New Digital Asset Management (DAM) Conference Arrives in New York

A new digital asset management (DAM) conference is on the horizon in 2018. Organizer ‘Insight Exchange Network’ is presenting their Digital Assets & Content Leadership Exchange in New York on January 22-24, 2018. It looks to be a conference focused on educational insights from many in the DAM and Content industry.  The three days span a variety of industries, speaking about innovation, efficiencies, strategies, and evolution in the industry.

A brief description from IEN website:

As content velocity increases and the volume of digital assets grow exponentially, maximizing those assets’ value hinges on managing them effectively. Navigating the growing number of technologies and strategies to steward your organization’s digital assets and content to ensure their greatest ROI requires substantive solutions! 

This uniquely crafted event is practitioner-led and focused on the current challenges facing asset and content managers, how to generate additional value from your assets and content, the ins-and-outs of the evolving role, career path planning, and strategies to elevate your position within the organization.

Many of our very own DAM Guru Program members will be participating in this conference come January. Some digital asset management experts who are scheduled to speak include Jennifer Terbosic, Nila Bernstengel, John Horodyski, Alexander Karinsky, Carol Thomas-Knipes, Henrik de Gyor, Jennifer Anna, Margie Foster and many more.

Stay informed during the event with their conference hashtag: #IENDAM or learn more on the Digital Assets & Content Leadership Exchange Conference Website.

 

The Digital Asset Manager (DAM) Salary Survey Returns!

The former DAM Foundation’s Digital Asset Manager salary-focused survey has found new life as a DAM News special initiative.

Fellow DAM Gurus Ralph Windsor, Elizabeth Keathley, and Deb Fanslow have brought it back and expanded it. Not only are they capturing compensation and salary information, but gathering wide-ranging data on job responsibilities, professional education, and work-life balance. We are hoping ALL of you participate. The survey is an annual assessment on the scope of digital asset manager pay and work that seeks to analyze employment trends industry-wide.

The survey questionnaire is available HERE:

With so much growth in the DAM industry, this survey will provide a valuable resource for DAM professionals. The higher the participation, the better we all understand the range of opportunities available in our industry. Please participate!

7 Tips for Digital Asset Management (DAM) Meetup Group Sustainability

When I started out as a digital asset management administrator, one of my first stops was to the NYCDAM Meetup Group.  I had heard about them at Henry Stewart and Createasphere and was seeking real-world advice on best practices, user acceptance, and a host of other issues involved in managing a DAM. No disrespect to our vendor friends, but I needed to know less about the art of the possible, and more about day-to-day reality.

NYCDAM was just what I needed. I met so many wonderful, smart people who were so willing to share their experience and expertise to help me succeed. Not only did I learn about a wide range of topics and issues, but I got to share my own experiences and get feedback—a helpful thing for professionals at all levels. Over time, I went from regular attendee to occasional panelist, to eventually becoming an organizer.

This year, as a result of my roles with DAM Guru Program and the NYCDAM Meetup group, I had more contact with meetup organizers and members. I started to notice a trend of DAM and Content Management Meetups losing momentum, and not having as many events. Then, this summer, three or four organizers of Meetups dropped out, and a few other Meetups just ended. Some of the reasons are probably fairly common: Lack of time and resources, low attendance at events, lack of sponsorship to offset costs. It’s a hard thing to do and sustain on your own, I know well.

The NYCDAM Meetup has shifted organizers a bit in the past few years, but from those shifts, I’ve gleaned sustainability tips for growing and strengthening a Successful DAM Meetup Group:

  1. Reach out and ask other members to be co– or assistant organizers. If you are running a Meetup on your own, as it grows and becomes more successful, you will eventually find yourself buried, and the Meetup will fall by the wayside. Running an entire Meetup can become overwhelming, and it’s a lot to manage when you already have a full-time job.
  2. Allow people to be involved at varying levels, and try to have 3 or more organizers at each level. Spreading the workload prevents burnout, but also brings more ideas to the table:
    1. Main Organizers: Long-term commitment and vision. Oversee general running of the group. Provide 10,000-foot-view of goals of the group and its events. Networks with industry people, in and out of the group, to grow membership and expand event scope
    2. Event Organizers: Short-term, high-level commitment for duration of event planning. They pick the topic, lead and collaborate on the panelists, subject and agenda. Manage event logistics
    3. Event Assistance: Short-term, low-level commitment. Much needed “boots on the ground” on the day-of
  3. Involve vendors, but be sure you define the rules of the road. You likely want your events to be user-focused and not devolve into vendor marketing or demos. But, your vendor contacts can introduce you to potential members and panelists, or can provide appropriate venues at little or no cost. See if they can connect you with users in your area who can share their experiences and a user-based view on varying technologies. Remember that vendor’s tech may only be one in their integrated solution stack. That perspective could be very helpful to meetup members.
  4. Associations can be another great resource for speakers, topic, and venues. Reach out to your local library, tech, or archiving associations to see if they will partner with your Meetup
  5. Use online services/apps to stay connected with organizers at all levels. Many collaboration services have free options that are sufficient for a small group like a Meetup. Here are a just a few that we and many other groups use:
    1. Slack (collaboration and event management)
    2. Zoom Conference (high-quality web & video conferencing. Note: the free option limits you to 40 minutes per call, but that actually makes your meetings surprisingly efficient!)
    3. Google Hangouts (collaboration & video conferencing)
    4. Doodle (polls facilitating meeting scheduling)
  6. Sign up for Meetups just outside of your area that are thriving. Partner with other meetups in your state or wider geographical area. If the Meetup is thriving, you may be able to connect with members who are willing to be speakers at your events as well, either in person or virtually. And, in general, it will expand recognition of your group in other areas.
  7. Ask your members for help. If general tasks become overwhelming, get your membership involved. They don’t need to take on full roles; but on an ad hoc basis, they can help you sustain the Meetup group’s momentum.

Do you have any other suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Many of our members belong to Meetups or are organizers themselves. If you have some sustainability tips for a DAM Meetup Group, email them to me! DAM Guru Program would love to publish your suggestions as blog posts. Your advice could help fellow DGP members keep their groups going.

If you are looking for Meetups in your area, check out our Meetups Page with a handy list of known DAM-related Meetups worldwide. If we are missing one, please let us know and we will add it to the list!

Guru Talk: Mark Leslie – Adidas

Mark-Leslie-Digital-Asset-ManagerDigital asset management professional, Mark Leslie explains the full power of DAM can only come into play after you completely understand the business processes of where the assets are created and how all audiences that make use of the assets.

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

For the last 14 years, I have worked with adidas in North America, specializing in licensed professional sports apparel and headwear product creation. During that time I held multiple roles: Production Art Manager for apparel, Senior Design Manager for all adidas licensed product, and Senior Manager of DAM for all North American product teams. In all of these roles I drove a high level of collaboration across teams in multiple geographic locations and very high volumes of product related asset creation and delivery.

I have always been a passionate thought leader and very energetic driver for continuous improvement in the Visual Art, Design and Creative Operations space. One of my core beliefs is to leave everything better than I found it, so my natural tendency has been to promote and give back to the DAM community. I have written numerous blog posts and articles about DAM and Digital Supply Chain topics. I have been a frequent panelist and presenter at Henry Stewart DAM in North America. I was invited by Adobe to present a case study at SUMMIT in 2017. And I’ve received peer recognition in the DAM space – DigitalAssetManagement.com interviewed me as part of their DAM Champ series, and I have been featured on an episode of Another DAM podcast.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

How I describe DAM depends on my audience. For the business user, I like to describe DAM as the virtual counterpart to the physical supply chain by using the term Digital Supply Chain. Business people understand the processes by which products are made, held in inventory, and sold. Raw materials come together to create the product. Finished products are stockpiled in inventory until they are delivered either to a retailer or sold directly to the consumer. A remarkably similar value chain exists for digital source files, which when combined with other files and descriptive information attributes, become digital assets. These assets are held in the centralized and structured storage called DAM, where they await future manipulation or delivery to their ultimate audience.

If I’m talking about what I do in a casual setting, I describe digital asset management as similar to trying to wrangle the mountain of digital photos we all have, or creating playlists in iTunes. Everyone has some experience with the challenges of trying to organize and locate more digital assets than they know what to do with!

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

The most important thing to understand for someone new to digital asset management is that its full value and power can only come into play after you completely understand the business processes where the assets are created and all the audiences that make use of the assets. DAM is simply software and technology used to accelerate and empower work getting done. And once DAM captures those assets, more opportunities for collaboration and delivery are possible because there is now a single source of truth. And while the technology of DAM is a powerful enabler, the needs and methods it supports must relate to the human factor.

On the creation side are people who imagine, request, and create assets while they are seeking ways to collaborate and be more effective. In the audience for assets are people searching for the latest fashion, the sleekest cars, or exciting food or adventures at their fingertips. All the ways we capture assets, describe them in detail, and instantly deliver them where they are needed are parts of the big picture. DAM plays a key role, as part of the overall Digital Supply Chain, to make all of these things happen seamlessly when we do our jobs well.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

With the depth of experience I have in the design process, leading creative operations, workflow automation and DAM, I would love to extend my horizons out beyond DAM into the marketing and use analytics realms. The insights into what makes the appropriate asset resonate with its intended audience not only create the payoffs for the marketing process, but could also be folded back into the creative teams to accelerate the front end development of those same visuals. Technology is constantly changing, markets are constantly changing, and Digital Transformation will continue as an ongoing process. Couple all of this with machine learning and AI and this is an exciting time to be directing these intersections between creativity, people, and technology.

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Guru Talk: Yumiko Saito – Amazon

Yumiko Saito - Digital LibrarianWorking as a digital asset management professional can take many paths. Yumiko shares her’s with us, and helps to illustrate the importance of one’s collective experiences when in a DAM professional role.

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

Technically my role here at Amazon is my first official role as a DAM professional. The road that got me to this point had a lot of turns and dead ends. I started my librarianship career as a Catalog Librarian at Syracuse University. In that role, I was creating metadata to describe physical library collections and managing physical locations of these library materials. I was very happy working as a Catalog Librarian but I felt there was more to do, more information resources to organize than just library collections.

I wanted to expand my experience outside the world of academic libraries so I moved onto roles such as a Content Manager for the Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center where I was organizing institutional resources to aid in passing accreditation.  Then onto the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as an Assay Data Coordinator in the hopes that I would be assisting with organizing research data. That unfortunately was a dead end but that role positioned for my next role as Sr. Metadata Librarian at ProQuest.

For those of you who don’t know what ProQuest is, ProQuest a global information content and technology company. In my role as Sr. Metadata Librarian, I had to manage the migration of data from our providers onto the ProQuest platforms. It is during my tenure at ProQuest, through varying roles (Metadata Librarian, Content Production Lead, Content Ingestion Developer), I started to bridge the gap to being a DAM professional. Working at ProQuest gave me the opportunity to work with not only digital print (newspapers, journal articles, etc.) but also art collections, video, audio, market data, etc. While I was technically working with content management systems, it was a hop, skip and a jump away from DAM systems.

I have just entered the next phase of my career as a digital librarian here at Amazon. The needs of the user base are vastly different just as they had been in all of my previous roles but the outcome is the same. All users have the expectation of using a system that will store and organize assets and make them searchable and retrievable in the easiest way possible. That has been the theme of my career path. A winding, twisting and turning road it has been.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

One of the most easily digestible definitions of DAM I have found that explains DAM to lay people is from www.damglossary.org:

“Digital Asset Management (DAM) is a collective term applied to the process
of storing, cataloguing, searching and delivering computer files (or digital
assets). These may take the form of video, audio, images, print marketing
collateral, office documents, fonts or 3D models. Digital Asset Management
(DAM) systems centralise assets and establish a systematic approach to
ingesting assets so they can be located more easily and used appropriately.”

If that doesn’t work, I tell people, “I organize things so people can find them later”.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

As you may have gleamed from my introduction, I did not have the most direct path to DAM. My path to DAM was certainly through trial and error and on-the-job work experience that evolved over time.

I made an effort through my career to get as much extra training as could be afforded by myself or the companies I worked for. I took continuing education classes through local community colleges and universities to improve my technical skills like SQL, Python, CSS and HTML. I was lucky enough to work at a university where I was able to take classes at the School of Information Studies and get a second Master’s degree. I attended relevant workshops through ALA (American Library Association). I took free online courses available through Coursera and Lynda.com.

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

If I were not in my current role, I would still be in librarianship. My strengths are in my organizational skills and experience with metadata management. I would be happy moving into a role where I got to utilize both, whether that be in the academic, public, or private sector. Or I would be a helicopter pilot.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My current challenge is looking beyond the DAM and foreseeing what future features users will be expecting 5, 10, 15 years from now with their DAM system. I misplaced my crystal ball so through a lot of user interviews I am collecting the wants and needs from our user base and extrapolating what features we will want to develop to make our DAM the best tool for our users.

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Guru Talk: Annella Mendoza – MAM Librarian & Archivist

Annella Mendoza - MAM Librarian and ArchivistStraight and to the point, Annella offers a clear look at what it takes to own the success of media asset management systems over the long-term in this industry of DAM professionals.

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

I’ve had a long-term practice as a moving image archivist focused on film. Then I moved on to television librarianship. In 2006, I was tasked to establish the digital video archive at The Weather Network (Canada) and, as Supervisor of the Content Archive, lead a small archive team.  The digital archive started out as proof-of concept and to attain a critical mass of digital video assets. A relatively simple MAM solution was used, out-of-the-box, no customization. E-mail advisory support from the developers was the only added feature. My research on digital archiving was self-directed. Operations were mainly a discovery of the organization and “behaviour” of the digital media, with plenty of valuable input from the archive staff, middle management, and the users. I was slowly coming to the realization that digital archiving was not an isolated undertaking but required the participation of its users and stakeholders.

By 2013, with the roll-out of a 2nd generation MAM system, my role evolved from archivist to Media Asset Management Specialist. It came with new responsibilities to regulate content metadata, provide training to new users, ensure user satisfaction especially from the creatives, and submit reports using the MAM analytics – all these on top of the maintenance and promotion the archive. By that time, I had standardized metadata practices, experienced two major migrations of digital assets, evolved policies on high value digital media assets and rights management. It was also exciting to function within a evolving DAM community of users and stakeholders.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Digital asset management or DAM is organizing, regulating, and making accessible works or properties in digital form to a community of users within an organization, utilizing a work group or enterprise system developed specifically for DAM. Equally important is the awareness that DAM functions effectively within a community of DAM users and stakeholders (always have to emphasize this), each one aware of their responsibilities towards the DAM and consequences of non-action.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I first learned about DAM when I was hired by The Weather Network in 2007 to operate and regulate the media assets – in analogue and digital formats – and establish its first digital media archive. It was from an archive and library perspective. Much of the learning was first self-directed through research, some networking, and gaining insights into my day-to-day practice.

I later learned that DAM can be formally studied; then signed up and earned my certificate in Digital Asset Management from the DAM Foundation in 2015. It was good to know that my practice before studying the course were sound and valid.

Today, there are many sources about DAM.  For a beginner professional, I would recommend Elizabeth Keathley’s Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order Out of Media Chaos: Second Edition as a textbook or main reference work.  DAMNEWS and Planet DAM will familiarize the new practitioner with up-to-date professional issues and developments.  Whenever possible, practitioners should attend meet-ups and conferences.  Networking is even more important today to continue discussions about DAM as it continues to change and evolve.

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

There are two important things to understand DAM, for someone new to DAM.

a.    Digital assets created or acquired by the organization can easily be found and shared by many who are authorized to use these assets.

b.    DAM operates best in an environment where there is shared responsibility by all its users.

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

My foundation discipline is librarianship and archiving, so it’s likely I will practice this profession. I imagine that DAM is inevitably in the picture, more like DAM in librarianship or in cultural practice. I enjoy writing; for my professional writing now, I write about DAM. I have done a travelogue and family history writing and self-published 2 works along this line. There are a few projects lined up so that will continue.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My greatest challenge was backtracking on the digital assets that I’ve already worked on in the MAM.  It’s usually completing metadata. Metadata standards were still developing and I would have liked the complete information to be applied to all assets, even if that meant revisiting thousands of them. At that time, the MAM was not yet so sophisticated and batch processing was not always a reliable practice using our MAM solution. Having the vendor do this meant added costs which were not recommended. I ended up with adding extra time. In hindsight, I had to learn to let go and accept that there are imperfections and gaps found in the earlier works and that it simply got better with the more recent submissions.

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

I would like to see total integration of DAM with other business functions: with creation / production / acquisition, marketing / sales, library / archive, analytics and finance, other relevant functions that should enable assets to move smoothly from one function to the other. Associated metadata are being updated and made accurate as the assets move from one function to the other.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

My biggest mistake was not speaking well of the first MAM system given to our group when I was supposed to advocate it. Those were early days; our MAM system was limited to an out-of-the-box application. However, showing my frustrations to users other than my department was not helpful and delayed any satisfaction that should have resulted in their using the MAM. I ended up with more work providing service when the first MAM system should have been a self-serve solution.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success was user satisfaction achieved when using the 2nd generation MAM to effectively search and retrieve the assets that they need and want. Bear in mind that there were users who also expressed their difficulty with it; but positive responses from others encouraged me to be more patient and customize my training to suit individual needs. Equally successful were other users successfully submitting their works and associated metadata to the MAM.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I wish to learn how DAM is used in marketing, media planning, social media, and external customer experience. I know best how it is used in creative operations. I wish to know the differences between using DAM for creatives and DAM for marketing, social media, and monitoring customer experience.

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Guru Talk: Kelly Pepper – InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

Kelly Pepper - Digital Asset ManagerDigital asset management systems require the admin to have a variety of skills to be successful. Kelly Pepper has experience across the spectrum that clearly illustrates the benefit of this need.

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

I started out in digital archives after graduate school—first digitizing content for genealogical research and then for a grant-funded project at a state university library.  The experience I gained through those roles translated well into the business sector for my first DAM job with UPS as an Archives and Digital Asset Management Supervisor.  I kept my pinky toe in the archival world, but really dug into the administration and use of a DAM in a corporate setting.  I did mostly outreach to expand our audience, led user training, organized quality audits of our legacy metadata, and lots of testing and troubleshooting.  I joined InterContinental Hotels Group as a DAM Manager (a title that never gets old) to launch our first true DAM and am in the middle of that implementation now.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

It can be a tricky topic—my mother still doesn’t “get” what I do.  But I try to tell people that digital asset management systems (DAMs) make our important files findable, rather than losing everything in your email inbox or on several hard drives.  They allow groups of people to better share and collaborate with their important files, something that resonates with businesses when they associate time and money with those actions! It’s simply making information accessible, whether it’s archival materials or brand/marketing collateral.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned digital asset management on the job.  Nothing is as powerful as experience, particularly considering how unique each system and business can be.  Of course, you can build foundations through resources like Henry Stewart conferences and webinars.  I was fortunate to work with The Real Story Group on a DAM strategy project while at UPS, and found their knowledge and direction to be a great help to my overall understanding. They also taught me the importance of knowing your users and their use cases, so sometimes your best resource is your co-worker or customer!

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

You’re going to need a plethora of different skills! You’ll probably be the lone DAM admin or on a small team, so you’ll find your remit ever expanding.  You need to be technically astute and have the soft skills required to persuade new users/teams to come aboard.  Another important thing is to be patient—DAMs bring change and often resistance.  Be strategic and keep pushing.  There is more and more data available to prove that you’re fighting the good fight.

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

I’d likely be using my history degrees in an archival institution or museum.  Although most days, I wish I owned a cat café.

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

Assuming the robots haven’t taken over completely by then, DAM should continue to be more automated and more integrated.  It’s not just a repository anymore, and I see more vendors really pushing to make that sentiment a reality. The less manual processes involved and the more systems integrate, the easier user adoption will be, which is my ultimate vision.  I think it’s a good time to be in this field, as more organizations are realizing the power of a strong DAM and need the resources and expertise to implement them.

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Guru Talk: Alice Cameron – Northwestern University

Alice Cameron - Digital Asset ManagerDigital Asset Manager, Alice Cameron, clearly understands that every system is different, and there’s no definitive resource. Respecting the uniqueness of each DAM system will help improve the end user-experience.

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

When I decided to pursue my MLIS, specializing in Archives & Cultural Heritage, I really never expected to become a “DAM Professional”! I dove into the profession at McDonald’s Global Headquarters as a Metadata Specialist, working with multiple DAM systems. My role really encompassed every area of DAM management: user relations, backend testing, troubleshooting, taxonomy & metadata schemas, and later on migration to a new tool. I left McDonald’s to pursue my career as Digital Asset Manager & Head Digital Archivist for Northwestern University, in the Office of Global Marketing and Communications, where I work with a single DAM system. At Northwestern, I’ve brought our “MDAM” (Marketing DAM) into existence; from customization to implementation, with daily oversight to streamline the integration of content from 36 marketing units within our schools & departments.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I think most DAM professionals can agree – we love our jobs, but explaining what we do can take some time. I usually say, “You know when you want to find something on Google, and sometimes it takes a while and you have to mess around with your search terms, and sometimes you get exactly what you want right away? I make that happen for my organization’s content.”  It doesn’t get into the full depth of rights and asset management, but it gives friends and colleagues an idea they can relate to. Usually people ask how my Library Science degree comes into play, and I explain that I’m still a librarian, I’m still an archivist, I’m making content and information accessible to the end user, and doing my best to make that process as seamless as possible.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I first learned about DAM in my time at Dominican University, and I consolidated that knowledge with on-the-job experience. Every system is different; there’s no definitive resource, every system is unique, and collaboration with your vendor along with working through the complexities of your solution is essential to becoming a DAM expert.

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

The complexities of it. From the initial implementation to daily use, there’s always something to fix, to improve, to work on. DAM is not a self-contained solution that can run on its own. DAM isn’t “outside” of librarianship or physical assets anymore. You’ll get out of it what you put into it, and you have to put quite a lot of work into it. Your end users are the single most important measure of success in DAM. If their work life is easier because of DAM, you’re doing something right. I am constantly asking my end users for recommendations or suggestions for the tool. I always tell them nothing is too far-fetched technology wise. I put every new idea on my wish list, and if it’s not something that’s technologically possible yet, I put it on our vendor’s roadmap.

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

Probably working more closely with physical archives again. Or volunteering at an animal sanctuary somewhere.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My greatest ongoing challenge with digital asset management is that there are only 24 hours in a day. It seems as though there’s never enough time.

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

I’d like to see stronger integration with other platforms. There’s a massive disconnect in institutional DAM tools (usually as a result of there being a variety of different vendors and processes). I see huge storage improvements in the future, too.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

I got to a point where I was working 12-14 hours a day, 6 days a week, and eventually I realized DAM is a process; it’s never going to be “completed.” If I’d gone on working like that forever, it would have driven me mad! Prioritizing is key.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My approach to implementing and maintaining MDAM at Northwestern. It was the first DAM where all of my decisions were brought to life. It’s so important to have a close relationship with your vendor. You’ll never get functionalities or improvements that you don’t ask for, and I’ve been really lucky to work with a great vendor, who consistently take my requests and make them a reality. Our tool has already evolved so much in the past year. Constant emails and weekly vendor catch-ups make all the difference when they result in incredible feedback from your end users.

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1000 Strong! DAM Guru Program Reaches Membership Milestone

DAM Guru Program reaches 1,000 members1000+ and Counting

DAM Guru Program recently received our 1,000th signup. Thanks to our membership (and program sponsor Picturepark) for providing a commercial-free space in which we can help one another, share ideas, educate others and strengthen the Content Management, Digital Asset Management and Library Science communities—all at no charge to any member.

More on this announcement is available in the Picturepark press release.

Guru Talk: Emily Vargas – Wilson Sporting Goods

Emily Vargas - Digital Asset Manager

An insightful read by Digital Asset Manager Emily Vargas on how to tame 2 million assets with sound digital asset management fundamentals.

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

I freelanced for about 8 years before I became permanent at Wilson Sporting Goods, so I worked at several places to get a more rounded experience as a Digital Asset Manager. Before Wilson, I was at Pearson, McDonald’s, Sears, Playboy, Answers Media, University at Buffalo SUNY Digital Libraries, Rochester Institute of Technology Archives, Bausch & Lomb Archives, and worked for a smaller photographer in Rochester New York. Each place here in Chicago I was a Digital Asset Management Contractor, or some form of that title, but in Rochester and Buffalo I was more of an archive and photographer assistant. Each place I was either working to digitize physical assets to be searchable in the DAM/database or working with born-digital assets in a variety of formats such as graphics, photography, video and audio. I also have had many experiences working with an exiting digital collection that had outgrown the original setup where I was brought in to fix an existing setup so that the collections were scalable for future growth.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

When I describe DAM to others, I come to it from my perspective as a librarian where we are organizing and cataloging the physical or digital content to serve the needs of the business as well as serving the people who are running the business. We are working to document the history of the company as we are also concurrently working on the new business needs such as e-commerce, product development, social media, videos, catalogs, and in-store displays, as well as all the photography assets that are needed to create that content such as product photography, lifestyle photography, and beauty shots possibly even video or audio content.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I had been working for a photographer and a couple archives through my undergrad in photo school, but ultimately was encouraged to go to library school. Library school was so beneficial to me to learn the basics of organization, but once I graduated I started interning and freelancing anywhere I could get into in order to learn more about the variety of libraries and content that those libraries were working with. I found myself most drawn to Creative Departments within corporations that drew on my photo and production background, while putting my library education to work to help our departments be more efficient.

Ultimately, different topics require different approaches and research, but if you understand why something had been done in the past then you can better evaluate how to proceed for the future. When in doubt, I go back to the basics and open my Intro to Cataloging and Classification (Chan) book from library school. Drawing on my knowledge and then collaborating with our users has given me the greatest successes.

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

Listen and talk to your users. You can do anything and everything to your system that you want, but if it doesn’t work for your users, then it doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work for them, then they may start using something else that you cannot preserve and protect. You can’t help your users unless you understand what they need.

When I first started at Wilson, I interviewed a variety of stakeholders worldwide from the customer service reps, sales, marketing, creative, directors, and general managers. This gave me a 360 perspective of not only how the business operates, but also how they are using the system and what they need from it. Ultimately the changes we needed to make were simple and no-cost that we brought in over 3,000 new users in a two-year time period as well as re-establishing our DAM as the single source for content and information.

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

I would still be working with photographers in a production position, managing a photo studio, or maybe creative project management. I enjoy working with creative and photography studios to help them create efficiencies so that they can spend more time working on their craft.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

The daily manual work that is required to make the system work such as asset-specific metadata and on-boarding new team members to follow SOP standards. We utilize automated practices as much as we can, but there are still elements that require the human interaction and I am only one person responsible for managing over 2 million assets, which is growing by the minute.

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

More automation where DAM is working with PIM and PLM to update and manage the metadata of specific collections of assets such as product photography. I would also love to see the automation tie in marcomm where someone would get the full package of assets for each product such as product images, marketing assets, videos, and lifestyle. More content to support each product in order to help our business grow.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

My first attempt at Facets and setting them up was such as disaster. I was excited about the capabilities and set them up with too much detail. The end result required so much ongoing maintenance and updates on the backend that our team was constantly re-tagging assets that had already been done before. Most of what we put in place ended up confusing or frustrating our users more so than helping them. For example, the facet for color we broke down into specific colors such as dark green, medium green, light green, but due to the subjectivity of this topic, the metadata ended up not being consistent. What I learned was that sometimes, general is better especially for something like color. What you see happening on many sites such as Zappos, you can choose a color family such as “Green” and then you get all the products that are green regardless of what color variation of green they are. Ultimately your facets should be helping your users narrow down the content in their search results faster.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My second attempt at facets. I understood what went wrong and so I married the idea of facets with metadata inheritance and taxonomy. What I ended up with is a system that is tagging assets for me as everyone is actively working on the DAM. This is so powerful for myself as a solo librarian that has thousands of users worldwide. This has been successful because the facets are generic, but powerful when paired together such as Brand + Sport + Content Type + Year so we can easily filter through content to get to a Wilson football package from 2014 because those assets are living within their designated structure for Wilson > Football > Packaging > 2014 and therefore can inherit the metadata from those folders that we setup. This gives the system the ability to create those relationships that ontologies would typically create, while still maintaining the taxonomy-based system.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

Right now, I am really eager to learn more about ontologies. I am so fascinated by the relationships between assets and how they lead users to more content that they are looking for in order to benefit the business.

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