Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management (DAM). I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I was speaking with Deb Fanslow. Deb, how are you?
Deb Fanslow: Great. How are you?
Henrik de Gyor: Great. How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Deb Fanslow: I have a long career that got me where I am today. Currently, I’m in a role that seems to be following the trend in the industry. I’m working in Digital Asset Management, but also in a broader content management role which really looks at the end-to-end flow of content, more the digital supply chain type of analogy. What I focus on right now is a lot of not just getting content in the DAM and tagged, but content re-use of various types of assets not just your traditional marketing, but also a lot of communications. In my case, I work in the pharma industry so a lot of medical content which is really interesting to look out. I work with a lot of automation initiatives, workflow initiatives, looking a lot of metrics to see how content being reused, how we can optimize our system to increase that and increasingly a few of my more recent roles have been involved with modular content which are just starting to hear more about in the field. It seems to be inevitable when you’re talking about multichannel marketing campaigns that you really need to modularize your content instead of creating it from scratch and recreating it for 50 different channels. So it’s different types of content, different types of ecosystems, but it keeps me busy.
Deb Fanslow: My background actually I started as a graphic designer so I came into the field from the user standpoint I’d say as basically somebody who saw all the pain points working as a creative and got into being interested in managing the content and how we get it together. And I decided to move and to become a librarian and found my inner nerd and became a school library media specialist which I always tell people is one of the best training you can how to become a digital asset manager. Cause you’re dealing with people how they interface with your systems how they search their pain points. And it really gave me a good grounding and user experience. And for librarians, it’s really all about the user. So for me, that was wonderful. I worked my way through various industries because I actually wasn’t easy to get into DAM. I mean I worked in libraries, museums, archives, education field and really wanted to move over to the private sector. So I worked in e-commerce first a little bit. And now I pretty much have landed in Pharma which is great in New Jersey. But I I like to bring in that content that experience from other industries to really inform my current role.
Henrik de Gyor: What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Deb Fanslow: Well, how much time you have? You know, it’s interesting. I do keep tabs on the industry and what consultants are writing out there, what vendors are writing and practitioners and despite the volume of content on not just implementations but DAM programs. There’s still an awful lot to put in technology first. Instead of figuring out your workflows and your process and then choosing a tool to enhance that and on the other side been in situations where there is technology not fit for purpose that people are you trying to use a system that has some sort of repository and are trying to use that as a dam. And I would say on the people’s side staffing, staffing, staffing. I’ve been in situations as well where you know they expect this the child to do everything and they don’t have the people behind it not just to administrate the system which has become more of a focus lately.
Deb Fanslow: But you really really need somebody in that QC (quality control) role because your data is everything. And I believe there was a recent Henry Stewart conference where somebody mentioned something that really stuck to me and it was you can integrate your systems all you want but if that data is not good that you’re sending along then there’s no point. So my feeling is process and the actual information architecture that’s something that you can always work on and progressively improve. But if you don’t have the people and the right tool then you’re in trouble. So I’d say for challenges that’s been my personal experience. On the bright side, some of the successes I’ve seen again are looking at the industry and I think that the vendors and the organizations finally realizing that DAM is not just a repository. It’s part of your supply chain and it needs to be integrated.
Deb Fanslow: And one of the things that I really like is yes at least in the private sector print departments but it really gained steam in marketing which is great because they had to the heavy pockets. But I’m just starting to hear a peeps about DAM become an centralized service which is where I think it’s going to be most successful and strong organizations where that has been the case I have seen more success not just in managing the content but the rights around it and then working with cross-functional teams to really manage the end to end content management flow, not just rich media.
Henrik de Gyor: Deb, you started the DAM directory. Tell us more about this resource.
Deb Fanslow: I actually had to look up some stats. I didn’t realize myself that I started it way back in 2014 which sounds like a long time ago. I have seven guides published right now and what people don’t see is there’s 14 more in the back end that I’ve been working on for some time that might debut this year or next. It does take a long time to put context around the links but essentially what the DAM directory is it’s basically a compilation of the massive amounts of resources I collected through when I was getting my MLIS degree which is a Master’s in library and information science. So when I get overwhelmed I like to curate only what I need and get rid of the rest and put it somewhere that I can access. So it started out really as a professional resource for myself and figured you know what I need something in the cloud that makes sense to me is easy to find things and I can use it at any job because I’m a big fan of offloading information so I don’t have to try to memorize all. And. It occurred to me that social bookmarking sites were not going to cut it. I’m a librarian so I do like hierarchy. So I was a fan more of this directory site as I had seen it used for reference guides and academic libraries and I decided to approach the vendor and ask them if I could use it for a project that would help them advertise their platform. And wouldn’t you know the DAM directory was born. So we average about 550 views a month for all the guides combined.
Deb Fanslow: And even just looking at last year we had over 7,000 views total so I’d say it’s been a success. And one of the things I tried to do with that is to get others in the industry involved because A) I don’t know everything B) there’s just so much information out there and everyone has different strengths. The problem is we all have day jobs as well. So so far it’s pretty much just me. But one of the really interesting things like Yeah it’s out there you can go look and it’s you know you do keep it up to date the best that I can. But people can go in there and really get a sense of the industry and how it’s changing like I see blogs come and go as the conferences come and go different books are being published. I mean it’s really a great place to get a page the pulse of the industry as well.
Deb Fanslow: From my memory which I’ve already established is not that great. We have a basic guide on what I call corporate DAM which is really the private sector which I struggled with for a while because I mean DAM is DAM across all industries. But there really are different conferences and different books and different frameworks that people within different industries develop. So this one receives the most traffic. I’ve got others just specifically on topics like metadata. I have one coming up on taxonomy. I’ve got one on DAM vendors which is very popular and DAM education which is very overwhelming that one is still constantly throwing things in there. And I believe there is one coming. It’s not there already on basic tools and processes that you might use in adjunct with your DAM system for data crunching and all sorts of things. But there’s a variety of stuff on there and I do take requests if there’s something that people are interested in they want to send me some resources then I’m always open for that. You can reach that at damdirectory.libguides.com
Henrik de Gyor: Deb, what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Deb Fanslow: You know what. This is a great question and I’m actually very passionate about helping people find what they want to do in their life and mentoring people and just bringing awareness and advocacy for the field because it really presents a great opportunity for folks who have creative backgrounds or marketing backgrounds to leverage that experience in Digital Asset Management where it is critical for you to understand how content is created and how it’s marketed, how it moves through various workflows and even how it’s distributed. So. I’ve typically found people who are most successful in DAM have multiple backgrounds. I mean yes you can go to library school or you know you can be a graphic designer, photographer, but you typically need to combine you know I.T. skills with content skills and people skills. So for me I mean there’s so many different ways to get into that field speaking out to folks who want to enter.
Deb Fanslow: My advice is always for people who contact me is something similar to a consultant told me five years ago is to start by managing your own collection and get experience anywhere you can. I would say if you have the means volunteer, find a mentor, attend meetups. One of the resources that isn’t quite as broadly promoted is a Google Group called DAM Peeps and it’s actually listed in the directory. But if you look it up on Google, it’s a site that is tailored for DAM administrators and consultants. Sorry vendors, we do limit it to non-commercial members but it’s I’m actually really proud of that because it’s a place where even solo administrators especially can go out and say “Hey, is anyone dealing with this or how do we deal with this? Do you have any advice on this topic?” and it’s become a very active group. Right now we have a little over 30 members, but I’m hoping that others can join because a lot of information professionals and DAM administrators they work alone and people might not always understand what they do and there’s not always a source of wisdom for all the little intricacies of the job. So I take my last year of advice for the people looking to get an is to tailor, tailor, tailor your past experience or the type of job you’re looking for. So research the job listings out there. Don’t just blindly submit your resume that you’ve been using for the last 10 years in a different industry that is not going to work. So for the folks who are in the industry, just don’t stop learning. I mean really there is so much to learn. You really just can’t afford to sit around and do the same thing you are doing today and tomorrow.
Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Jonathan Phillips. Jonathan, how are you?
Jonathan Phillips: Pretty good.
Henrik de Gyor: Jonathan, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Jonathan Phillips: Well, I currently run two separate Digital Asset Management systems. My former company, that I worked for fifteen years at, we merged with a larger corporation and so currently I’m running the old Digital Asset Management system as well as taking on the newer Digital Asset Management system and I’m running part of the integration of the two systems, which is quite an undertaking I must say. It’s been a year so far and we’re about a third of the way through.
I came into Digital Asset Management probably about sixteen years ago. I actually came to it through graphic design and actually more precisely Photoshop. I was hired as a production and graphic artist and when I was there I quickly moved over to retouching the portfolio of hotel images that we had. And as you can imagine that’s probably one of our key marketing assets of the actual different properties and it was being underutilized greatly at that time in 2002.
So through the photography work, I then actually took on the role of art directing different shoots at different properties and that became a photography program for the properties. This led, actually at the same exact time, into an existing DAM system that they had, which was very rudimentary. It had some photos, a couple of logos in it and that was really where I first got my toes wet. And within three years we kept on growing, doing photo shoots and in about three years it took us to really develop into an actual Digital Asset Management system with metadata tagging, data trees, light boxes, you know, all the things that we know about Digital Asset Management at this time.
Within five years of me coming on, we really bulked out and made the photography program into a completely international project that we managed the photo shoots across the globe. In my career, I actually see the creation of digital assets and the management and distribution as part of a single workflow. So in my mind, it’s actually all one and the same. We kept on building on the system and resolving problems as they came up, creating more tools, we built a big web-to-print system, which we would actually change four times since then. And that’s where we’re really going on twelve years now and we’re still going strong.
So I’d have to say Digital Asset Management comes to people in very strange ways, and it can offer so many opportunities and it really has over the last sixteen years.
Henrik de Gyor: Jonathan, how does a leading global hospitality company use Digital Asset Management?
Jonathan Phillips: That’s a really good question. I’m not going to talk about the current strategy that we’re still developing. It’s still in the very beginning phases but I can talk about the last sixteen years of my life and building on that. I’d have to say, like I just said, we had a very holistic approach to the creation of assets, the managing of assets and then the distribution. We saw it as really, all in one, the same thing. Digital Asset Management that, as a single, unified creative and production department, where I was.
So as an example, I ran the photography photo shoots and then my team ran the submission process of getting them retouched and into the system. And then the same team managed all of the assets that the tagging, the usage rights, the user groups and accessibility. And then we also ran the distribution out into all of the GDS and OTAs as well as all of our partners. So, and that’s the entire travel agency industry, actually.
So it’s really been a massive undertaking. We also are in the same group creating logos, floor plans, meetings and guestroom floor plans, templates to be used, so all of those assets were really created in the same exact team that was managing the Digital Asset Management system and distributing them.
The creative teams, the Digital Asset Management, the distribution to websites, travel sites, marketing teams, they all worked as one large team with a single overall strategy. And I think this really helped us over the years identifying problems and coming up with the best possible solution that we could come up with in a very fluid way.
We saw Digital Asset Management and the marketing materials that we house as kind of an ongoing part of the creative process itself. So the managing tools that facilitated that creation was also the same as housing and the overall use of the asset itself. It’s quality, consistency, and distribution. It’s all one and the same. So for a company that’s selling any types of goods or services and the hotel business is actually doing both at the same time, it’s the market assets are the lifeblood of the company.
There’s nothing more precious than how the world will perceive us and the brand so I’ve spent a lot of time balancing the smallest, little tiny technical details and balancing that with the larger strategy of the hotel business as a whole. So we are always working across the international enterprise to streamline, to make changes, to meet the needs in a rapidly changing marketing world. And I just wake up at night and I just hope that the tools that we’re putting into place are going to hold up in the long run or as long as it possibly can. So it does keep me up at night.
Managing the Digital Asset Management system itself; there’s a lot of time that I spend talking to the customers, helping the customers, resolving problems with the customers and constantly making notes to make sure that the tools are working optimally and meeting the needs of the customers, which is the marketing and the different properties, the ownerships and our partners.
We use a range of really tech savvy managers out in a field, as well as people at the properties that rarely even get on a computer. So we’re always kind of bouncing ideas and the tools themselves off of that very diverse audience and the tool has to work for everybody. So that’s really, kind of the cornerstone of what we do here. I mean, there’s a lot of tools out there, and wow, it’s amazing that the technology that’s out these days. It’s matured in the last few years even, in incredible ways.
I mean, there’s just unbelievable things that are just really science fiction out there, from a few years ago. And finding the solutions that actually meet the goals of our company is really where this skill set comes in. I mean, we could look at out of the box solutions. We have constant debates over configuration versus customization. That’s, oh my god, I could go on for hours just about that.
And I found that the overall systems that we’re using, they really do need a lot more customization. I find that a really strong marketing team has really strong and clear needs and they have a great idea in their minds of what they’re looking for and a good system is going to match those needs and really customize and configure to be exactly what they need.
So I’m actually a big proponent here of boutique solutions. Because our routines have such high standards that that’s all they’re going to accept so I put a lot of thought into this as you can tell. There’s a lot of balancing of the client’s needs and getting those needs meet with the technology that’s available and then customizing it in a very specific way. And then of course, there’s always costs that comes down to just about every single project.
Henrik de Gyor: What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Jonathan Phillips: Over a large and very diverse enterprise, we’re in 83 countries, we’ve got thousands of hotels and a lot of those are franchise models with properties and ownerships. I see in my world, it’s the creating of consistent quality assets that go into the system that’s always one of the great challenges that we constantly have. I know that’s not a straightforward Digital Asset Management problem but I think that’s a huge issue with any system that comes online. It’s really what goes in, comes out.
There’s the old saying that, garbage in, garbage out. The Digital Asset Management industry, it’s really, that’s the core, is if you get good assets, a semi-good system could survive it. If you got bad assets, nothing’s going to survive. It’s really not going to be useful to the users. So there’s a huge aspect of quality control in everything that we do here and that goes into the system itself making sure that we build a great system and then all the assets that go in are just as good.
More from a Digital Asset Management technology standpoint, I’d say the ongoing battle with that is that things get complicated and they get too complicated too quickly. So constantly keeping it simple. And that’s kind of a mantra we’re always thinking about is keeping it simple. Complexity is going to creep into any system with a large number of assets in it. Once you start tagging you got translations, you have all the categories, you’ve got APIs and distribution. So we try to keep the base data and file structure as simple as we possibly can.
Every time we want to add something simple like, just another asset type, we know the ramifications of that can be massive. So we have a lot of arguments about those sorts of base structure changes and they’re really crucial decisions to us and we do agonize over them. Maybe a little bit too much, but we do. We see that as kind of the philosophical statement of Digital Asset Management is keep it simple because complexity is going to come in by the very nature of managing assets and the number of assets you have to manage.
But you know, another big challenge that I see, that I’m pretty passionate about now that you mention it, is UX: user experience. Any DAM system is just a tool. It’s got users, and the success and failure of the system is the success or failure of the users themselves. The best-programed system, it can be completely a huge failure if the user experience is not taken into account. The UX is a big thing in apps and web design these days. But I think it applies to Digital Asset Management. Personally, I think it applies everywhere. It’s just, it comes down to good design and I think good design can make or break just about anything.
We do a lot of user testing, as much as anybody can. I’ve had some great inspirations working in a department where I’m right next to the creatives. So I’m within earshot of the web designers and the app designers so I do get a lot of influence from them and I steal a lot from them as well honestly, and they know it and they’re proud of it. So really taking an interface and really agonizing over the details of the interface, of where every little detail, every little button, the user experience of what happens when they hit a button, we put as much thought of that into that as we do just about any structural change we do on the back end in the programming.
Programmers don’t always see eye to eye but I’ve always believed that the system really has to act in the way it’s supposed to act and behave in a way that is intuitive.
Henrik de Gyor: What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Jonathan Phillips: That’s a tough question. Actually, I love mentoring and I think mentoring comes naturally in a situation to situation basis for me. But overall, thinking about it, let’s see. First I’d say always balance a very clear vision of what you want to accomplish and adaptability. You can have great ideas and you can be great at what you do but you have to adapt. You’ve got clients, you’ve got a lot of people who have a lot of opinions and you have to go with the flow. Specifically Digital Asset Management, I try to advise people on my team that you have to know the business that you’re in, that you can know the technology, you can know Digital Asset Management, you can know content management, you can know library science and that’s all great. But if you don’t understand your clients and their needs, you’re really in a hole and you got to dig out of that.
So listen to your clients’ needs. Always coming back to the plan that best meets the needs of your clients and coming up with really creative, streamlined solutions to their needs is where really great Digital Asset Management system and manager come in. So I guess it comes down to being a creative problem solver. That’s probably the second piece of good advice.
You know, I didn’t come into Digital Asset Management in a straight way, and I don’t think most people do. I think most people come to Digital Asset Management from someplace else, be it IT, marketing, or like maybe from a creative background. Yeah, I think everybody who’s in the business feels like they came into it the hardest way possible.
When I got into it in 2002, there really weren’t any resources like there are now. I mean, it’s amazing how much stuff you can just look up and read and keep up on it. But I think I was successful because I listened to my clients and I came up with creative solutions. I really looked at every detail and I made sure that it really worked well. In that way, I think my Bachelor of Science in the Fine Arts with an emphasis on technical illustration by the way, it really came in handy in Digital Asset Management. Coming up with really interesting solutions and I thought that way. And it never hurts that I always tried to go above and beyond. I always tried to meet the expectations and then how do I go beyond that and delight my client. And that’s always been a kind of, internal mantra of mine.
Advice, yeah. It always comes down to creative solutions. I think that’s a good one as well. There’s so much great technology out there and I think it can be really seductive seeing bells and whistles and artificial intelligence and predictive modeling and all this whiz-bang. And you just got to remember that it comes down to users and how do users see the system and how to best meet those goals, before any of the great, amazing technology that’s out there.
And actually speaking about technology, I think the best technology for coming up with ideas is a pencil and paper. I still use a mechanical pencil and a piece of paper whenever I have to think through a problem. I love paper prototyping. I think it’s the fastest way; it’s the best way to come up with really great ideas, is just doodle and scribble down all of your ideas. I doodle up entire pages and then I take post-it notes and I rip them up and I cover different pieces and I put different buttons and I can do it so fast and it’s so intuitive doing it with a pencil. I recommend everybody try to problem solve with just doodling it out on a napkin or a piece of paper. It really is, it might sound old school but I just don’t think there’s a better solution out there for just thinking things through.
And again last thing, going back to the last thing I said in the last question was user experience. It basically trumps everything else, being submitting images or managing or searching a system. It’s how it works and how people react to it. There’s so many resources out there to learn how to really make an interface that is really human and is just intuitive. And that’s another thing, is Digital Asset Management, read up on user experience. It will really, really help you out in the long run. I guess that’s kind of me going back to my artistic roots though and that never goes away. So, there you go.
Henrik de Gyor: Well, thanks Jonathan.
Jonathan Phillips: No problem.
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.
Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Dan Piro. Dan, how are you?
Dan Piro: Good. How are you?
Henrik de Gyor: Great. Dan, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Dan Piro: I’m the Director of Digital Asset Archive with the National Hockey League. I oversee a team that’s responsible for ingesting video, digitization projects, metadata application, metadata integrity, and we work alongside of the post-production team here, NHL Studios to support their media needs and also the NHL Network and work together, solve problems, and help them create compelling content.
Henrik de Gyor: Dan, how does a professional ice hockey league use Digital Asset Management?
Dan Piro: Primarily we use it to send and receive media and to archive it. We have coming in from 30 arenas around the continent every game and you can have up to 15 a night. You get three feeds of the game from the time they press record, you’re talking four or five hours which can add up to 250-300 hours in a single night. So, you have all that material coming in and where you used to have to wait for tapes to come in by FedEx and that type of thing, now we have all the previous night’s games available for the start of the next work day. Our broadcast partners, our internal departments can use it. We get our photos coming in from photographers around the league and just bringing all this material together and having it at our fingertips in a very short timeframe allows us to like I said earlier, create compelling content, create it sooner and get it out the door.
Henrik de Gyor: Dan, what are the biggest challenges and success you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Dan Piro: Well, the biggest challenge I was cast with when I came aboard here at the NHL a little over two years ago was to digitize all the physical archives ahead of our centennial anniversary. If there’s any hockey fans listening, they would know that we got the NHL 100 branding all over the league this year. And to prepare for that, we had a very short timeframe to digitize 150,000 or so videotapes, a half a million still images, slides, negatives prints, over a million documents that our PR department had and that’s game sheets which are the scorecards that the official scorer keeps in the arenas. That dates back to the second season, so we’re talking as far back as 1918.
And statistics records back to the very beginning of the league. Back then, they kept these huge ledgers throughout the season and every goal was marked down, every assist was marked down in these huge ledgers and we had to get all that content scanned and have it all ready to go so that we could celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the league. So as you can imagine, just the logistics of moving all that physical material around from various locations to various vendors; that’s a nightmare in and of itself. But we have a great team, our archive manager is the most organized guy I think I’ve ever met in my life and his system to track all this stuff and make sure we got everything back really saved the day for us.
I had a team of 15 people working to ingest this content, QC it, verify that we’re getting a file back for everything that went out the door. It was just a massive, massive undertaking which at the same time that we were doing all this work, we were setting up a new DAM system. With the new DAM, we’re bringing all this content into the new DAM trying to dig into all of our legacy databases from our videotape database, to our scoring database and pull as much of the information that we can from there and map it to the data fields in the new DAM. Just a massive, massive project to get this thing stood up and ready to go and bring in future and current content at the same time. It was a huge challenge and I’m happy to say that from physical archive perspective, it was very successful, but going forward, there’s always new challenges and new things to tackle when you set up a system like that.
One of the other things we had to deal with in bringing all this content in, these half million images that was scanned, much of it had no data associated with it as far as who the players were, who the teams were that were pictured in these photos. This team of 15 hockey experts, subject matter experts came in and were able to look at these phots one by one and when you might not be able to tell just by looking at something, who these players are, these guys did incredible research to … if a player was shown taking a shot and he’s half-turned and you can see that his jersey number ends with either a three or an eight and his name ends with E-R, and it’s a blue jersey, who is he? And what year is it? And judging from the equipment the guy is wearing, whether they’re left-handed or right-handed, the advertisements on the boards in the background, all these things went into researching who these guys are and tagging them and giving those photos values. When you’re setting up these systems there’s no point if you don’t apply the proper metadata along with that. Kind of all one project but all these different spokes to the project were really the challenges that we faced and at the same time, some of the success that we had.
Henrik de Gyor: What advice would you like to share with young professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Dan Piro: I think we talked about this a little bit, a couple years ago when we did the podcast, and in the digital world that we’re living in now, I think everybody’s kind of a media manager. I sort of equated it to managing an iTunes library back in the day. And now with your DVR and backing up your phone and having an iCloud and all of these things that are part of everyday life and becoming more and more ubiquitous are really just a small scale of what media managers do professionally. You just have to scale that up to what the needs are in a multi-billion dollar corporation.
In terms of advice, if you’re organized with your personal media and you understand how to handle those practices, you can start to apply that at the entry level and then learn how larger companies do this type of thing. I think the interesting thing that’s happening in the DAM industry is that people are now coming out of school having studied to do this kind of work where historically, I think people from the era when I got into it were people that were industry professionals and they fell into it. Whether you were running a tape, library, or you’re a production manager and you fell into this asset management world, now these people are coming up studying how to do it. That’s great but I think that people that come in with that type of background are probably going to be very stuck in their ways a little bit. “This is how I was taught it should be done, this is how we need to apply these procedures”.
I would say that they should reach out to the many departments and people that they’ll be interacting with and learn how they work because in most cases, a DAM is a supporting role much like a supporting actor is trying to help the lead shine. That’s kind of what we’re doing. We’re finding ways to help the company shine and generate revenue off of what we’re doing. But we’re not necessarily the revenue generator. I think you need to keep that in mind and understand that you’re part of a larger team and it’s not just about the best way for you to manage assets, but the best way for the assets that you manage to serve the company that you work for.
Finally, the one thing that I beat like a dead horse to all of the more entry level people that I work with is network and don’t burn bridges. Your network is what helps you succeed in the industry. That’s how you get jobs, that’s how you meet people, that’s how you make the contacts for the job that you want. It’s very important to have your Linkedin account set up and have it up to date and make sure that you’re constantly keeping in touch with all of the people that you interacted with professionally. It’s very easy today to contact people that you’ve worked with in the past without being a pain in their butt.
I remember when I was getting in making phone calls to people that I’d run into and they just don’t have the time of day to take calls and do that type of thing. But you can easily send a message that they can get back to you at their convenience. The current era is the easiest era to network ever because you just have to search people, and use that to your advantage. Networking is really the key factor that I’ve had in my success I think.
Henrik de Gyor: Great. Well, thanks Dan.
Dan Piro: Thanks.
Henrik de Gyor: For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to anotherdampodcast.com where you’ll find another 190 other episodes like this. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again.