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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DAM Guru Program Says Goodbye to Linda Rouse

Linda Rouse

Longtime DAM Guru Program member and supporter Linda Rouse passed away on 11 March 2017.

Linda had been a valued member of the Digital Asset Management community for decades. As a formally trained librarian, she brought to the DAM industry a skill set that helped many DAM professionals understand the important connection between what they were trying to do and what librarians had already been doing for hundreds of years.

Linda was based in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, where she worked with longtime partner Ricky Patten at their company, DataBasics. During her time with the company, she helped countless organizations come to terms with the concept of managing content, and she authored a number of pieces that were well received throughout the DAM community.

Below is a sampling of Linda’s articles:

Linda did a GuruTalk profile on the DAM Guru Program website in 2015. In her profile, she describes her beginnings with DAM and offers advice for others new to the field.

Linda’s obituary was published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Those who knew Linda knew her as a beacon of wisdom and happiness. One couldn’t help but feel energized by listening to her, or elevated in spirit, just by being around her. She was truly a wonderful human being who cared deeply about many things including, according to her Twitter profile, belly dancing.

Our best wishes are with Ricky, the DataBasics team and Linda’s friends and family.

David Diamond
Program Director
DAM Guru Program

Guru Talk: Jared Bajkowski – Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Jared Bajkowski - DAM ProfessionalIf you’ve ever wondered about the three R’s of digital asset management, Jared Bajkowski covers this and so much more in his DAM interview.

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

I’ve been the Digital Assets Manager at a large non-profit for four years. At the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, we fund scientific research at labs around the world—which means a lot of digital assets. Most people outside of science aren’t familiar with us, but we’re actually the second largest philanthropic organization in the United States. I am the institute’s first Digital Assets Manager, so my primary goal was to lay the groundwork for the policies and guidelines for current and future records. Once the DAM was established I oversaw the process of bringing the current records online while continuing to catalog new assets as they came in. Building a strategy and policy from the ground up was exciting to me (still is).

My day-to-day now is managing the flow of new photography, design files, research imagery, video clips, contracts, etc. into the system. Often I’m curating customized collections for media outlets, web developers, graphic designers, or colleagues as needed for internal and external production. I also manage the institute’s graphic identity within the DAM, so I often work directly with designers on appropriate usage of our assets.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

DAM boils down to what others have called the three R’s: repository, reuse, and rights. Media is born digital these days and few organizations have physical file rooms anymore, so DAM is your digital vault keeping these items safe, centralized, and backed-up on your servers. Detailed metadata also makes it possible to quickly find items, eliminating potentially redundant photo or design projects. Finally, item records will make it clear what you do and don’t have copyright clearance for. Basically, a good DAM protects the money you’ve already spent, makes that money go farther, and guards against lawsuits.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

When I first transitioned from being a librarian to a Digital Assets Manager, I found much of the underlying philosophy of cataloging and preservation familiar, with some different nuances. Learning new terminology and graphic design workflow was important, and local Meetup groups and conferences were important to help me catch up. I found Henry Stewart’s DAM New York conference and the Journal of Digital Media Management to be particularly helpful.

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

What makes DAM go isn’t the technology or assets or policy (though they are important). What makes an effective DAM is user buy-in—never forget that. You could have the best system on the planet with perfect metadata, but it’s all worthless if your team isn’t using it. People need to see their work life getting easier with DAM around, and not just see it as more work. Talk to the team to identify the pain points in their workflow and then tailor your DAM to solve that problem. Solve peoples’ problems, and they’ll become your best evangelists for the system.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

When the DAM was initially established, I was trying to standardized about five years’ worth of metadata from the old system. Previously there was no authority control so it was a bit like the wild west for metadata. Batch processing helped but trying to deal with this wealth of assets in a detailed manner was driving me crazy. Finally, under the advice of some DAM colleagues, I made my peace with the older assets and focused on the newer entries. This made sense since these were the assets people were actually using anyway. Focus on the present and future, and do what you can with the past.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Seeing people use the system outside my department was a thrill the first time I saw it happen. That’s when I knew all the training, meetings, outreach had worked. After all the hard work we put into it, seeing the DAM was out there in the wild, doing its job was a big moment for me.

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Guru Share: NJ DAM Meetup Recording – Metadata Automation

As part of the DAM Guru Program initiative to connect people and expand DAM education, we will be sharing deliverables from relevant DAM group events. The “Guru Share” is a way to expand DAM knowledge provided by peers, and promote the great content being discussed and dissected by these groups worldwide.

Our first share, a video recording of “Metadata Automation,” from the New Jersey Digital Asset Management Meetup from 14 Dec 2016. The impressive panel for this month’s virtual meetup included David Riecks, Mark Walter and Picturepark’s Peter Parker. Meetup organizers Deb Fanslow and Frank DiCarlo hosted the #LearnDAM event.

All organizers and panelists (except for Mr. Walter) are active members of DAM Guru Program.

Video recording of DAM Guru Program members, David Riecks, Spencer Harris and Picturepark’s Peter Parker, with Mark Walter, speaking on Metadata Automation from 12 December 2016 New Jersey DAM Meetup.

About the panelists

Peter Parker  is an experienced technology manager, DAM integration expert, and workflow evangelist who maintains a focus on providing real world solutions that enable users. He works for Picturepark in the United States, helping customers design and deploy systems. Connect with Peter Parker on LinkedIn.

David Riecks is a sought-after consultant on digital imaging and metadata. He is involved in recent standards initiatives, and has been a featured speaker at PhotoPlus Expo, Microsoft’s Pro Photo Summit and several of the International Photo Metadata conferences held at CEPIC. Riecks has appeared in the popular Picturepark webinars, DAM and the Tao of Taxonomy and The Copyright Killings. Connect with David Riecks on LinkedIn.

Spencer Harris offers more than eight years’ experience in development, analysis, processing and training of digital asset management solutions, workflows, and processes for small and large creative organizations. He offers a understanding of best practices related to hardware setup, taxonomy, keyword usage, and metadata structure. Connect with Spencer Harris on LinkedIn.

Mark Walter is a veteran consultant, analyst and marketer who has broad experience with content technologies in corporate and commercial publishing contexts. Walter has more than 20 years’ experience as a content/media/publishing technology analyst and consultant. Connect with Mark Walter on LinkedIn.

Guru Talk: Melissa Pauna – Gap Inc – Banana Republic

Melissa Pauna - Digital Asset ManagerSome of the best advice you’ll hear in the digital asset management space comes from Melissa Pauna. She has learned that derailments should not make one lose sight of the objectives, remaining tenacious and focusing on the big picture can lead to success in less than ideal DAM situations.

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

Having worked in a number of positions has provided a wonderful opportunity to understand how digital asset management (DAM) implementation, administration, and prioritization differs between sectors and even within industries.

Getty Center – I was involved in the first DAM roll-out pilot project that started in the Communications department to assist in fulfilling global press image requests. Once we had a handle on the tool and workflow, I met with representatives from around the Getty Center campus: Museum, Research Institute, Foundation, Conservation Institute. Incorporating these divisions was a gradual and systematic roll-out ensuring seamless integration. Metadata was vigilantly updated and maintained for each division as assets merged into a larger, unified, repository. You’ve never seen so much metadata until you work for a museum/library combo of this caliber!


MGA Entertainment – As the digital archivist for one of the largest privately owned toy companies in the US, I was responsible for distributing and archiving photography. I was part of a talented in-house photo studio team that shot the product lines for use on packaging and also distribution to retailers. My role working with the product photography brought me in contact with designers, sales, and the Hong Kong samples division to ensure images were available and up-to–date to keep Santa’s workshop functioning. It was here that I experienced my first DAM system migration and data cleanup!


SolutionSet – Originally Haggin Marketing, I was hired to manage a digital asset management team for a well-established Bay-area marketing firm. The firm was largely print (catalog) based when I first started. We set up a DAM platform that was used by internal creative, production, and pre-press teams. Eventually a  digital company was acquired to round-out service  offerings. My team handled the image asset management lifecycle from start to finish including processing photoshoots, creating FPO files, retouching, and finally distributing and archiving approved photography for print and digital. Because many of our clients didn’t have a DAM system of their own, I also set up mini-DAM hubs for our clients to use to access and manage their files, incorporating their brand-specific taxonomies.


Benefit Cosmetics – At this company I was hired to implement a newly purchased digital asset management (DAM) system for the marketing division with the intent to replace an existing system. After reviewing the vendor’s exploratory interviews with stakeholders, I advised a slight course adjustment regarding the ‘focus’ of the DAM and then we quickly set to work. The new system was fully operational in less than four months just in time for a global conference unveil. It included a complete taxonomy and hierarchy build, specialized metadata schemas, branded portal (HotDAM!) that provided assets to over 700 global partners, and also served as an asset share-back platform. After Phase 1, how-to videos were created and uploaded to provide self-serve learning between formal user trainings. Once I was able to hire an assistant, we had the opportunity to further expand the DAM creating a SKU-based search, and finally integrated a weekly newsletter that highlighted new assets and included DAM tips & tricks based on user feedback. The DAM and newsletter also supported an in–house feature film that was created about the founders and shown at the Cannes Film Festival. The film included a global road show, stopping at stores and meeting with press. Production and press assets were easily shared with the masses eager to learn how “Laughter is the best cosmetic…so grin and wear it!” – that is, once we figured how to handle super-sized video files!


Banana Republic – As the global marketing asset manager and creative technology advisor for the brand, I am the advocate for DAM and continually strive to impart the importance of best practices throughout the enterprise. I was the first asset manager hired at Gap Inc. and during my first few months conducted an inventory of the systems being used (there were a few!), noting where assets were being stored (so many places!), and trying to determine how to turn a grass-roots approach to DAM into conversations that revealed to leadership at various levels throughout the enterprise the business critical nature of DAM. At it’s core my role involves simplifying the asset management process for our internal and external teams in an environment that often involves dependencies between brands and involves multiple legacy systems. Add to the mix a newly purchased crowdfunded DAM system that isn’t exactly living up to the sales pitch and an exciting partnership with a third-party rights management vendor… It’s quite the puzzle and a perfect environment to test anyone’s DAM chops!

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

There’s the short answer and then the more complex one – it really depends on who the audience is. In my world DAM has involved a lot of inter-related bits coming together to form a whole: project and product management, taxonomy and hierarchy building, metadata modeling, change management, technical writing, help desk and reference desk, QC, trainer, and the list goes on.

I usually start by briefly describing what I do day-to-day by saying I manage a company’s digital and marketing assets, which includes images, videos and docs. These materials are stored in a system, then I determine who has access, apply rights info, and ensure assets are findable. At which point some people will say, “Oh, so you’re like a librarian!” and then I generally respond with a smile: sort of.

Early on in my career I managed library divisions and agree it does encompass some overlapping principles, and because I’m detailed-oriented (and a long-time fact-checker on the side), I know ‘librarian’ isn’t accurate or what I consider myself, even if the analogies can be helpful.

Digital asset management is an emerging new discipline. Just as there are many ways to manage assets, there are many ways people enter into this work. The longer one is in this space and experiences different methodologies, workflows, etc., it becomes clear that what one person considers digital asset management can vary greatly. Another fun question: What is a digital asset management system? This too can be tricky as I discovered while serving as a member of DAM selection committee.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

My career in DAM began just as it was emerging. I have a multi-disciplinary Master’s and was studying interactive media in the 90s while working for archives and museums digitizing their collections. It was a highly innovative time when two worlds were merging and quickly evolving. Digitizing physical pieces and seeing them translated into digital files, and then taking those digital files and creating a digital experience was exciting. Largely, there weren’t any rules for how to manage this ‘new’ media.

In the professional space, museums, and later libraries, were taking the lead ensuring the information about their newly created and ever-growing digital collections was properly recorded, grappling with issues around standards and long-term permanence in both worlds. Meanwhile, in the creative space, artists and designers were at ground zero trying to figure out a number of potentially confusing topics: naming digital files, handling versions, verifying quality and proper format. Then there was storage and backup considerations. Processing digital files was often taxing for a computer which resulted in frequent crashes, hard drives filled up much faster than they do now, and for good or for bad, there weren’t clouds.

I started exploring the born digital space playing around with Photoshop and Illustrator, then experimenting with digital video, creating websites, interactive… It was a natural progression to take the knowledge I’d acquired with my hands-on physical collection experience using the organizational practices I’d developed through academic training and applying that to digital collections. I’ve found that having a creative and technical background turned out to be the perfect synergy for giving me a solid well-rounded foundation for understanding where this field came from and where it’s headed.

So even though I’ve been involved with DAM, or what it started as, for a couple decades, I stay inspired by keeping up with the latest technology trends, etc. This can be done via webinars and conferences. There are monthly webinars on a variety of topics – everything from the basics to vendor–specific product–focused sessions, all of which provide a way to make DAM less of a mystery. Whether attending a webinar or conference, fundamental best practices in DAM, many of which haven’t changed much in the past decade or so, are usually highlighted.

Attending a DAM conference can be a good way to network and interact with vendors. I never tire of the best practice reminders and always enjoy hearing war stories from peers, which provide a lot of great learning in themselves.

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

Not have DAM as a career? It’s hard to imagine not being a part of this field in some way since I love organizing, managing, developing, advising… I’m passionate about the arts & cultural heritage. If I was no longer in the DAM space, front-and-center, I’d most likely be involved in something that incorporates my background and interests, such as protecting our architectural and cultural heritage, preserving our past, supporting the arts and artists.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My answer to this would have been slightly less emphatic, but overall it’s keeping perspective! Currently I’m helping to identify short and long-term options as my team ponders the question ‘Is the juice worth the squeeze?’ with a new platform that was recently purchased enterprise-wide. Some of us saw early on in the RFI/RFP process that there would be significant challenges with the tool and vendor with the red flags now proving themselves. However, remaining tenacious while working through day-to-day challenges, always keeping the long-term goals in mind helps shake off frustrations. Not allowing derailments to make one lose sight of the objectives is what I advise others. After a year into a murky situation I try to remember my own advice and know that this too shall pass. The silver lining is truly great learning can arise from a less-than-ideal situation.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Partnership development has brought me great satisfaction over the years. Good partnerships are the key to a successful DAM experience at the most basic level whether it’s criteria gathering, implementation, or user adoption. At a larger level, engaging with vendors on their product roadmaps, working through system challenges together that lead to optimizing their system or service and improving the DAM experience at some level for the larger community, it is so much fun and extremely rewarding.

Recently I discovered a wonderful company that is pioneering the way rights management is handled in the DAM space. I met them at a DAM conference last year and was thrilled to see what they were up to given my background and vigilant interest in this topic. I could see they had an interesting model in place that would benefit many industries and was eager to chat with them about the product. A couple months later they reached out to see if my organization might be interested in piloting their product. A few months after that we participated in a Q&A session at Adobe Summit where they received recognition as one of the ‘Top 10 hottest DAM features for 2016’.

Learning and sharing is what keeps DAM interesting for me. So if there’s a way I can educate and also advance DAM to the next level, that’s success to me.

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