I’ve been back to work for a few days, having just returned from New York City after my time at the Henry Stewart Digital Asset Management Conference. I am grateful for the opportunity to attend, since I was the only graduate student in the midst of a throng of industry leaders from the world of technology, marketing and media. I am an MLIS graduate student from San Jose State University School of Library Information Science, and digital asset management is one of the areas that my studies have focused this semester. My professor, John Horodyski, presented at the conference and it was through his participation that I was able to attend.
The conference was organized into two tracks, one geared for people ‘new to DAM’ and the other for those who are experienced DAM professionals. A third sideline ’technology track’ offered break-time sessions that were more specifically geared toward software specific presentations and case studies. As a student, I charted my course for the newcomer track for most of the two-day meeting.
The several hundred attendees at the conference included DAM vendor reps, consultants, marketing and creative team professionals, library, IT and archive professionals, publishers, and major television and movie production people. I also met some people who have businesses and are just searching for solutions to their digital media problems, researching whether a DAM system would get them on the right track. I’d say a true mix of interests were represented, which made for a good range of presentations from a variety of perspectives. Some came to share best practices, while others attended to seek out answers to problems in workflow or system integration, while others discussed DAM futures and trend forecasting. The mix of single speaker presentations with panel discussions offered opportunities for
As a student, and (hopefully) future digital asset manager, what I really appreciated was the chance to hear what the day to day issues are that people try and solve with their DAM systems, and the benefits and challenges that present themselves when working with these systems. I heard that making a case for the return on investment for using a DAM system continues to be a challenge, since the world of DAM is relatively specialized and new. It is not taken for granted that companies need a DAM system for the best management of their digital media.
Conference chairman David Lipsey opened the event with the mantra “everything, everybody all the time digital,” emphasizing the explosion of digital media in every business sector, and the need for DAM professionals to lead the way in the architecture and management of these assets. Keynote speaker Peri Shamsai, Executive Director, Media & Entertainment Advisory, Ernst & Young, referred to ‘the mediafication of business’ born out of the proliferation of online services, advertising and social media, which connects companies with their customers, but leaves a huge body of digital objects to manage by the enterprise. Without an integrated and organized way to access, preserve and manage these properties efficiently and effectively, resources will be wasted. DAM is what takes care of that problem, and requires an enterprise commitment to investment. If companies choose to ignore the need to manage their digital assets, they will be losing out. Why? Because competitors who master this will not only run their businesses more efficiently, they will actually be able to create new value directly from the efficiencies in the DAM system itself, and bring in new revenues. The case for ROI should include both the efficiency models and the potential revenue gains.
The conference provided insights from consultants and case studies from users about how they navigate the world of DAM. Theresa Regli of The Real Story Group, was a headline speaker and moderator, leading sessions on trends in DAM and offering advice for how to select the right DAM vendor for your company. Stories from the field about how companies handled the selection and implementation of their procurement, and the choices made and the challenges encountered was the topic of several panel discussions. The presenters came from broadcast media, advertising, and publishing, and included both non-profits and commercial outfits. A clear answer to the question ‘what problems are you trying to solve with the DAM system?’ and are essential to define when looking for the right vendor and designing the right system.
Workflow needs to be integral to the DAM system design. The conference provided industry insider testimonials about how assets enter the system, metadata is entered, managed, ordered, delivered, modified, and multiple versions stored. With the proliferation of platforms for delivering content, the workflow puzzle can become a tangled roadmap. An individual asset may be needed in many versions and formats for delivery on mobile devices, web, tablets. Carin Forman of HBO referred to unique identifiers and naming protocols as the ‘secret sauce’ to keeping the multiple versions of individual assets straight in the system. And metadata directly connected to each asset is key element for the end user, and the customer. Lisa Choi of Scripps Network noted that no one will find your content without the right tags and metadata. Metadata is king for making your assets accessible for reuse. And assets that are more accessible have the potential to hold more value to the enterprise.
Everyone agreed that rich, well designed metadata is the heart and soul of the DAM system. Without the right metadata inside, assets are buried and not searchable, and well-crafted taxonomies are needed for sound system architectures. Investment beyond the initial implementation is needed for maximizing DAM success; it helps to have an in house DAM expert, with several ‘metadata stewards’ across the workflow to ensure the system is sustainable and responsive to business changes. Good and consistent metadata entry needs to take place at asset creation, but this can be a challenge since those people are not the ones to reap the immediate benefits of the metadata’s power. It is the end users who reap the most benefits from good metadata.
Overall, several common themes emerged across the sessions. The need for a DAM system to serve the enterprise, rather than just individual departments, seems to be important for large organizations and workflow optimization. Connections between the silos of assets, in a federated system, allowing for global search functions were recommended by many panelists. The proliferation of platforms and products that the DAM needs to serve, from print to broadcast to web to mobile platforms, DAM is key to controlling and delivering content. And metadata is what makes the asset accessible.
The value of the conference comes from the multiple perspectives and practical experience and advice presented both formally and informally. Over two days there were many opportunities to hear from experts, meet vendors and DAM professionals and educators, and build industry relationships for consultation and collaboration. For me personally, as a graduate student in the field of information science, I see a potential for professional opportunities in many industries and organizations, as the field of DAM evolves and grows.