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 email@example.com. Thanks again.
Adolfo Chavez and Francisco Vergaray discuss Digital Asset Management
Henrik de Gyor: [0:02] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Adolfo Chavez and Francisco Vergaray. How are you guys?
Adolfo Chavez: [0:12] Doing good.
Francisco Vergaray: [0:13] Doing well, thank you.
Henrik: [0:15] Great. How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Francisco: [0:17] Well, I think I’ll go first. This is Francisco. Basically, I am the system administrator for the digital asset management system that we have here in the institution. We have a system of 24 catalogs and over a million digital assets that are served throughout the institution.
[0:36] We have several clients that use the system including doctors and our regular staff. We have anything from patient images to images that I use for diagnostics, and also stock art that we use.
Adolfo: [0:53] I’m Adolfo. I’m in a different department from Francisco. I work in Communications, and I basically manage four catalogs within our digital asset management system, which is Cumulus.
[1:04] All total, I believe, we have about 200,000 images, mainly editorial in nature, again, I’m in Communications, so a lot of images are for publications. I don’t keep any clinically relevant images in there.
[1:16] A lot of portraits of doctors, doctors and patients, and stuff for marketing and communications purposes. I call myself a dummy user of Cumulus, where Francisco is more on the administration side.
Henrik: [1:28] How does a comprehensive cancer center use Digital Asset Management?
Francisco: [1:32] Cumulus that we use is actually a fairly robust system. Unfortunately, we only use the work group edition. We do not have the full enterprise version of the system.
[1:43] We cannot take full advantage of the capabilities of this system, however, we are pushing the system to it’s limit right now trying to get more catalogs and more digital assets into the system while we transition to possibly a future more robust system.
[2:02] At this point, we have been using Cumulus for over 10 years, and it’s come to the attention of the higher ups here in the institution. They are looking for a more robust system to replace Cumulus.
[2:16] Basically, it is used for many things. We have people for example in the skin center, they use it for comparing melanoma patients. They can look at skin lesions, making sure that there are differences between appointments. We have people that use it for just general stock photography or editorial. That’s basically there for run of how we’re using it.
[2:40] We have an Internet client, and we have several desktop clients. The desktop clients are actually what allow you to add visual assets today to the system.
Adolfo: [2:50] We’re having the DAM in place and actually using the DAM, because the DAM has been in place of a while. But, when I came on board about three and a half years ago, it was in place and there were assets in there, but there was no metadata attached to any of the images, so image retrieval was still kind of a chore.
[3:09] Now, since I’ve been there, I’ve kind of taken on the task of adding in that metadata so that when any media outlet calls and say, “When you have a photo of doctor so and so,” enter in doctor so and so, we have a whole treasure trove of images.
Henrik: [3:25] What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Adolfo: [3:29] The biggest success we’ve had is image retrieval, essentially. Previously, which I’m sure many of your listeners are probably familiar with. When images are kept on someone else’s computer, usually the designer, whoever was working on the project.
[3:44] If somebody had an image request, went to one person who is like, “Oh, I think that person worked on it.” Then it went to that person, who happen to be out that day. So then it had to wait for the next day. When they got in, they’re like, “Oh, yeah, let me go back and look at that project.” So an image request took a day, two days. That was kind of ridiculous.
[4:02] Now, image requests take two minutes, literally. It actually takes two seconds, but because we vet each of the images, some of the images have patients in them. We have to make sure that we have patients that have been consented properly. That we have permission to use the image. That the employees depicted in photos are still working here, stuff like that. So yeah, that’s been a huge success.
[4:25] The biggest challenge, at least on my end, has been getting people to use it, which I think is universal challenge to everyone in digital asset management. I get emails everyday, “Hey do we have an image of doctor so and so?” “Yeah, it’s in Cumulus. You just got to search for it. That’s all you got to do.” [laughs] That’s the most difficult part, obviously.
Francisco: [4:48] Yeah, I think one of the biggest challenges that we had when we initiated this project years ago was coming up with a naming convention for our digital assets. I think that was what really we had to go around several times until we came up with something solid that at the time, we couldn’t search for metadata when we first started with this.
[5:11] We were looking at searching by the names of the files, but now we were able to add metadata to the file so the naming convention is not…We’re still using the naming convention, but it is not as important as adding the metadata. Still, we use both of them as just as a backup to double check, make sure things are named correctly.
[5:32] That’s what’s been also one of the biggest successes for us because we were able to locate patient images. For example, they’re going into the electronic medical record, and when the doctor comes in and looks at the medical record, they can pull their patient’s images that comes from our Cumulus system.
Henrik: [5:52] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people who aspired to become DAM professionals?
Adolfo: [5:57] I think this is something Francisco eluded to when we first started talking, is that really fully invest in the proper software. One of the big challenges that we’ve had is that we’re trying to…
Francisco: [6:10] We’re using a work group version of the system, rather than the enterprise version which we can’t really take full advantage of the capability of this system. It’s just having the proper budget.
Adolfo: [6:22] We have over 20,000 employees at this institution. Digital asset management is becoming more and more important everyday. There are new people calling for catalogs and they wanted catalog images, they want to do this, and it’s taxing on this particular version of the software we’re running.
[6:39] As far as, that’s for DAM professionals, as far as for people aspiring to become DAM professionals, I have a book called The Accidental Taxonomist which is the book that I got to do a little bit of research on digital asset management when I got into the position.
[6:53] That’s really the way I feel. I don’t feel I can actually give advice to anyone who’s trying to become a digital asset management person, but I’m accidentally fell into this position by nature of what it is that I do, which is photography and content creation, essentially.
Francisco: [7:09] I think one suggestion that I would give is you need to have…You heard of it, the phrase ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’?
Henrik: [7:17] Mm‑hmm.
Francisco: [7:18] You need to make sure that you have a specific group of people assigned to add digital images or digital assets to the catalog. That way, you keep consistency throughout your naming conventions, throughout the way things are organized in the catalog.
[7:32] The other thing I would suggest is make sure that you have people that have very good attention to detail. Just minimal things such as a space, or a comma, or just a period in the wrong place, what would throw things off. Just people that understand how complicated this can be and frustrating sometimes.
Adolfo: [7:55] It takes a special kind of person, I guess. Digital Asset Management, it’s a tedious gig. It takes a certain mind, I guess.
Francisco: [8:03] Yes.
Henrik: [8:04] That’s great advice. I would strongly recommend having a gatekeeper to your point.
Francisco: [8:08] We actually have a, at least from the photography people, we have several gatekeepers, we have about two or three of them.
[8:14] You go for one person, the photographer, they will need their files. Then they go to the manager, who double checks them. Then they go to the person that actually catalogs them, so there’s three people that actually make sure that these images, especially the ones that go into the patient chart, are named properly.
Adolfo: [8:32] I’m the only one in communications. There’s me, then I have an assistant now. That means that I get to make sure everything is cool, but I also get blamed for all the problems.
Francisco: [8:45] But nobody is perfect, so even three people can miss something.
Henrik: [8:49] That happens. Thank you, guys.
Francisco: [8:52] Thank you.
Adolfo: [8:52] Thank you.
Henrik: [8:53] For more on this and other digital asset management topics, go to AnotherDAMblog.com. For this and 160 other podcast episodes, go to AnotherDAMpodcast.com. If you have any comments of questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[9:10] Thanks, again.