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Another DAM podcast interview with Rob Schuman on 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 Rob Schuman.
Rob, how are you?

Rob Schuman: [0:10] Great.

Henrik: [0:11] Rob, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Rob: [0:14] Well, I got involved about 12 years ago, which was early for Digital Asset Management. Right now, I’m a general consultant. I help people organize, choose vendors, and help them implement the big change management that comes along with any DAM system. Also, advise people on technical issues of how to set up a DAM system that works well for everyone.

[0:39] Back when I was at Sesame Workshop, which was then called Children’s Television Workshop, the Sesame Street producers asked me if there was any way they could view their library without having to go up to the library and pull cassettes and cue up cassettes and all of that. The executive producers had a problem that they were reusing the same clips over and over and over again because those were the ones that people knew in their heads, while clips that were just as good were sitting in the library idle because no one wanted to take the time to go and find them.

[1:13] We said we’d do what we could, and about a year later, we developed one of the first DAM systems for video and television. It was very early in the DAM marketplace, and we believed it was the first or one of the first video Digital Asset Management systems. It was completely homegrown. We had any number of metadata fields and attached them to both proxy video and broadcast-quality video.

[1:41] We also were one of the first to include DAM as part of their workflow. It made producing the show so much easier, got them to do segments, have the segments approved by the producer, then get them right down into the edit room to complete them. I worked for Merck, the drug manufacturing company, and right now, I’m at the New York City Ballet. I call myself “content agnostic” because ultimately every company has their content professionals.

[2:11] They don’t need me to produce content for them. They need me to organize that content and make sure everybody has access to it and make sure that their workflows are automated. They don’t really need another person on content. Really, assets are assets, whether they’re talking about drugs, dance, or Sesame Street. I laugh that I worked for Sesame Street and Dow Jones, and the work is basically the same.

Henrik: [2:45] Organizing information?

Rob: [2:46] Yup, and making sure they can find it.

Henrik: [2:49] Yeah, very key. How does an organization focused on ballet use Digital Asset Management?

Rob: [2:56] Unlike music where there’s a score, dance is really a visual medium. Back in the mid 1980s, somebody had the idea of taking a VHS camcorder and sticking it up on the front of the balcony and taping the ballets. That stayed on VHS for a very long time, updated a little bit when camcorders became digital. They have a library of about 2, 500 or more performances.

[3:26] They have some rehearsals. It’s all on VHS tape. They got a grant from a government group called “Saving America’s Treasures” to try to rescue these. The New York City Ballet has this school so that the students could study choreographers like Balanchine or Jerome Robbins. What they’ve done is built their own Digital Asset Management in just stations.

[3:53] Right now, the theater has been redone with high-definition control room and high-definition cameras. All of the ballets or most of them are recorded as files, which we then add a whole lot of metadata to and put into their asset management system for anyone to find. You can look by choreographer by, of course, the date, and the musical piece.

[4:20] You can look at, “Let’s see all the variations of ‘The Nutcracker'” or “Let’s compare this choreographer’s version to that choreographer’s version.” They’re just starting to get to the launch of this. They want to put a computer and monitor in every dance studio that they’ve got. They have, I think, nine of them, including the ones from the school, so that they can work with the students and show them exactly how it’s done. Video is the only way to capture a live performance, and that’s what they do.

Henrik: [4:50] That’s great. Rob, what are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?

Rob: [4:57] The biggest challenge is the one that almost everybody faces. People think it’s choosing a DAM system or the technology you use or the metadata schema that you use, but really, it’s making sure that your customers are happy that there’s an acceptance of workflow changes. I’ve worked at places with both.

[5:18] At Sesame Street, we never really launched the DAM system, because by the time it came for the date to launch it, everybody had it. People saw it in beta and said, “I need this. I don’t care that it’s not ready. I don’t care, I’ll report bugs, but I want to use this.” That was a big success.

[5:37] At a big company like Merck, management came down and said, “We’re going to use this Digital Asset Management system,” and there was so much resistance. People were just tossing assets in there. There was a lot of metadata management that had to go followed up and a lot of wasted time, effort and energy that if you start with getting the folks enthusiastic, and if you get as close to their current workflows as possible and come in with the attitude that this is not something that management is demanding.

[6:12] This is something that will make your work easier and make you more productive. One example of that, again going back to Sesame Street, one day a woman came into my office in tears because she realized that the DAM system would be down over the weekend for some maintenance. She needed to get something done by Monday or her boss was going to be very angry with her, and she was just so afraid of that.

[6:39] I told her I would talk to her boss and smooth things out, but we still needed to maintain the system. But later, it occurred to me that that’s exactly how a successful DAM should be working. You should be upset if you can’t use it or if the system goes down, because it’s so critical to your work.

[6:58] Some more successfully than others tried to get across that being enthusiastic about the DAM and getting people on your side early in the game is the most important thing. The usual challenge, which is getting people on board and making sure that everything works, technology is changing so rapidly. One of the biggest challenges in DAM right now is the user interfaces.

[7:28] A lot of the systems that I’ve seen are really great on the back end, but forget that there are people on the front end who really need to be coaxed along, just throwing up a series of fields for them to fill in this form. It doesn’t help unless there’s a counteraction of, well, instead of having to write this on paper, or I can find stuff later if I put metadata on it now. Of course, there’s always the ‘metadata policeman’ who has to go in and look at everything going into the system.

Henrik: [8:01] We’re all familiar with those [laughs] , since we do those tasks regularly or we have in the past.

Rob: [8:08] One thing I did at Merck was I put a sign on my cubicle there that said, I thought “DAM” was too violent a word, even though we all like using it. I said this was “Marketing Operations Management,” and I thought “MOM”. Let’s call it the “MOM” system.

Henrik: [8:28] Rob, what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Rob: [8:33] Basically, the only real advice I can give is to go for it. It’s a young and growing area of computer and personal information and marketing information. I’d say study what you can. Ask questions. Learn about metadata. Learn from others. Go to the DAM meet-up to meet people and find out what they’re doing. Then, if you can, get the exposure to a DAM system.

[9:04] You don’t really need to go back to school for a full library degree to understand basic metadata. There’s a need for entry-level people to actually be the ‘metadata policemen’ and enter things into the DAM system. Generally, the person who is in charge of it doesn’t really have the time, particularly for the large systems, to go over what’s going in, to be the ‘metadata police’, so to speak, and make sure that the DAM system is loaded with all of the proper information.

[9:35] I used to advise television people, “Just go and get the exposure to it and show that you’re interested. Volunteer to do some stuff. Sure enough, when they need somebody, they’re going to turn to you, or somebody else is going to need somebody, they’re going to turn to you and get you started at a career.”

Henrik: [9:54] Well, thanks Rob.

Rob: [9:55] Rob: You’re welcome.

Henrik: [9:56] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to Another DAM is available on AudioBoom and iTunes.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at Thanks again.

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The People Aspects of Digital Asset Management: Part 1

In October 2013, I gave a presentation on ‘The People Aspects of Digital Asset Management (DAM)’ during the Createasphere DAM Conference in New York City. This was audio recorded so the presentation could be shared with you. Enjoy.


Click here to continue to Part 2 of this presentation

If you have any questions or would like to hear more about this topic, please feel free to contact me directly.

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Another DAM podcast interview with Jennifer Neumann


Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
  • What are the biggest challenges and successes you have seen with DAM?
  • What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals and people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?


Henrik: [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management.
I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Jennifer Neumann. Jennifer,
how are you?
Jennifer Neumann: [0:09] I’m doing fine. Thank you for inviting me to come on
your show, Henrik.
Henrik: [0:13] Jennifer, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Jennifer: [0:16] That’s actually a story that goes a long time back, to the early
‘90s, when the company I cofounded initially produced scanning software. It
was just after about half a year of selling scanning software, which helped a lot
of people create digital images. I was swamped with requests for building a
system that would then allow them to manage and access these thousands of
images created, in an efficient way. [0:44] Basically, I took that opportunity and
Digital Asset Management back then was actually just called an image database.
It’s had its incarnations since then, as you probably know, first being called
media asset management and then, ultimately, Digital Asset Management, It
evolved quite quickly, and we had a lot of customer demand. The solutions, ours
and competitors’ solutions, grew in very different directions at the same time,
supporting, of course, much more than images. The thing that I really like there
is that, from the beginning, it showed there is tremendous need for DAM, even
though it might not always be obvious how it should be best addressed.
Henrik: [1:24] What are the biggest challenges and successes you have seen
with Digital Asset Management?
Jennifer: [1:28] To follow up on what I just said, to put some figures out to
describe what I call success there. Over the years that we sold Digital Asset
Management, my company alone sold over 10,000 server solutions. We can only
estimate, but we bundled with many, if not most, of the biggest software vendors
out there. We probably reached about a million customers on the single
user side. It just endorses that Digital Asset Management has a clear demand
from the market. It might still struggle though fulfilling that demand and meeting
customer demand with clear cut offerings. [2:12] The challenges side are
actually both. They can be frustrating, definitely, for the customer. They can also
be frustrating for the vendor. What I think is important to look at is the topdown
view on the whole Digital Asset Management market. The one thing that I
recognized for a long time and still recognize is that Digital Asset Management
is still not as established as many other server solutions.
[2:37] Take, for example, the fact that every solution today is a web based
solution almost. Everybody would understand immediately. Everybody would
understand immediately and intuitively what a web server is. If you just mentioned
to a customer that has web based solutions, well, you should also install
a DAM server, you, more than often, still have to explain a lot in detail what the
DAM server would exactly do and what not to and how it would tie in with the
other servers.
[3:04] I think a situation that would help the success of DAM solutions would be
that there is more clarity on what it exactly addresses and what actually also
would be required to build an integrated solution and therefore, basically, any
effort like the efforts that you’re undertaking with your blog and your podcast,
extremely valuable.
Henrik: [3:25] Thank you. DAM is not the end all, be all. It is just one component
of many integral things that an organization may need.
Jennifer: [3:32] Yeah, well, just to reiterate, and I think it’s very important to get
this point across is this, it would be great if we would have the whole industry
of Digital Asset Management. If we had a sentence that would be, a one line
sentence, that would get across what DAM does. Another way to describe it, for
instance, and it’s something that also should actually finally happen, and I know
from reading your blog that you have also pushed in that direction, is there
is no clear-cut job descriptions out there for the people that work with DAM.
My experiences that, more than often, DAM is something that just comes up.
[4:08] I just had a case myself. An old friend of mine from San Francisco asked
me if I could recommend a DAM system for real estate company that needs to
take photographs of all the houses in a certain region. The typical approach
is, of course, not that they take this as a serious project from the beginning,
the customer, of course. It’s easy to understand we’ll try to get something
easy to install, little money, and is definitely not project manager from the beginning
assigned or even a product owner to call it that, but all these things
should happen.
[4:39] It should be clear on how a DAM project gets executed. While there’s
nothing wrong with starting a project small and grow the solution with integration
into other systems over time, it still should be clear from the beginning,
what the alternative routes would be that this DAM solution could be taken.
Henrik: [4:58] It is a phased approach, at least how it should be taken because
it often grows and often they pick a solution now that’s the cheapest possible
upfront. Then they outgrow it and then they have to do it all over again for a
medium sized solution. As the organization grows, they may even need a larger
solution. Of course, the price point changes and the features and integration
points change as well.
Jennifer: [5:23] One implementation that was I involved with personally and
I think it’s a really good example of how these things sometimes can be very
pinpointed. Another friend of mine who runs Germany’s largest independent
Apple dealership chain had the same need. Came up to me and said, “Jennifer,
can you help us? We are implementing a new eshop.” [5:47] Here’s another
one of those clearly defined. Or actually, people perceive it as clearly defined
solutions, right? You know you sell online. There’s an eshop that needs to be
implemented. It happened to be that that open source solution that they were
taking and extending manually was. And lots of programming had no strong capabilities
for managing images plus it’s not just managing the image. It’s a very
simple yet it is a workflow effect that they draw their products from all kinds of
vendors and then the metadata is not much, but it has to be entered in a standard
way for each of the products so that they know which vendor provides the
product to the dealer chain.
[6:32] The only thing that needed to really happen in regard to managing the
images themselves was that something in the middle that he thought was a
DAM system should automatically generate the five different resolutions for
best and best performing display of the products on the eshop and on the
website. That’s the whole workflow, but it means that you have to tie together,
first of all, in the graphics department somebody works with Adobe Photoshop
naturally and then there’s this thing in the middle and magically all these images
appear at the eshop.
[7:05] I don’t want to give the solution even away, what technology we used
in the middle of the year but this is, for me, the most important point. From
the beginning there’s clarity on what the workflow will be like and then you
have a high chance for success. Again, it’s not really relevant what we used
in the middle for converting images and forwarding metadata to the eshop,
but it was extremely important that we had an agreed upon plan on what was
going to be done and buy in even from the graphic designer, which starts the
whole process.
Henrik: [7:40] I agree. There’s a lot of components in the middle. There’s a perceived
end result. That should be very clear, as well as the workflow. But often
the end result is forgotten as the process goes along, which is a challenge with
many organizations I’ve seen.
Jennifer: [7:56] I still have a feeling that there is not enough clarity, also, on
what it takes to be a DAM system integration person. From experience, I can
tell that many of the people that put Digital Asset Management service in have
basically system integration staff with the company themselves. [8:17] But even
with the biggest ones, and I hope you’ll forgive me for not mentioning names,
but even they sometimes struggle to have enough qualified staff in the different
regions. I think that is definitely a field that still needs to be improved on to have
not just at least one capable person but considering that many of these solutions
are based on very different platforms, bet it .NET or Java or even different
operating systems.
[8:45] We need to find a way that there’s more talent in the market that understands
what they’re doing and maybe the analogy there, again, is if you talk
about Microsoft business then it is very clear cut. There’s someone that installed
your SharePoint server. If authentication isn’t working then it’s automatically
clear. You turn around and call the active directory guy. This is the kind of job
description that I’m talking about.
Henrik: [9:09] Those are missing from the industry because it’s all scattered
right now and there has not been a lot of consolidation even though there are
standardization bodies out there, I have not seen that coming out of them yet,
even though I have pushed for it. [9:22] I watch the job market every single day,
as far as seeing how organizations are advertising the needs for Digital Asset
Management so I understand their needs. But the standardization of the job
descriptions are not there and often they don’t know what they’re looking for.
Jennifer: [9:38] Yeah. I totally agree.
Henrik: [9:40] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and
people aspiring to be DAM professionals?
Jennifer: [9:45] I think that it’s just important to recognize that the same basic
skills are absolutely valuable, and they have been even before the digital age.
What I think of as…I just talked about that woman in the graphics department
for that German Apple dealer chain, she’s a very reliable, consistently working,
very detailed oriented person. I still, even though people might have different
viewpoints on what accountants do and what librarians do. But their qualities
that they have to do reliable work is just, those are basic skills that are very
important and help a lot to build a successful DAM installation. [10:32] But of
course, too, there is quite some learning involved. The systems are quite different
in how they’re used. It would be great if there was also, I mean, maybe, what
I would call soft standards. But what I see is that it’s basically down to people
accepting a job in the DAM area and then they will learn the system that is in
place with the company.
[10:56] Unfortunately, there is no standardized education at this point, but again,
through the help of your blog and other sites that I’ve seen, the DAM Foundation,
also, is a movement that I think is great. Everything in that direction that
helps, basically, detailed use skills will be helpful.
[11:14] It’s always, I mean, if there’s nothing there yet that tells you exactly what
to do, and I think this is also something you’ve mentioned before me and
others, too. I think the biggest right now is there should be more user groups
out there and there should be more events where people can talk to each other,
definitely. This is why I like user groups over conventions. Not everybody has the
chance to travel to New York for a show or Vegas or whatever. If there’s a way to
found more user groups around the DAM space, that I think will be helping the
end users a lot.
[11:46] Typically, people focus, of course, on the users and I can throw it back in
the mix, the technical folks there, too. I mean, DAM solutions do not normally
get instigated or started by the CIO or by the CTO. It isn’t normally, or in most
cases, there’s a pragmatic need for it, but I think it would be good, also, to find
a way to have more organized education towards the DAM technical folks.
[12:17] The last point, the last group that often gets forgotten from me is the
vendors. I think, there, too, I could basically criticize myself, you all, so, having
been involved in this industry for a long time, I think the vendors all should get
together more constructively and to try to build, maybe, standards, even, or
help build the perception of the whole market.
[12:42] Maybe a silly example or analogy there would be, if you look at how the
car manufacturers do it, I mean, they actually, I know this for a fact, they, at the
top level, but even at the engineering level, they meet at forums and groups
and discuss things and trends in the industry. That way, I think they’re helping
themselves to build a more consistent picture of what their market is about.
[13:05] If the vendors, and here’s another example of what’s already happening
even though it might not even be successful, is, even Microsoft, which is one of
the elephants, and the elephants normally are not the first to move, but agreed
to integrate a new standard called OASIS CMIS. CMIS stands for content management
interoperability services. Terrible acronym, of course. It simply means
that there should be a way through web services, in this case, how two systems
can synchronize data between them. Which is a great problem for DAM systems,
right? Because not all metadata necessarily has to live or will live in the
DAM server. If there is a content management system in the server mixed and
there will be some metadata, too. Maybe even the taxonomy is on the content
management server.
[13:56] If the DAM vendors work stronger and more successfully towards defining
how these interfaces work, I think then, they would also have less work to do,.
Because I know for a fact that it takes a vendor a lot of work, one by one, all of
them, to integrate with all the usual suspects, to start with Adobe products and
whatever else.
Henrik: [14:16] Great points. Great advice for the DAM vendors out there, and
solution providers.
Jennifer: [14:21] Yeah, just an encouragement. I mentioned your blog before.
I really think what you’re doing is absolutely great. Keep this going, it’s very
Henrik: [14:32] Thank you so much. I appreciate that.
Jennifer: [14:33] You’re welcome.
Henrik: [14:35] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, log
onto Another DAM Podcast is available on Audioboo
and iTunes. [14:43] If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to
email me at Thanks again.

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Why should I care about the DAM Community?

Based on the blog post from Another DAM blog:


Written and read by Henrik de Gyor

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