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Another DAM Podcast interview with Jonathan Phillips about Digital Asset Management

Transcript:

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:   For more on this, visit anotherdampodcast.com. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to e-mail me at anotherdamblog@gmail.com. Thanks again.

 


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Another DAM Podcast interview with Nick Felder on Digital Asset Management

Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Nick Felder. Nick, how are you?

Nick Felder:  I’m good, I’m good. Great to be here.

Henrik de Gyor:  How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Nick Felder: I’m probably a very non-traditional, adherent proponent, advocate of digital asset management. My background is production. Here, at Coca-Cola, I’m the global head of film and music production for the entire enterprise, all territories and all brands. I really come at it from a user standpoint of the person in charge of making the stuff that’ll go into the DAM, and also the person who would use the stuff that he would take out. I’m kind of coming at it from a much more practical standpoint.

I do not have an IT background. I do not have a technical background. I’ve learned a boatload about both of those along the way. That’s how I found my way into this space in really helping the company globally, Coca-Cola globally, move forward, digitize its processes and get on capable platforms that can be deployed worldwide, right? We’re not looking at Europe has one, North America has another, South America has a third, you know, an individual company in South America has a fourth, that kind of thing. Keeping us all in the same platform.

Henrik de Gyor: Nick, how does the world’s largest beverage company use Digital Asset Management?

Nick Felder: It’s a really good question, because it has evolved over the years. Our first foray into digital asset management was mostly about distribution and getting assets from one part of the world to another. I should say probably the single word that describes the strategy, really underlines everything we do, is reuse. It’s all about reuse for us. Reuse of work is where the productivity comes from, where the efficiency comes from, where the speed to market comes from and that goes across all brands, all channels, all methodologies really. Everything needs to turn into everything. That is the mantra we use around here.

If I take a still image that was originally intended for out of home and it ends up on my phone, it may end up being a digital image or at least being distributed on a digital platform, but that doesn’t change what it is. Inherently, it is still an image with rights, if there are people in it, frames, resolution, this kind of thing. That mantra of reuse really, really is the main thing, if not the only thing, the company is really looking for in doing that. That means distribution globally, all media, movie media, still image media, audio and interactive, that means being able to do that with rights management components.

Parallel to the DAM system, we have a global rights management system where we’re able to pay, actually extend the usage rights of any work that got made anywhere in the world, so that any other market, anywhere in the world, can reuse it if it wants to. We’ve got a way of paying those rights’ holders reliably in their currency, in their market, globally. Actually unlocking that was really the key, the hidden key, to standing up a viable enterprise-wide DAM platform. It’s got to be transactional. People are going to reuse stuff around the world. Once they can reuse it, they always need to adapt it.

As they adapt it, change out their packaging, change out their logos, change out their branding, however they need to tag it before they put it on air, because that’s where the rubber hits the road, and then reloading that adapted version back into the DAM, so we have a parent-child structure set up to accommodate that. Everything gets associated with the initial core created unit that was made. Probably the last piece I’ll add to that, in the reuse thing is … The other piece of reuse is not just reusing the thing as the thing it was made for, so again if I made a piece of out at home and it gets adapted, another market to be reused as more out of home, that’s fine.

I think if we approach this stuff more … If we tag it and bag it, right, going into the DAM, we can reuse it more like a commodity. Footage, images, audio, it’s really just a commodity. We try to think of it like lumber, where you can remake anything out of it that you want. Here’s some footage of a Coke and meals, that’s interesting. You’re really just looking for some beach … A still image for a beach thing that you’re doing on a web-related platform. If you can … If that moving footage was captured and stored at a high enough resolution, and there is indeed a beach shot while you’re eating food in the Coke and meals spot on the beach, you can still it. You can grab it. You can reframe it, and then you can reuse that image however you want. You can even frame out the people, don’t get involved with rights issues.

It’s all that reuse for what I described initially, and then the last piece is really approaching it like a commodity. That commodity aspect has been mind-bending for a lot of associates around the world. Our agencies tend to understand it much better when we direct them to the DAM and say, “Go look for this. Go look for that. You can find the images you need to stand up whatever application, microsite, whatever social conversation you’re trying to put forward.” Just being able to approach it like a commodity has just provided a lot of freedom.

Henrik de Gyor: It sounds like reuse is the main way to get the maximum return on investment to your point.

Nick Felder: That’s the ROI. That’s the only ROI that I’m really judged on here and so far, so good. Fingers crossed.

Henrik de Gyor: Excellent. Nick, what are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?

Nick Felder: Wow. You know, it’s also a really good question. To be incredibly practical and non-BS about it, I think, at the end of the day, it really all boils down to the user experience. At no point, at least in my travels and really in everybody I’ve ever spoken to, at no point will you ever be in a position to get senior management or budget holders to dive into the details the way you need to dive into the details, and work out all the parameters that need to be worked out for the thing to work. Authentication, permissions, etc, etc, etc, all that stuff that makes it work the way it does, people are just going to look at it like “does search work?” If I put in some terms and I get some awesome results, excellent. It works.

If I put in terms and I get wildly results, or conflicting results or all the rest of it, it doesn’t work and thumbs down. As far as successes, I mean it’s one of those things where like all the homework that … It’s like good comedy. Actually that’s a better metaphor. Doesn’t matter how much research you do, doesn’t matter where you set the location, who you cast, all the rest of that, it’s did I laugh? If you laughed, then it’s funny. If you don’t laugh, it’s not funny and it’s really that way for digital asset management as well, at least in my experience.

The main challenge is always the return on investment. I described ours previously as reuse. That may not be, and I actually know in a lot of the markets, that’s not necessarily the ROI that people are after but that’s certainly ours. I think just being clear, it’s not complicated. Man, I’ve seen some cases studies where things get so involved and you can just tell there were like three, five different consultants brought in. The language is confused. The outcome is confused. The measurement and the metrics are confused. Keep it simple, keep it tight. Give yourself an easy to judge against premise to the point where even if the numbers don’t necessarily add up, everybody can feel it in their gut, right? That things are moving forward, that things are now happening reliably, consistently and that use is growing amongst whatever your user groups are.

Clear, simple, easy to understand ROI. I think a lot of times, budget holders and super senior management, I’m going to use a bad word here, but see a lot of ‘bullshitery’ around technology that goes this deep, because it’s not familiar to them. They feel like they might be being hoodwinked. If you can keep it in common, normal, or regular, plebeian language, English or whatever your native tongue is, just keep it simple. You can go a lot further towards winning people’s hearts. Avoid corporate speak, avoid tech speak. Just keep it real, and you can go a lot further. I broke my pencil trying to stand up a few versions of DAM before I got my first one off the ground, so I can speak to that pain firsthand.

Henrik de Gyor: What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Nick Felder:  I’ll talk to the aspirationals first. I would say probably the easiest, again things that I learned the hard way, which is that, from my experience here, it’s not all about senior management sponsorship. That’s a piece of it, and it’s not all about massive consensus on the worker bee level. You need both. If I can give any advice to anybody trying to get into this space or struggling in this space, it’s to work both those angles at the same time.

Presentations, videos, messages, experientials, hands-on trial, whatever you need to do for senior management, and the same thing probably couched very, very differently, so strategic messaging for seniors and much more tactical, demonstrable, how this will make your day better kind of messaging for the worker bees. Working from the bottom up and the top down, so that there is a mix of strategic messaging and tactical messaging, strategic benefits and tactical benefits that are clearly being demonstrated in parallel, I think that’s the path. One will always point to the other and say, “Yeah. That’s all great. That’s awesome up at 30,000 feet but how does it really … Where does the rubber meet the road? How does it really work?”

If you figure out really how does it work, you’re going to get the exact opposite. That’s awesome, but what’s the strategic play here for bringing the country or the region, the territory, if not the planet, together onto a single platform. Approach both, and I think you probably have your, simultaneously, and you probably have your best chance for success, your best chance for winning.

Advice to existing DAM professionals, this with a smile, I’m not sure I can give much. I think most DAM professionals have probably struggled through a very, very, very long road. They already know where they are. Sometimes there’s not a lot of talking to them and, again I say that with a smile, I’m barely a DAM professional coming from the production side. I would simply say some of the developments in the last 18 months in the industry, going towards semantic graph databases and, yeah, neural networks and machine learning, all the buzz words that we’re hearing around the industry right now, but there’s real stuff in there that can toss out real, tangible benefits that were almost science-fiction four and five years ago.

It’s like, “Yeah, that’s nice. That’s just not happening in the real world in my lifetime.” Lo and behold, it’s happening and that’s great, at a consumer, or rather at a commercial grade level, and that’s great. Just stay on top of your tech.

Henrik de Gyor: Thanks, Nick.

Nick Felder: Yeah, thank you. Thank you very much.

Henrik de Gyor: For more on this, visit anotherDAMpodcast.com. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at anotherDAMblog@gmail.com. Thanks again.

 


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

 

Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor:  [0:02] This is Another DAM Podcast of 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 AnotherDAMblog.com. For this podcast and a 150 other podcast episodes, including transcripts of every interview, go to AnotherDAMpodcast.com. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to to email me at anotherdamblog@Gmail.com. And Abby where can we find out more information from you?

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

Henrik:  [6:49] Thanks again.

 


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Another DAM Podcast interview with Rob Schuman on Digital Asset Management

 

Transcript:
Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor.
Today, I’m speaking with Rob Schuman.
Rob, how are you?

Rob Schuman: [0:10] Great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henrik: [2:45] Organizing information?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rob: [9:55] Rob: You’re welcome.

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

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