How DAM Guru Program is Managed

How DAM Guru Program is Managed

New case study offers behind-the-scenes view into management system

Many questions come in about how we managed DAM Guru Program. Some assume we use an automated matching algorithm that connects members based on interests and experience. In fact, no DGP operations are automated. Every member match, GuruTalk profile, member webinar, tweet and DAM job post are considered by program managers to ensure they will offer value to members.

When you consider how hit-and-miss the “maybe you know this person” suggestions are on social media, you can better appreciate that effectively connecting and promoting our members requires the actions of people who know our membership and understand what they’re trying to do.

DAM Guru Program membership data is managed using Picturepark digital asset management software. This won’t surprise those who know that Picturepark created and continues to sponsor DAM Guru Program operations, but “we got the DAM for free” wasn’t the reason we chose Picturepark as a platform. After all, the management of people is more typically done using a CRM, like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics. We consider those systems and more, but Picturepark has one thing that other DAMs and CRMs lack: Adaptive Metadata schemas. As it turned out, this made Picturepark the best candidate for managing our “human asset” members.

DAM Guru Program’s Picturepark instance has been featured in an in-depth case study. See how the system was designed by program managers and DGP member, Deb Fanslow. Learn what worked and didn’t work so well when it was launched, and see the potential if offers for future DGP member opportunities.

Read about the DAM Guru Program Picturepark system »

Standards and Metadata

by Lisa Grimm, MA, MS-LIS

While librarians love global standards and useful metadata, even within the traditional library, we can be confronted a less-than-consistent institutional approach to those standards, and even wider variation in the tools used to maintain good metadata. That’s especially true in the DAM world, where things like Dublin Core or MeSH can sound like mysterious codes, or even foreign languages, to someone who didn’t attend library school. And if you’ve come into the field from a ‘straight tech’ or marketing route, you may feel you already know everything you need to about metadata – it’s always been important for search and SEO, and few people knew or cared about standards there, right? On the flip side, degreed librarians may throw their hands up in dismay at how different DAM vendors approach metadata management – those global standards can be difficult to implement, even with the best of intentions. Let’s try to clear up the picture.

Types of Metadata

As a DAM professional, you already know the value of good metadata – you can’t find or properly manage your assets without it. You’re already using a variety of flavors of metadata within your DAM – some of it is descriptive, to help power your DAM’s search capability; some is administrative, so you can track an asset’s usage and rights, while those free-text fields may serve as a catch-all for everything that didn’t quite fit – or as a workaround for something your system doesn’t do without considerable tinkering. NISO likes to add a third broad category for structural metadata, but that’s (usually) less relevant to a DAM – it may be called upon to drive display or layout of a page, printed or otherwise. If you’ve spent a lot of time working with XML or ePub files, you’ll know what structural metadata looks like, but it’s less generally applicable to your images, illustrations and videos, at least within the DAM itself – they may certainly end up being called or described in those files in the wild. Whether you knew it or not, you have an in-house metadata model, and you may want to refine it or change it altogether.

Controlled Vocabularies & Benefits

Librarians love controlled vocabularies, and tend to wax lyrical about their favorites, like the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). But for our purposes here, a controlled vocabulary can be as simple as a picklist in a dropdown menu.

If you can pre-populate your DAM’s metadata fields with commonly-used terms and names that make sense for your DAM, you can reduce the scope for user error, thus ensuring that you keep your assets easily findable – no typos or three different names for the same agency or product (though more on related terms in a moment). Of course, that may not be as easy as it should be with your system – but we’ll look at some strategies there in a moment as well.

Another benefit of going with an existing standard is interoperability with other systems;: if your DAM ties into other systems, be they for rights management, HR, licensing or translation, using the same internationally-recognized standards for your metadata model may make everyone’s lives easier as digital objects travel across your technology ecosystem.

Existing Standards

First off, there are a lot of standards out there. Committees have spent unpaid months and years creating and refining them, and most of the time, they’ve ended up with a pretty sensible set of terms for their given brief – no matter how specialized your assets are, one of the existing standards is probably a good fit, at least as a baseline, so there’s no need to start from scratch. We’ll look closely at the more generally applicable ones, and then mention a few specialized options.

Dublin Core

Dublin Core or, more fully, the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI), has been around in one form or another since 1995, when it was first mooted to help give more structure to web resources to make them findable – something any DAM professional can empathize with. The ‘Dublin’ in question here isn’t the one in Ireland, but rather, Dublin, Ohio – the initial workshop, sponsored by OCLC and NCSA. OCLC, known by its initials to any library professional, maintains (among other things) WorldCat, the global catalog that stores data from more than 170 libraries around the world. NCSA produced the first widely-adopted browser, Mosaic, which would eventually be reborn, phoenix-like, as Mozilla Firefox – but we digress.

Getting up to speed on Dublin Core is easy. (There are regular webinars on the DCMI site, but they may be more in-depth than what you need if you’re just beginning to implement some basic metadata standards.) You can learn a lot just by looking at some Dublin Core in action, whether it’s expressed in XML or in the metadata fields your DAM has already.

The beauty of Dublin Core is that it’s nearly endlessly extensible, though its core of 15 top-level categories, known now as the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set, are broadly applicable to almost any digital object. They will look like (at least vaguely) familiar metadata fields to most DAM users. Indeed, some systems have nothing much further than free text fields with these labels when they first arrive, out of the box:

  1. Title
  2. Creator
  3. Subject
  4. Description
  5. Publisher
  6. Contributor
  7. Date
  8. Type
  9. Format
  10. Identifier
  11. Source
  12. Language
  13. Relation
  14. Coverage
  15. Rights

But these fields, and the large variety of other Dublin Core descriptive terms available, may be used differently in different DAM solutions. And not every field, even of the core fields, is relevant to your particular assets. So it’s all about customization; we’ll dig into that below.

XMP

On the face of it, XMP sounds fantastic – you can embed (much of) the metadata you need right into your digital object! You can even use Dublin Core or another existing standard as the starting point. But actually implementing XMP as a standard for your DAM can be tricky, unless you have total control over the creative process from start to finish, since XMP is generally embedded via Adobe Photoshop or Bridge (XMP began life at Adobe, after all). Getting agencies to understand and follow your ‘rules’ isn’t always as straightforward as it should be, and while some DAMs do let you add XMP to assets, often, you need to rely on whomever created the file – and even then, it may not apply itself to every file type.

Another question to consider is whether your DAM’s search can index XMP – is that information being used by your system, or is it lost in the ether? That said, XMP can still be useful, even if it’s not powering your DAM’s search results. Licensing and other rights information can be built in and tracked throughout the asset’s life cycle, provided, of course, the XMP actually travels along with the file as advertised. As of this writing, there is certainly potential, but it may be more trouble than it’s worth for most time-crunched DAM administrators.

Other Standards – MeSH, ULAN, AAT, etc…

Even if you do opt for Dublin Core (or a Dublin Core-light) approach, you may want to seek out some of the more specialized options that exist. If your DAM supports medical or pharmaceutical assets, MeSH may be useful. For art-related collections, ULAN and AAT are incredibly thorough. There are many other unique standards, and in most cases, you can use them as a sort of ‘bolt on’ to your main underlying metadata model.

Customization and Implementation – the ‘How’

Once you (think) you have settled on a model, the real work begins – figuring out how to actually get your chosen model into the system, and how you want to approach applying it to your assets, whether they are newly-imported or legacy files. And while some DAMs will let you test and preview changes within the system, that’s more the exception than the rule, so we’ll assume for our purposes here that much of the upfront work will need to be done outside the system – then we’ll move on to implementation.

1. Analyze existing data:

  1. Does your DAM store user search terms, abandoned searches and user journeys through the system? This is wildly useful in refining your model, especially if you want to use, say, Dublin Core, but you notice that your users don’t seem to employ terms like Creator or Contributor. If collapsing those two fields into something more like ‘Agency’ or ‘Photographer’ works better, that’s great information.
  2. Are there metadata fields that are left consistently blank? It may be that you don’t need them, or that their purpose isn’t understood and that they need to be re-labeled.
  3. Do you have free-text fields that would be better served with drop-downs (e.g. list of agency names, products, countries)? Make note of them before you move on to the next stage.

2. Avoid metadata overkill:

  1. More isn’t always better. Not only do you need to make sure your fields are properly filled out, but if you have too many search terms, you may not get granular enough results.
  2. Just because a field exists in Dublin Core (or another existing standard) doesn’t mean you need to use it, or to use it in the ‘preferred’ way. If something else works better for your organization, feel free to make changes; just be consistent in your approach.
  3. Consider the maintenance ramifications if you do use a large number of fields – what happens if you need to modify them? This may be only a minor consideration for some DAMs, and a huge lift for others.

3. Plot out your proposed changes:

  1. Hit the spreadsheets! Before doing anything else, list your current metadata fields and any controlled vocabularies (whether they are in a dropdown or maintained elsewhere).
  2. On another tab, list your would-be changes, and note how they map to, or replace, existing fields. Color-coding can be very helpful.
  3. On a third tab, list any fields you want to remove entirely. If you know how many assets they may apply to, add that information. Also list net new fields. You may have this listed on your second tab, but it can be helpful to see it at a glance, especially when you move on to the next phase.

4. Get feedback:

  1. Talk to your users! Take time to walk through your proposed changes with some key users, and modify your spreadsheets accordingly.
  2. Card sorting exercise. You can do this in person with some of your users, or conduct a virtual card sort if your team is spread out geographically. There are a number of sites that offer free trials to their card sorting tools, or, if you have the budget, it can be well worth exploring in more depth. Knowing how your users categorize your assets – at least in very high-level groups – can tell you what you need to improve about your model. It will also highlight areas of confusion, and is a great way to test whether a particularly field is of any use at all, or if it needs to be re-named. You can use your spreadsheets as a starting point.

5. Test & Implement:

  1. Get your new fields and drop-downs into your DAM, but keep it to a staging environment at first. Again, this step may be minor, or a very complex exercise, depending on your software and configuration.
  2. Perform user acceptance testing (UAT): ask users to test drive the modifications to the system to see if your hunches about useful terms and fields were correct.
  3. If UAT went well, and the metadata mapped to your existing assets as expected in your testing environment, you’re ready to push those changes live!

6. Communicate:

  1. Let your users know that change is afoot – give them a heads-up in advance, and as the changes roll out. Whether that’s with a notification in your system, an email alert or a personal communication let them know that you’re working to make use of the DAM easier for them.
  2. Ensure it’s a two-way street – do they have an easy way to let you know they need help, or if they have suggestions for your next round of changes?

But My DAM Won’t Let Me Change It (Easily)!

It’s all well and good to think about how your metadata model will work in an ideal world, but you may have a DAM that makes such changes hugely cumbersome. You are not alone. While some DAMs have been thoughtfully designed with the user—administrative or otherwise—in mind, others make changing your metadata model extremely difficult.

If you’re one of the lucky ones, adding or modifying metadata fields can be done through your user interface – you’ll just want to ensure you have a governance process in place so that only administrators (or other trusted users) can make changes to your fields. You may even have a handy taxonomy management tool built in that will let you create related terms, ensuring that your users who search for ‘soccer’ also find ‘football’ if that’s what they were expecting. Many systems even let your users add their own tags to assets, and you can ensure good metadata hygiene by regularly reconciling these crowdsourced tags with ‘approved’ terms.

Other forward-thinking DAM vendors let you edit metadata in bulk. While it seems that this should be a standard feature, it’s noticeably absent in quite a few solutions, so it adds to your slate of maintenance projects when you need to do it manually (or if you need to write a script to make it happen). Adding a field that needs to be applied to thousands of assets, or modifying one that’s already in use with an equally-large number, is very straightforward in some DAMs. But can be a huge project requiring considerably IT support in others.

Most seem to sit somewhere in the middle: in many DAM solutions, it may require a bit of front-end scripting to make those changes, or even a full-blown dive into back-end programming. If you’re managing one of the more cumbersome systems out there, and making changes is something that needs to be its own project, you’ll quickly run into an even-more-pressing need for governance. Which leads us to the next potential problem (or opportunity).

But I’m Always Making Changes!

Regular maintenance is the key. You’ll find all manner of best practices, but you’ll need to decide what works best for your DAM. Do you have quarterly reviews of your metadata model? Are you constantly adding new keyword terms to keep up with new content types or products? Could you group those more efficiently in a standard field? Are they not easily findable as they are tagged now? Most importantly, what terms do your users actually employ?

In short, you’ll want to come up with a variation on the following steps:

  • Create a metadata governance team – build in a regular cadence to meet with key users and stakeholders, and keep communication lines open.
  • Stick to your review schedule – don’t let maintenance become eclipsed by other projects.
  • Determine technical challenges – if changes to your model are always going to be a high level of effort, can they be coupled with other technical projects (e.g. upgrades, UI changes)?
  • Test and re-test with your users: yes, it takes time, but it’s always a worthwhile exercise.
  • Communicate: let your users know beforehand if you’re making major changes, and make sure you help them navigate them when they go live.

Parting Thoughts

The perfect metadata model is always a moving target. But even as an ongoing work-in-progress, using existing standards can help simplify the process of determining your core fields, and how you want to use them in your DAM. But never be afraid to deviate from a standard if it simply doesn’t make sense for your organization, as long as you maintain a consistent approach. You can create your own in-house standards when no others fit the bill, but you can avoid reinventing the wheel for a goodly portion, simply by exploring the metadata standards landscape. It’s partially a well-signposted journey, but certainly requires some traveling off the path!

About Lisa Grimm

While in grad school for archaeology, Lisa Grimm fell into a career as a web developer (back before HTML had tables), and bounced from London to Silicon Valley, then on to NYC and Philadelphia, focusing ever-more on content and digital assets as she worked in tech, government and publishing. Midway through her career, she went to library school to obtain an MS-LIS degree, and left ‘straight’ tech to work in DAM for a number of libraries, archives and museums. She’s back on the corporate side now, serving as Content Librarian for GSK, where she oversees the company’s DAM ecosystem, taxonomy and metadata standards.

Lisa has been a DAM Guru Program member since February of 2014. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


Read more from the “Librarian Tips for DAM Managers” DAM Guru Program series »

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

Why Librarians Understand DAM

By Linda Rouse

The social profile of librarians as “custodians of knowledge” in the community (despite the often derogatory stereotyping) attracts people who have a curiosity and interest in information and research, and in developing the requisite skill sets to become knowledge or information workers.

Librarians understand assets. One of the key factors taught in library schools is that information is valuable and knowledge is power, and it matters little the form—it may be a book, magazine, picture, video or any of the myriad digital formats that make up the world of information today. So managing images and videos is not so very different from managing books and journals—many of the same rules apply.

Librarians learn to catalog and classify items according to global standards. We learn about collection management. We identify different editions and formats for version control. We understand the importance of governance in managing assets.

We have the expertise to research and apply metadata schemas and taxonomies. We understand the business value of efficient asset discovery and findability. We know about copyright and intellectual property, and we can write or develop appropriate policies for effective digital rights management.

These skills can each be readily translated into the world of digital asset management. In fact, these skills are among the first that DAM managers not from library science backgrounds need to learn.

It’s when we think about the adoption of DAM, user training and best practices that the experience of the librarian really comes into its own—from the public librarian organising reading aloud groups for children, to the many special librarians producing what’s new lists for their clients.

Librarians are skilled at encouraging and training users to find materials that match their needs. We know that different types of users require different strategies and methodologies to inform and empower them to use a system, and we are experts when it comes to developing best practices to meet these requirements.

So when in doubt, ask a librarian!

About Linda Rouse

Linda Rouse, BA DipLib AALIA (Associate of the Australian Library and Information Association), has been a practicing librarian for many years. Her career started at the University of New South Wales, Australia, where she acquired her post-graduate Diploma of Librarianship. Rouse then became a cataloguer and later a reference librarian for the State Library of New South Wales, and spent a further 10 years doing electronic research as a freelance contractor. The lure of the Internet tempted her away from traditional librarianship to educate users on ’Net searching and building Web pages. Rouse became involved with Digital Asset Management in its early years, crediting the industry’s “Mother of DAM,” Jennifer Neumann, for much of her transitional training. She has since been dedicated to the promotion of DAM through education in her role as Information Manager for Australia’s DataBasics.

[box]
Linda Rouse passed away on 11 March 2017. She was steadfastly dedicated to the Library Sciences and helping others with their information management goals. She was a longtime member and supporter of DAM Guru Program. She will be missed.
[/box]


Read more from the “Librarian Tips for DAM Managers” DAM Guru Program series »

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

Librarian Tips for DAM Managers

An article series by DAM Guru Program library science professionals

By David Diamond

It took the digital asset management software industry only about 15 years until we started to recognize that this radical new thing we created had actually been created long ago. From taxonomies to metadata to categorization systems and more, what DAM advocates proclaim to be the future of content management has actually long been its history too.

We built a bridge between traditional libraries and libraries of the future and promptly forgot to include the very people who could make that transition work best—the librarians, archivists and information professionals and other library science professionals whose training and experience are all about what we do.

Some argue that Digital Asset Management and Library Science are on a collision course of fate, where one becomes the salvation of the other, enabling both to prosper in the coming decades.

I say that collision has occurred.

DAM Guru Program #GuruTalk profiles have introduced us to DAM managers from a wide variety of backgrounds. One thing that most of these people have in common is that they have no library science training. Digital asset management technologies have made it possible for many of us (myself included) to learn about DAM on the job—or so we think. But just as using Microsoft Word doesn’t make one a writer, managing a DAM doesn’t make one an information professional.

This “Librarian Tips for DAM Managers” article series is authored by DAM Guru Program members who are trained information professionals. The authors present DAM topics from their library science perspectives, which just might fill in some educational gaps for the rest of us.

Thanks to series coordinator, Tracy Wolfe, and her fellow librarians for offering us these tips about what has worked and not worked for—you know—the past few thousand years or so.

David Diamond
DAM Guru Program Creator

 

[box]

Librarian Tips for DAM Managers

All articles in this series:

[/box]

Guru Talk: Travis McElroy – Ivie

Headshot for DAM Guru profile

Travis has a great perspective on digital asset management: always think about the long-term, big picture use case for your DAM and success will follow.

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

I work for Ivie and Associates (@IvieInc) under the title Digital Asset Management Specialist. Ivie employs 550+ associates in 40 offices worldwide providing marketing and advertising services to some of the largest retailers in the United States and Asia. The Image Management department provides marketing images for advertising campaigns, catalogs, circulars signage and web to each of our client sites where our creative and production teams produce collateral. Ivie has experienced tremendous growth; as a result we’ve grown our DAM.

Over the past two years, we reviewed several DAM products to find the best solution for our unique business model. We moved from a product hosted at our corporate office to a ­cloud-based product. My role in the migration was to help with the creation of category structures, metadata schema and group management. Now that our DAM integration is in full swing, I provide access, support and training to our production teams and our clients.

When I’m not working on support, I help our image management team to develop workflows, write user guides and work with the developer to create customizations for our DAM. This is one of my favorite parts of the job. I feel successful when I am able to produce a solution after identifying an issue with user experience.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

In our environment, the primary function of our team is to ensure that users have access to assets that are approved for their use.

For example, if a group on the West Coast shoots a product or purchases a stock image, our team makes sure that the image meets our minimum requirements, that the license is attached to the asset, and that it is distributed to all of the other teams for that client nationally. For seasonal or time sensitive assets, the process would include setting a revised expiration. In addition, we work with our creative teams to maintain adherence to logo and brand guidelines by keeping the most current logos as our published asset.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned DAM on the job. Working in our photography department, I took on the role of populating our previous iteration of DAM. Joining a group on LinkedIn or following related activity on Twitter are great resources to keep up with the latest practices and advancements in the field. Working with a DAM developer doesn’t hurt either. Chances are they have solved issues that you may be facing. They can help you navigate around questionable practices and give you insight in the best way to handle most aspects of your DAM. If you have a clear definition of your business rules, the developer should be able to identify how those rules can be applied within your DAM.

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

Think long term. It can be tricky to identify how users will interact with the DAM; but the more questions you ask up front, the more future-proof your DAM will be. Often a simple question in the development phase will save significant time and energy down the road.

If you are considering a change or plan on making a decision that has a global effect on the DAM, take a day or a few to think about it. Run it by other teams who interact with the DAM in different ways. It can save you a lot of grief down the road.

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

I have a background in Print and Graphic Design. If I hadn’t moved into DAM, I would most likely be working in some form of project management. I’ve always been interested in solving problems. I think my previous and current career put me in a position to develop creative solutions.

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

I recently read an article on the future of design describing how it will continue to become more personal. Rather than a run of 2.5 million catalogs, focus will move from the masses towards the individual. With all of the information that is captured each day about browsing and purchasing habits, DAM becomes essential in the marketing community for putting the right assets in front of the individual to influence a reaction. Whether that’s an image, a text or a video, having data tied to an asset becomes invaluable. In five years I think we’ll see continued integration with systems that automate content based on these captured metrics. APIs make it so easy to interconnect systems to the DAM that there is no reason our industry won’t continue speeding up the campaign to market timelines. Eventually advertising will be precise and instant.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success is when I train a new user and they see the value of our DAM. Every time we bring on a new user, they are impressed with the capabilities and by the work we’ve put in to develop a product that makes their lives easier. Happy users are my biggest success.

—–
Would you like to be a DAM Guru Program featured DAM professional? Signup now (for free) or contact your DAM Guru Program manager.

Guru Call: USA

USA FlagLooking for a Guru in New York City area. Member seeking some advice on digital asset management in the entertainment industry.

Member has some solid general experience in the field of asset management, but would like to speak to someone in the field who might be able to offer some advice on where to start and what their goals should be my first few days/weeks/months on the job.

Signup: signup

#GuruCalll

Guru Talk: Spencer Harris – Men’s Wearhouse

Spencer Harris - Photo Systems Admin

According to Spencer, the ability to view a digital asset management system at both the macro and micro levels are key to a company’s long-term success with any DAM implementation.

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

I have been involved in the art of digital asset management since 2007 with my own photography company, which today focuses on high-end, luxury wedding clients. I also currently work as the Photo System Administrator for Men’s Wearhouse, which I have been involved with digital asset management since 2012.

With my own company I am responsible for ingesting, rating, adjusting, distributing, and displaying of assets. My imagery is not only displayed to my clients, but also to their wedding guests on the wedding day, on my website, and at trade shows. Annually I generate an average of 15,000 assets.

At Men’s Wearhouse I started working at the store level in management in 2007 while going through school studying Business Management and Photography. At the beginning of 2012 I was able to move from the store level up into the corporate office and work in their photo studio. In the beginning I was responsible for working with a local developer to custom build an automated database for tracking the photography processes for the company. The project has involved the development of storage and retention policies on the companies local server. Today, not only do I provide support for the database, but am in the process of creating Scope of Work documents outlining features for our 2.0 version.

At the begging of 2014 we started working with Industrial Color’s GlobalEdit, which is a web based rating, approval, and soft proofing website to allow for our marketing department to view, rate, approve/reject, and make retouching markup notes on assets and to communicate those decisions throughout the creative team. Part of using GlobalEdit has evolved to using the site, for the time being, as a final resting place for our FRA (Final Retouched Assets) files and to share them with other departments within the organization that need to leverage the assets for different purposes.

Some of the features of GlobalEdit we have begun to use more of through the use of our automated database is their metadata panel, which we have custom made to align with the data we want to see/use. We have also used their various permissions features to limit visibility of assets depending on user types and roles. In addition to the permissions we are able to set the level of access users have to un-retouched versions of assets to only allow for a download of a low-res version that has a watermark on the asset. This is done to ensure that un-retouched versions done accidentally get sent out into live production.

In 2014 we generated approximately 80,000 digital photographs, which had to be run through our database along with proof quality previews generated for use on the web with GlobalEdit.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

When I explain this work to others I tell them that I am responsible and oversee the process of organizing, distributing, and storing of the companies digital assets, which commonly is photography and creative designs. Depending on their response I might provide a little bit more information about my responsibilities such as metadata, key wording, and working with our contracted developer to maintain the system and develop new features or processes to make our workflow easier and more efficient.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned the most about DAM by simply learning by doing. My knowledge expanded as I would come across situations where our processes or systems were not working efficiently or effectively. As time has gone on I have also spent time reading and learning from others. I recommend the following sources in addition to the DAM Guru:

DAM Foundation
Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order out of Media Chaos by Elizabeth Keathley
DAM Survival Guide: Digital Asset Management Initiative Planning by David Diamond
The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers by Peter Krogh
The Accidental Taxonomist by Heather Hedden.

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

When looking at and understanding DAM you have to have the ability to look at the system(s) and solution(s) at both a Macro and Micro level. You need to step back and understand the big picture of how the hardware and software will work together, who and how the users will use/access the solution, and what are the various security and redundancy measures that need to be put in place. The more micro level is to understand how different user groups use different features and aspects of the solution. What will be their pain points and is there a way, either through system customization or user training to make the system easier and more intuitive to use.

It also becomes important to have patience and good communication skills to share your thoughts and ideas about processes to all users. The patience part comes in great when trying to train new users on how to maximize their time using the solution. There can and will be a lot of redundancy in the training.

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

Photography.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Getting the decision makers of the organization to see the true needs of additional support staff to effectively manage the system and the number of assets we are generating annually.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I would like to have a better understanding other software solutions. What features/bells & whistles do the different vendors offer. What are the processes and solutions that other companies are using. This insight would help me to understand what things are possible with regards to customization and setup that I can use to make my system more efficient and intuitive.

—–
Would you like to be a DAM Guru Program featured DAM professional? Signup now (for free) or contact your DAM Guru Program manager.

  Category: DGP Member Interviews
  Comments: Comments Off on Guru Talk: Spencer Harris – Men’s Wearhouse

Guru Talk: Dustin Guest – Golf Channel

Dustin Guest - Senior Digital Asset Manager

What once took days, now takes hours because of the digital asset management implementation Dustin has incorporated at the Golf Channel.

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

Asset management has been a primary component of my role here at Golf Channel for about 8 years now. I worked as an offsite coordinator for the Library, and that experience combined with my knowledge of Avid editing systems got me my first Asset Management job within the company as the Media Content Administrator.

From there I was promoted to the Post Supervisor role where I was responsible for both managing the Post processes as well as the media on the Digital Asset systems. From there I was promoted and started a brand new department that was tasked with operating and maintaining the DAM system that we implemented here. I oversee 15 people in the department and we operate 24/7 moving media into and out of archive for our production departments.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

It’s kind of a combination of Computer Science, Library Science, and in my environment, Assistant Editing. We have to understand how all of these components fit together, so that the media that we are archiving is both usable and retrievable when a client eventually wants to find it.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I’m primarily self-taught based on the unique situation that we found ourselves in. We actually started fairly early in creating an end-to-end digital workflow, so in many cases we had to learn as we went. This meant breaking a lot of things along the way, but it also meant that I had a much better understanding of the pitfalls that you can get into when you make these kinds of migrations.

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

Your database and metadata are almost more important than the media itself. You can have the best media in the world, but it means absolutely nothing if you can’t find it. Computers allow you to do a lot of powerful things, but they can’t make up for good solid data.

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

Probably video editing or cinematography in some capacity. I still enjoy doing those tasks, even if I don’t get to very often.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Search. We tend to find that users find search in these databases to be confusing, and there’s a lot of frustration on their part. Federated search, fuzzy logic, and boolean all help, but there seems like there is still some way to go in terms of getting solid usable results for the user.

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

My guess is that a lot of this is going to end up cloud based and device agnostic. It’s also likely that a lot of new features like OCR, natural language interpretation, and digital voice recognition for logging are going to become more common. I see a high likelihood that, especially for media businesses, DAM is going to become central to the overall business process, with other functions tied into and feeding information to the central DAM repository. I can see functions like programming, closed captioning, scheduling, and commercial traffic all being connected.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

We should have made a clean break from the past and leveraged our DAM system based on how it was designed. We implemented a number of processes to emulate old workflows to help try and make the transition easier for the users, but it ends up hamstringing the ability to use the system more fluidly. It wasn’t system breaking, but it means that you have to think very carefully about how you implement new workflows to make sure you aren’t going to break one of your older processes.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Our end-to-end digital workflow has been a massive success. We can now do in a few hours what used to take a day or more when retrieving material. Users can preview footage before retrieving it, saving them from headaches in edit. It was a difficult transition, but at this point I don’t think that anyone can argue in favor of the past.

—–
Would you like to be a DAM Guru Program featured DAM professional? Signup now (for free) or contact your DAM Guru Program manager.

  Category: DGP Member Interviews
  Comments: Comments Off on Guru Talk: Dustin Guest – Golf Channel

Guru Talk: Scott Smith – Invisible Fist (contract)

Scott Smith - Digital Asset Management Consultant

When a summer is at stake, Scott knows how to troubleshoot a real problem in DAM – fast.

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

In the early 1990’s I was a production manager  with a real estate publisher. There were some attempts to manage digital assets with some internally developed solutions, though there weren’t very effective, due to resource constraints.

I later worked for large ad agencies in Chicago, first as a creative tech services specialist and later as an art studio manager. At the first job, I used Aldus Fetch (ancestor of the Extensis line) and thought the ability to preview and tag files was way cooler than sliced bread.

During the Dot.com era, I worked as a DAM consultant for an IT company. It was during this time, I worked with my first web content management tool—Interwoven—and thus began pondering  how WCM/DAM systems should be integrated.

That was followed by a lengthy stint as a tech services administrator for a global DAM system. That was was my first time with a global implementation.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I think everybody understands that Microsoft and Adobe desktop suites are for creating content and that there are tools to manage the files they create;  however, “digital asset management” is a rather esoteric term to most. Thus, I try to explain things in terms of “content management”  within the context of what a person, or organization, is trying to do.

But in the spirit of answering the question, here’s an attempt:

  • A digital asset is digital content that provides value in an organizational context
  • All digital assets are content, but not all content can be classified as assets
  • Digital asset management is the practice of creating, and improving organizational value of content

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

In my job in publishing we didn’t have a DAM system per say, at least not one that was in usable. However, I learned a lot about the importance of file management. I started to read about what would later become known as DAM in magazines (remember those?).

Later, I learned about DAM from the Seybold Publishing conferences, and sites like EcontentMag, The Real Story Group, and CMSWire. Now, I learn a lot from my professional learning network I’ve built through connections on Linkedin, Twitter and other social platforms.

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

In addition to some of the learning resources I’ve mentioned, I would advise people to go in and get dirty. If your company has a DAM system learn as much as you can about it. If not, see if you can get up with a demo edition of some DAM system. You might even want to try downloading and installing one of the open source systems and exploring that.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Staying current is a challenge. I got back into the DAM world after a panicked phone call from a friend who was suffering from “DAMlessnes” I had been working as a SharePoint administrator in the previous few years, so when landed back in the DAM world, there was a lot of new stuff I didn’t know, and lot of old stuff I’d forgotten.

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

I am hoping that DAM systems become better integrated with component content management systems. I’d like to see a true single-source model where rich media are stored in a DAM-like system and expressed in the appropriate color model and resolution, in conjunction with dynamically-assembled text files.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

I regret that I didn’t maintain my lobbying energy with my ad agency employers when I tried to enact DAM initiatives. In both organizations I saw that there was some understanding of the need for DAM, but since the decision-makers were far removed from the pain points experienced by production artists, illustrators, etc., it was a long, hard, slog to build a business case compelling enough to get an initiative approved. However, it wasn’t impossible, I wish that I had made more of an effort since my departments wasted so much time looking for files and often recreating them.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Several years ago, I was able to provide an alternative solution to a client request that saved thousands of hours of labor and saved my Summer.

While my manager didn’t seem to have a problem with ruining the Summer of: the DAM manager, the clients, DBAs, system administrators, etc. I had a problem with the fact that I was required to give up my own Summer. Thus I came up with something equivalent to a Hail Mary pass in football.

Long story, somewhat shorter: the request would have required the re-ordering of zillions of files on the file system. This would have be done by hand and would require metadata to be reentered. My first thought was “Oh, NO! MY SUMMER!!!!!!!”

I questioned the root of the problem, it was not the taxonomy (OK, taxonomy was bad) it was the search interface. Our DAM solutions partner had recently gone out of business so we had to source code which gave a little flexibility. I had the biggest “Aha” moment of life and voiced my plan to tackle the search interface rather than the taxonomy.

I got approval from the client and the total effort for creating requirements, Java development, site configuration, testing and deployment was less than 40 hours. My subsequent happy dance was probably a little over twice that long.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I’ve worked under the hood a bit as a systems admin, but rather recently I’ve actually endeavored to learn more about software development. I have a long way to go on that front, but very interested in exploring how and old dog like me can learn some new tricks in the area of DAM/CMS systems.

—–
Would you like to be a DAM Guru Program featured DAM professional? Signup now (for free) or contact your DAM Guru Program manager.

  Category: DGP Member Interviews
  Comments: Comments Off on Guru Talk: Scott Smith – Invisible Fist (contract)

DAM Guru Members React to What’s Holding DAM Back

In a 3-part series entitled, “What’s Holding DAM Back,” DAM News contributors discuss why they think the Digital Asset Management industry has fallen into an innovation standstill in the past few years. We took the question to DAM Guru Program members, whose responses are below.

 

Doug Mullin:

“I think the challenges of moving from a departmental application to being an Enterprise application is holding us up, because we haven’t quite figured out how to make that leap from an organizational point of view. Who does own DAM? Shouldn’t be IT, in my opinion, although they need to be deeply involved. Marketing is a better bet, but Sales is also touched, as are other departments.”

Doug Mullin is the Digital Assets Manager for Oakley. He has been a DAM Guru Program member since 2014.

 

Lisa Grimm:

These are two excerpts from a longer response by Ms. Grimm. Read Lisa Grimm’s full response here.

“Jeff Lawrence’s article – customers aren’t demanding clarity, much less innovation. It’s almost depressingly common in our field to discover that the only person in an organization who truly understands how DAM works (or, perhaps, how it should work) wasn’t involved in the purchasing decision; they’ve often inherited something that wasn’t truly fit for purpose, and they don’t have the budget to do much about it. But if the customer does not budget for enhancements or new systems, vendors can’t be expected to pay particular attention; understandably, they’ve moved on to selling their existing solution to a new client. Yes, new features may roll out if a bigger client demands more attention during the implementation phase, but after that, the feedback loop goes quiet.”

“Ralph Windsor’s piece on the role of the media; his points about the truly alarming lack of metadata knowledge give one pause, and the difficulty in measuring ROI certainly takes time away from crafting the perfect taxonomy model. Some DAM vendors have clearly given careful thought to the role of taxonomy and metadata, and considered how users, both administrative and end-user, might interact with that metadata (even if they don’t know they are doing it). But that’s not true across the board, and if DAM enhancements have fallen to someone who lacks experience in that space, it’s difficult to move forward true functionality improvements, since all real DAM functionality flows from useful, well-managed, metadata.”

Lisa Grimm is the Content Librarian for GlaxoSmithKline. She has been a DAM Guru Program member since 2013.

 

Julie Shean:

Why do I need to invest in one of these plus so many other things?
“It takes more than a year to choose one, more than a year to implement one… Enter enterprise IT software fatigue. We have web content management systems, in the museum world we also have collections management systems, library catalog systems, constituent relationship management systems, and on and on. Oh, and then there’s Sharepoint, so how many of these are we planning on connecting the DAMS to? I’m sure you’ve noticed that many of these other systems are encroaching on your turf.”

What is it?
“I agree with David and Ralph when they point out that vendor sales teams are stretched thin trying to appeal to possible every use-case in every possible sector. Meanwhile, you might be losing touch with your core customer bases. DAMS resist being classified as online media archives or media libraries (too boring, not dynamic enough)… Too bad, personally I think digital media library sounds a lot better than “DAMS”. And if you’re honest with yourselves, the online library catalog is functionally a close analogue. It’s a back-end business system with a public access web interface– and yet many DAMS lack an easy-to-customize public portal.”

Please don’t blame your customers
“Having just put some vendors through a very long RFP process, I can sympathize with a lot of what Jeff says in his “customers” piece, but some of us have been here since the beginning (I’m on my fourth DAM software). I have to say, the constant re-positioning and Digital Marketing management suite-speak is incredibly off-putting to those of us not in that (evidently lucrative) sector. We don’t need to hire the librarians, you do. It’s all so DIY. Can I make a suggestion? Why not come up with a best practices example taxonomy and metadata fieldset for each of the market sectors you cater to? And implement it. Too much work?”

Julie Shean is the Technical Architect at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has been a DAM Guru Program member since 2013.

 

David Nguyen:

“Digital Asset Management has made few improvements in the last few years in how well it actually manages digital assets. DAM solutions all seem to suffer from a lack of vision in how digital assets will be used and how to make that process better. Businesses are hungry for systems that provide processes that solve real problems. Often features and new user interfaces only seek to solve individual problems instead of providing intuitive solutions.”

“The lack of innovation in digital asset management is due to many factors. DAM know that they had a problem but don’t know that they need a solution. DAM vendors know how to solve problems but rarely ask about what solutions are needed. The creation of digital assets themselves does not make it easy to attach the right metadata to make any solution work. Finally, education of best practices and handling assets and consistency in metadata is not provided until well after there is a problem.”

“Industry does not need more bells and whistles but instead needs to focus on producing results. In all honesty DAM software should really only be about 10% of a solution and the other 90% should be about integrating business processes that improves results.”

David Nguyen is the Digital Asset Manager (contract) at The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. He has been a DAM Guru Program member since 2013.

 

Tracy Wolfe:

“In order for DAM to move forward, it must provide an imperceptible level of service, not feel like a roadblock. Simplicity, streamlining and standardization are far more important than flashy and sometimes useless features that superficially address the latest trends.”

“Every DAM needs an evangelist to get users excited about and keep them informed of the features and future possibilities of whatever DAM product they are employing and of digital asset management in general.”

“Vendors should stop grandstanding and making up silly buzzwords and devote that energy and fervor to really investigating user needs and ideas, becoming true partners.”

“I agree with something in each article of What’s Holding DAM Back – from the fact that there is no Steve Jobs of DAM, that there are people in the industry that can be trusted, and that ultimately “ the more substantial opportunity for DAM is when digital assets can be integrated with concepts like Linked Data and the Semantic Web.”

“Most importantly, DAM administrators and users should continue to take advantage of every opportunity to learn what others are doing. There are informative and high-quality conferences, blogs, discussion groups and educational opportunities available. Knowledge is power. There is strength in numbers. Choose your battles wisely.”

Tracy Wolfe is the Search Editor at Getty Images. She has been a DAM Guru Program member since 2013.

Have you read the DAM News 3-part series entitled, “What’s Holding DAM Back?” What’s your take? Share with us your thoughts in the comments.