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Another DAM Podcast interview with Julia Thompson on Digital Asset Management

Hear Another DAM Podcast interview with Julia Thompson on Digital Asset Management


Henrik de Gyor:  [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I am Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Julia Thompson.

[0:07] Julia, how are you?

Julia Thompson:  [0:09] Great, thank you. How are you?

Henrik:  [0:10] Great. Julia, how were you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Julia:  [0:14] I’m the Digital Asset Manager at UNICEF, New York headquarters. Part of that role, I’m the administrator of our Global Digital Asset Management System. This includes things like configuring the ACLs, developing and maintaining metadata, working with the DAM vendor on issues, any changes we’d like to make, and features that would be useful to us.

[0:34] My role also includes the development of DAM workflows and advising on best practices, and user support and training.

Henrik:  [0:42] How does an organization focused on long‑term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries use Digital Asset Management?

Julia:  [0:52] The DAM system that I manage contains just finished materials at this stage, rather than works‑in‑progress, although I see that being something that we may be using the DAM system for in the future. At the moment, it includes photos, videos, branding materials, publications and social media assets and things such as infographics.

[1:12] And also other related peripheral materials, mostly communication materials that are ultimately destined for an external audience. So we work in more than 190 countries and territories and we have content creators and offices all over the world. For us having a global DAM system helps us to break down content silos across the organization.

[1:33] It provides us a way to make rich media created all around the organization, available to UNICEF staff everywhere. The staff use the DAM system to locate materials for repurposing and reuse when they are creating new communication assets. So we offer B‑Rolls for creating new videos, photos that they use in new publications.

[1:52] We also use the DAM system to distribute editable versions of assets for localization. So that means that an office can create versions of assets in their local languages. We use the DAM system as a tool for sharing downloadable assets with news media and with our many partners and stakeholders.

[2:09] It also provides a source for high quality assets for publication on websites and social media, and other internal platforms and it’s integrated with, for the publication of photos by the DAM system API. I’d say that one of the most important roles of Digital Asset Management for us is in helping to protect the rights of the children in our photos and videos, helping us to ensure that assets are used appropriately.

[2:32] So we have some assets, images of children at risk, such as children associated with armed groups, which requires special approval and particular care in their use. The DAM system helps us to handle usage approvals.

[2:45] We are able to use the system to embed the usage terms and conditions and some asset types like images, to make users aware of the usage terms and conditions upon accessing assets in the DAM system.

[2:56] We use the DAM system to pull together packages of assets that relate to a particular focus area or a campaign, which makes it quicker and easier for staff to find the communication materials that they need and the DAM system also provides a definitive source for our branding materials, so that we can keep the UNICEF brands clear.

Henrik:  [3:13] What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?

Julia:  [3:17] So in some ways our successes and challenges are fairly closely linked. Because the DAM system has become quite central in supporting our communication goals, our users are starting to see the benefits of the DAM system in their work, which is a good thing. It’s exactly what we are aiming for.

[3:34] One of the consequences that we found of having a system that people like and see the value in, is that we’re finding ourself needing to assess and culminate new needs that are arising, we’ve seen the emergence of new use cases, new demands on the system, which have created new challenges to address, new workflows to develop, additional metadata to add, changes in the way that we handle permissions.

[3:57] So these new needs have been a challenge to address. Some taking extra resourcing, requiring changes in the way that we are working with the system. But it’s also nice to see the value of Digital Asset Management in such a large organization. Another challenge that we’ve faced is balancing our shorter and longer term needs.

[4:15] We need our Digital Asset Management to support an often high paced flow of assets within the organization and to outside partners and news media. But we also need to ensure that we have full and accurate metadata needed for the long‑term accessibility of those assets.

[4:30] In an emergency situation such as after the recent Nepal earthquake, the DAM system was used to make photos and videos available to the organization and to the news media, which needed to happen quickly. So in a situation like that there’s not always time to spend fully cataloging an asset before publication and distribution.

[4:50] However, we do need full metadata to ensure that someone can find those assets in a few years and that they have enough contextual information to know what their looking at. So I definitely wouldn’t claim to have all the answers to that dilemma yet. That’s really something we are still working through. But I think in the future, it’s going to have to involve a staged approach to Asset Management.

[5:09] We have a workflow and a system that’s live and user‑friendly enough to meet their short‑term needs, combined with oversight by information professionals, maybe filling in the metadata and making sure that everything looks right at a slightly later stage.

[5:24] And also, I think accepting that good‑enough is sometimes the best you can do. There is really no question that Digital Asset Management in a large organization like that, operating in different time zones is a challenge.

Henrik:  [5:36] I bet. What advise would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Julia:  [5:42] One of the things I would recommend is the future proofing as much as possible, being aware of the importance of flexibility and scalability when procuring and configuring a DAM system because you will inevitably be making changes, particularly when working in a large organization.

[6:00] We found it really important to have a system that allows us to be really flexible, making changes to metadata, accommodating new asset types, new asset genres and supporting new asset cases.

[6:12] Related to that, I’d say that it’s important to keep talking to your users well beyond the initial planning and implementation stage, so that your system and workflows can evolve along with the new user needs that will emerge. We’ve definitely had a lot of changes with the way that we are using Digital Asset Management within the new organization, even over a fairly short period of time.

[6:33] For people aspiring to become DAM professionals, I would say that it’s getting hands‑on experience and so getting some exposure to Digital Asset Management in a real organization is super important.

[6:44] I would think that although getting a good handle on Digital Asset Management theory and best practices is key, it’s also really important to be able to navigate the unique culture of an organization to be able to successfully identify business requirements and end‑user needs.

[7:00] At least from my point of view that seems to be where the biggest challenges lie, but also the biggest opportunities for success in Digital Asset Management.

Henrik:  [7:08] Great. Well, thanks Julia.

Julia:  [7:10] Thank you.

Henrik:  [7:11] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to For this podcast and 160 other podcast episodes, go to If you have any comments or questions please feel free to email me at Thanks again.

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Another DAM podcast interview with Alex Struminger

Click here to listen to Another DAM podcast interview with Alex Struminger

Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
  • Why does a DAM need a Project Manager?
  • What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals and people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?

Full Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Alex Struminger.
Alex, how are you?
Alex Struminger: [0:10] Henrik, good to be with you.
Henrik: [0:12] Great. Alex, how are you involved with Digital Asset
Alex: [0:17] Henrik, let me answer that first by telling you about the Digital Asset
Management project I’ve been working on, which is with the United Nations
Children’s Fund, UNICEF. In this particular project, I am acting as a project manager
and, in some ways, as a facilitator. [0:38] UNICEF uses a number of different
kinds of digital assets, and they’re managed by different groups. Video is a big
part of what our group is doing. That’s something that has spawned a lot of
change in Digital Asset Management over the last couple of years because of
the large file sizes and the increased bandwidth and storage needs for video.
[1:07] We also have more traditional assets. We have branding assets with logos,
stationary and a lot of those kinds of things. We have publications assets,
photos and that kind of thing.
[1:21] By far and largest is the video, and we use the DAM in a couple of ways.
We use it as an archiving system. We use it for providing access to the archive
of video and other assets. We also use it as a distribution system probably more
than anything else.
[1:46] We put the videos up there. The group that owns the assets, manages the
assets and the systems puts it up there. Then, the global organization is able to
access those.
[1:56] That’s probably the biggest use we find for the DAM, is just getting those
assets into one central place, letting people know they’re there, and then using
it as a distribution vehicle for getting the videos to all of the end users.
Henrik: [2:12] Excellent. Why does a DAM need a project manager?
Alex: [2:16] That’s a great question, Henrik. I would say that many people would
agree that most technology platforms, at least in their design, implementation
and roll out, are going to need some project management. [2:31] If nothing else
to sort out the resources, schedules, budgets and things like that, and keep
everything on track.
[2:40] What I find is that there’s another part of project management that comes
much more into play with these technology platforms with lots of users. That’s
why I mentioned that I’m a project manager and, in some sense, a facilitator.
[2:59] There’s a social aspect to DAM as there is to any network technology
platform, whether it’s lots of end users all connected by wires and other means
of communication, emails, instant messaging, telephone lines. All working together.
The biggest hurdles project managers talk about are risk and risk aversion.
I like to talk to you more about ensuring success.
[3:31] The success of a project is not, simply, to get it designed and implemented
on the technical side, and then rolled out to the user base. Unless
people, actually, use it, you’re not going to see success.
[3:48] In some sense, to use a military analogy, you might talk about the difference
between a “shock and awe” campaign. We can roll out SharePoint on a
Friday, and when people show up to work on Monday, that’s not going to make
them SharePoint users. You may accomplish the same thing that “shock and
awe” accomplishes which is you could, probably, befuddle them.
[4:10] It’s more a little bit like counterinsurgency. We’re wanting to win hearts
and minds so there’s a social aspect. You want to put down your big guns and
put on your social scientist hat. Say, “OK . Let’s try to understand the culture in
the organization.
[4:27] Who are the people, who are the influencers in the network? Who’s going
to driver adoption? How are we going to get people to adopt this system into
their workflow?”
[4:37] Hopefully, we’ll show a lot of value for it which is a good driver for adoption.
Word of mouth and having people influence other people to change the
way they’re doing things, today, to use a new system tomorrow is the thing
that’s most likely to drive success.
Henrik: [4:56] Excellent.
Alex: [4:57] We talked a little about socializing the technology. Adding the
people in the process and showing value as part of the project management
formula, rather than simply rolling out the technology and saying, “Here you go.
You may not have realized you wanted this, but here it is.”
Henrik: [5:18] What advice would you like to give to DAM professionals and
people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Alex: [5:23] I think the best advice I could give, based on this experience, is
think a lot about that socializing process. The success of the project is definitely
going to be driven by people’s adoption. [5:40] You want to identify those key
influencers. You want to start with a group of stakeholders who are motivated.
People who are willing to accept and get involved in the project early.
[5:53] If you can get them involved as early as possible, even if the identification
of the system and the vendor so they feel a sense of investment with it, then
you’ll have a much more loyal group of people working with you going forward.
Then build it.
[6:07] I always advocate going slowly. Not a big “shock and awe” campaign but
starting in the social systems with the groups that you can convert and win over,
and building on that bit-by-bit is a much more sustainable approach. That’s a
big part of what I would say.
[6:29] The other thing that I would bring up which has less to do with project
management but I think something that in DAM systems is particularly important,
is information architecture, taxonomy, and the metadata that drives
the system.
[6:46] Make sure that you get the specialists on board, at least from the design
and roll out phase, to get those things right. I think that will provide the support
on the back end that will help show the value of you’re trying to win those
hearts and minds out in the company and in the field.
Henrik: [7:02] Excellent. Thanks Alex.
Alex: [7:05] Henrik, it’s been a pleasure to be with you.
Henrik: [7:07] For more on Digital Asset Management log on to Thanks again.


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