance environment. If the day ever came that I was not doing DAM work. I would probably just pursue that full time and focus on helping animals in need. Yes, I am an animal lover. They are the single unconditional element we can have in our lives today.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Adoption is the biggest challenge any DAM professional must face on a daily basis. The modern workplace has such a diverse culture that exists. Eventually, the generations of the pure digital world will make DAM very easy to adopt into environments. But right now, it is very much a challenge to get people that come from the era of “I need to print out everything” and “I like my folders on my desktop” scenarios to shift and allow a system to manage and communicate the needs of the modern workplace. Older generations tend to struggle with the shift of letting a system do the work for you. Not sure if it is a relevancy thing or what. We all remain relevant no matter what. In my opinion, a DAM allows us to show just how much more relevant we can be as individuals in a workplace.

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

My vision for DAM is to see it move out of the workplace and into the home environment. We all have such large digital footprints now and, with the advent of all the cloud services, why not introduce a scaled down DAM that works with the cloud services for personal use? In 5 years, I think DAM will be a common as Microsoft Word. We are already seeing such a shift so quickly with DAM beginning to encompass video, workflow automation, analytics, etc. Within 5 years, the DAMs that are simply a repository will not exist or be relevant. I am not even sure if the term DAM will be relevant in 5 years. I think it will be more of a MEP system, Marketing Execution Platform.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Not listening; rather pushing what I wanted because it was my vision. That was my biggest mistake many years ago. That is why I say now, “it is never about what I want; but always about what will be work for the users of the system.”

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success with regard to DAM would be that, in a 7 year period, I went from not knowing anything about DAM to being at a pretty knowledgeable level about DAM, and understanding the function of DAM at such a level that a global company like RE/MAX reached out to the DAM community for guidance and a reference of who they should look at to fulfill this task I have now taken on. And the DAM community gave them my name. From that they tracked me down. I am pretty proud of that. Lets me know I have earned a level of professional respect in the DAM community.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I would love to learn more about integrating and automating workflows, distribution, analytics within DAM. One thing I hear more and more is how can we automate workflows, how can we track projects so we can understand where things are stalling in the process. I have always found the UI development of DAM to be so intriguing and would love to see it simplified to a more commonsense approach. DAM systems have a really bad habit of being too techy, we need to get away from that as much as possible, at least on the front end. I think that is where I excel the most, the creation of the process and how it needs to run. That is where I would love to learn more.

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Guru Talk: Marc Andreu Valls – Imagina US

Media Manager DirectorSimilar to a logistics director in a transportation company, Marc Andreu Valls understands the importance of using the least amount of resources to maximize return on an efficiently designed digital asset management system for maximum benefit.

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

I have always worked in DAM ever since I started my career, although it was only after TV broadcasts became digital that I became conscious of it. In 1997, I organized the archives of a company known as Mediapark, which at the time was broadcasting 9 TV channels; I was taking my first steps at DAM. We were performing tape-ins and outs, creating workflows for dubbing and post-production, we recycled tapes, etc. Everything was DAM then, except for the fact that the files didn’t occupy gigabytes, but hundreds of meters of shelves instead.

In 2004, during the Forum Barcelona 2004 I worked for the first time in a DAM environment applied to the TV industry. That particular one was maybe one of the most global pieces of DAM software that I have ever known. The Digition Suite platform from Activa Multimedia allowed setting up the assets’ behavior, i.e. the category to which they belonged, their filling process and their purging. So, the storage shelves had transformed into gigabyte-sized file collections, and I had gone from being an archivist to an audiovisual document archivist.

My professional career as an audiovisual librarian went on until 2008, when I arrived at Gol Television to be in charge of the documentation department. At first, we were to be only in charge of archiving and analyzing the media. Nevertheless, our own force of habit, and the boost of a production center—which received up to forty-five sports events a week—made us the actual operations’ center. Thousands of files were sailing through a variety of traffic systems (GREC MAP), ingest (EVS), production (EVS), post-production (AVID), and archive (TEDIAL Tarsys). So without realizing, I had become a Media Manager. Currently I hold the position of Media Services and Media Managing Director at Imagina US—a position in which I try to optimize working processes in a working environment, where a number of data flows, each one of them with a different complexity and duration, coexist.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I usually compare my position with a logistics director in a transportation company who must employ the minimum number of trucks to transport the maximum volume of cargo to different distances in the shortest possible time, with the lowest fuel consumption possible and no waste generated. Of course, all the trucks must have a number plate and we must know exactly in which point of the route they are located. The difficult part in my case is the number of trucks, which can easily reach several million. And if each route is not properly marked, it is easy that the trucks get lost, get stuck in a warehouse, and loose the value of their cargo; or simply that it takes too much time for them to reach their destination, which represents an absolute disaster in the television business.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I believe that my social sciences methodology classes taught me precisely that: how to be methodical. The rest I owe to the contributions from more skilled people than me, and to my own experiences in the startup of a number of stations and television productions.

My recent arrival to the United States has revealed the endless DAM possibilities applied at very different fields, a part from the only field that I knew until now.

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

I believe that a good balance between the rules and their timely execution must be observed. The most brilliant ideas, when badly performed and added to an environment that does not believe in your DAM and therefore uses it the wrong way, eventually leads you to failure, regardless of how good your DAM is. On the other hand, some other great systems, considered brilliant at a certain time, may that lack the flexibility required to adapt to constant changes, which eventually can make them become a problem instead of a solution.

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

I would be doing any other thing that would keep my mind awake and wasn’t too repetitive. I find it hard to get up every morning if there is no little challenge to take.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

In my field, the most important challenges normally involve the integration of different kinds of software, as it is very difficult to find someone who decides to start a new TV project by acquiring all the licenses and software from the same manufacturer. But even this way, many manufacturers that foster different teams of developers under the same brand, are unable to overcome important deficiencies concerning the integration of their own products.

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

Every time we see more possibilities of overcoming old hierarchies concerning data relationships. Maybe future systems will be capable of grouping concepts without the direct command of a human.

In my professional field, I hope to be able to see an important evolution in data and task automation and integration among the different areas of TV production.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Having used obsolete mindsets for modern times, I see the archives as places where we dropped hundreds of pieces of content that may not be useful again. As of now, the only action of storing unnecessary information can lead to terrible results in concerning costs and agility of our system. Today we shouldn’t worry about eternal durability of data, but about the amount of time during which we’ll need to store an asset in order for it to be profitable to us. We may need it forever, but we need to take into account that maybe not.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

What is important is to be effective in the time balance of metadata introduction and in the real need of its later recovery. Some projects favor the belief that the more information an asset can provide, the easier to be recovered it will be. However, once the indexation processes start, one realizes that there is not enough staff to fill in so many fields, and that the future clients of the information are not using even half of such data. Therefore, it is imperative to find the right balance that allows us to use the exact level of data accuracy that will allow us to obtain the maximum performance at the minimum cost.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

Practically everything. I have opened a window and I have seen many people discussing and arguing about things that I have learnt by myself through my own experience alone. Only seeing how DAM is used in a huge variety of processes from different fields whets my appetite voraciously for knowledge in this particular area.

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  Category: DGP Member Interviews
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Guru Talk: Nick Pozek – Asia Society

Digital Strategy Manager

With a profound respect for the informational dimension of DAM, Pozek has learned that having a mentor is invaluable in connecting technology with culture to find the best solutions.

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

I’ve worked primarily in the nonprofit sectors and largely with cultural organizations both as internal staff and as an external consultant. Recently, I’ve joined the team at Asia Society where I manage digital strategy in the museum division.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I like to draw parallels between DAM and other types of asset management. Whether it’s financial assets, physical assets, retail inventory, or human resources, the goal is to take what you have and leverage it the most effective and sustainable way.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I had the benefit of finding a knowledgeable and patient mentor in a former supervisor, Will Real, at Carnegie Museum of Art. Will helped me to understand not just the information architecture dimensions of DAM, but also the human factors to consider. I can’t speak highly enough about the value of having a mentor. It’s easy to find whitepapers and technical information on DAM best practices, but understanding how to align the technology with the culture and values of a specific industry requires special insight. Having a mentor to help you understand that alignment in a procedural way makes it not only easier to find the best solution , but also to articulate its value in a way that has traction with your colleagues.

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

If you’re implementing a DAMS, conducting discovery and gathering requirements are going to be critical and are worth investing the time to do correctly. The key to this process is a very careful and comprehensive audit of the systems in place. Org charts tell you surprisingly little about how assets are used and shared. Digital assets can be subject to a formal review process for publication with a rigid list of necessary departmental approvals, but they can also have internal uses that aren’t documented. In order to create an effective system, you have to talk to everyone and ask questions until you get a complete picture.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Adoption of a new system can be rough for everyone involved. It takes a lot of planning to roll out the system and get the users onboard. Generally, there are going to be some users that are change-resistant and skeptical of the new system. But there are going to be others that are eager to finally have a tool to improve their workflow. For the first group, you have to cultivate buy-in without overpromising. For the second group, you have to manage expectations without tampering enthusiasm.

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

I think the next big step is going to be a better solution for dealing with the inevitable intermingling of personal and professional assets. With digital property becoming much more portable, our understanding of intellectual property becoming more nuanced, and the firewall between our personal and professional lives becoming all the more tenuous, it’s clear that systems need to evolve to accommodate these changes. Probably the best example of a response to this shift was last year’s trend of dual-identity smartphones. I would expect a number of similar solutions in the DAM space to emerge over the next few years.

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Guru Talk: David Nguyen – Amazon & Zulily

Catalog Specialist II

The perspective that an “asset” is simply the product of any one human thought has helped shape the way in which Nguyen successfully approaches digital asset management for a variety of companies.

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

I found a real focus and understanding of DAM as a Photo Studio Supervisor at Academy Sports + Outdoors. My role started by managing, and then to organizing and apply metadata to all images used throughout the creative services department.  It eventually grew to encompass the upgrade and development of their digital asset management system from being a mere image repository to an enterprise encompassing asset handling lifecycle. Recently I completed a short stint working at Amazon for their streaming instant video service. I helped launch their service in Japan, Germany, and the UK. Currently I am working as a Photo Studio Supervisor for zulily.com and hope to take my experience and apply it to a rapidly growing company with similar results.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Rather than describe my role, I describe the value created and lost from anything a company creates but does not retain. I describe to others that DAM is not a software or a service, but a living breathing system that provides people access and gives an organization control. There is potential value to all human thought and an “asset” is simply the product of any one of those thoughts.  Whether your goal is to maximize the value of an image created for advertising, or reducing the cost of creating new images, DAM concepts give an organization the tools to execute these goals of efficiency.

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

DAM is not just images and metadata but anything that can be created and stored. Images, logos, layouts, copy, code, video or anything else that can be recorded and stored. It is important to develop the scope of what an organization needs or ever will need. It is important to understand how those assets are created, stored, used and expired.  I believe it is important to take a holistic approach in developing rules and processes that should be employed.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

The capturing of accurate data and the marrying of this to assets will always be a time consuming challenge. Learning how to standardize the import and application of metadata reduces work hours and allows for scalability. Importing vendor assets and the accompanying metadata can be messy but developing the right fields and integrated systems continues to be a challenge.

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

My vision for DAM is a modular set of systems that can fulfill the needs of different organizations but capture the use of assets and marry that with performance data.  I imagine a future where DAM systems become hubs of information, providing data and project management tools to help creative departments. I hope that one can eventually capture the effort expended to create new assets and marry that with effectiveness data.

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Guru Talk: Mikkel Ketter – Pandora

Lead Project Manager

The first step to a successful digital asset management implementation is understanding the user’s need for a DAM system.

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

At Pandora A/S, I am the lead project manager of the DAM/PIM project. The project was at a standstill and needed to be kickstarted.

I have also worked at MetroXpress A/S (free daily newspaper) as a production director and project manager. I implemented a DAM system for press pictures, workflow for outsourcing of picture cut out and ad production.

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

The most important item for someone new to DAM to understand is how and why it should help you and your organization in handling assets and relating workflows.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

The greatest challenge I face with digital asset management is the time and resources to change the DAM system at Pandora from an archive to a real DAM system with workflows, interconnections and dynamic descriptive information assigned to materials. Short term is missing classification and tagging.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

The biggest mistake I made with DAM was not involving the end-user and thereby not delivering a useful end-to-end system.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

A huge success for me was a setup of cross-continental workflows with very tight daily deadlines, plus setting up a project for tagging/classifying of 50.000+ assets.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I am interested in learning more about workflows and assets working in a daily flow. I often see that everything is implemented to do this but the users end up doing workarounds because it is easier. I think it is a huge challenge to setup actual working workflows controlled by a DAM system in a daily production environment. I have tried numerous times and only really succeeded once, so I’m doing something wrong.

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Guru Talk: Jackie Limpert – Kimberly-Clark Corporation

 

Graphic Technology Manager

With 25 years working with Kimberly-Cark, Limpert understands that managing the lifecycle of digital assets from New to Active to Obsolete is always an ongoing challenge.

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

I have spent the last 25 years at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, which specializes in the manufacturing of products for the home. I have implemented 3 different DAM systems with K-C. I am considered the Subject Matter Expert on metadata taxonomy, business processes and user experience for K-C. Our system is used mostly to house an image of all the products that K-C sells (Kleenex, Kotex, Huggies, etc.) The Image Hub assets are used internally for presentations and externally for marketing advertising needs. In addition, Image Hub is a major component for our eCommerce needs. I am responsible for management of these systems.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

The single source of truth for digital assets of the products that we sell.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

Trial & Terror! You have to take some risks to see any rewards, but it’s never easy.

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

Implementing a DAM system takes at least 6 months longer then you anticipate. It is important to plan for delays to stay ahead of the game.

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

Traveling.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Governance – managing the lifecycle of digital assets from New to Active to Obsolete.

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

My vision for DAM would be a seamless part of the product creation process of all digital asset types. In 5 years, I’ll be thinking about retiring but hope that my work has laid a foundation for a DAM system that can grow with technology and new multi-media marketing demands.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Under estimating how much time & energy it takes to create a solid taxonomy for metadata classification and mapping out the business process. Include a Web Designer when building your DAM system. Technically, most DAM companies have great products but lack User Interface design.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Getting the DAM to fulfill eCommerce needs.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

Viewing 3D digital assets in DAM without having special plug-ins.

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Guru Talk: Brian Pobuda – AKQA

Senior Digital Asset Manager

Working with well known names like Audi, Apple and Getty, Pobuda understands how to manage multiple DAM projects and generate universal success.

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

I’m currently the Senior Digital Asset Manager at AKQA on the Audi of America account, where I provide the day to day maintenance of CQ5 and Scene7 assets for the Audi of America website and iPad Applications. I am the point person for sourcing, re-sizing, uploading, tagging and general archiving of both videos and stills. I meet regularly with business analyst, user experience and creative teams to ensure assets meet business, functional and creative requirements. Additionally, I spend time collaborating with art directors and motion designers on defining asset requirements based on creative direction and front-end capabilities.

In the past I have worked as a Picture Desk Editor at Getty Images, Photo Manager + Corporate Photographer at Gensler, Image Traffic Specialist & Digital Librarian at Apple and DAM Consultant at Apollo Group for the University of Phoenix.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Organizing digital files with metadata using software to view and manage and share. Connecting distribution channels and networks allowing for seamless collaborations.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I was taught the fundamentals of DAM while working as a Picture Desk Editor at Getty Images.

They have an amazing workflow and best practices program that is the best I’ve seen. The photographers in the field upload files that have multiple pages of metadata embedded in each asset using the editing tool Photo Mechanic. These assets go directly up to the Getty Images website and to clients. They were constantly updating the day-to-day workflow allowing for the most efficient workflow possible for both the photographer and photo editors.

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

It is critical to get file and folder naming conventions established right from the start.

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

When I’m not Damming, I’m shooting commercial photography assignments. Recent clients include University of Phoenix, AVG, and Engine Yard.

I’ve had multiple DAM consulting projects that have led to large-scale photography assignments. The same creative teams are always attached to DAM projects. Since I’m looking at the brand assets, I get to know the brands from an insider’s perspective. I shot a massive brand campaign for the University of Phoenix while working as a DAM consultant. I was shooting stills and web videos and Damming for a two-year period. It was amazing collaboration.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Staying on top of the multiple tasks assigned to me in a day. I’m currently doing all the post-production on all the web assets, file naming, metadata tagging, video encoding, uploading and authoring in CQ5, so I’m maxed out.

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

Post-recession, I’m seeing more clients going back to the old school server archiving method. Keeping a highly organized file and folder naming convention that everyone understands.

To cut costs, companies are now only using the available content management systems like Adobe’s CQ5 and Scene7. These programs have basic DAM functionality built in. This solution is extremely limited but useful and saves companies DAM startup costs and long-term maintenance fees.

I see the “drag and drop process” in the future for DAMS, with a permanent lockdown versioning control abilities.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Starting a large-scale project for a well-known brand without a budget.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Providing the Digital Asset Management support to help launch the redesigned Audi of America website.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

SEO. It’s critical for effective search on the web and I’m seeing how this is now the final step in the overall DAM process. It’s also the only shot you have to properly protect images with the embedded data.

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Guru Talk: Emily Kolvitz – JCPenney

Digital Asset Manager

Having experience managing over 4 million digital assets in a single project, Kolvitz has the understanding and knowledge to drive all DAM projects toward successful outcomes.

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

I have worked as a digital projects archivist at the Oklahoma History Center in the Research division, where I helped manage a DAM project involving over four million assets.  In that project, all of Oklahoma’s historic newspapers from the 1840s to the 1920s were digitized, indexed, cataloged, and made available online at the Gateway to Oklahoma History website.  It was an enormous project and a great experience in organizing, sorting and grooming assets for production outside of a formal database in a shared network drive environment, surrounded by other information professionals.

In my current role, I am a DAM professional at the JCPenney corporate headquarters, where I support marketing production in a works-in-progress DAM environment.  Coming from an archivist’s perspective, managing assets in this environment can be chaotic at times, but the underlying theory that is present in LAM institutions can also apply in the corporate environment.

In my role I work not only as a DAM SME but as a workflow automation specialist.  I also advocate for better information management and better knowledge management practices by sharing information, advocating for it, communicating the need for it, and extensively documenting any workflows and any information pertaining to our DAM.  Problem-solving and building are two of the most satisfying parts of my job.

The hardest part of my job is navigating through the complexities of a corporate environment where the culture sometimes discourages knowledge sharing unless it is on a need-to-know basis.  Mostly I pretend I don’t know about that.  Ask for forgiveness right?

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I generally keep it very simple and tell people that I help manage an image database or library for photography assets.  People’s attention spans are short, so I try to be succinct in this arena, but I guess that’s kind of a boring way to describe it, isn’t it?  If pressed, I will tell them that it is about getting the right assets to the right people at the right time, and protecting the integrity of the digital files.  Of course, DAM is a novel, not two sentences.  It’s kind of like trying to summarize the Game of Thrones novels into two sentences.  Well–it’s kind of about dragons and Westeros.  Mostly it’s about the quest for power, wine-drinking, and revenge.    Now you have people’s attention, which brings me to another point.  Make it exciting for them–not everyone shares your passion for description, organization or workflow automation.  Some people even find it off-putting.  Even when you are telling people about what you do for a living you are advocating for your DAM.    Please don’t mumble, “Well I um, apply metadata and organize things and automate stuff” in a monotone voice when you introduce yourself to a group of people who know nothing of DAM.

DAM is a battleground for the single point of truth, of combative laggards who hate change and make you want to drink wine at the end of day, rogue assets out of place, and sometimes victorious cheering when you take revenge on those rogue assets by cataloging the hell out of them. DAM can be about the quest for power, wine-drinking, and revenge too.   It can also, at times, all come together in the way that you choreographed it, but most of the time it’s much more exciting than that.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

Learning DAM has been a combination of self-education, LIS coursework, mentorship, and on the job immersion.  It’s interesting that we all take different paths into DAM and have such varied backgrounds.  Some people have been doing DAM for years and they don’t even know it!  It’s no secret I am a fan of sharing– I owe a lot of my DAM education to online, open, and freely available resources.  Before I even started graduate school, a good friend, Adam Hess, who has worked as a DAM professional at Yale and also the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum recommended DAM Survival Guide to me.  I had a mentor before I even realized it, and I think that is so crucial that we share our knowledge with others and help guide people when they enter into the world of DAM.

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

No one has all the answers, and there are multiple ways of accomplishing the same task.  Good governance rules need to be established for your DAM, but sometimes work and building the DAM is happening in tandem with the establishment of procedures and policies.  Be prepared to climb a mountain for years, not sprint to the top of a hill.

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

Law librarianship, corporate archives, art museum archives, or information management consulting.

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

My vision for DAM is that the business rules that govern the DAM will always inform the logic that is used to construct workflows, control permissions, and reign in chaos.  There are unique opportunities for DAM search sophistication to improve, especially in terms of semantics, Did you mean? suggestions/spell-checking, as well as autocompleting search.    If DAM is there to support getting the right assets to the right people at the right time, then I want to have multiple ways to discover built into the UI–navigational, faceted, federated, browsing, suggestions based on popularity or rating to name a few.  Maybe the future of DAM utilizes image mining techniques to populate description or show like-assets.  Maybe future DAMs mine their own analytics data to make suggestions to users of good candidates for re-purposing (for example, non-selects that have been abandoned by art directors, never to see the light of day.)

Ultimately, my vision for DAM is that it becomes more elastic in what it can do, more clean-cut in it’s appearance, and more data-driven in regards to ROI, use, and reuse statistics.  Basically a DAM that calculates ROI for you, looks clean like Google Docs, and leverages third-party open source tools for the betterment of the users, the industry, and the business it is supporting.

I think of current-state DAM as a bucket–a very sophisticated bucket, but the content is what we are all interested in, not the container.  People will move to the technology with the least amount of barriers to access and the greatest return on investment.  A shift in the way we think about the technologies surrounding DAM, or even the technologies surrounding a very simple problem can often open up new solutions that were not apparent previously.  I’ve heard people say things like “In the future, maybe assets will describe themselves and we will just be around for a human qc spot check or where a subjective decision is required,”  but that’s not so far-fetched.  If the data used to catalog the assets has already been entered into a disparate system before the asset was created, then you have a situation in which assets can “catalog themselves” by linking together metadata fields from the original database and the image repository through an automation tool or script.

There’s a wealth of data that can be used to populate metadata fields for images, especially in marketing production environments where extensive planning has gone into the front end of creating the asset which can then be used to describe it, and from there, an even richer description can be appended to the asset by a human cataloger.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

In the past, I approached DAM advocacy in the wrong way.  I thought an essay on the need for DAM and a policy could help enact change, but none of that matters if you can’t tie it to immediate business needs.  People want to know how it affects them now and specifically what problems it helps solve in the weeds.  That has been a hard lesson to learn, but so important.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Having upper management buy-in and a strong, supportive direct supervisor, both of which allowed me to have enough freedom to re-engineer processes and help grow our DAM.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I’d like get really good at a specific programming language to help with workflow automation, but I know that’s kind of a full-time undertaking to get really good at one.  I’d also like to learn more about system integrations with DAMs, not only how systems can communicate better, but about good governance rules for maintaining authenticity and integrity of assets when they leave the DAM.

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Guru Talk: Sarah Saunders – Electric Lane

Director

As both an author and Director of DAM, Saunders makes sure things are done right when it comes to her digital asset management systems.

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

I have worked for a large number of clients over fifteen years, including not-for-profits, corporate companies and museums. My main focus now is on museums; but I can help any kind of company. I am a specialist in still images and their management, including data workflow, retrieval and embedded metadata. Recent clients include BBC Worldwide, Deutsche Bank, National Galleries of Ireland, Historic Royal Palaces and The Art Fund.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

It’s about organising your images, videos, and data so they can be found again. Many people don’t know what DAM is but they do know they can’t find anything!

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

On the job. Bitter experience. All my clients learn from the others. I was a photographer to start and had to organise my own material. I think it’s the attitude you start with that counts. In my field, the photographic knowledge is very important – too many IT people who organise DAM systems have too little knowledge and experience about image technology. That applies also to metadata. I have learned a lot being a member of the IPTC Photo Metadata Working Group, and from working with my colleague associates  who specialise in digital imaging technology, scripting, keywording and vocabulary management.

For information on digital imaging and metadata see http://www.shutha.org/ which contains our material on metadata and digital imaging. See also the IPTC/CEPIC Metadata Handbook which I authored, downloadable from  http://www.iptc.org/site/Photo_Metadata/. My website and blog holds material on a number of other DAM related issues. www.electriclane.co.uk.

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

The most important thing is to have an awareness of the skills you need to buy in to help you make good decisions about your DAM system. Some of those bought in skills will help you plan the enormous amount of work that generally needs doing before you upload your material to a new DAM system. It makes sense to use the experience of people who have been through this process, and to buy in expertise in the relevant image or video technologies, data management and retrieval.

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

Trying to run a picture library—which I have done in the past—and getting frustrated at the amount of meetings and office politics you have to deal with.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Greatest challenge is getting organisations to deal holistically with images and data, when they are often set up in silos. Create once and use many times is my motto, but it is not often possible. If a client presents me with a box of old negatives and some filing cabinets of transparencies I am happy. Then we can get things right from the start. Most clients have entrenched systems that work against coordination and productivity. But dealing with that is the fun of the job too.

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

In five years, the workflows will be much more automated, and in some respects probably too much so. Retrieval will probably need refining by then as some of the data mining activities bring too many non relevant results. There will be much more connection to the Internet via linked data, and to authoritative—we hope!—sources of information online, including controlled vocabularies.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

My biggest mistake, meaning the one I learnt the most from, was in underestimating the importance of client side project management, and allowing project drift as a result. I structure projects more tightly since then, and try to always stay ahead of my client.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Probably Historic Royal Palaces. We were able to set up data structures and a DAM system from scratch. There was an enormous amount of legacy data and image work to do, and everyone was working against other pressures. The new image library site is soon to launch and it will be a great achievement for everyone involved.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

More about the underlying technology. I am an imaging professional and work with IT people to assess that part of a DAM offering; but it would be good to understand more about the IT aspects.

What do you most enjoy about working with DAM?

I like working with a team of people to get the best from the resources they have. My work involves both consultancy and training, and it is very satisfying to pass to clients the skills they need to move forward and help them assess where to outsource services and what to do in house. The reality of DAM is pretty daunting for clients. No one who has not been through it can grasp the amount of work to do. So one of the roles I enjoy is project management—breaking the tasks down to manageable proportions and encouraging the clients to keep going.

What aspect of DAM are you most passionate about?

Aside from the project management aspects which I’ve mentioned, my big thing at the moment is the need for attribution of images shown online.  As a photographer, I care deeply about creator copyright, but it goes further than that. Many museums have images on their sites which can be control-click downloaded but there is no attribution or informative metadata embedded. This is perfectly possible, and the museums who are pioneering making their images available to the public, like Rijks Museum, National Gallery of Art Washington and British Museum Picture Library, do have embedded metadata. This can be used by educators and the public in practical ways. It makes sense of the images and preserves provenance.

See my blogs on the issue: http://electriclane.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/museums-how-important-is-attibution.html

What do you most fear about the future of DAM?

That in the effort to process large amounts of material, the process of editing and selection will be forgotten, so good material will be hidden. I’m hopeful however that user behavious will be a means to bring interesting quality material to the fore.

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Guru Talk: Laura Fu – Sears Holdings Corporation

Senior Digital Asset Specialist

By having a collection management policy and cataloging procedures, Fu has found success in helping users better understand the value of a complete digital asset management system.

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

I have been Senior Digital Asset Specialist for Sears Holdings Corporation since 2011. Before that, I was the Video Assets Manager for AnswersMedia, LLC from 2008 through 2011, and News Archivist for Sinclair Broadcast Group between 2002 and 2006.
I wasn’t familiar with the world of DAM until joining the SHC family. Looking back at my previous roles, though, they fall very much in line with a typical DAM position. Digital Asset Management is relatively new to many companies, so that those who are or will soon be a DAM professional may already have been on that career path without even knowing it.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

When I tell someone what my title is, they never know what I do. I have to explain that I’m an image librarian. I see DAM as a way to centralize digital content on an enterprise level to help manage branding, decrease duplicate effort and spending, and increase efficiency and automation of content delivery. The successful DAM will ultimately share content and information and allow users to not only find what they’re looking for but also discover content that they may never have known existing within the company.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned a lot of the skills I use daily from previous jobs in video tape libraries and from coursework at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Much of what I’ve learned about DAM in the last 3 years I learned by doing. The most helpful resource I have found is talking to others in the industry. Most everyone in DAM is more than happy to talk about what they do, so find someone on LinkedIn or via DAM Guru Program and ask them questions!

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

There is no one correct way to do anything. DAM is still such a young and growing field. Although there are a lot of standards set up, there is still a lot to discover, share and teach. It leaves many DAM roles with a wide open path. Sometimes it’s difficult being the new kid in school, if DAM is relatively new to your employer. Someone new may not have people to lean on internally or go to with questions, simply because not many people know or understand what DAM can do. But you this to your advantage!  Advocacy, internally and externally to your employer, will help you build a system that supports your users’ specific needs. Take that opportunity to teach your users the benefit of DAM.  Each user group has different needs, so configure your procedures and tools as needed.

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

I started school as a violin performance major. It obviously wasn’t meant to be but I still play and would love to be good enough to be a professional violinist and play in Carnegie Hall. If I hadn’t found my way into DAM, my original career path was in video asset management, creating and maintaining video libraries for news outlets. My dream library job is still to work at CNN’s massive news library in Atlanta.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Enforcing data governance. DAM teams work had to create a metadata schema with definitions and controlled terms, but we don’t create content. We rely on content providers to adhere to our database’s rules but that doesn’t always happen. Someone needs something ASAP or is a new hire and wasn’t told how things work, and the DAM receives content that has incomplete or incorrect data. Some of it we can catch and correct; but often times, errors go through undetected and content could be lost. I explain to our users that we are librarians, not authors. So if there is a typo in a book, it goes on the shelf with a typo. Enforcing users and providers to abide by rules is tough; but if they wrote a book, they wouldn’t just toss it on a random shelf at their local library; would they? There is a process to receive assets and metadata. Just like any library, we have a collection management policy and cataloging procedures. Getting people to understand and appreciate that can be very difficult.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

I have been successful promoting our tool internally by making myself available virtually and physically to all of our users. Many companies have IT or support who are accessible by phone, email or an online form. Not having a name or face to go with the people who are managing your system distances users from their support team. I have had a tremendous response from our users, internal or external, associate or contractor, by being accessible. I make myself available to our users at three area offices. If I can’t be there in person, I can be reached by phone, email, Skype, Lync, or our internal social media portal. Users seem more ready to provide feedback and are more patient with issues, like bugs or outages, when they know the person who is working on it. I am out there talking to our users as much as I can to let them know we are real people who are here to help. Earning trust is vital to providing a good user experience, so go out there and meet your users. Ask for feedback, even if it is negative because that is how you learn how to improve your DAM.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I enjoy hearing from others in the industry, about their users, their successes and failures, and any first-hand stories that can teach me how to improve the experience for our users.

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