Mary Litviak and Matthew Wilhm discuss Digital Asset Management
Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management, I’m Henrik de Gyor, today I’m speaking with Mary Litviak and Mathew Wilhm. How are you guys?
Mary Litviak: [0:11] Doing fabulous, how are you?
Henrik: [0:13] Great. How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Mary: [0:16] I am the administrator of all the [Digital Asset Management] users and I’m the one that does all the cataloging. I’ll do intake, clean up, I help manage the online photo library that comes from our Digital Asset Management software.
[0:31] I help with all image requests and art files in the company. I’m also very involved in the customization projects that go on. That’s why we have an IT staff that does all of our technical parts.
Mathew Wilhm: [0:44] I’m the Director of Creative Services. I’m a user, but I’ve been involved in, not so much the execution but the purchase of the Digital Asset Management software for the company. We purchased the software that we use, Cumulus, probably 15 years ago.
Henrik: [1:05] How does a nonprofit organization funded entirely by Wisconsin’s dairy farm families use Digital Asset Management?
Mary: [1:11] The best answer to that is the value that they’re getting out of it relative to probably what it could be. The market sells products in Wisconsin nationwide, and to give us the biggest bang for our buck, we need to be able to intake not just high resolution energies but the art files that drive our promotions, manage the digital photos that are taken, because all of these things are reportable. They are also resources that we use to recreate new things.
[1:41] As an art staff, its part of the ongoing marketing efforts with materials that have life spans, short ones. We’re able to retrieve things quickly and create new things from what we have in our library, to the value of the Wisconsin dairy producers. These assets also serve a lot of editors these days who are writing about cheese, reporting about cheese.
[2:07] A lot of the industry leans on our expertise for images and information, so it’s a really rich catalogue that does a lot with a very little. I think that’s the best way to describe it.
Matthew: [2:20] It what would help too, is to get an idea of how we serve the market place. Because the way we look at it is, we serve the dairy farmer families with communications about the marketing programs that Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board offers.
[2:38] We also consider the retail industry. That would be grocery chains with point of sale so they can better market Wisconsin cheese with our point of sale programs. We also work with the cheese manufacturers and dairy processors, if you will, by creating programs that market Wisconsin dairy products and Wisconsin cheese.
[3:02] The reason we focus primarily on Wisconsin cheese is because roughly 90 percent of the milk produced in this state goes into cheese making. Wisconsin dairy goes to way, way back to European heritage, because Wisconsin topography is much like Europe.
[3:20] That’s why so many European farmers settled in the state of Wisconsin because it reminds them of home. It was a natural progress for them to bring their dairy heritage to this state.
[3:33] One of the other areas we work with is food service. We work with restaurant chains, casual themed restaurants. We also work with chefs to provide them with digital assets. We probably have the most extensive dairy library that’s usable for any of these markets in the world, I would think.
[3:54] All of our assets are free to them as long as they promote Wisconsin dairy products, and that would be another reason why the dairy industry of the state benefits from our Digital Assets Management.
[4:07] Like Mary said, our customers can get these assets online. We knew from the beginning that we would eventually market these, or at least make them available to the people that want to promote Wisconsin dairy products. As Mary said, including the food editors of newspapers and magazines nationwide.
[4:32] One of the other areas that we are getting into, like most people, more and more is the social media aspect of it because we’re working with bloggers to promote Wisconsin dairy products. We also have two advertising agencies that serve the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and they do marketing programs for us in a number of those areas.
[4:56] We get many of the files from the ad agencies, but what we do in return is make them aware because we have such a high resolution, great photo library of food photography, cheese photography, dairy product photography, that it’s available free of charge as long as people promote Wisconsin dairy.
Mary: [5:15] We provide a lot of incentives to offering means of media, online, and through this library, so there’s very valuable asset to the Wisconsin dairy producers.
Matthew: [5:26] It started years ago. I’ve been with the company for 20 years, you’d probably know, it was all film to provide to these people many years ago.
Henrik: [5:35] What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with this Digital Asset Management?
Mary: [5:39] Challenges, of course, the learning curve, bringing in the new technology, there are people that have to learn it. There is the discipline of keeping a tie with the IT department, making sure the equipment is running, make sure that you have the expertise to run back‑ups and be able to handle the hardware aspect of it.
[5:58] You have user training, in our case I’m the only one that takes care of the software and it’s the big huge beast, the big huge creature that needs a lot of feeding and taking care of like a big baby. I have to make sure that it’s taken care of and running efficiently because we’ve been through situations where if something falls through the cracks and it breaks, the phone starts ringing off the hook.
[6:25] The last number I’ve seen was over 6,000 registered users of our online photo library. That’s a testament to how very popular we are for many people that use our pictures for many different things. When that goes down, the phone rings off the hook, you’ve got to be able to deal with that.
[6:43] Working with a software company, being able to carry on a longtime relationship with the company that is also in a market that is changing with the tides and going forward dealing with things like social media. Like Matt said, being able to take on the challenges.
[6:59] When companies change or the company itself may change, restructure, reformat, you have to keep up with that. It’s just a matter of keeping up with that and taking good care of it. I think we found that not doing it, or we slip through the cracks could just be not a good situation. I think me and Matt really talked on lots of benefits.
Matthew: [7:21] From a user perspective and being involved from the inception of choosing a digital asset management software, I think one of the biggest challenges was picking the right software that fit our needs. Because we are a nonprofit organization funded by the dairy farmers of Wisconsin, we have to make sure that all of our purchases of software are cost conscious.
[7:47] It was probably a three year learning process before we finally chose Cumulus and landed on her. We had looked at Cumulus, at Cumulus’s inception version one, and that was going to be my preference of choice for the software. I’m a Macintosh user, I do much of the design work, Mary does design work and we have another graphic designer on staff as well.
[8:11] We had a number of consultants that said they could come into Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and build us a library. Because we worked with color separators, 15, 20 years ago and it was moving into a digital marketplace, the color separators that we worked with archived all of our digital images.
[8:31] They said they could build us a digital system but they just focused on photography. We needed a software that would focus on Word documents, Excel documents, graphic design documents, Quark documents, InDesign documents, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, all of our digital images that had been scanned prior to that, because we are on a Macintosh platform and we have roughly 50 employees, the remaining employees are on PCs.
[9:04] We needed to focus on a cross‑platform system that would house all of that data. Cumulus was probably the best choice for us at that time, because it really was a cross‑platform, off the shelf software package that was relatively inexpensive that we could work with that company and they were willing and ready to work with us to help us build our system.
[9:30] Choosing the software in general was a challenge and trying to deal with all the people that said, “Oh, we can do that, we can do that.” They could do that but it was always beneficial to them and not to us. Canto knew that if they were a partner with us that we would both benefit. I think after a 15 year business relationship, we are still heavily involved with each other and using the software, it’s evolved and it has been great for us.
Mary: [10:00] I’ll just check on our success in dealing with this too. To take off from where Matt left off here, when they came in here and they were training us on how to use the product, the Canto Cumulus product came with a web piece right out of the box.
[10:16] The nice thing about that is that the guy that was training us was part of the original Canto product. He was very, very smart and our web master wasted no time trying to get him to see if we could get that, the web version customized so we can put our photo library online.
[10:35] I think that was a huge success for us, because when I first started here in Creative Services in ’02, there was a time when I was doing nothing but image requests from the moment I got in to the moment I left. I was frustrated because I didn’t have time to do the other stuff I was doing.
[10:52] Canto stepped in, they offered us services of someone that could build us a customized interface, which we did, and when we put that light, it almost single handedly took all that work off my desk and handed it over to the website, which I thought was fabulous because now I can focus in on doing the other important Digital Asset Management, taking care of it, loading it, cleaning it, so on. It’s just been a huge success.
[11:20] That one thing right there and going forward as we continue to grow, like I mentioned before, the software just keeps going. It keeps ticking. It’s been a huge success for our company having it here.
Henrik: [11:32] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Matthew: [11:37] I work by the philosophy of “Garbage in, Garbage out.” When we started working with Cumulus, we knew that we had to make sure that our file naming conventions were specific to the areas that we serve. By that I mean, the retail area and the sub‑sets of the retail area, the food service area, the sub‑sets of the food service area, the trade show area, the sub‑sets of the trade show area, because we worked with librarians to get this moving forward, that the file naming conventions were key to making this product work.
[12:15] I wanted to make sure that if anybody were to step in in my job position, or Mary’s job position, or the other graphic designers’ position, this database would be user friendly, easy to search by the key word, and people would be able to find images and data readily.
Mary: [12:36] That’s a very key thing. I’m actually going to be talking in September  at the Chicago Henry Stewart Conference. I’m going to be talking about this very thing, because I went to my first conference in ’06 in New York City. Since then, through Henry Stewart, I’ve met lots of people that do the kind of thing that I do.
[12:55] To an astronomical extent where you are talking about worldwide conglomerate like 3M, who has tens of thousands of users across the globe in different cultures and languages. Then, you got small companies, may be 1 to 10 people, and every single one of them want Digital Asset Management.
[13:14] Unless you think about the really important aspects upfront of what you have to have in place, Matt talked about naming conventions and the taxonomy systems, having that figured out in the beginning is probably the best idea possible.
[13:29] Knowing what you want to catalog and knowing what you want to feed into the system. Having the administrative staff to be able to fill it, maintain that, having the IT staff that will co‑cooperatively work with the group with the Digital Asset Management, to make sure that it’s physically running.
[13:48] Having buy‑in from the executives in the company, that they are willing to make an investment that it is indeed the return on investments, for whatever the purpose is. Having the know‑how of people, how tune the product, I mean, just choosing the product.
[14:04] Matt was talking about choosing, knowing how to go out there and search and find out what’s the best option. Today, there are dozens of companies out there doing this right now, and I’m sure they are all good and they are all doing wonderful things.
[14:19] I’ve seen lots of samples. Finding the right one is key, finding the one that’s going to serve the company as a whole, or whatever that business is, is key.
[14:30] If you don’t have the expertise inside the company to put together a team, to agree with, shop hard and really look at these things, there are consultants out there that can do it for a company, and they do a fine job. There are avenues out there, but I think that I’ve met a lot of people who think they know what they are buying, and then somebody goes out and buys it, and hands it off to somebody, usually one person and told to do this.
[14:59] It’s amazing how many people I’ve met that that’s happened to and these poor people are floundering. They have no idea on how to go about forming it and developing it. It’s a lot more that it looks like, and I think taking these measures up‑front can be very important.
[15:15] That’s what I’m prepared to tell the industry people in September , and if only they have done what we’ve been through here, having your ducks in a row up‑front is the best solution to any potential problem that could happen if you don’t. That’s the best way I can answer your question now.
Henrik: [15:32] Thanks. Great advice. For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to anotherdamblog.com. For this and 150 other podcast episodes, go to anotherdampodcast.com. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again.