Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor.
Today, I’m speaking with Mark Leslie.
Mark, how are you?
Mark Leslie: I’m wonderful. How about yourself, how are you doing today?
Henrik de Gyor: Great. Mark, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Mark Leslie: I’ve been in the graphic design space for just a little bit over 20 years now. And I go all the way back to when working even in a small design shop or an ad agency, how you would complete a project and things would get archived of onto a floppy or a zip disk, and you wanted to be able to locate those things after the fact. So building some kind of an index or having some kind of a cataloging program where at least you could find things that were offline was very important. Just as things have progressed in my career, and I’ve worked in larger volume environments, that DAM has become more and more important. That’s what DAM is all about right?
Find what you’re looking for, find the exact file at the right time, and the longer we go and the more digital anything that we have, the more important it is to be able to put your finger directly on something. Another thing that I’ve done in the last couple of years with DAM is being more involved in the community itself where I’ve been a speaker, a presenter a couple of times for Henry Stewart. DAM is an excellent opportunity, especially for companies that are looking at a challenge that they are not sure how to solve, it’s a great place to start. And I’ve also spoken and done a case study presentation at Adobe Summit this past spring. Just writing articles, and blog posts and spending a lot of time thinking about what this space can do, where we are right now, and what’s coming next.
Henrik de Gyor: Mark, how does one of the largest sportswear manufacturers use Digital Asset Management?
Mark Leslie: Well basically our company was responsible for apparel and headwear. A lot of it was for what we call licensed properties or a professional sport. So it’s things worn by the fans to celebrate their teams. And even at times, authentic apparel worn on the field. The way our DAM was used is basically as a collaboration platform throughout our product creation process, end to end. It basically sorts out into two large buckets. On one side you have the kind of technical specification documents that drive our manufacturing processes, and on the other side you have product photography. So all these things that get provided to retail partners and business to business that allow demand creation, and we literally would see it on a retailer’s website or in a print ad.
So we’re basically looking at that in a way, kind of almost like a closed circuit TV. It’s not necessarily driving any kind of public visibility, it does downstream of us, but we’re providing all that content and generating all that content so that it can be used to drive a couple of processes. I’ll tell you one of the things about DAM that we picked up early on in my time with the company that was actually a great side effect of DAM. For one professional sports league, we were putting together presentation boards that would serve a couple of purposes. One would be to take any given style and show for that product season what it would look like in all teams, and then we would have another type of presentation that would say, “For this team,” these are all the styles that are offered in the season and how they would all look together as a collection.
And we were new to our DAM implementation at that time, this was many years ago. There was something about that process, which by the way was entirely manual. So we were taking images from DAM and placing them into a document, and doing this by hand, things would be stable, and it would be great, and you’d come back maybe a week or two later and something about the way those images were being placed that it just wasn’t being honored. So we ended up having to recreate those documents several times during that season. It didn’t affect our ability to deliver. We still hit all of our deadlines, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “There’s got to be a better way.” So as a result coming out of that, we did internal development for automation tools and client-side automation that was able to eventually assist creation of all of those technical documents that go out to the factories. It was able to populate pages and catalogs that we used for our sales and marketing materials, and all those things are very, very embedded in the environment.
It’s something that when you’re working at scale, you worry about how long something takes, even if it’s just a short amount of time, you’re doing it a lot of times. And when you do something a lot, is there a way to not have to do it manually? And that was a great learning coming out of having a very powerful DAM at our disposal. I’ll give you an example of some of things that we in addition to the product photography and the technical specification documents that we save in the DAM, we also, because we’re dealing with professional sports leagues and teams, we have a lot of partner identity or logo information that’s stored in there as well. That’s used by all of the design and production teams to go through, pull out what they need as a raw material or a source image to start a design or to complete work on a design.
So there’s a lot of that information stored in there as well. And to put some numbers around things, if you think just in terms of the product photography, every week there’s something between 2500 and 4500 new product photos generated that all come into the DAM, need to have the proper meta-data associated with them, they need to be reviewed and approved and be pushed off to where they can be published and available to our downstream audience, to our retail partners. So a lot of files moving through that system. And if it wasn’t for DAM I just don’t know at that volume how we would be able to accomplish what we do.
Henrik de Gyor: What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Mark Leslie: I think one of the biggest challenges is looking at DAM … let’s say that you’ve got an established platform and you know what your capabilities are, there will come the time where your challenged with … the DAM will enable us to do, say fill in the blank, this example. And what that may require is some kind of sweeping change in the way that the business process is conducted or at least just the way that steps the order that work is done. Sometimes it can eliminate steps, it can eliminate several steps in a process. You might actually even be able to automate a large chunk of the work. But it’s being able to raise that awareness and to get the business to commit to the significant change that might have to happen in order to get that payback on the other side.
And just that human element of being able to walk everybody through that landscape and help them to understand. Another thing that’s a challenge is being able to look at the type of assets that are generated throughout a full life cycle of something. Let me step back and talk about full lifecycle. There is an originally an idea for something that’s going to be eventually created as an asset. Someone somewhere says, “You know what I need? I need a visual that is,” again fill in the blank. Somebody writes a creative brief, there is a marketing plan, whatever it is, something creates the need for an asset. Assets just don’t show up on their own. Somebody asked for it, there was a need, there was an ask.
So from the moment that that work begins on that asset, it’s life cycle has started. And all the way out the point where it gets used for the last time, those are the two goal posts. And in between that is the full life cycle of the asset. The temptation can be a lot of times for a business process to combine several things together into a document and you end up with maybe the need later to try to extract things back out of that document because you need just this piece or just this element. And you can actually stop that from being a problem if you go back and say, “What are the kind of things that typically we might extract now, and is there a way to save that as a component or an element so that I could just pull that up on-demand?” And even better, it’s not me pulling it up on-demand, it’s an automated process pulling that up on demand and providing it for whatever the appropriate situation is. As far as a success with DAM.
There was a period here a couple years back where we had been in a previous DAM platform for many years. The need had come to modernize. So we went through the process of evaluating what was available in the market, vendor selection and all of that stuff. But knowing that we were such a high volume art operation, we basically had to … it’s kind of like doing engine work on a helicopter while it’s flying. We had to continue being able to fly, we had to continue to deliver product. We could not stop, land and wait. And we went through that process even though we had a very tight timeline, we were able to extract an export what we needed from the old system to configure the new system, bring the assets in and get up and running with very little disruption in the business. And I would consider that to be a very large success.
Henrik de Gyor: And what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Mark Leslie: I think the biggest thing about wanting to get into this space, and it may not just apply to DAM but it certainly applies directly to DAM, is that you want to be curious. Your curiosity and wanting to know how things work, and wanting to know why things are a certain way, and then asking more questions after that will take you a long way. Because, one of the temptations especially when you’re dealing with technology or a software platform, is to look at features, or to say, “Oh that, shiny.” And you want to be able to take advantage of what you see, “Oh, imagine what we could do with that tool” That’s actually the 180 degrees from where you need to be. First of all, you really need to understand your business. You need to understand where those assets come from, how they get brought into being, what’s being done to them throughout their life cycle, and who the audience is downstream, who needs access, who shouldn’t have access? And if you understand the business, the next step is to say, “Now what’s the problem that we’re trying to solve?”
And if you really understand the business, you ask a lot of questions because you’re curious, and you’ve looked at the key problems that you want to be able to solve, and what it’s going to look like when they are solved, then kind of figure out what technology solutions fit into that to make that happen is easy. If you go about it the other way it’s going to be very hard and it’s probably not going to work very well. So if you’re a curious person, and you ask a lot of questions and you use the discoveries from those questions to drive you to new discoveries, you’re already set up.
Henrik de Gyor: Well thanks, Mark.
Mark Leslie: Thank you.
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