Empower your digital media.

Lessons learned about digital asset
management (DAM) from early adopters

A Widen briefing

Empower your digital media.

order to align goals with outcomes and make sure there
are no surprises as you implement DAM ...
Empower your digital media.

4. Other best practices and resources

By taking that approach, says Corey, “When they had
Widen Enterprises
6911 Mangrove Lane
Madison, WI 53713
P: 608-222-1296
E: marketing@widen.com

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Lessons learned about digital asset management (DAM) from early adopters


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"Lessons learned about digital asset management (DAM) from early adopters" - A Widen briefing the who, what, and how of a digital asset management (DAM) initiative.

Get more DAM resources at http://www.Widen.com/resources.

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Lessons learned about digital asset management (DAM) from early adopters

  1. 1. Empower your digital media. Lessons learned about digital asset management (DAM) from early adopters A Widen briefing THE WHO WHAT AND HOW OF A DAM INITIATIVE
  2. 2. EVERYTHING STARTS WITH A CLEAR DEFINITION OF THE MISSION AND SCOPE – WHO WILL GET ACCESS TO WHAT ASSETS? HOW WILL THEY BE USED? WHO WILL MANAGE THE SYSTEM ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS? There is bad news and good news for the growing numbers of organizations that are turning to digital asset management (DAM) solutions to handle the torrent of photographs, video, and other rich media that are playing increasingly key roles in their operations. stakeholders of the DAM system and who will manage the system on a day-to-day basis? The answers to these interrelated basic questions – Who? What? How? – will help you build a framework for the decisions that will guide the design and roll-out of your DAM system. The bad news is that many organizations can find themselves overwhelmed by the daunting array of tools, capabilities, and options that are offered by the latest DAM technologies. The good news is that those newcomers to DAM can turn to a growing body of best practices that are emerging from the experiences of early adopters of digital asset management. “Who?” Another key question that Cornell focused on was the types of users who would use the DAM system. Any organization, regardless of size or industry, must understand which people will be most impacted by the DAM implementation - those people who will use it or interact with it regularly. This Widen briefing presents a selection of real-world guidance for DAM initiatives from Corey Chimko, who serves as the global DAM administrator at Cornell University, and who oversaw the launch of that school’s CASE (Council for the advancement and support of Education), award-winning DAM system. “Before we set up our DAM system, we needed to get a good handle on whether this was going to be a university-wide system where we were going to have a lot of open access for just about anybody in the university, or whether we were going to have things siloed and only certain departments were going to have access to their own assets, and nobody else was going to be able to view their collections.” The brief is based on Corey’s hands-on experience and provides insight regarding early decisions to make, and important steps to take, to ensure success with DAM. “Was the DAM system going to be for the use of only the marketing department? Or for the entire university? Or only staff? Or staff and students? Or staff, students and maybe alumni? Or maybe even access to the outside public?” The tips and advice included will help you to successfully: 1. Determine key DAM goals and the scope of your initiative, 2. Identify your users’ needs – including the special needs of high-priority user segments, 3. Choose the features, system structure, and metadata strategies that will help you address user needs, and 4. Implement other effective practices. At Cornell, those deliberations ultimately determined that the DAM system would need to be able to handle a combination of different levels of access, and it was important to take early steps to make sure that the system would be able to handle those needs. 1. Determine top goals for your DAM initiative – Who? What? How? “How?” At Cornell, a great deal of early attention was focused on thinking through how the DAM system would be used. This discovery period is crucial for any organization in Everything starts with the clear definition of the mission and scope of your DAM initiative – Who will get access to which assets and how will they be used? Who are the key -1-
  3. 3. Empower your digital media. order to align goals with outcomes and make sure there are no surprises as you implement DAM for the long-term. “So, it’s really important to understand how your users are searching, and then incorporate that structure into your DAM system from the start. It is much easier to do at the beginning than it is to adapt afterwards. I can tell you that just because I’ve had to do it both ways – and to do it from the beginning is much, much easier.” “Were we going to use the system to manage our workflow, or was it basically going to be used to showcase of our work?” says Corey Chimko of Cornell. If the DAM system was going to manage workflow, “that meant that we were going to be ingesting assets that were not yet optimized and that were parts of projects that were not yet finalized. It meant incorporating the DAM system in our workflow to handle things like approvals.” Designing for the needs of different user segments In these early stages of work on your DAM initiative, it is important to gain an understanding of how user segments (and their particular needs) can differ from one another. For example, consider the difference in asset access needs between two seemingly very similar groups of DAM users at Cornell: Those who were members of the universitywide marketing department versus those who played the same role at the school or department level. “Or, were we going to upload only finished projects, only polished assets, only final versions?” “These are basic considerations that you are going to have to solve according to what your goal is for the system.” 2. User needs and priorities For one thing, there are likely to be some significant differences in the marketing priorities of those two groups. There even are differences in the range of assets that they will want to consider. Talking to users about their needs Once large questions relating to scope and mission were clarified, says Corey, “You need to talk with your users about what they want, what they need, and what they expect to get out of your DAM system. One of my biggest rude awakenings as a digital asset manager was realizing how differently other people conceive of our assets and what they need to use them for.” “People at the university administration level want to have access to assets across the entire university, but people in the marketing and communications departments within the individual schools primarily are interested in assets that pertain to their own college or school,” says Corey. “You might think that it is beneficial to give access to all the assets to everyone, but, at the end of the day, people will see those extra assets as chaff that needs to be waded through, and they don’t want to have to deal with assets that aren’t pertaining to their specific department or unit.” “A lot of asset managers tend to be very detail-oriented, very analytical, very structure-based. When you are interfacing with marketing or design areas of your organization, they tend to think in much different terms – much more artistic and creative terms. They may not be searching for something extremely specific when they come into your DAM system. They may want to look for some sort of nebulous thing like “excellence in education,” or “diversity,” or some sort of marketing priority or term for which they’re hoping to get results, but which you haven’t used to categorize any of your assets.” “You need to, early on, build versatility into the DAM system to allow some staff members to access everything, while keeping certain assets from other people who don’t want to see them.” -2-
  4. 4. THE BETTER YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF USER NEEDS, THE BETTER YOU CAN DESIGN YOUR METADATA STRATEGIES AND CATEGORY STRUCTURES TO DELIVER A USER EXPERIENCE THAT’S MEANINGFUL. Dealing with “optimized” vs “unoptimized” assets The recognition of divergent user needs also caused the Cornell DAM system to be designed to facilitate management of another access-related issue. administrative hierarchy, and, a lot of times, we’d find that people were coming in and they would be looking for images from some department that was buried five levels deep in a college, and they had no idea where that department actually sat in the administrative hierarchy. If the items in the collection had nested everything according to the hierarchy, users would never have been able to find what they were seeking.” “We have what we call our ‘optimized assets’ and our ‘unoptimized assets,’ and marketers have access to everything, but the public only has access to the optimized assets,” says Corey. “Basically, the public uses our best assets, the really polished stuff. These are the ones that have been in publications, that have been properly optimized in Photoshop and so on.” “Instead, we eliminated the administrative hierarchy and put everything in alphabetical order,” says Corey. “And because our DAM system allows us to place assets in more than one category, we can actually have an asset in the college category, and we can also have it in the department category and in the program category.” On the other hand, “Marketers want access to everything so that, if they find an optimized photo that is not quite what they need for a project, they can could go to the rest of that photo shoot and see all the outtakes, and then pick from those if they decide to,” explains Corey. “This has worked really well for us, and it has made it much, much easier for people to find what they’re looking for because they just go to the name of the department that they want. They don’t have to know what college it’s in, what department it’s in, etc.” 3. Features, system structure and metadata strategies Creating user-friendly metadata structures The better your understanding of user needs, the better you can design your metadata strategies and category structures to deliver a user experience that’s relevant and meaningful. When your digital assets are organized in way that promotes easy search, your system is more likely to be used. Targeting metadata for important user subgroups It also is possible to design metadata so that the DAM system better meets the specific needs of high-priority users segments. “One of our primary clients is the marketing department at Cornell,” says Corey. “We went to them and said, ‘How do you want us to organize the assets?’ And they said, ‘Here’s our five-year marketing strategic plan. These are the major topics that we’re marketing over the next five years.’” “What most people are looking for in the DAM system are images that have something to do with their department or their academic unit,” explains Corey. Recognition of this user need prompted the development of an “academic unit” category structure as a key feature for organizing Cornell’s DAM system. “They also gave us a list of other, general priorities that are things that just tend to be emphasized in their marketing materials. So, now, when I’m ingesting assets, I include categorizing them according to the marketing strategies, and that’s very, very helpful for the marketing people.” “Basically, we put together one, giant alphabetical list of every department program, college, school, or other unit,” explains Corey. “We did it this way because Cornell, like most universities, has an extremely large and complex -3-
  5. 5. Empower your digital media. 4. Other best practices and resources By taking that approach, says Corey, “When they had questions, we could actually answer them because we had solved those issues for ourselves beforehand.” Taking advantage of automated de-duping of assets Many DAM systems (including Widen’s) have built-in de-duping capabilities that are designed to make it easier to identify and use the best version of each asset. Despite tight budgets, don’t scrimp on the admin “If you really want your DAM system to work, you need to hire a full time DAM person,” says Corey. “I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say, ‘Oh, well, we’ll just get a DAM system and then we’ll let the summer interns tag off the photos and whatever.’ That does not work. You need someone who is familiar with the technology. You need someone who is familiar with your institution and with the administrative hierarchy of that system so they can properly administer the permissions and so on. “It works on the premise where you upload one high resolution master asset, and then you can resize it on the fly,” says Corey. “You can deliver different sizes of an asset, with the system handling conversions for you and sending out the product. Instead of needing to manage multiple sizes of the same asset, you only need to store a single, large, master asset.” More specifically, here is how the de-duping was done at Cornell. “You need to have somebody who can be a technical liaison for support. You need somebody who obviously has good time-management skills and attention to detail because there are so many little nuances that are going to come up. And your average person is not going to know those things, unless you’re a full-time employee and you know your administration inside and out. That’s very, very important.” “We started with basic versions of every asset in the DAM, then we took the optimized assets, and drag- and-dropped them into the system and waited for it to show us the conflicts,” says Corey. “Then we went through the conflicts – one by one – and decided which version was better. It can take a little bit of time, but the end result is that you have the best version of every photo in the DAM system, which is obviously what you want.” Empower your digital media. Starting small, learning fast, then scaling up “The key is to start small and to keep things simple at the beginning,” emphasizes Corey. “We started with only our photography collections from our department. We focused on getting those assets into the DAM and on understanding how to upload the metadata efficiently and how to categorize efficiently. It wasn’t until we had a good handle on that that we actually advertised to the rest of the university that we had this DAM system and that we allowed people who were managing other collections around campus to use our DAM system to manage their collections as well.” -4-
  6. 6. CONTACT US Widen Enterprises 6911 Mangrove Lane Madison, WI 53713 P: 608-222-1296 E: marketing@widen.com www.widen.com About Widen Based in Madison, WI, Widen provides Software-as-a-Service solutions for digital asset management helping organizations create, manage and distribute digital media and brand assets. The development of Widen’s cloud-based SaaS DAM service was honed by more than 60 years of experience helping customers achieve cross-channel brand consistency. Widen’s scalable Web-based platform and stellar customer service empower more than 200 clients and 150,000 users in 168 countries around the world. 105 native languages are spoken in the countries Widen serves.