Julia Thompson discusses 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 unicef.org, 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 anotherdamblog.com. For this podcast and 160 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.