Category: DGP Member Interviews

Guru Talk: Roy Walter – Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Director of Media Asset Management

With a passion for music, Walter has been working his way through a variety of impressive companies, helping them make sense of their digital assets.

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

I began my career in digital asset management at Time Inc./TimeWarner, eventually working my way up to VP Publishing Technologies. I built automated systems for print publishing during the desktop publishing revolution of the early 90s. Brought analog photography and graphics in-house with an all-digital imagining and design department, integrating corporate data with images, page layouts and digital proofing. 

I continued integrating publishing solutions with internet-based networking and CMSs during my time as DAM Director at Bertelsmann. I also consulted for awhile designing and implementing large scale DAM/MAM solutions for broadcast TV, music and publishing companies.

Now at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, as their Director of Media Asset Management, I oversee digitization of video and document archives, manage video production systems, integrating disparate data and media workflows.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Making sense of digital processes and creating efficient workflows and systems for managing them in many ways, including production, preservation, distribution and archiving.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned DAM through my own production experience recording and producing music. You could say I am primarily self-taught, leveraging graduate work in IS, tech books, online tutorials and industry groups. I built DAM systems for images and text in a large publishing environment before any existed.

I have found sharing experiences and resources with colleagues facing the same challenges is always quite helpful. Additionally, conferences and training by DAM vendors (Apple, Adobe, Quark, Oracle, Artesia/OpenText, etc.) provides insights and knowledge to help me achieve my goals.

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

You’re already doing it. Formalize your methods and reach out for help. But keep the business needs foremost in your mind during design and implementation. It’s about solving business problems, not technology.

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

I have a music degree and would probably be a working musician. That was the plan since junior high.

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

Graph databases will connect media and fuel tremendously powerful and creative solutions.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My greatest success involves integrating disparate data and systems to eliminate stumbling blocks for users. Ideally the solution gets out of the way so users can apply their own expertise in their job, instead of wrestling with minutia.

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Guru Talk: Jessica Berlin – American Cancer Society

 

Director of Digital Asset Management

With a love for organization, Berlin works to create a library of rich content for the American Cancer Society.

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

I work for the American Cancer Society where I am the Director of Digital Asset Management.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I love organization! In my life before DAM, I always looked to find ways to organize design file that made more sense and helped my staff locate them faster. Once I was introduced to the world of DAM, I threw myself into a mix of free webinars, internet research, blogs, and DAM conferences. Seeing what other companies/organizations were doing really helped put all the pieces together.

As far as specific resources go, I started out by reading the DAM survival guide and listening to the free webinars on Picturepark’s site. I also follow a lot of the DAM leaders on Twitter and LinkedIn where they post some great links to articles.

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

You do not need to be a techie to understand or work in DAM. You do need to have a penchant for organization and process, though.

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

Before I was in DAM, I was in creative services and graphic design, so I would probably still be doing that. However, in a dream world, I would be teaching photography.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Dealing with all the different cooks you need in the kitchen. I have found that my role is more of a facilitator. Working to get the right people in one room to figure something out or develop a process. There is also a lot of selling and defending DAM to various groups.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

I was able to hire some amazing staff. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to build my own team. We have been working on developing and implementing a brand new tool that is heads and shoulders above the previous one.

I also think it was invaluable to take the time in the beginning to figure out what success would look like and then determine how we would get there. We also made sure to have a core team that crossed over departments so we could get insight from all angles. We tried to do it right from the start. Although we don’t have a crystal ball to see if all that preplanning will lead to success, I’m confident we’ve done everything we could with the resources we have, so for me that is a success.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

Not DAM specifically, but I’d like to learn more about where digital technology is headed in general. I think we get so focused on our day-to-day roles and forget to look around for things that may not be obviously related to DAM that we could utilize.

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Guru Talk: Peter Graham – Cambridge Judge Business School

Head of Digital Strategy

With a clear understanding in the importance of managing a company’s digital assets, Graham has been able to efficiently increase brand awareness throughout the academic sector.

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

I first became involved with digital asset management in 2004 when I was working in the corporate communications team at King’s College London. I was charged with finding a solution to a long held, but vaguely articulated, need for an image library. It was a project which led to a journey into digital asset management and related areas like digitisation, workflow, and process improvement.

The project had originated from the need to promote a consistent visual identity across a complex organisation, but we quickly realised that there was scope for broadening the use of DAM to impact a range of business areas such as information management, heritage and preservation, and legal compliance. Appropriate management of digital assets and their metadata in this sector can improve research in the arts and sciences, and facilitate collaboration between aca­demics, digital asset own­ers, and businesses seeking new knowledge and content that they can use to maintain a competitive edge. This is especially true of universities in the UK, many of which are facing a challenging funding environment.

I went on to manage another six DAM projects over the next decade, most recently at the University of Cambridge where our brand toolkit, an integration of celum IMAGINE and Typo3, is now a vital tool in improving marketing effectiveness after a recent rebranding.

Although I aim to keep a strategic perspective I can’t deny that my particular interest is in brand asset management. Well-crafted self-service toolkits build belief in a brand and encourage engagement and advocacy – particularly when complemented by other tools like online guidelines, web-to-print functionality, and a best practice showcase.

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

If I had one piece of counsel to offer someone new to digital asset management it would be that DAM systems really do have the potential to produce order from chaos, but only as an integrated part of a comprehensive strategy. They need support, resourcing and a genuine organisational commitment. It’s always vital to ask what you want to achieve and why you need to do this. Don’t get too concerned if scope changes over time – that’s the nature of the beast, but the important thing is to be agile, and prepared to adapt and embrace change.

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

It’s an interesting market at the moment and there’s a layer of obfuscation which some vendors have used to their advantage – a lack of transparency about DAM, and what clients should expect, has made it easier to sell inferior products. This is beneficial to vendors whose products are significantly behind the best of breed, but customers suffer. I’m supportive of the DAM Guru initiative as a positive opportunity to dispel some of the confusion and I’d like to see the DAM community making more of an effort to share knowledge and insight.

The features of many digital asset management systems have reached a plateau of stability. On one hand this means that the sector is mature, but also indicates a lack of innovation and potentially a challenging period as Cloud-based file sharing services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Skydrive also reach maturity. Articulating value and distinctiveness is going to be a survival challenge for some vendors if they’re unwilling or unable to move to higher value.

Hosted DAM systems are now undoubtedly convenient and cost-effective alternatives to the traditional in-house models, but in many large institutions there’s still a need for a cultural change to accept that hosting has become a commoditised service. Further growth in cloud-based services is inevitable and this is huge area of interest and opportunity for DAM, as with many other enterprise systems.

One area where I’d like to see DAM vendors make rapid progress is in user interface design. I can count the number of genuinely intuitive user interfaces on the fingers of one hand – to be truly successful DAM systems need to offer a choreographed experience which is engaging and as effectively integrated as possible.

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Guru Talk: Tracy Wolfe – Corbis

 

Tracy Wolfe - Digital Asset Manager

A woman of many talents and skills, Wolfe works to efficiently manage all aspects of the Corbis digital asset management system.

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

At DDB Seattle, I worked as a Visual Resource Manager, a newly created role to manage client assets using the DAM system Extensis Portfolio. At the time, the project involved not only loading high resolution assets to the system, but creating a keywording process and training users.

I have been working at Corbis Images as a Digital Asset Manager for several years, managing all aspects of the DAM system (HP MediaBin) for the communications department at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I wear many hats in this role, from managing and implementing system customizations and upgrades, to loading images, applying metadata, governance, creating documentation and tracking bugs. I am also the contact for the client, users and the internal interface with Corbis IT as needed.

Editor note: Ms. Wolfe is now a Search Editor at Getty Images. She works with metadata and taxonomy.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I usually describe my role as being a digital librarian because it is something most people can understand. I explain that I work with documents, photographs and videos – all digital filetypes and with helping users to efficiently find those assets via the system.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

At first, at DDB, I simply relied on my innate organizational skills and understanding of the creative workflow at an ad agency. After that, I decided to pursue an MLIS to broaden my knowledge of metadata, controlled vocabulary, DAM, and all web technologies.

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

The system does not run itself. There needs to be someone assigned to ensure that metadata is entered consistently, that users can find what they need and that things like upgrades actually occur. Many companies think that they will purchase a DAM, load all their assets, apply a few tags and then forget about it, but DAM is a living and evolving organism.

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

Some type of digital librarian job such as taxonomist, metadata librarian, knowledge management position or even perhaps something in the DAM software world.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Getting internal and external support when technical issues inevitably arise.

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

I hope that all DAM embraces simplicity. The administrative interfaces on many enterprise level DAM systems are very complex in terms of security, permissions, taxonomies, metadata and overall configuration.

I hope there is more readily available DAM education. Conferences like the Henry Stewart DAM series and Creatasphere help, as do programs like the San Jose State University’s MLIS program which has a DAM course taught by one of the masters of DAM education, John Horodyski.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Cutting the QA process short following a major upgrade to HP MediaBin.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Making video operational in our current system by using a plug-in. For years, the client’s preferred original video format would not play or download in our DAM system and this upgrade yielded new information regarding a cost effective plug-in to solve the video issues.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

Every day I learn something new about our system and our client. I hope in my future career, I have many chances to continue learning about DAM.

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Guru Talk: Lisa Fukshansky – Motorola/Google

Lisa Fukshansky - Digital Asset Manager

Experiences as a digital asset manager for multiple departments, Lisa Fukshansky has learned how to implement a digital asset management system on a number of levels.

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

My first role as a digital asset manager was at Motorola/Google. When I first started, I managed the packaging DAM, helping the department get assets to the printers. Then I began working on the main DAM for marketing and sales assets. Finally we integrated a new DAM and I was the digital asset manager for all three DAMs.

My current role with AbbVie is also a digital asset manager. We are integrating a new DAM for asset storage and future e-submissions for the FDA!

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Aligning the stars!

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I talked to my DAM’s at previous jobs, read blogs (I really like David Diamond’s), and attended webinars.

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

The most important thing about DAM is the GIGO Effect: Garbage In Garbage Out. When uploading assets and information, please take your time and have someone check the work. If you can’t find the assets you upload, then your DAM becomes worthless.

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

Gemology, this girl loves her diamonds.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Staff retention and training with agencies. I always suggest making quick tips & tricks to help new users jump right in.

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Guru Talk: John George – Holland America Line

John George - Digital Asset Manager

With an MLIS degree from the University of Washington, George is exercising his education in information sciences to make sure Holland America Line stays efficient.

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

I scored my current job at Holland America Lines (HAL) straight out of school.  I attended the University of Washington’s iSchool with the goal of working in digital asset management. In the two years that I’ve been at HAL, I have managed a database of marketing images and design assets.  We launched a new system in my first months there, which was a great and exciting challenge.  Since then, I’ve grown the collection to include nearly 35,000 images, including images from a sister organization and from other departments in the organization.  I also manage more than 500 users worldwide and on both sides of the company firewall.  (See Greatest Challenges for more on users.)

My job includes training (and re-training) users; managing users and user permissions; creating and maintaining workflows for ingestion, cataloging and reporting; ensuring findability of assets through strong metadata control and cataloging; and serving as a librarian to assist users. I also interface with IT and business to make sure the collection is serving the company well.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Since I work between the business unit and IT on a daily basis, trying to describe my job in terms that non-tech/librarians understand is constant.  When I meet someone socially, my elevator description is something like this:

I manage a database of 35,000 images, logos, maps and other digital files.  I make things easy-to-find by managing the metadata, the tags that are attached to the pictures.  Users want to find images with specific ships or of specific locations, and I make sure that is all that information is referenced to the image so they don’t have to spend a long time searching.  I also track licensing and usage information so we don’t violate any legal agreements or copyright.  Then the toughest part of my job is managing the users. We’ve got more than 500, and I have to make sure that everyone has permissions to see what they can legally use – and only what they can legally use.  It’s a details job, and I spend a lot of time putting things in buckets and making sure the right people can get into those buckets.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Interfacing with IT and getting the support we need to keep the system running smoothly is a constant challenge.  I think IT is probably under-resourced at most companies.  Everyone in the company has IT needs, and IT has to prioritize them.  The reality is a photo database is not high on that list, so I have to poke people in the ribs a lot to keep things moving forward.

On top of the purely technical aspects, I also have to work with IT to manage users.  The users in our active directory are easy to manage. These are HAL employees who have credentials and permission to access the network server.  The more challenging group is our vendors, international employees and other partners who access the database through the LDAP.  These users have to be manually updated every three months for compliance – IT doesn’t want unauthorized people to have access, so I have to make sure that everyone is still with our partner organizations and have the correct permissions.  It’s a big headache that I would like to get past.  However, that will take a lot of attention from IT and, as I noted above, IT support is hard to come by.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I want to know more about the workflow integrations and versioning controls that DAM systems have.  I’ve done some research on different products, and have been amazed by the plug-ins, widgets and out-of-the-box features that are offered.  They’re obviously supposed to make managing the assets and the processes easier, but I’m not convinced.  I see the potential for increased confusion and problems when changes made to an asset will affect other projects that use the same image.  So, I’d like to see real world examples of how this works for a company with users around the globe who have different needs.

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Guru Talk: Bonica Ayala – Boston Architectural College

 

Bonica Ayala - Web Content Manager

From a photo background to a DAM Administrator, Ayala has overseen the success of a DAM system implementation for higher education and learned quite a bit along the way.

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

My experience with digital asset management is in higher education as Project Manager and Administrator of Digital Asset Management at the Boston Architectural College (BAC). I fell into Digital Asset Management after years of work as a professional photographer. I was the Lead Photographer and Web Content Manager for the BAC, and while in that role, I was tasked with finding a Digital Asset Management system for the Marketing & Communications department. Over the course of a year, I tested a large number of systems. Shortly after settling on a system, I transitioned into the role of Project Manager and Administrator of the DAM.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I usually ask others, “Have you heard of Getty Images or iStock photo? Well, that’s kind of what I do, but on a client-based level.” I go on to describe DAM as a management system used for storing, cataloguing, searching and delivering assets from one centralized location.  And if they’re still listening, I go on to discuss the policies, practices and software administration that go into managing digital assets.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

Initially, I scoured the internet for any publication on the subject, which led me to all kinds of information. It was overwhelming at first, but I quickly started gathering my list of helpful sources.

The testing phase, when I was exploring different DAM systems, proved to be very helpful. During this period, I was able to learn so much by speaking to actual administrators of DAM systems. It was invaluable to hear first-hand experiences, ask questions and speak with individuals in digital asset management with varying backgrounds.

My institutional Librarian, Archivist and IT department were and continue to be a tremendous help in working with system configuration, metadata, setting up taxonomies and controlled vocabularies. I still meet with them on a regular basis.

I reached out to a number of colleges and universities to gain further knowledge on DAM systems used in the field of higher education, workflow models, staffing and anything I thought would benefit my implementation.

Some DAM vendors also proved to be very helpful – but you have to be able to read through the marketing jargon, and get the real information from them.

The fact is, I’m still learning.

Below are a few of my favorite resources:

Web:

DAM Guru Program

Another DAM Blog

PhotoMetadata.org

DAM Glossary

Books and Journals:

Henry Stewart Publications: Journal of Digital Media Management

DAM Survival Guide

The Accidental Taxonomist

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

That’s a hard question. The most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand is that there is a lot to learn in this evolving industry, don’t re-invent the wheel, and if you’re just getting started, read the DAM Survival Guide.

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

If I wasn’t doing DAM as a career, I would be doing photography full time.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

One of my greatest challenges with DAM is staffing. Working in a small college forces me to be creative with system responsibilities and tasks that are crucial to daily operations.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success with regard to DAM is that in 2012 I barely new what DAM was, and by 2013 I had implemented and was administrating an institutional wide system that continues to succeed today. There are many more phases on the roadmap, but we’re off to a good start. I have to say though, that my most important success, has been the feedback from users that they can’t imagine how anything got done before the DAM and that they really enjoy working with it. The end users experience with DAM has been my top priority from the beginning, so their positive feedback means a lot to me.

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Guru Talk: Karen Dailey – Autoliv

Karen Dailey - DAM Administrator

Working in vendor and publication management, Dailey uses folder structure and metadata to help organize a variety of assets.

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

I worked in Marketing Communications at Autoliv ASP.Inc. between 1989 and 2013. My duties included corporate identity, publications management (forms, newsletters, posters, and various collateral items for communications), image/digital asset management (internal and external facing), vendor management (commercial and specialty printing, etc., graphic design groups) and working as a professional photographer (People – headshots, groups, events); (landscapes, floral, organics, etc.)

I’ve also worked as Karen B. Dailey Photography from the 1990’s to now.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Digital Asset Management is the act of identifying, organizing, renaming, and grouping digital files – from photos and PDFs to illustrations, presentations, letters, drawings, etc.

When I introduce others to the idea of Digital Asset Management, they get excited to know there is something better than dumping a host of files into folders and then being daunted with how to find the files when needed.  I think most make a genuine effort to name their files (usually one at a time) but really don’t know where to start so they place them in a folder to be found and used at a later date because they are too busy to focus on the preparations and details I think because they don’t have a system.

Digital Asset Management is simply identifying and managing digital files which includes photos, illustrations, documents, presentations, etc.

A good Digital Asset Management system is basically a well thought out method of creating an organized system for digital assets to be stored, found and used/repurposed.

Assets need a home, so I recommend that people take some time to think through how they want to create a structured and functional file system that will be customized according to the organizational needs. It could be by organization, by department, by content, etc.

Plus, assets need a name, so I recommend creating a method of naming individual files so as to know their name, address and zip code, so to speak.  Some key pieces would be a description, date, date, and so on. Once you find a method that suits your assets, make sure to apply it to other groups of assets and stay with the system.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

Ed Leonard was a wonderful coach for Taxonomy when I first started. Gerry Siebel (Carey Digital) was critical to getting us setup using our DAM. Henry Stuart Symposiums were a great resource. And I used Adobe Bridge to batch filename and add metadata.

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

Proper preparation of file folder structure and filename convention is huge! And they need to add keywords into the metadata fields of every digital asset.

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

I’d be consulting (DAM, stock photography, portraiture, landscapes, art/painting etc. and I’d continue to be a professional photographer and offer publication support.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Making time to prepare images (sort, color correct, rename) and placing in folders according to the taxonomy that I have created and adjusting it as necessary.

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

This is a tricky one. In this world of digital cameras and powerful computers, I think it’s inevitable that more people will work with a DAM system by default and may not realize it. They will need the knowledge and expertise to navigate. Unless all the smart devices out there will automatically name, sort and file.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Not doing it sooner and procrastinating proper file names and metadata when busy.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Creating an internal and external system for a global company and their customers.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

New trends, new methods, efficient processes, things that step it up a notch. Updated copyright information – how, where, when, cost, pros and cons, etc.

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Guru Talk: Holly Boerner – AMEX

Holly Boerner - Digital Asset Manager

With a deep understanding of digital asset management life-cycles, Boerner has worked for some of the largest names in the industry helping to improve DAM policies and procedures.

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

Well as of just a few months ago, I’ve started in a new asset management/knowledge management position at Grey New York.  In this role, I’ll be working to establish an information infrastructure for the company, and a key component of this will be implementing a system to centralize all internal documents/content/information that has business archival or sharable value.

Previous to this, I’ve worked at four other places doing asset management work.  I started off at the Museum of Modern Art as a more traditional (material) photo archivist, but ended up managing the admin work around a couple of digital photography initiatives that were kicking off there at the time, targeting different sections of the museum’s collection. From there I jumped to Martha Stewart where I worked for about five years, and I really credit those years as my true digital asset management education. My supervisor there came from a library science background, and it was the combination of working under him and with the company’s early DAM systems that I really cut my teeth and learned the ins and outs of the work.

It was a great experience partly in that as an “omnimedia” company their DAM system was scoped to manage print, broadcast and merchandising assets…so I really got broad exposure to the different types of issues and priorities triggered by dealing with different asset types and industry priorities.  I started that job thinking, okay, I know a little bit about keeping track of digital files, but by the time I left I really had developed a passion for the strategies that drive DAM work, and the possibilities of how digital asset management can be leveraged to provide huge value to a company or environment.

After Martha I spent a couple of years at J.Crew, where I like to joke I was their WIP DAM, shepherding creative assets through their print and web production processes and then ultimately archiving them.  And then most recently before Grey, I worked for three years at American Express Publishing where I was the DAM manager within a three person DAM team. While there my team implemented AmEx’s first DAM system, which performed as both a WIP system for magazine and web production, and also rights management/library system that facilitated asset distribution throughout the company.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

My short, don’t-scare-them answer is to call it photo archiving, but dealing with digital instead of physical material.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I’m part of the generation who fell into DAM work via the emergence of digital photography and production, and the need that cropped up along with it to manage all the digital material. So I learned by doing and by being mentored in a corporate environment.  It was really a great experience coming up, where I got exposure to some of the more formal, academically-rooted concepts and practices that guide the work, but immediately was taught to balance and interpret them to meet the needs of a business environment. So I’m a big advocate of just getting out there and rolling up your sleeves and learning by doing, learning through a mentor.

Nowadays it’s great to see a growing network of resources and information crop up for DAM workers—LinkedIn groups, industry blogs, Meet-Up groups, white papers, industry conferences, all of that.  I think if there are individuals looking to tackle a specific problem or issue there’s a lot out there to draw from.  And I think for anyone who’s at the stage of committing to a particular vendor or system, the smartest thing they can do is seek out and talk to other individuals/organizations who have already implemented and are using the system, to hear their on-the-ground experiences and advice.

But overall, for anyone who is looking to get a more holistic sense of the industry and practices, I think the best thing a person could do is get some experience working in a few different environments. DAM can get incredibly idiosyncratic very quickly, and even out-of-the-box implementations can take on bespoke qualities when put to task meeting specific project goals.  So whatever anyone can do to get exposure & experience with different types of implementations in different environments, the clearer the picture becomes in seeing the larger themes and concepts that are the cornerstones of DAM work.

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

I don’t know if it’s the most important, but I think one thing to keep in mind is the importance of the “soft” skills or activities DAM work involves, that may not be obvious from outset.  A huge component of DAM work is all the customer service, the relationship building, personality managing, evangelizing and cheerleading and PR.  It goes part and parcel with doing DAM in an enterprise environment. The best DAM practitioners I know are the people who are good listeners, that approach their end user audience with an open and collaborative attitude, who are patient dealing with different personality types, who have the ability to assimilate a lot of different information and be critical but not dismissive about what they hear, and who have the ability read and know their audience and adjust their message to insure it’s received, no matter who you’re dealing with.

I feel like in a lot of ways, the things that are the typical skills and tasks emphasized in relation to DAM (metadata strategy; rights management; system admin) are the easy parts to anticipate and plan for.  But typically the success around a digital asset management project is going to be tied to how well the initiative is integrated with its user base.  How the DAM leadership handles change management, how they get people on board (or not), and the ongoing tight rope walk that can be…the audience/people factor is not to be underestimated.

I know from experience that the implementation of a horrible, barely functional system can be seen as successful if you keep your users on board…whereas a beautiful, flawlessly performing system can be seen in disastrous terms if users don’t know what to do with it or how to use it. As a DAM worker, it’s not enough to be a data nerd and obsessive about metadata structure and accuracy around organizing and categorizing…you need some serious people skills as well.

On a more humorous level (because you need to have a sense of humor about these things), DAM newbies should expect that at some point, they’re going to trigger a truly massive f-up or two with the system or the assets.   A huge batch metadata edit that rewrites or erases a ton of data?  Crashing a system at a critical time?  Deleting files?  You’ll do it all.  You haven’t done DAM until you’ve had to place a desperate Friday night, 11th-hour call to your vendor.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

I think the lack of understanding of it across other industries remains the biggest challenge.  I think there are a lot of environments where there’s a vague sense of “there’s got to be a better way” in terms of information/workflow/asset management, and maybe a sense of “look what Google can do!” but there’s not a very developed understanding of the nuance around what steps should follow, past the moment identifying a need—what to go after, what to prioritize, what’s realistic to try and achieve.  There’s often a lack of understanding that successful asset management usually requires a collective awareness and investment by an entire organization; it’s not something that can be accomplished in a dusty dark closet that the larger organization gets to remain ignorant of; you can’t start talking about enterprise solutions without expecting that the whole enterprise will need to get engaged, at least a little.

Along those lines, I think a big challenge is getting corporate cultures to appreciate and understand that “digital asset management” is the work done in managing assets and info and workflow—the strategizing and system admining and all the rest, and that “digital asset management” is NOT just the technical solution put into place in an environment.  No one thinks that Adobe Creative Suite is graphic design or that a spreadsheet is accounting; yet it’s not unusual to run into the expectation that a DAM system is a tool capable of wielding itself.

I think that impression may in part be an unfortunate consequence of how the DAM industry advocated for itself in its early days—there was a lot of emphasis on system automations and moving away from human actions as a way to eliminate redundant activities, or files, or communications.  And as a whole yes, digital asset management can put an organization miles ahead on all of those fronts…but not at the level of zero human intervention.  A hundred people on a bus is unquestionably a more efficient means of transportation than a hundred people driving a hundred cars…but you still need a bus driver or two.

Anyway, all of that is to say I’ve seen powerful, beautiful, expensive systems mis-implemented or orphaned because a company’s not willing to investment in the humans, and human expertise required to make sure a system’s leveraged properly and evolved in sync with the environment it lives in.  I think the people working in digital asset management have done a phenomenal job in advocating for the industry, in defining it, in really being proactive about getting the word out and making resources available for anyone to access if/when going down the DAM road.  I just don’t think the potential audiences necessarily realize how much there is to penetrate, and that it requires some expertise if they want to get it right from the start.

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

I think there will be better unification and growing emphasis of recognizing “asset management” in terms of the expertise and practices performed around it, rather than being defined by the systems that facilitate the assets being managed.  I think this has been the trend over the last few years and I think it’s a great thing to see develop–people talking more about metadata, asset enrichment or people skills, instead of system-system-system.  That said, on the system/technology side, I think things will continue converging as they have been already — ECM, DAM, BPM, MAM, CMS etc.  I’d love to see different system types live in a more streamlined continuum in relation to each other, and developed in terms of the functionally they offer rather than being defined by the asset types they’re meant to manage.

I’m also curious to see the influence of consumer level awareness of asset management topics, and see to what degree that shapes asset management structures in enterprise environments–the fact that search performance is essentially defined by Google at this point; or that user-friendly websites have set the UI-bar, so that UX design has suddenly (finally!) been a hot topic at DAM conferences; the fact that the concept of “tagging” is all over the social space, and that thanks to Edward Snowden, metadata has become a household word…will these things breed a more native understanding for DAM practices to non-DAM experts in enterprise environments?  How will it influence vendors’ prioritizing as they develop the technology?

Lastly, I’d love to see more middle-of-the-road, small scale asset management solutions enter the market.  Something a bit more plug and play, that doesn’t take a massive investment by an organization to fund and admin.  I think there are a lot of smaller companies and non-profits out there that would love to get a solution in place, but for who existing systems would be overkill or budget breakers.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

The implementation I was a part of at AmEx Publishing was ultimately very successful, which was hugely gratifying, though we had our fair share of blood, sweat and tears along the way.  I think the key driver of that success really boiled down to the strong relationships we built with our end users along the way. We started investing in and building those relationships even before we had our system in-house, and that really paid off.  Taking the time to establish ourselves as listeners, as collaborators who wanted to work WITH our end users, really earned us their grace, trust and patience to try and try again and actually work through the rough patches.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I love hearing the war stories & people’s on the ground experiences doing digital asset management; I love hearing the specifics about what worked or didn’t…all of that.

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Guru Talk: David Ginsberg – Warner Bros.

David Ginsberg - Chief Technology Officer

Strong global experience in digital asset management, Ginsberg works with the leading companies in the entertainment industry to help streamline their asset organization.

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

Warner Bros. – designed a DAM that functions as a digital delivery system for marketing assets to over 100+ countries.

Sundance Institute – designing a DAM to streamline access to the Institute’s archives as well as optimize editing/photo marketing workflows.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Imagine having a shoebox filled to the top with all of your old photos and the pain of trying to find things in it.  Without digital asset management our storage systems turn into the digital equivalent of a shoebox with millions of files.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I was lucky enough to have access to great vendors like Levels Beyond and an excellent pool of DAM experts like Rob Kobrin from IMT and Vicky Colf and David Sugg at Warners.  Working with people and companies like the ones mentioned allowed me to learn on the job with an amazing support network to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes.

A few great DAM resources I’ve found are anotherdamblog.comelegantworkflow.com (shameless plug), the Creatasphere conferences and of course Picturepark.com.

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

Just buying a DAM will not solve your asset management challenges – you also need to get your organization to use it!

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Getting people to use the DAM.  Change management is the most difficult part of the process.  Users do not like to try new things even if it will make their life easier.  One trick I do is to find one pain point a system can solve for each set of users and market the system to them around that.

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  Category: DGP Member Interviews
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