DAM Champ: Lisa Grimm

This week our DAM champ is Lisa Grimm, Technical Program Manager, Knowledge & Information Management for Amazon Web Services. She has advice on user governance, system adoption, and the difference between managing digital and print assets.

DAM champ: Someone who supports finding, setting up, or maintaining a digital asset management system (DAM). There is a wide variety in DAM champions, who come from positions in production, creative, management, IT, and marketing.

DAM champ Lisa GrimmHow did you end up working in DAM?

I’ve been in tech for 20 years now.  I did some web design and then got more into the structured content management side of things. When I started working on what would become digital asset management, it went from just thinking about publishing content on the web to managing things behind the scenes. For the past 3 years, I worked at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) where I set up all of their DAM capabilities. 

So it sounds like you went from publishing things to managing things?

As the growth of what you put up online exploded, it became much harder to manage those things either through a directory structure or a find tool. Once you uploaded them somewhere they would stay there – but you wouldn’t necessarily have a good way to track them down again. You also get into areas where there are assets that need to be restricted because of rights management. 

Would you say that if you don’t have a DAM, you probably don’t have much control over where your digital content is?

Absolutely. First of all, if you spent money for a digital asset and you’re not using it, not only are you leaving money on the table but also, you don’t know who is going to use it down the line. You certainly open yourself up to risk if it’s in the wrong place or in the wrong region. There is a lot that can go wrong if you don’t have important digital assets controlled.

In your previous position where you were setting up a DAM, was it a departmental DAM or for the whole company?

The initial stand up was just for the group in the United States to look at managing marketing materials — anything from each individual asset to a composed piece. There were individual assets, images, video, and things like that, but you would also have part of a website or an InDesign file for print. That kind of variety is something I have never done elsewhere. In other places, it has always been very web specific or at least online specific. 

At GSK, they were also interested in having all of their print assets in the same system so that was unique. Since a lot of the print files had a different use case from the digital publishing files, having both in one system made it a little trickier. As I said, the system was initially for the US and went global after the first year and a half or so.

You talk about the different uses cases between digital and print, what were some of the main issues you had there?

The way that particular DAM system was set up siloed content for web publishing systems and the print publishing. The difficulty was that you had to have two different versions of things, or sometimes more, to serve the different audiences. That made it a little trickier because it meant managing versions of the same thing. 

It was sort of ironic because your DAM system should be helping you with version control. Instead, we had multiple versions which needed to be kept separately within the DAM system for the different users because the way our other systems did or didn’t play nicely with the DAM system. It’s an interesting cautionary tale – you can know how the DAM system should be used but because the way the other systems were set up, we didn’t get to do that and it made it tricky to manage. 

It sounds like integrations choices were driven other technology choices that were in the company at the time. Does that sound correct to you?

It certainly makes a big difference if you can have things that integrate well together. I worked other places where there were really good API’s between systems that can reference what you want. A lot of decisions on integrations are made with business processes in mind. In a huge global company, getting some of those things nailed down is tricky. It can be easier to start small and figure out where you’re going to get the biggest improvements right away. 

How did you plan user governance and access control with that particular project?

By the time I came on, a consultancy did some outside work and they had a view of who the DAM users were going. It turned out that the people they thought would be the users didn’t want to be the users. They said using it didn’t have much to do with their day-to-day work. 

A lot of the users were going to be external to the company. I had to make sure that not only did they have the training to use the system but also that they had access to the right set of materials. For example, if there were two different creative agencies working on two different brands, they should not be able to see each other’s work. 

I also had to build in extra security to make sure that if someone hadn’t logged in for 30, 60 or 90 days that they would be deactivated because I couldn’t really rely on those external agencies. There was a lot of manual effort there.

In an ideal world, how do you start planning your user governance?

Do the fact-finding about users upfront. Find out who is involved in the creative process and who the actual day-to-day users are. Then you can reach out and start cultivating super users and making sure you have other people who can advocate for the system. You have to be prepared to be agile if there’s a whole different subset of users you weren’t expecting.

When you think about governance, build in some policies up front that you’re actually going to stick to. A lot of times you’ll have something on your calendar like ‘quarterly we’re going to check to see who’s in the system’. That’s nice to say, but you have to actually do it, which doesn’t always happen.

What would be three or four of the actual types of users you had in that particular project?

It’s really designers, developers, and approvers (often brand managers or a similar title). Those people are going to be the main focus day-to-day. There were also people writing copy that needed to reference items in the DAM to know what they were writing about. Another group that I wanted to have more involved was legal and compliance, making sure we still have the right usage information. You can automate a lot of it depending on what kind of DAM system you have.

Setting up a DAM is one thing, but how do you address adoption, or actually getting people to use it?

I learned a lot about user adoption my first time around — just telling people go to your training and then expecting them to start using the DAM is not a good way to get wide adoption at a huge company. When you have this large group of people scattered around the world, it’s really about getting across what’s in it for them. Listen to them talk about how they do their job and then give them some support by showing how this is going to help.

“I did a lot beyond having trainings. I set office hours where people could drop in physically or virtually to say ‘Hey, I’m having trouble finding something or I’m having trouble figuring out where I can put this in my process’. I think having the option where people can come to you without particular agenda is helpful.”

I also recommend publicizing successes. I started a newsletter so people could see how Brand X managed to save money by leveraging the resources that were already in the DAM. When you’re standing up something new, if you can share the successes and get people excited about it that certainly makes a difference.

Other advice on ensuring adoption in a larger organization?

It helps to have it mandated from the top down that people need to use the system. I don’t love this as a strategy on the whole but we did find people trying to circumvent the process. Not because it wasn’t going to be useful, but because they didn’t want to try something new. I worked in other places where they were a little more tech savvy or a little less risk averse and they jumped in and tried something new right away, but in this particular environment, they really had to hear it was part of the job to use a DAM.

I went around to a lot of senior executives and talked about why the DAM was important, how it was going to help the organization, or how it would save the company money. Until I had that level of understanding from the senior executives, they didn’t really want to support it.

How do you measure success with  DAM?

A lot of people want to see hard cost savings. I did find it was really useful to get baseline metrics before launching the system, finding out where people were spending money and how frequently. We went from spending a ridiculous amount of money to a much smaller amount of money and getting the same creative output. Or initially, it took 15 hours to get the initial sign off on a new piece and now you can do it in 30 minutes, you can then show that efficiency as well. I think both are the benchmarks people like to see. 

I personally like to see that people are not frustrated with the system and that’s harder to measure. Finding a system that people are happy with, where they can say ‘Yes, this really does make my work better’ is nice. It’s a little hard to get some of the qualitative measurements versus the quantitative. I am really looking forward to seeing where it goes in the next couple of years as it becomes more integrated with things.


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