Guru Talk: Linda Rouse – DataBasics

Linda Rouse - Information Manager

Librarians have a unique skill set that translates well into the digital asset management industry. Linda Rouse explains why this is, and how it has helped her better serve her customers and understand their needs.

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

I am the Information Manager at DataBasics, which is the distributor of digital asset management solutions and services in the Asia-Pacific region, based in Cairns Australia. I am a card-carrying professional librarian and found it was easy to transfer my skills from librarianship to digital asset management. The past decade or so I have been working with our clients and prospects to help them understand digital asset management and how it can help in their day-to-day work, as well as maintaining our own in-house DAM.

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Linda Rouse passed away on 11 March 2017. As this profile shows, she was steadfastly dedicated to the Library Sciences and helping others with their information management goals. Among the many digital asset management-related articles Linda authored was her contribution to the Librarian Tips for DAM Managers series for DAM Guru program. She was a longtime member and supporter of DAM Guru Program. She will be missed.
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My first job was at the State Library of NSW in Sydney as a cataloguer and then as a reference librarian on a busy reference desk. Now I manage the digital content at DataBasics for our website and all our marketing and client communications – helping to educate newbies on what is involved with managing and maintaining a DAM system, writing content on the many aspects of DAM and researching trends as well as tips and tricks to utilise your DAM more effectively. I posted the Image Library Requirements Guidelines that I’d written to our blog last year – as a number of people had mentioned it was helpful. My most recent posting is entitled DAM for Government: Digital Asset Management for the Public Sector and covers specific aspects such as secure access, distribution and media sharing controls, copyright and rights ownership as well as approvals, collaboration, crowd sourcing and content re-purposing.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

With my library background, I find the easiest way to describe DAM is to think of a library but instead of books, magazines and journals etc, we have a digital library of images, graphics, layouts, presentations, Office docs, PDFs, videos and so on.

Primarily I think the main difference is that whereas a library system describes its records in text format, a digital asset management system is visual. But just as “a picture is worth a thousand words”, a good picture is priceless as Deb Miller writes in CMSWire.

Just as a library only catalogues significant items, the best authors and writers rather than everything that is ever published, so similarly a digital asset management system holds the important stuff in your organisation – the images that make up your brand, the presentations that inform and educate, the training videos, records of events, and all the important documents created in your day-to-day work.

Your digital assets are those files that have value.

When it comes to searching and resource discovery, the same cataloguing and classification rules apply, only the terminology has changed a little: what is now termed metadata used to be called descriptive cataloguing; there were subject headings instead of category tree listings and containers. However taxonomies, thesaurii and controlled vocabularies originated in the earliest classification systems and these are still important for large digital asset management systems. For a great source of information about controlled vocabularies and the how and why of using them, with examples, see David Riecks’ website at http://www.controlledvocabulary.com/.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learnt DAM on the job really – and I was fortunate that some of my early mentors were people like Jennifer Neumann, the co-founder and CEO of Canto and fondly known as “the mother of DAM”. You can hear Jennifer speak about the early days of DAM in the Picturepark webinar and we have her Australian DAMAP conference presentation on our website in PDF format.

Otherwise, Webinars and White Papers are probably the best way to come to grips quickly with how a DAM works and what advantages it will provide. It is a lot easier than downloading a demo and trying to get it up and running when you are not sure what you are doing! Most DAM vendors have produced videos on their products and often these are specific to particular topics or they may have some of their customers describe their usage as case studies. David Diamond’s DAM Survival Guide is an excellent resource for those just getting started.

There is also a lot of info on social media sites such as LinkedIn – check out the DAM groups that you can connect with that keep you up-to-date with news, events and developments in the industry.

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

Researching your organisation’s needs and in particular, workflows prior to selecting and implementing a DAM system is critical to your success. One of the big challenges to implementing any new system is user acceptance… users need to feel that it will improve their efficiency and make their daily work easier. The DAM Learning Center has an article entitled Digital Asset Management Best Practices: Key Stakeholder Involvement by Jim Kidwell that summarises the issues nicely.

It is important for people to realise that copyright issues, privacy restrictions and version control are critical for any organisation. It is so easy to breach copyright with an image or to use the wrong version of a file. But managing this depends on setting up your DAM system with enough checks and balances via user permissions, watermarking and using a central asset location and other methods that this can never happen.

Take the time to find out your real needs and then pick a solution that doesn’t just provide you with software but with the services you need to implement the system, configure it for your requirements, and train users.

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Finding Inspiration (and Solutions) From Metadata Standards

This article was originally published on the DAM Coalition website, a property of Pro Video Coalition. As DAM Coalition was decommissioned in early 2015, this content was moved with permission.

by Nick Sincaglia

The Value of a Metadata Standard

I have been active in a number of metadata standards organizations over the years. While the standards development process can sometimes be painfully slow, I recognize there is enormous value in being involved in such efforts. I have come to believe that if one takes the time to study and understand the design considerations behind the data structures that make up these standards, they will develop new insights and a deeper understanding of how that industry operates.

When designing new DAM systems, I always look to existing metadata standards, which I know have been painstakingly debated through committee. While there is no such thing as a perfect metadata standard, I believe that incorporating some of these elements into my work will likely help me avoid common data modeling mistakes, and ensure I have included important data modeling considerations into my design.

Metadata Standards from Outside the Box

I don’t limit my search for good metadata models to just those standards that have derived from the specific industry vertical with which I am working. Due to the malleability of digital content, industry verticals that were once considered separate and distinct from one another are now beginning to converge. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge that can exist inside these other standards, which comes from people with vastly different work experiences than mine, and of which I am interested in taking advantage. If I think the industry I am working in will eventually experience their same challenges, I will be able to anticipate those challenges by using aspects of these other standards.

One good example of this occurred about year ago, when I was looking for a well designed and versatile data structure to store metadata about creative artists. I wanted to capture the type of metadata that would enable me to uniquely identify a person and, in addition, store a variety of metadata elements that would describe how that person’s identity had changed over time.

I was certain I was not the first data designer to have this need. I did not want to build such a complex data structure alone because it would likely be inferior to one that was collectively defined by a knowledgeable standards community.

It took me about three days of searching, but I finally found what I was looking for when I came across the “Encoded Archival Context – Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families (EAC-CPF)” metadata standard. It was actually more than I was looking for, which was even better! The standard was reasonably new and it had been developed by the international library and digital archive community. Clearly, this was a community that had expertise and knowledge far beyond my own in managing the identities of people, groups and organizations. I was delighted to discover that the standard supported complex scenarios far beyond my immediate needs.

Metadata for Moving Targets

It should not be surprising that the library community had developed such a standard as this—one that addressed the challenges associated with capturing data about an individual or group whose identifying information might change over time.

An example of the value this offers would be a young woman who publishes her master’s thesis to complete her university studies. After she finishes her schooling, she gets married and changes her last name. Several years go by and she publishes more writings under her new marital name. Perhaps, she decides to sometimes use a “pen name” for some of her more controversial writings. Later, she returns to university and completes her doctorate and her name changes again. Perhaps, she is divorced or widowed and later re-marries, and again, changes her marital name. Finally, her writings are so influential, she is receives damehood (the female equivalent of knighthood) by the British Monarchy.

Many works, many names but all from the same person.

The EAC-CPF standard is designed to capture this level of complexity. It was well worth the time it took for me to find the standard. I could confidently design its data structures into my core data model because I was certain it would not only meet my current needs, but could support any future needs I might have.

I encourage you to do the same.

The ideas and knowledge expressed within metadata standards can be leveraged in new and useful ways if you take the time to understand them. Look outside your immediate industries standards and recognize that other industry verticals may have already experienced the challenges you are now facing.


Nick Sincaglia

Nick Sincaglia is President/Founder of NueMeta LLC, a consulting firm focused on digital asset and metadata management strategies. Nick’s company provides software development and system design consulting services for the leading digital media & entertainment companies. Nick has been active in several industry technical standards bodies as a Board Member and Working Group Chairman for the Digital Data Exchange (DDEX), NARM’s Digital Think Tank, and member of Metadata Working Groups sponsored by the European Broadcast Union and Audio Engineering. Nick has been a member of DAM Guru Program since 2013.

LearnDAM-Logo-75x75DAM Guru Program recognizes this article as worthy of the #LearnDAM designation for materials that provide genuine digital asset management education without sales agendas. Search #LearnDAM on Google for more materials.

The Concept of Trust in Your Workflow

This article was originally published on the DAM Coalition website, a property of Pro Video Coalition. As DAM Coalition was decommissioned in early 2015, this content was moved with permission.

by Nick Sincaglia

I was talking with a client recently about some of the challenges they were experiencing with a new workflow they had implemented. It was a bit of a departure from their existing workflows in that it relied much more heavily on external data providers. Until this point, their existing workflows were primarily driven by data that was originally from internally created data for which they had defined strict guidelines and relied heavily on throughout their workflow systems.

This client had expanded their operations into a new area of business which required them to rely on their outside data supplier partners to a much greater extent for the quality and consistency of the data which entered their systems. Needless to say, these new data streams were experiencing much higher failure rates and, as a result, were stressing their workflow systems in ways they had not experienced before.

The failures were causing a “log jam” of media files that would quickly fill up the workflow storage reserves and clog parts of their IT network, due to the re-routing and reprocessing of these files. A cascade of completely new workflow challenges had caught the organization off guard and was causing a significant amount of stress on their operations.

While talking through these problems that the client was experiencing, the concept of “trust” surfaced in our conversation. Since my background in workflow development has always tended to involve at least some amount of external data integration, “trust” was a concept I had deeply internalized and always included in my workflow designs.

It was through this conversation that I realized that building this concept of “trust” into my workflow designs was something that slowly evolved over time from experience. This client’s existing workflows had made assumptions regarding “trust,” which turned out to be no longer valid when applied to the external data they were receiving.

Trust in Workflow Design

So what do I mean when I refer to “trust” within the workflow design? Trust in this circumstance is the level of confidence one has in the quality and consistency of the data that’s being used as an input to any component within a workflow system. Trust can be applied to your business partner’s data feeds, your employee’s work quality, a server, the network, software applications, hardware devices or sub-components within your workflow systems. Each link in your workflow chain can be assigned a value of trust that you can use to drive your workflow designs and increase the robustness and reliability of your workflow automation.

And as the saying goes, “trust should not be just given, it must be earned.”

This was the mistake my client had made. Their confidence that these new data feeds would have the same quality and consistency as their internal data feeds was set too high. As a result, their workflow systems were stressed in ways they did not anticipate, and now they needed to re-evaluate how they did things.

So, how does one build the concept of trust into one’s system design?

I have learned to develop profiles for the various components that make up my workflow systems. There are no hard and fast rules as to the level of granularity one must establish for these component profiles. It really depends on your situation and the level of detail you want to track, monitor or control.

Each of these component profiles may also include data level profiling. The idea is that you assign a trust ranking to each data input component that can be used to programmatically make decisions on how to process the data.

For example, if your data is coming from a workflow component that has a high ranking of trust, and you receive an update to a previously delivered data record, you might programmatically design your workflow systems to automatically accept that updated data record. If, under the same scenario, the data is coming from a low trust ranking data component, the data update might be further scrutinized by running consistency checks against other data sources, or by routing it to a manual process for human review. Each component within your workflow is designed to check an input’s trust ranking before processing the data and, in doing so, might receive instructions on how to process the data.

Trust as a Variable

Trust ranking is not a bulletproof way to guarantee that your workflow systems will not inadvertently allow low quality data to slip through. There will always be data quality issues that will surface that are unanticipated. However, this approach, if designed properly, will enable one to expand the granularity of these data quality checks and decision-making responses over time. Remember, the data quality of your workflow systems is not static; your data suppliers and workflow components might change over time, and their level of trust might rise or fall.

Before a workflow component starts to process the data it receives, it can be designed to quickly check who the supplier of the data is and what other sub-components had previously processed the data. From there, it can be instructed on what data elements should be scrutinized during the processing of the data.

At the same time, this trust ranking concept should not unnecessarily impede the data flow through your systems. One needs to balance the need for total data quality with the rate at which data must flow through the system. In most workflow systems, it is unacceptable for the output of any workflow component to fall too far behind the data rate of its input.

One situation where I found the greatest need for this trust ranking concept was when I was working with systems that mixed data associated with content from the opposite spectral range of the “Long Tail.” The concept of the “Long Tail” was made popular by Chris Anderson’s book “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.”

Valuing the Tail End of the Long Tail

One side effect of the long tail that I noticed in my work was that the quality of the metadata degraded the further down the long tail one went. I don’t remember Chris Anderson discussing this “feature” of the long tail in his book. From my perspective this was the “dark side” of the long tail that the book failed to mention.

LongTail

Digital assets that are less popular typically don’t receive the same level of metadata attention more popular assets receive.

In a typical marketplace, there are a number of parties involved making content available. Typically there are creators, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Even in a purely digital environment, these same roles tend to persist.

The “dark side” of the long tail is the further down the long tail one goes, the less incentivized one is to spend time on metadata quality and consistency issues. Time is money as the saying goes. The fewer copies of the content one expects to sell, the less likely one is to earn back the money invested in the content’s metadata.

If the creators of the content do not supply high quality metadata with their media, the responsibility of doing so is passed to the manufacturer. If the manufacturer does not have the incentive, they will pass the responsibility to the distributor. If the distributor lacks incentive, the responsibility continues on to the retailer. And if the retailer is not motivated to cleanse the metadata, it will simply get passed to the consumer.

So, when you are mixing metadata associated with both front tail content and long tail content, the concept of trust plays a very big role in how you design your workflows. Professionally produced content tends to have much greater metadata quality, because the suppliers of the content have a vested interest in making sure the content is properly prepared so that it can be easily received and processed by each party within the retail supply chain and on to the consumer for purchase. The opposite tends to be true for long tail content, for the simple fact that every minute spent addressing content metadata issues, the lower the probability one will make back the money spent in doing so.

If you think about it, this same situation exists in almost all content environments. Even in your company’s internal content systems, though perhaps not to the same extreme. There will always be high value content and low value content. Too much time and effort spent on the quality and consistency of low value content could result in a net loss to the organization.

Your organization probably already internalizes this reality in the way they run their business by putting more effort into the quality and consistency of the data surrounding their high value content. And if you think about it a little further, shouldn’t your workflow systems also be able to internalize these same concepts?


Nick Sincaglia

Nick Sincaglia is President/Founder of NueMeta LLC, a consulting firm focused on digital asset and metadata management strategies. Nick’s company provides software development and system design consulting services for the leading digital media & entertainment companies. Nick has been active in several industry technical standards bodies as a Board Member and Working Group Chairman for the Digital Data Exchange (DDEX), NARM’s Digital Think Tank, and member of Metadata Working Groups sponsored by the European Broadcast Union and Audio Engineering. Nick has been a member of DAM Guru Program since 2013.

LearnDAM-Logo-75x75DAM Guru Program recognizes this article as worthy of the #LearnDAM designation for materials that provide genuine digital asset management education without sales agendas. Search #LearnDAM on Google for more materials.

Guru Talk: Reshma Kumar – Hewlett-Packard

Traffic Manager - Reshmar Kumar

Envisioning and implementing an enterprise digital asset management system from scratch is no small feat, but Reshma has done it successfully and shares her insight on the matter.

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

I started working with digital asset management (DAM) at VeriSign where I brought a DAM solution onboard. Upon the subsequent acquisition of VeriSign by Symantec, I had the DAM solution onboarded at Symantec. At both companies, I managed the respective design teams for corporate marketing.

When I joined VeriSign and Symantec, a DAM system for the management of graphical assets was not in place at either company. This was a painpoint for the design teams at both companies, which were considered the go-to teams for brand assets. They generated numerous graphical assets daily in multiple languages, purchased a wide number of stock imagery, and commissioned photographic imagery. The challenge of housing, managing, retrieving, and making a growing number of assets available globally was daunting and became the impetus for putting a DAM utility in-place at both companies. In my current group at HP, we are looking at improving our existing system.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

In my experience, digital asset management has been about the curation of digital media in a centralized, organized, and meaningful manner. It’s the maintenance and cataloging of a repository of files and access provisioning on-demand. You are essentially filing things away so you can find them when needed.

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

An important point for someone new to DAM to understand is that a DAM solution is a significant investment in capital, as well as time resources. And, it’s really only as good as its implementation. Therefore, ensuring the tool is configured to meet your organization’s specific requirements, being diligent about the administration and usage of the tool, and populating the tool appropriately to ensure it provides the needed value help to drive its usefulness and usage—whether it’s just within a team or the larger organization—and hence, realize an ROI on your investment.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

One of the biggest challenges I found with DAM is workflow. DAM solutions, like many other applications, tend to work as standalone tools versus as part of an integrated corporate system. As a result, they are not usually interconnected to other workflow tools used by teams to enable a seamless end-to-end process. For instance, many teams use a project tracking tool and content management tool which are unlikely to interface with a DAM tool; thereby, making the process multi-pronged and further entrenched in islands of stand-alone applications.

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

The mobile use-case scenario for DAM is an interesting one. While a full feature-set on the mobile platform would be an over-investment, the support of core user functionality like browsing, upload, and download as well as some admin capability hold even present-day value.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

When the DAM system was initially implemented and rolled-out, we enabled users to apply metadata keywords they deemed appropriate. As a result, we grew a lengthy and unruly list of keywords, some of which held little meaningful value. There were duplicates in different formats, such as the singular and plural form of the same word, acronyms, as well as the spelt-out versions of abbreviations, internal code names and jargon, and a host of short-forms and interpretations of things. This did not make for a consistent or valuable tagging system. We, therefore, opted for a controlled vocabulary which meant keywords were pre-defined allowing users to choose from a list of available keywords to associate with their assets.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success with regards to DAM was putting one in place. Our previous system of ‘no system’ was not sustainable, nor was it working for us internally or with our stakeholders. Putting in place an enterprise-class tool that was specifically designed to meet our needs helped keep us organized, enabled us to be more efficient and productive, and allowed us to better meet the needs of our stakeholders globally.

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Guru Call: USA

US-flagLooking for a Guru in NY, USA.  DGP member works for an international non-profit organization. Company has a lot of assets all over the world, and would like them centrally stored for simple access. Member is seeking advice from anyone who has experience with global non-profits.

Signup: signup

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Guru Talk: Shawna Cronan – Compassion International

Shawna Cronan - Media Asset Manager

Knowing how to manage a digital asset management system across 38 different countries is no small task, but Cronan has some tips to make it successful.

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

I have worked for two companies as a DAM professional: Scripps Networks Interactive and Compassion International. In my current role at Compassion International, I am the digital media manager of a global system where we have users from 38 different countries.

I got my start in DAM at Scripps Networks (HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, DIY, GAC) by managing HGTV’s DAM library. Over time, our media libraries grew from small, individual brand libraries into one large media library. I migrated the HGTV and Food Network individual libraries, and learned a lot along the way.

What draws me to DAM is the balance of creativity and logic. DAM professionals have the privilege of working with beautiful media and creative people, and we also pride ourselves in organizing these assets, satisfying our inner geek.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

To those unfamiliar with DAM, I will explain that it is a central location for storing, accessing and retrieving digital files. And when I do my job right, with a few clicks, users can search for what they need and then download their desired files.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I had a great mentor at Scripps Networks. I also learned by getting my hands dirty. When we consolidated libraries at Scripps Networks, I manually migrated the HGTV library that consisted of about 50,000 assets. You really get to know your system uploading that many files!

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

It’s equally important to take the time to know your users and to learn your system. Ultimately, your library is no good if it isn’t being used.

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

Is there such a thing as an international spa critic? That would be a pretty good gig.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

In my new role at Compassion International, one of my favorite things is spending time with our users and training them to use our system. When I see that my colleagues have a “breakthrough” moment and they’re excited about its features, it is very satisfying for me.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

In general, I just want to keep learning. I will keep questioning and streamlining processes. There is always something to improve, new technologies to learn, and more efficient methods to deliver our assets to our users.

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Required Skill Set For A Digital Asset Management Department Lead

This article was originally published on the DAM Coalition website, a property of Pro Video Coalition. As DAM Coalition was decommissioned in early 2015, this content was moved with permission.

by Nick Sincaglia

Having spent over 15 years in the field of Digital Asset Management, both as a consultant and as a staff member of some of the leading media and entertainment companies, I am frequently asked to help define the skill set required to lead an ongoing digital asset management initiative. Sometimes, I am even asked to assist in helping find the people to fill this role.

What skills should the leader of a digital asset management team possess in order to operate and maintain these types of systems, and enable the organization to maximize its full potential? It is an important question to ask and even more important for the organization to get right.

I think the question is a challenging one to answer, due to the fast pace at which the digital media and technology industries are evolving. The skill requirements have grown over the years as the focus on the digital business has increased and departments and budgets have expanded.

I will express my opinions in answering this question based on my own experiences, but I know that not everyone’s DAM experiences are the same. I welcome your feedback and would be interested in hearing what you most value when selecting a leader for your digital asset management teams.

DAM as a Department

I think it is important for the leader of your DAM department to possess four main skills. Before we go into each of those, I want to point out that I deliberately used the term “department.” I have seen many companies try to tuck DAM into an existing department within their organization and, generally speaking, it never works very well.

DAM is unique. It is its own kind of animal. It involves a little bit of a lot of things, such as software engineering, database design, operations, licensing, product design, account management, etc. But DAM is not enough of any of these things for it to make sense to fold it underneath any one of these headings.

DAM really needs to be considered its own department that works closely with each of the other departments in the organization, but is viewed as its own discipline, with its own resources, release schedules and budgets. Recognize this early and you will avoid a number of problems, and you won’t inadvertently set up the members of the DAM team for failure.

DAM Skill #1

The first skill on my list for a DAM department lead to possess is strong workflow management and troubleshooting skills.

There are a number of formalized quality analysis techniques and methodologies used to describe the recursive nature of evaluating the operational components that make up your workflow systems to determine the quality, efficiency and identify deficiencies. They include Six Sigma, Lean, Pareto Analysis, etc. But it is not the method itself or the “certification” in any of these methodologies that is important. What is important is that the person is capable of analyzing complex and interconnected systems, and for them to be able to think in systematic way so that they can put into place ways in which to monitor these systems to recognize when a system is not running optimally, when failures are occurring or optimizations need to be added.

What I am trying to describe here is not the obvious IT system failures, like network outages or catastrophic software crashes. (Although dealing with these events are a part of the job as well). What I am trying to describe is much more subtle.

There is an art in working in an environment where software interacts with large volumes of complex metadata. Workflow systems are designed around the data they are expecting to receive. But what happens when the software encounters data that is completely unexpected? Results vary depending on the design of the software and systems.

You can never 100% predict the range of data variations that your systems will receive. The best you can do is to try to put defensive barriers in place that will recognize when data exceeds the expected norm, and either tries to auto-correct it or routes it through to an error processing pipeline to be manually reviewed. The intelligent algorithms designed to make these complex workflow-processing decisions must be constantly re-evaluated and tweaked to handle newly discovered data variations that enter the system so that the number of manually reviewed records decreases over time.

One can never expect to completely eliminate the need for manual reviewing of failed metadata processing. Some poor quality data will slip past your defense systems and find its way into your production systems. When this happens, it is equally important for this person to be able to put into place a means to locate and correct any of these data issues before they have any significant affect on your data driven business systems.

Because these software/data issues don’t typically result in catastrophic errors that take down your systems, they require one to pay careful attention to the system outputs of the various workflow components, and the interactions between them, in order to recognize when the results are deviating from the norm. Many times, these problems do not occur regularly and may only manifest themselves under certain conditions involving multiple inputs.

What kind of person would have the well-honed skills to be successful in this role? I don’t think one can say there is a single mold in which one must fit, but I will say that experience is critical.

Well-honed troubleshooting and analysis skills are not something one can acquire in a certification course or weekend workshop. Neither are these skills something in which one can acquire proficiency by reading a book or preparing for a certification exam. The real world can present challenges that can be enormously complex, especially within this era of “big data,” in which more and more organizations are finding themselves.

I may be a little biased in my opinion on this, but I would lean towards individuals with a strong engineering background. The reason I say this is because engineers are typically trained and well practiced in the art of problem solving.

It is said that in order to be an expert in a subject, one must practice a cumulative of 10,000 hours on that subject. The job of a typical engineer is to solve problems and devise solutions. Overtime, their thinking becomes oriented towards looking at complex situations, breaking them down to smaller and smaller sub-components, and thinking about how to test each sub-component in order to determine the cause of the problem. I won’t say that engineers are the only ones who possess these skills, but I think engineers typically have more opportunities, both in school and in their work life, to hone these types of skills.

DAM Skill #2

A second area of focus, which I think is a very important trait to have in the field of Digital Asset Management, is to have a passion for metadata modeling.

I use the term “passion” because, let’s face it, metadata is not particularly sexy or exciting, but it is critically important to the success of your DAM systems. If you can find someone who has strong opinions in this area, that person is likely to have spent time studying the subject.

I firmly believe that with DAM systems, architecture really, really matters! A significant part of any DAM system architecture is the way it captures and stores the metadata that describes its digital assets. “Content is king,” as the saying goes; but that content does not exist if you can’t find it! In the world of DAM, it could be easily argued, “context is king.” If you take this to heart, you will recognize how important metadata models are.

In fact, I view the processing of the media files as the easy part of DAM; it is the metadata that is the hard part. You need to either leverage existing metadata standards or build your own data models to accurately represent the needs of your business. Then you must figure out how to accurately capture this data and protect it from being corrupted over the life of the content.

Metadata design is more than just accumulating a list of data fields used to capture metadata. There are real design considerations and industry expertise one needs in order to develop a metadata model that will last the test of time and grow with your organization’s needs.

Also, don’t forget that we operate in an increasingly connected world, so making your metadata models interoperable with both internal and external parties is becoming increasingly important. Having someone who has both strong data modeling experience combined with in-depth knowledge of other available data modeling options is essential, in my opinion.

DAM Skill #3

Another trait that I feel is necessary for a DAM department lead, and cannot be ignored, is a strong background and interest in new technology.

The pace of change in the field of technology has become truly exponential. DAM is not just about technology (remember we started our discussion on workflow); however, the right use of technology can make the difference between working harder and working smarter.

In just the last few years, I have seen a five- to ten-fold increase in efficiency with some newer technologies over older tried and true techniques and methodologies. This can have a huge impact on the budget and resource requirements needed to build and maintain your DAM systems, not to mention your competitiveness in the marketplace.

A genuine curiosity for new technologies and new approaches to old problems, combined with a healthy skepticism and the ability to evaluate the trade-offs between the new and old approaches, is important.

DAM Skill #4

The last skill that I think is important in a DAM department lead is a good understanding of intellectual property rights.

One does not need to have the background of an IP lawyer; however, the plain reality in the Digital Asset Management business is that one rarely owns 100% of the rights under all circumstances to the content they manage.

Most content has multiple parties with claims to and interests in the intellectual property contained within those digital files. Those interests are outlined in contracts with all sorts of conditions and limitations. Understanding the true meaning these contractual clauses have on your digital asset catalog is critical. You should expect your business to change over time. Having someone who understands the implications these changes can have on the use of the digital assets, the royalties owed, and the legal risks, will be critical to your business.

By no means is this a complete list of skills. But from my experience, these are four critical skills that can significantly impact your DAM and your business. If you can find someone with this wide array of skills and experience, you would be certainly off to a very good start.


Nick Sincaglia

Nick Sincaglia is President/Founder of NueMeta LLC, a consulting firm focused on digital asset and metadata management strategies. Nick’s company provides software development and system design consulting services for the leading digital media & entertainment companies. Nick has been active in several industry technical standards bodies as a Board Member and Working Group Chairman for the Digital Data Exchange (DDEX), NARM’s Digital Think Tank, and member of Metadata Working Groups sponsored by the European Broadcast Union and Audio Engineering. Nick has been a member of DAM Guru Program since 2013.

LearnDAM-Logo-75x75DAM Guru Program recognizes this article as worthy of the #LearnDAM designation for materials that provide genuine digital asset management education without sales agendas. Search #LearnDAM on Google for more materials.

Guru Talk: Adam Ungstad – Independent Information Architect

Digital Asset Management Consultant - Adam Ungstad

Through years of experience Adam understands that when working with clients you need to start with an everyday problem that most people can relate with, to help explain the basics of managing their digital assets and finding a solid solution.

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

I recently completed a consulting project for FIFA, the world’s football governing organization. Throughout the project I worked with stakeholders and content owners to create and validate an enterprise taxonomy now used to classify the official documents produced by the organization. It was the first time I had tackled a taxonomy project on such a large scale, and was a very rewarding project.

I’ve also recently done consulting work for the weather agency of the United Nations, the World Meteorological Organization, where I provided similar guidance on the information architecture of their web content. Prior to working as an independent consultant I was employed as a Senior Information Architect for the CIO of the Province of British Columbia (Canada), where I lead the development of metadata standards for the province’s Identity Information Management program.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

When describing DAM to people with no background in information management I often start by relating to a problem almost everyone has, such as managing their own digital photo collection. Everyone takes photos, many from different cameras, and they all need to sort through them, decide what they want to keep, store them, use them for different purposes, and find them again later. Then it becomes easier to talk about what happens when this problem scales to much, much larger collections, and people can start to understand different issues faced by large organizations such as ownership, legal obligations, rights management, versioning, naming, and of course my favorite, findability.

When talking about DAM with people who already have a background in information management I like to talk about the management of broadcast media – an area I find fascinating from a metadata perspective. Broadcasters need to know what content they have, what is in the content, who owns it, what they can do with it, and the technical quality of their content. From contract ontologies to standards on luminosity to the ownership of clips of content within larger pieces of content, talking about the management of broadcast media really allows me to show just how fascinating (and challenging) DAM can be.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned about Digital Asset Management through my life long love for information architecture. I have a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems which exposed me to the ins and outs of information management, but most of what I know about DAM has been self-taught through hands on experience or semi-formal training.

The Internet is a wonderful tool and there are many useful (largely free) tools out there that can help someone learn about the management of digital collections. Here are a few I’ve found useful:

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

If I wasn’t working in this field I would be writing and publishing. In 2012 I wrote and published my first guidebook, which continues to sell today and is found in several library collections in Canada, including the Vancouver Public Library. I have a passion for discovering information, organizing it so it is useful, and presenting it in an understandable form – all of which you can do in DAM or in writing books!

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Self-paced Digital Asset Management Education from DAM Foundation

Digital asset management education is hard to find. It’s not that there aren’t scores of websites and companies that promise DAM knowledge, it’s just that most of them don’t deliver on that promise.

This leaves tomorrow’s DAM professionals to learn from a handful of DAM books, the occasional worthwhile blog post and, of course, one another, through DAM Guru Program. Missing from the DAM education scene have been affordable, DAM knowledge programs that provide structured training.

“Today’s DAM experts weren’t taught Digital Asset Management; they invented it,” said DAM Guru Program creator and DAM Survival Guide author, David Diamond. “There was no DAM education for us and, until recently, there was no worthwhile DAM education for anyone else either.”

Recognizing the need for a program that could educate and promote DAM as a career option, the DAM Foundation announced in early 2014 a pending partnership with the University of British Columbia (UBC). Together, the organizations were to develop a curriculum that covered all the bases and would be delivered by a reputable institution whose name would add value to a resume.

But that’s not what happened.

“They were trying to dictate DAM education content to us and they don’t know DAM,” explained DAM Foundation curriculum developer Elizabeth Keathley. “Plus, they wanted to charge nearly $3,600 for the certificate, and none of that money would have made its way back to help DAM Foundation.”

“In fact,” clarified DAM Foundation president, Mark Davey, “a portion of the registration money would have been paid to DAM Foundation. In truth, it would have been much more per signup than what we make today; but the program we offer today is affordable to anyone who can benefit from the training, and this was always our goal.”

It was a setback for the DAM Foundation, which knew from surveys that the #1 thing people wanted from it were online courses. It was not, apparently, a setback for UBC, which continues to offer its DAM course, independent from the Foundation.

But from the ashes of the DAM Foundation/UBC partnership came a solution that might ultimately serve even more people.

“We decided to go it alone,” Keathley explained. “We’re offering the same content we had in mind for the UBC courses, but at one-tenth the cost to students.”

The Foundation launched Introduction to Digital Asset Management, in August of 2014. It’s an online-only certification course that’s intended to make DAM education accessible to professionals with day jobs and limited budgets.

“Any company can afford $360 for an employee to get DAM training,” Keathley said. “And if the company won’t pay, we think this price is still affordable to students who pay for themselves.”

Self-financed, Self-directed

As it turns out, a number of early program enrollees are paying for their own training. In some cases, it was easier than wrangling funds from an employer; but in other cases, the student’s interest in DAM came from the desire for a career change—a goal not likely to be employer endorsed.

Julie Watson holds a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Sciences. She is a self-described “traditional librarian.” At least she was so before starting her DAM Foundation training.

“I saw the writing on the wall—digital is the future for library professionals,” she admitted. “We [librarians] like to talk about the fabulous library, but we have to be realistic about how we can use our skills in the business world. DAM is a perfect example of how a librarian’s career can grow—they need us.”

Watson found the DAM Foundation course page via Google and decided it would be a good fit for her background and schedule.

“I love the way the courses are set up,” she said. “I’m a self-directed learner and the courses are self-paced, which enables me to put it all on hold when I need to. If I had to be in a class once or twice a week, I wouldn’t be able to do it; I just don’t have the time.”

Watson credits her DAM Foundation training for better preparing her for the interview that lead to her current position as Content Steward for Aquent Studios, through which she contracts for Merck.

“Even the little bit I got from my first DAM Foundation lesson helped me go into the interview for my current job with more confidence. I felt like I spoke their language,” she said.

Midcareer Change of Course

Elizabeth Keathley says Julie Watson’s career transition is not uncommon.

“We’re seeing librarians moving out of libraries and into DAM jobs,” she said. “And we’re seeing young people with IT or marketing degrees who want to add DAM to their skillsets.”

Keathley said the Foundation’s guiding principle for its courses is that those who are getting into DAM midcareer shouldn’t have to go back to school or spend an undue sum for training.

“Our program enables people to start and stop when they need, without being controlled by a university schedule,” she explained. “When you create an educational program that’s easy to get into, you create diversity in the profession.”

Unstructured Training to a Point

Students can start and stop their training at will, but all lessons must be completed within six months of the completion of the first lesson. This enables the Foundation to cap the duration of its training obligations, but it also encourages students to complete their studies.

The entire course comprises five lessons:

  • DAM as a Strategy
  • DAM as a System
  • The Basics of Managing Assets
  • DAM as a Knowledge Platform
  • DAM as a Measurement Tool

Keathley serves as instructor and mentor to the students. The coursework is largely based on her book, “Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order Out of Media Chaos.” Other course content providers and editors include  Mark Davey, Deb Fanslow, Henrik de Gyor, Emily Kolvitz and Jeff Lawrence, each known for significant contributions to the DAM community’s #LearnDAM education efforts.

“This is an all-star team of DAM educators,” David Diamond said. “Not only are they knowledgeable beyond argument, they are among the few DAM educators in the world today whose works are never polluted by software sales agendas.”

More specific to the benefits of the content itself, Keathley describes it as, “all the stuff you need to walk into a new DAM job on Day 1.”

DAM Pros Might Need More

Keathley’s summary description of the program might explain why experienced DAM professional, Dave Bogie, who has for many years managed the Idaho Power Company digital asset management system, was hoping for a little more.

“The material I’m getting in Lesson 3 is one opinion about how that should all go together, but it’s in direct conflict with other things I’ve read,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to go about this and it would be good to have that discussion. If we were in a live classroom, I’d be raising my hand to suggest alternatives, argue and ask for clarification.”

Still, he admits that the course is offering him value.

“My practical [DAM] expertise was gathered while trying to make Cumulus work. Everything else I know is theoretical, based on what I’ve read on the Internet. This training at least gives me some feedback. But for me, a 201 course would be better, less theoretical.”

Bogie’s criticism comes with the qualification that he is a seasoned DAM professional. He recognizes that those new to the field will benefit most from the course as it is. His concerns also underscore a need for advanced, more focused digital asset management training, which is not available today.

“If DAM Foundation offered advanced training, I would absolutely find funding for that,” he said.

Help with Software Transitions Too

Carla Derck is Corporate Communications Coordinator-Digital Assets for Victaulic. Her firm has been using Extensis Portfolio for years but has spent the past year researching replacements.

“Portfolio isn’t doing what we need it to do anymore,” she said. “I started my search for a replacement DAM by reading DAM Survival Guide, which taught me that I needed to focus on our needs before I could think about software. That led me to DAM Guru Program and this DAM Foundation course.”

Unique about Derck’s approach to the training was the goal of better defining her company’s digital asset management needs so that she could make a better DAM software purchase decision. Seeing the program as an extension of her own research, she wanted information fast, without having to adjust her professional schedule.

“I like that I can do the lessons at my own pace,” she explained. “I don’t feel pressured to complete a lesson at a given time, which I appreciate. I’m working more than full-time at my current job, so I don’t have the time for a scheduled courses. This is stress-free education for me.”

Derck’s employer did pay for her certificate, but she says should would have gladly paid for it herself.

She also admits that she purchased her new DAM software before completing her training, largely because the vendor offered a discount to sign before the end of the year. But, she said, the course confirmed enough about what she’d learned on her own, so she felt confident in her decision.

Funding More Advanced Studies

Unlike DAM Guru Program, which is funded by DAM software maker Picturepark, the DAM Foundation has no external funding. So, in addition to providing value to students, this intro course must provide revenue to DAM Foundation.

“We will fund DAM 201 and beyond with the proceeds we collect from this intro course,” Keathley said.

Considering that the DAM Foundation might be the DAM professional’s most likely source for affordable advanced DAM study programs in the future, enrollment in today’s course might a worthy investment, even if what’s learned is, as Dave Boogie describes it, theoretical in nature.

DAM-using organizations can afford to send multiple employees through the training, and DAM vendors can certainly afford to gift the program to customers and contest winners, perhaps additionally requiring that their own employees be DAM-certified before they claim to be able to help others.

What DAM Foundation offers in this course is an affordable entry point to learn digital asset management through the teachings of a handful of experienced DAM professionals. There will certainly be critiques of the curriculum from those whose DAM experiences differ, but the course should provide students with a good DAM foundation (no pun intended) from which they can embark on a DAM-related career with confidence.

More information about the course is available at the DAM Foundation website.

 


Neither DAM Guru Program nor its sponsor, Picturepark, are affiliated with DAM Foundation.

Guru Talk: Melissa Polidori – Digital Asset Management Professional

Digital Asset Manager - Melissa Polidori

Working in both small agencies and large corporations, Polidori knows how to make it work with any digital asset management system.

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

The journey started in 96’ when I accepted the role of lead archivist for one of Canada’s national nightly news programs. What a great ride it was for our relatively small international news crew to go from analog to digital over the decade I was a part of that dedicated team.

The archive was comprised of an inelegant DOS-like PC program that directed the researcher or archivist to a tape location in a large climate controlled, steel reinforced tape vault. Although the software was painful to look at, the story and footage descriptions offered tremendous detail. This detail acted as a type of metadata in advance of viewing the footage.

In addition there were live international footage feeds that I could patch into a Mac to record a stream of anything that I felt matched the writers intent for the upcoming new cast. Also, I licensed stills from AP, CP (Canadian Press), independent photojournalists as well as working in Photoshop and other Adobe programs to acquire and make ready whatever visual elements were needed for the graphics team to create for the show.

Each show was archived, tagged and ready for access the next day. It was a highly creative, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, ‘we need it now’ exciting environment, filled with a compassionate interesting diverse group of people whom I’ll know as friends forever. If you have seen an episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, yes it was exactly like that. It was not DAM in the more formal current sense; however, it was my entry to the DAM arena.

Next up, in 2007 I was very fortunate to be the Digital Asset Manager for Scholastic Canada, rolling out their new DAM process to the Canadian marketing and creative arm of Scholastic.ca, as directed by the US parent company ‘Scholastic.com’. It was so exciting! I think they choose me because I assured them I could do it (but I did not really know what that meant—yet.)

Essentially, I made sure that everyone from Sales to Creative, Marketing, Production, including external international print vendors, were all in good shape with their use and understanding of (North Plains) Telescope, its protocols for file ingestion, access, searching, retrieving etcetera. In that setting—with the backbone of ISBN being a unique signifier, or single container for all files associated with a book and e-book—I found Telescope to be extremely effective. Scholastic US information services team was and is the paramount driving force to this DAM Initiative.

In 2013, I became the Digital Asset Manager for small digital agency that required a business analysis for a new DAM and workflow. I presenting a few DAM vendor options across the business streams for an upcoming digital asset repository before proposing a DAM solution in which space was provided by their parent company, Onx.com.

Layered onto that, I designed the project naming convention and project structure with some Atlassian additions that made it more WIP engaged for collaboration and project follow-through with PM, Creative and Development teams. I provided training and general implementation for various teams. This solution is a very customized and flexible workflow for ongoing work and re-use of space.

After interviewing many terrific DAM vendors for use by this agency, I would have preferred to implement one of them, but it is the nature of small business to work with their existing resources and budget.

Experiencing all angles of this challenge was part of its solution. I am so lucky to have been inside the big engines like television, as well as small operations, as this gives me a better comprehension of market needs in DAM.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I see DAM as a giant garage that’s got a space, a drawer, a hook for every tool including your garden gnome. It is a location where all file types can fit and many different users can enjoy the benefits of DAM resources. From this perspective, DAM is as integral to a business function as office furniture. However, if it is not supported as part of business infrastructure or capital expenditure, then it is difficult for people to justify allocating support and funding to something almost transparent yet crucial for growth.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

Research, reading, testing and making analogies in my mind to be able to translate the technical details of DAM to another person or team has helped me learn and understand DAM. I have read a lot of David Diamond’s articles, which are first-class resources for anyone hoping to dive into DAM.

I’ve also reached out to members of the DAM community and learned so much about the variety of applications and implementations for the software and the industries who use it. The DAM community can be a highly supportive, joyful, sharing group. We need a DAM meet-up in Toronto, Canada in the future for more people to connect (hint) and for DAM business to grow.

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

Good question, one of the most important things for anyone new to DAM would be to understand that in five years, it will all have changed quite a bit. Be really flexible and realize that you cannot know everything about the current state of affairs in DAM or market trends, and that’s why the learning, reading, and collaborating never ends. Stay open to change.

And, if you happen to be a tiny bit OCD, it’s an asset to this type of detailed job.

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

Teaching. I started out teaching after college. I later went to University and back into teaching, which I adore. Collaboration and sharing ideas makes the people aspect of DAM so enjoyable for me.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Dare I say it, my next DAM job. Feel free to let me know your thoughts. 🙂

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

On the point of growth for DAM, of all the industries I’ve worked in—TV, print & Web—Web has the most voracious appetite for assets, spanning the range between illustration, audio, video, animation and photography. Now that everything is essentially Web and interactive, I believe that DAM will be in the spotlight as a necessity for productivity. In this way a WIP function will, I think it will be integrated into every DAM solution to give broader scope of the essential usefulness to users and those who fund the effort.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

I feel as though each DAM adventure has been successful and my most recent role at the digital agency—although it was super challenging—I am very proud that I created something useful for a wide variety of team members who were not previously connected are now unified by a DAM workflow for project resolution.

I believe the purpose of DAM is to bring order to chaos, to ease our daily work and to record brand development history. If I can be a part of that DAM process, that is successful work to me. As my brother used to say when he would walk into my apartment, “Welcome to the Hobbit.” You see, I have a place for everything; everything is in the right spot and is well stocked. DAM is a natural fit for me.

In addition, DAM is in its own category. As a service and product, it straddles between IT and whom it serves; therefore, if you can make a good connection with IT, the rest of the DAM delivery will be a success. Cement your success with IT on your side.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I am always interested in discovering what developments are changing the face of DAM. I assume that a player in DAM technology is market demand and I hope that a broader market base can realize the potential of DAM in their business, as there are so many vendors with unique applications to provide.

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