Nila Bernstengel 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 Nila Bernstengel.
[0:08] Nila, how are you?
Nila Bernstengel: [0:10] I’m good. How are you today?
Henrik: [0:11] Great. Nila, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Nila: [0:15] I have been involved on the job and also in library school. On the job, I have worked in the DAM field for almost 7 years and digital repositories for about 10 years.
[0:26] I also went to library school. While in library school, I focused on emerging technologies, how to create digital repositories, digital collections and how to implement metadata properly.
[0:38] On the job, I have worked the full cycle of implementing a system and upgrading a system. This generally has entailed creating user files, metadata scrubbing or as I like to call it, “untangling the metadata”.
[0:50] I set standards, cataloging, standards for terminology, create dictionaries and permission sets and also taxonomies. In total, I did everything to bring up a system and release a system.
Henrik: [1:02] How does a nonprofit educational organization use Digital Asset Management?
Nila: [1:06] The main objective was to have a centralized location for the company assets for the purpose of storage access and content distribution. Having a centralized location of assets allowed for the discovery of our assets as well as new collections for the creation of either content or product.
[1:27] Not everyone knew what was being created in the company. People would just ask for assets. They would either come to the Creative Resources Department, or they would just look around on the servers, not realizing there was much, much more out there that they could be using.
[1:43] For this reason, we really brought in a system for the centralization for access. There needed to be a place where everyone could go in, view and download without having to contact us. That means we set up a system that was based on permissions, which was really, really important.
[1:59] This really tied into our content distribution. We wanted a place for people to go in, see everything the company offered them, and nothing that was on there was out of their reach. Everything they see, they could use and we really did that by setting up a system that was centralized and was focused on permission sets.
[2:21] Lastly, the content distribution part. This was key to bringing in a system because prior to this, we were mailing out assets, mailing hard drives, CDs, DVDs, even books in the mail and it became very, very costly and not time efficient.
[2:38] To cut down on that, we brought in a system to have something that was instant for someone to use globally and domestically. The system also allowed for the governance of assets. No more like, “I’m using the logo from 10 years ago”. It was up‑to‑date and current.
Henrik: [2:57] What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Nila: [3:01] One of the biggest challenges I have seen is changing workflow. There are a lot of companies that had the same work flow for decades and all of a sudden we’re asking people to no longer use servers, no longer to use their personal hard drives. We’re asking them to change workflow completely and that was pretty hard because a lot of people resist change, especially when it comes to technology.
[3:24] It was something that was different. They had to think about it differently. It really changed how they retrieved assets.
[3:30] The big selling point was showing them the benefits of a system. All of a sudden, you didn’t have to look for hours for something or that one photograph you were looking for. Now you could go on to one place, just do a simple search and download it and that would always be there.
[3:46] One of the biggest challenges was changing people’s workflow, changing them to move away from a physical to a digital environment. One of the biggest challenges for a system was having a lot of duplicates and a lot of versions.
[4:00] A version would be something like have a master file and then there’s five derivatives and different file formats under it. People really still wanted that and I eliminated that because I really believe that the system has the capability to download file formats, whatever you need it for. That was a big challenge also. It’s just like training people to understand all the capabilities of a system.
[4:26] Another big challenge was naming conventions. I standardized the naming convention for the system and people wanted to make sentence structures out of a name, which believe it or not, really actually affects the search. It was a big thing, standardizing how files are named and how they’re presented to people.
[4:47] One of the biggest successes I’ve heard from an end user was how easy the system was to use, how the learnability was really low. This really communicated to me that it was not only easy, but this was something that they would go back to readily and keep using because it wasn’t complicated. The visual space wasn’t overpopulated. That was really good to hear.
[5:10] I think for the company’s success, the ability to reuse assets was key. This really cut down on costs. It also cut down on time. People could reuse the same assets for many different things, which really helps the company also just save money. It enhanced work flow because it cut down on time also.
Henrik: [5:32] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Nila: [5:36] For people starting out in the field, I would recommend start small, something manageable and then use it as a model to scale up. What I mean by this is get your hands dirty a little bit.
[5:49] There was a couple of systems that people could easily download onto their own devices or machines. OpenRefine is a metadata cleanup program. It allows you to bring in a spreadsheet and really dive into cleaning up metadata and structuring metadata. That’s a really good tool for people to use who are looking to get into this field and also, understand the dynamics of metadata.
[6:14] A couple of systems they could try? I think SharePoint is really good. A lot of people use it. It’s pretty easy. I would really recommend going there. Try to create a collection, apply metadata and try searching. See how it works. See what it visually looks like once you apply metadata to it.
[6:30] Drupal is a system a lot of libraries use. It’s also open source. I recommend trying it. Create some pages, create a collection, apply metadata and then see what it looks like and see how it functions.
[6:42] I think just doing that over and over really clicks and makes people understand how dynamic the system is because we are moving from physical to digital and it’s basically a stratosphere of information that is being linked together.
[6:57] I think hands on is the best I could say for people. There is reading resources for people to supplement doing the hands on. I look at The Accidental Taxonomist quite a bit. I think it’s really great. It’s easy to understand and I think if you join, especially reading and a hands‑on experience, it will make you feel a lot more comfortable going into a company or going into an organization and tackling how to set up a system and how a system works.
[7:25] Another great reading source I also use is Real Story Group. They have great vendor information. They have really great white papers and documentation lists to look at because there is a system for almost everything.
[7:37] Different systems do different things. It breaks apart this idea that there’s just Digital Asset Management. There’s Digital Asset Management for a lot of different content types and a lot of systems gear towards different content types. I do recommend doing some reading and just doing a little bit of research on vendors.
[7:55] For people in the field, I would definitely recommend, even if it’s not possible, to reach out to the vendor of the system you’re using and really give them sky‑high expectations of something you want, because even if they can’t do it, they’re going to remember that and they’re going to probably try to put it into their core systems so it will be part of their system.
[8:17] Something like an example of that was we needed content pools. I needed a way to separate content by permissions without creating new portals. I wanted to use one portal for everybody to go into but not everyone saw the same content. Now that’s easily available in most systems.
[8:35] It’s really great if you really talk to the vendor, if you talk to people. It really advances the system. It advances our work flow, which I think is only beneficial.
[8:44] This is for people already in the field. If you’re creating a DAM team or a team that is going to tackle the DAM system, I really, really recommend having a dynamic from all parts of the company or organization. This means three or four representations of business IT, someone who can organize it, like a librarian and I would recommend having an end user involved in part of the process.
[9:09] IT definitely supports the company. They support the technology, but the business requirements and what the system is geared for and how it will used will come from business, because they are the ones who need to use it and they’re the ones who need this workflow to work for the company.
[9:24] A librarian or someone who can organize it is key. This is definitely a skill set people are trained to do. Organizing digital content is a huge task and there is ways to do it and ways to not do it properly.
[9:39] An end user are the people who are going to be using the system. They’re going to be the ones going into the front end and engaging in the system. They’re going to be searching, downloading. They’re key to how the system and the metadata is applied.
Henrik: [9:54] Thanks, Nila.
Nila: [9:55] Thank you.
Henrik: [9:56] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to AnotherDAMblog.com. For this and 170 podcast episodes, go to AnotherDAMpodcast.com. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at email@example.com. Thanks again.