A major challenge for the DAM industry is effectively conveying the overall impact that digital asset management systems can have on an organization. Digital asset management is relatively new compared to the other functional components of a company. Many companies have little or no experience with digital asset management initiatives; so they don’t fully understand what effective digital asset management can really do for them. With so many “digitally born” assets being created every day, most companies are starting to recognize they, indeed, have a digital asset management problem but they don’t exactly know the best way to address it.
Every organization has a DNA to it. A lot of times, it reflects who the founders of the company are. People value what they understand. If they don’t understand something, they don’t have the capacity to really value it. You see this a lot of the time with a company’s hiring practices. Organizations tend to repeatedly hire the same types of people because the people who are doing the hiring, envision the work that the new hire will be doing, they determine what skill set that it will require and they build their job description from that. The company gets exactly what they asked for and the company DNA remains the same.
How do we, as digital asset management professionals, help interrupt this DNA propagation? How can we assure the companies for which we work that a proper digital asset management strategy can transform their entire company? From personal experience, I can say this is difficult to do. In the end, it takes trust.
Many years ago, I joined a start-up company that was struggling in many of the same ways that most young start-up companies do. They had gone through a number of ups and downs with their product, their customers and their financing over the years. When I arrived at the company, they had recently reduced the size of their workforce about 6 months earlier and had gotten rid of their digital asset manager. The company’s founders were technically minded, engineering types and thought their software development and IT teams could pick up the slack. After about 6 months, everyone was pretty frustrated and it was decided that they needed to bring a DAM specialist back into the company.
As you can imagine, the day I arrived, there were a million pressing issues that had piled up during those 6 months, each from a different person from a different department. It was a bit overwhelming for sure. I did what I could to address those things that were preventing the company from moving forward with their day-to-day business but I determined that a workflow redesign was needed to really get the company’s digital asset management house in order. So I set out to develop that plan.
It took several weeks but I put together a plan, got buy-in from the IT and software development team and started working on implementing it. The problem was, there were several very vocal people within the organization that still had things from their original list (as well as new things) they needed me to address. They were insistent that I solve their problems immediately! They made their complaints known to me and to management. I really wanted to help them but I knew that if I pulled back on my plans to redesign the overall digital asset management workflow, my department would spend their days running around just putting out fires. Nothing meaningful would be accomplished over the long run and still no one would be happy. A workflow redesign was the only way to turn the chaos that was created before my arrival, into some semblance of order.
I remember sitting down with the President of the company and explaining to him that I just needed 6 months to put all the pieces that I needed into place. The problems the company was experiencing now would simply go away, if I just was given the time to build what was outlined in my plan. In addition, there were proposals being thrown around the company to build internal tools and reporting systems to help track and notify people of the various emergencies that seemed to be occurring on a daily basis. I further explained that we could avoid a lot of expense by not wasting our time and money in the development of unnecessary systems. Those problems that were plaguing the organization would be no longer even be an issue once the new workflow system was put in place. Lastly, proper digital asset management would bring new efficiencies to the organization in almost every department. It would enable the company to do much more with less people.
To the company’s President’s credit, he trusted me and gave me the 6 months I asked for. We put the workflow systems in place and I was able to bring some order to this aspect of the organization. Not to say that we never had any problems ever again. Digital asset management systems are never really 100% complete. There are always further refinements and new challenges to address. But we were able to make a significant improvement to the company’s day-to-day operations by bringing a new set of skills and thinking to the organization. Up to this point, the organization’s DNA had prevented them from being successful in this area. With a little trust, they were able to see improvements and efficiencies within a number of different departments at the organization.
Eventually, the company grew out of being a start-up. It was later acquired by one of the largest media companies in the world. Our division’s digital asset throughput increased by 400%. What was interesting to see was the core of the workflow system remained intact throughout those years and even though our data throughput had increased dramatically, the size of our department increased only by about 50%. The foundation we had built in the early days was able to continue to be improved and achieve greater efficiencies. The money invested initially was able to save the organization millions of dollars by not having to hire people to run around and put out fires all day.