Guru Talk: Ian Matzen – Tame Your Assets

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

I have worked as a digital asset management professional for six years, four of which have been as a remote worker. I have a background in digital video post-production: having post-produced spots for advertisers, episodes for reality television, and short videos for corporate clients.

Currently I am one of four DAM Librarians working in the Marketing department at Wells Fargo. Prior to this, I was the Digital Asset Manager for America’s Test Kitchen, a Boston-based publisher. At Net-a-Porter, a luxury brand online retailer headquartered in London, I was a Digital Asset Technician.

In these positions, I applied my skills in asset migration, workflow automation, user adoption, digital preservation, digital rights management, data analysis, metadata modeling, controlled vocabulary (taxonomy) design, user-centered interface design, and auto-classification.

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

DAM as a practice is heavily influenced by those company staff who create and use digital assets. While most companies will benefit from having a DAM system, it will likely become a “shelf-baby” — DAM software left unused due to lack of attention — without the proper setup based on the needs and practices of its users. Consequently, you will excel at your work once you learn to partner with and influence stakeholders to arrive at governance standards that are both agreeable and steeped in standards and best practices.

You will likely spend less of your time managing assets than you will working on other tasks. Most days you will find me configuring, testing, and troubleshooting the DAM system and providing reference desk services to users. Most DAM systems were put into place to manage and make accessible a very large number of digital assets. Expecting a single person to upload, catalog, validate, classify, update, migrate, and distribute them is wishful thinking. We enable others to manage digital assets for themselves.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

I can think of more DAM challenges than I have room to write! The greatest challenge is how to communicate the value that DAM brings to the company so that it is understood by upper management. DAM professionals, our immediate supervisors, and DAM conference attendees are obviously well aware of its value. I get it: considering DAM is too “in the weeds” for C-suite management. While I acknowledge this, the lack of understanding can have some serious ramifications to our work: from insufficient resource allocation — limiting us from increasing DAM’s value — to being threatened or affected by staffing cuts. Ultimately users are left to bear the burden. A large part of our work as DAM professionals must be to advocate for ourselves and advertise our accomplishments. Finding a means to communicate this message to upper-management is an ongoing challenge.

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

Currently, we seem to be going through a hoarding phase, amassing and storing most of our digital assets without first carefully selecting what to keep and then reconsidering this selection at regular intervals in the future. In five years, unless companies are ready to destroy much of this content, they will turn to archiving much of this material. This will be a great opportunity for archivists!

In the next five years, I hope vendors will adopt a set of common standards to support out-of-the-box system integrations. This may be wishful thinking, but system vendors must realize that by adopting such standards their products will be attractive to companies that value efficiency and interoperability over spending money on overly-complicated customizations.

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