DAM Champ: Mary Yurkovic

DAM Champ Mary Yurkovic is a DAM Industry Consultant focused on “smart content” that is organized with metadata, maintains usage rights, and can be evaluated with analytic data. Her experience includes content and digital media management, workflow optimization, content strategy, and more.

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.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Createasphere's Digital Asset Management Conference held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 22, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)

Can you talk about your digital asset management (DAM) experience?

The bulk of my technology and digital asset management experience is from the publishing industry. I implemented the first digital asset management system for a major publisher, which at the time was intended more for content delivery.

We had a small home-grown solution that was tremendously popular. It was only designed for about 10 people and shortly after it went live, the executive staff wanted to use it as company wide solution. This home grown system was not capable of handling the demand for content, delivery, or the end-users.

It took some convincing that an enterprise solution was needed. From there we built a business case, we went through the RFP (request for proposal) process, and selected and implemented an enterprise DAM solution. Working as a liaison between the technology staff, the creative teams, and executive management was quite the challenge. There were many lessons learned and at the time the DAM community was very small. I relied upon other content owners who had implemented DAM’s to help guide the way.

As a consultant specializing in DAM, what is your work like now?

I have been consulting in the smart content space for over 10 years. I realized over the years that there is a huge learning curve for many people in the space who need to get their DAM and related technology up and running.

After implementing several systems in various organizations, I do not want people making the same mistakes that I have seen over and over. People still think that these asset management systems are “plug-and-play” – they’re not. The biggest challenge is the people factor. People within an organization need to think about asset management in a fundamentally different way. There’s a lot of complexity to them and they can be extremely powerful tools.

What is a common misperception about DAM?

Digital asset management is not just a technical solution. It is also a methodology and it requires thought. You can use digital asset management for workflow and you can use it for collaboration. In some instances, you can use it as a system of record or just an archive tool. It has tremendous capabilities and the power of adding metadata directly connected to your content can a driver for your analytics efforts.

“DAM’s are more than just a file cabinet to keep content.”

People also think DAMs are “plug-and-play” because they are used to installing software such as Adobe Photoshop, workflow tools, or even email applications that are intended to do only one thing.

Because DAM’s can do more than one function, you are missing out on a lot of great benefits if you don’t have a strategy in place. There is a lot of education that needs to happen even before these systems get implemented. This education must happen at all levels, including upper management, and the planning has to include all business users. Again, these systems can be a powerful tool for an organization’s overall on-going content strategy if the proper vision is behind it.

How do you work with clients?

Many clients come to me with the intention of fast tracking the purchase of a DAM and avoiding the pitfalls, upgrading their systems in place for improved capabilities, or holding workshops to see where improvements can be made within their organization.

Depending on the project, I always try to focus on what their businesses needs are. I usually do a little bit of investigation and have deep discussions with them – not just about their content, process and technology – but also how their culture works.

“Every organization is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all with a DAM.”

The people component and the cultural and political climate of the organization are probably your biggest considerations. It is not just the technology solution that needs to function properly. Once we have established the business case, we take a deeper dive into what a good strategy will be for them. This strategy should always include a future roadmap with flexibility and possibilities. That roadmap will lay the foundation for which system or systems will be the best fit.

Does that model work with very traditional organizations?

If you are working with a very traditional organization that already has several technologies installed, and they’ve been installed since the beginning of computers, you will have challenges. Traditional organizations have a difficult time adapting well to a digital asset management system or any other related systems.

Producing a vision and getting buy-in from all levels while proving the ROI is a great start. The key is finding the small successes. You have to take little steps and show how DAM systems are going to solve very specific problems, then grown from there. Change management is a huge component to any major technology installation. With traditional organization’s this is an area that requires additional focus.

It’s interesting that you recommend focusing on a very specific problem when DAM’s have multi-purpose capabilities.

Once we have established some business cases, I show them what problems we are going to solve today to get started. Then I work with them on creating a bigger picture of possibilities where they can take their processes and technology into the future. That is where a smart content technology roadmap is extremely important. Especially in today’s world of increased content production and consumption, every organization is a media company.

What do you mean every organization is a media company?

Every organization produces content, whether they are in the life science, government, consumer products, or the M & E space. Everyone is collecting massive amounts of content and data. Leveraging that is really the key to how they can mine what they have and extend their brand.

Do you think DAM is threatening to people?

DAM and related systems are threatening because there is usually fear of change. If you do not have a champion of the DAM, do not have buy-in from the executive staff or key end-users, implementing any technology will be a challenge.

There must be an understanding that for an organization to be innovative and forward thinking, there must be changes and improvements. If there is a lack of interest in having efficiency because of transparency, people can view DAM as a threat.

People like to collect stuff on their hard drives, they like to collect stuff on servers, and they collect and manage their digital files on any device where they can. It usually makes them feel in control. It’s a comfort zone for them. They think ‘if I put it in the system and it gets lost, I’m not be able to do my job’ but there is a better way and that requires changing the thought process of individuals and their organization.

Why do people think using a DAM will cause them to lose their job?

A big fear of asset management is “if we install the system, I will be out of a job”. That usually doesn’t happen. It only happens to the people who don’t shift to using the technology.

“It is the innovative thinkers who can really help an organization move forward and while their job may shift, they will acquire a completely new skill set.”

Some organizations have a very difficult time with the concept streamlining workflow and managing content, especially if they are not the traditional broadcast or media producer. In all organizations though, there is usually a fear of ‘there’s no way a computer can do this, only a human can do this’.

For example, I work with clients who license their content and require rights management solutions. In the media and entertainment industry they are so stuck on the idea that these contracts need a human to read them and there is no way a machine can make them actionable. However, if they are looking toward the future, there are some really great business process and artificial intelligence tools that can streamline workflow.

By streamlining some process this can free up staff to do more intelligent and creative tasks. Who wants to spend four hours a day five days a week looking for content, entering metadata, being an in-house image finder or a digital hoarder for an enterprise?

With all these concerns around DAM, how is change management a part of DAM adoption?

Whenever you install any powerful tool in an organization, you’re going to get resistance. You’re going to have to really work with people from all levels, including upper management, to embrace the technology.

The shift required to accept new technology takes a lot of coaching and sometimes coaxing. Implementing new technology can trigger resistance and risk, as it requires a different way of thinking. You have to be prepared for that. Most organizations say they want to be ahead of technology for the future, but it can always be a struggle for them.

Why is DAM worth the effort?

There is an ongoing supply chain that is happening with content. You’re gaining masses of amount of content from all places within your organization, you need to access everything, whether it’s photography, graphics or social media content, and you need to deliver the best customer or user experience possible. This requires three major components the people factor, the process and the technology.

They all must work harmoniously to make great technological implementations happen successfully.


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