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Another DAM Podcast interview with Abby Covert on Digital Asset Management and Information Architecture

Abby Covert discusses Digital Asset Management and Information Architecture


Henrik de Gyor:  [0:02] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Abby Covert. Abby, how are you?

Abby Covert:  [0:09] Great. Thanks so much for having me.

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

Abby:  [0:14] Well, I am a professional Information Architect. My involvement with Digital Asset Management is really in helping organizations to understand the impact of language, and structure on their effectiveness towards whatever their goals might be, and that can be across many mediums, which I think is similar to the challenges that Digital Asset Managers face as well.

[0:35] They’re looking at the scaffolding that then initiates a lot of processes within an organization. So, my job is pretty similar in that regard I would say.

Henrik:  [0:44] As an Information Architect, you recently authored a book titled How to Make Sense of Any Mess. Tell us more about what we can learn from this book since many DAM professionals need to do the same.

Abby:  [0:55] My main premise in writing a book with such a broad title How to Make Sense of Any Mess, and I thought very hard on the word “Any”, was that I really felt as a practicing information architect after 10 years, that a lot of the messes that I was helping my clients to make sense of were actually really based in information and people, more than they were specific to the technologies, or the mediums that we were actually executing in.

[1:21] I would say that anybody who has been working in technology for more than 10 years, has seen some sort of current of change that all of a sudden we have mobile, all of a sudden we have social, how does that change what we do?

[1:33] What I actually found was that it doesn’t change a lot when you look at that information and people part, that it really comes down to a basic understanding of leading and facilitating people, through a process of identifying what is not making sense to their consumers or to their coworkers.

[1:51] Then working through the delicate steps that one needs to take to really adjust the mental models of themselves, and maybe the people that they’re working with, in order to reach whatever intent people are trying to get to. I guess after spending a lot of time making sense of other people’s messes, I wanted to know if I could write a book that would help people make sense of their own.

[2:14] I think so far, based on the feedback, yeah, I think that you really can. You can self‑serve this stuff which is great.

Henrik:  [2:21] What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?

Abby:  [2:25] I definitely think that scalability is one of the biggest issues that organizations face in general. Whether that be scaling up to meet the needs of digital, or scaling up to meet the needs of a growing business, those two things have become synonymous. I don’t run into a lot of companies that are scaling up their business that doesn’t mean they need to scale up the digital side of their business.

[2:49] Also, the cross‑channel nature of things. The decision to invest or not invest in certain channels, and the impact of doing so. Taking the time to start a new social channel that just got announced, instead of taking the time away from doing something else. So I think in terms of Digital Asset Management, I think that it’s difficult to stay on the edge of that while also maintaining what you have and not letting the things that you have get unkempt.

[3:21] I would definitely say scalability, and keeping up with the wave of change would be the biggest challenges. Successes, I would say, anyone that can pay close attention to context of use, and not use metadata as a way of checking the box on like, “Yes, we’ve collected metadata,” but really thinking about how that metadata is going to apply to a use case, that might be realistic to that organization, and how they’re going to use that content at a swift pace.

[3:52] Then, also the cadence they’re going to need it at. I think that anybody who is doing that level of deep research organizationally, around the way that they’re organizing their internal assets, is probably seeing a lot more success than those who are in their cubicles alone, just applying data schema that make sense in their head. Because it’s easy to do that from the common sense place, but it turns out that common sense is pretty unreliable in a lot of cases.

Henrik:  [4:20] Good points. What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals, and people who are aspiring to be DAM professionals?

Abby:  [4:25] I am going to go and continue my thread of “Get out from your cubicle, or your office, or even from your desk and go work with other people.” I think that the idea of doing the work versus concepting your way through how the work will be done, is a dangerous place to be by yourself, especially in a field that is so dependent on making sense of the things for other people to use for their jobs.

[4:55] I feel like if you can take that soft skill part and use that, and give equal attention to that, then also your tools, I would say that that would be my number one piece of advice.

Henrik:  [5:07] Have a conversation with as many people as necessary who will be using this?

Abby:  [5:12] Yeah. Also, don’t scare them away with your language and your tools. That’s for you to figure out later. But get out a marker and some post‑it notes and a white board, or whatever you got to do to make them feel comfortable and get through the anxiety of… Digital Asset Management is like a big mouthy term, and I’m sure that there’s some marketers that are hearing it for the first time in some cases when people are working with them on it.

[5:37] Making sure that that’s not getting in the way, and just remembering that technology is a monster in many people’s minds. So, we’re all going through this transition organizationally. Most organizations are going through a transition. I would say that those that haven’t been born into digital, even those are going through lots of transitions with the increased cross‑channel nature of our businesses and our design mediums.

[5:59] But I feel like if you can educate people in a way that they understand that you’re making decisions that are going to help them along the way, and that you’re collaborating on those, and that you’re just the filter, you’re just the person that’s going to go to the tool at the end of the day, and enter it into the way that you guys agreed it’s going to be. But you’re not a dictator of the way that digital assets should be managed.

Henrik:  [6:22] Well, thanks Abby. For this, and other Digital Asset Management topics, log onto For this podcast and a 150 other podcast episodes, including transcripts of every interview, go to If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to to email me at And Abby where can we find out more information from you?

Abby:  [6:45] At, or you find me on Twitter @Abby _the_IA.

Henrik:  [6:49] Thanks again.

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Another DAM Podcast interview with Joe Bachana on Digital Asset Management

Joe Bachana discusses Digital Asset Management

Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
  • How do open source Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions stack up today?
  • What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals and people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?


Henrik de Gyor: [0:02] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Joe Bachana. Joe,
how are you?
Joe Bachana: [0:11] Great. Hi.
Henrik: [0:12] Joe, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Joe: [0:16] Personally, I’ve been implementing Digital Asset Management since
about 1997. My first project with DAM was when I was working with a company
called Image, Inc. I was implementing a product called Phrasea, which was a
French-based solution. I had way back then experienced implementing products
like MediaBank. North Plains TeleScope I had implemented at a number
of locations around that time, as well. [0:42] I founded DPCI, which is a technology
company that implements content solutions. I founded that in ‘99. We’ve
been doing Digital Asset Management projects ever since with a wide variety of
Digital Asset Management products for a whole variety of use cases, as well.
Henrik: [0:58] How do open source Digital Asset Management or DAM solutions
stack up today?
Joe: [1:04] We have to look at them in a few different ways. The first is the
business of open source DAM. The second, you would have to look at the legal
underpinnings of those solutions. The third would be the technology. Some
people say, “Let’s take a look at the technology real quickly first,” but I think
that’s a mistake. [1:22] One of the reasons why we look at the business is that
the open source DAM projects are very different from the open source Web content management solutions out there. The CMSs such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, or Plone are principally anywhere between a very large collection of
contributors globally to those projects to maybe a little more modest contributor
[1:48] Generally, it’s anywhere between a few hundred people and thousands
and thousands of people contributing to the innovations of these open source
projects, so they’ve taken firm foothold into the rubric or fabric of not only
our country but globally, the way Web content management innovations are
[2:06] In the case of Digital Asset Management, not as much. You do have solutions
that have been created out of Europe, out of the UK, and here in the
United States that there are a couple of folks that are working on it that are
friends or colleagues, or you’ll have companies that are behind the products
with their own resources. The solutions themselves haven’t necessarily taken
root as global initiatives.
[2:35] That doesn’t mean it’s not going that way. You’re starting to see more of
what happened 10 to 12 years ago in the CMS world starting to happen in the
DAM world. The reason why it’s not going to happen as rapidly is, to me, Digital
Asset Management is a little bit like the plumbing in your and my walls. It’s nice
when it’s working, but it’s not the sexiest thing in the world.
[2:57] The thing that everybody cares about is how nice does your house look.
It’s like the CMS. The CMS is the presentation of your content as well as the
ways in which you develop your content the workflows and so forth. Obviously,
no CMS is created equal.
Joe: [3:13] With respect to DAM, companies principally use Digital Asset
Management systems for archive and retrieval of their assets. That’s a simplified
notion of what DAM should do. Both you and I both know there’s a
huge number of reasons people implement DAM, ranging from selling content
through storefronts to integrating DAMs with CMSs, CRMs, or ERPs
and so forth.
[3:38] In the case of media companies where they’re selling their content,
whether it’s through rich media like video or live streaming, these things obviously
are the core of their business. It’s not just about archival. It’s about real
work in progress and delivering that content across multiple channels.
[3:57] The pace of innovation in the open source world from a business standpoint
is certainly not as rapid yet. It’s not as sexy.
[4:06] There’s one project that we’re involved with for a media company. They’re
headquartered here in New York City. They had been veterans of a couple of
different proprietary platforms. They had spent millions on a couple of different
solutions. They made a determination that they were going to try an open
source implementation. They are doing a good amount of work to having us do
some cool customizations for them to add on top of the open source solution.
[4:34] The question always is…What we like to do in open source is, we like to
contribute back to the community, however small or big it is. Hence, we oftentimes
will go to that customer and say, “As a precursor to our signing on,
do you have any objections to us contributing these solutions out in an open
source way?”
[4:53] That gets to the business aspect of it. The other part of the business
aspect of it is operationalizing DAM. For companies that have had experience
with proprietary vendors, some of the vendors have 24/7 support. Some of
them, not so much.
The DAM vendors can be smaller companies in some cases, so they don’t necessarily
have the resources. When you have a president of a company answering
the phone at 11: [5:07] 00 at night to support you, that’s generally not a good
sign, although some of the presidents of these DAM companies are absolute
geniuses. It’s always a pleasure to talk to some of them. But it isn’t a scalable
model. Operationalizing maintenance and support, it’s something that some
of the proprietary vendors don’t do that well. But if you look at it in the CMS
world, when you think about the kind of services you can get out of an Acquia
and Drupal, which is commercial support.
[5:44] There are other alternatives on that side, as well. Those types of things
aren’t necessarily fully hammered out yet in the open source world. Because
businesses behind the open source DAM projects are sometimes not matured
yet. They may be smaller groups. So that’s going to change over time. The
second point was this notion of the legalistic implications of open source. Not all
open source is created equal or licensed equally.
[6:11] You’ve got different licensing schemes out there. A very common one is
the GNU GPL. You hear about that one a lot in the web CMS world. In DAM,
quite a number of them take advantage of the lesser GPL, LGPL, which has
some limitations. These things people have to really reflect on, when they’re getting involved.

Do they want to do an open source implementation where there may be some restrictions.

Joe: [6:37] I also look at these products… Does the company who is creating
it, are they paying lip service to open source? But then you start to think, “Do
they have all their documentation out there online? Can you readily download
and install that product?” If you’re really open source, you’ve got to behave like
open source, which to me means freely downloadable and installing, and freely
available documentation.
[7:01] Then it’s your prerogative to decide whether you want to purchase services
from a company or whichever individual. The legalistic application of it
is quite important when people are reflecting on open source. Now we get to
the technical. This is the one everybody really concentrates on first. People ask
me, “Don’t even look at the products if you can’t first look and see what the
business and the legal implications are of the solution you’re about to go forward
[7:29] The open source DAMs are approaching, in general, the work group functionalities
of products out there, in the marketplace. If you look at solutions like
Resource Space or Enter Media, Rezuna as well. There are a couple more, I’m
not trying to plug these products, simply giving it as examples that these solutions
are starting to meet the needs of work group, Digital Asset Management,
which would be considered, for me, the ability to import, either individually or
batch, a whole variety of digital asset types.
[8:08] And on ingestion, to be able to automate the creation of thumbnails and
previews and even evoke certain recipes for conversion of the assets. If you,
upload a PSD or any PS file, then you can set up recipes for conversion to JPEG s
at certain widths and depths. The ability to also capture metadata information.
Things aren’t all created equally, but the ability to capture XMP metadata, for
example, is something that is available in several of these products.
[8:38] In one case, we actually did some customizations where we have some
preprocessing of assets within Adobe Bridge for a customer. Then the assets
are going into their open source DAM. It’s a phenomenal thing, because they’re batch modifying with some extended XMP metadata, with their own panel within their Adobe Creative Suite products. And then that information is getting
ingested into those open source DAMs.
[9:06] These kinds of basic functionalities are available. It’s really exciting, because
they’re there. We’ve actually implemented quite a number of these kinds
of projects. They’re working. For a year or two years, they’re in business, in
use. The other thing that I find really exciting is that the whole promise of open source, to me, is you don’t have to say, “Mother, may I?” The whole idea of innovate and ingenuity in software, the open source software world is the ability to just step up and say, “I want to create something of value that’s available or
that I need for the context I need it.”
Joe: [9:45] Without saying, “Hey, may I please do that?” And then somebody saying, “Yeah sure. But pay $20,000 for an SDK and sign this agreement that you won’t do this or that.” With open source, you can do it. A couple of the
open source products have robust web services and published APIs that, essentially,
allow you to do anything you want, ranging from connecting the DAM
to a produce like Drupal or WordPress, or connecting it to your CRM, if that’s
what you needed, and so on. That, to me, is the most exciting aspect. In one
case, we did a project down in Atlanta for a company where they had this huge
infrastructure. They needed to just automate the production of real estate guide books.
Joe: [10:31] So we have this integration of, in that case it was a product called EnterMedia, with believe it or not, a whole Microsoft infrastructure. Integrated
with Adobe Live Cycle, integrated with Data Plan Journal Designer. And integrated,
I’ll add, with the InDesign server. So the whole infrastructure is automating
the pagination of these real estate books, straight from sales folks just
entering the data on the individual homes that are going to be offered.
[11:02] This content is being used to create both the web listings, as well as the
print catalog books or guide books that are being done in multiple states. It’s saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in their production processes. The DAM is an underlying technology within the architecture. It works flawlessly and it’s
open source. They save themselves… If you think about the amount of money
they spent on the other infrastructure. [laughs]
[11:28] They spent a fraction of their budget on the actual DAM implementation.
There’s a lot you can do with open source DAM solutions as underlying architectural
decisions for larger projects. And for very modest use cases around
archival and retrieval of assets you absolutely can use those types of solutions in
your business.
Henrik: [11:54] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and
people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Joe: [11:59] That’s a great question and I appreciate it, Henrik. A lot of folks
come into this industry… I should add, I’ve been doing this type of thing for
26 years now. I’m not going to count my tech jobs while I was in college,
which principally were around content technologies. But 26 years ago, content
technologies were a whole different animal. To me, there’s a lot of folks that
enter the market and they want to be DAM professionals and they want to get
jobs doing this. [12:28] My concern has been folks coming out there and never
having laid their hands on a single product, without having done a single implementation.
There’s a lot of information that goes on and a lot of folks that are…
There’s no certification for becoming a DAM professional or a DAM analyst or
consultant. Yet people go out there and help folks with RPs and so forth, and
they’ve never done a DAM project.
[12:54] To me, if you’re right out of college, first of all, there’s some colleges which actually have some programs, like RIT, the print management school.
They have a course in Digital Asset Management. It is modest. But they give
people a chance to understand how to configure. What are the important use
cases trying to be solved in DAM? Getting hands-on experience with DAM is
really important. Even if you never will touch the technology in your career and
you want to be a pundit or someone who’s just a thought leader, you’ve got to
able to touch them and understand what these types of products, this class
of products, do.
[13:33] What problems do they solve? That’s just me. Other people would probably
emphatically disagree. But I don’t think, going back to the plumber motif
that I said earlier or concept, you can speak with authority about plumbing
if you’ve never laid in the pipes an understand what the heck goes on there.
I certainly don’t understand what’s happening behind the walls. That’s one
thing. The second is, the best, to me, really exciting folks out there are the folks
who’ve gone to library science school.
[14:05] They really fundamentally understand what information science or information
architecture is. How do you define a taxonomy? What is an ontology?
How do you create controlled vocabularies? What’s that process? Sometimes
folks that were in data modeling are very good at that, as well. They’re very
thoughtful. A lot of times we go in as professionals and over engineer the
model, the information architecture of a platform.
[14:35] That becomes onerous for the folks who are trying to capture that metadata
and track it. There has to be a reasonableness that goes on, which again,
goes back to point number one. Which is, try to become a practitioner. But,
understanding that these are human systems, that’s the third thing. Again, we
talk about first laying your hands on these types of things, second is understand
how taxonomy is laid out. If you have money to go to library science school or, if
not, pick up some books on it.

[15:04] There’s some great resources out there for that. The third thing is understanding the use cases or the workflows. Because the DAM systems don’t necessary do workflow really well. But every single person or any company that’s
creating, managing, enriching and delivering assets has implicit workflows.
Some that are simple. Some that are very complex. Until you really understand
what those are, you’re going to be hampered.
Joe: [15:34] I’m talking about not just people starting out in their career, but folks
that are 10, 15, 20 years in, that are delivering Digital Asset Management implementations.
A lot of times they don’t pay attention to the ways people interact
with assets through the life cycle. Different asset or content types have different workflows.

The way you’re creating an interactive object is going to be different
from some sort of an image file or video file and so forth.
[16:02] Those have different ways of being manipulated through a whole class of
employee types or user types. So understanding those is really important. Once
you get those you’re going to be more sensitive to the way people work. The
fourth thing is, understand how to listen and understand how people currently
work, meeting them halfway. Just coming in and implementing a DAM and
saying, “This is the way it works,” isn’t good enough.
[16:32] To be able to understand how an organization needs to work is important.
To hopefully deliver a DAM solution that supports that work and bolsters
and improves it, as opposed to makes people change the way they work, which
invariably, as you and I both know, doesn’t work. People rebel. You get into all
kinds of change management issues where folks just fight the DAM implementation.
I want to just end on this note, that a good way to inform your career
in DAM is that everybody high fives themselves when the DAM installation is
[17:09] But the way you test the success of a DAM solution is two to three years
out. How many people are using it? How many assets are there? Is it supporting
the business? Has duplication of assets been minimized or eliminated? Are there
issues with finding assets that were thrown in two years before, that are important?
That’s the way you test. You always have to think forward in this business.
Think about the results you’re going to be creating, two to three years in.
Henrik: [17:38] Thanks, Joe.
Joe: [17:40] Cool.
Henrik: [17:41] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics,
log onto Another DAM Podcast is available on AudioBoom,
iTunes and the Tech Podcast Network. 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 on Digital Asset Management

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?


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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