DAM Champ: Deb Fanslow

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

Deb Fanslow digital media managementWe’re really excited about DAM Champ Deb Fanslow — in addition to being a digital asset management professional, she has a degree in Library and Information Science. Read more about her thoughts on DAM as a librarian and the Lead Asset Coordinator for Campbell Soup Company.

Connect with Fanslow on LinkedIn and Twitter.

What is your role in supporting or organizing a digital asset management (DAM) project?

My current role as the Lead Digital Asset Coordinator for Schawk!, onsite at Campbell Soup Company (that’s a mouthful!) involves managing Campbell’s digital asset collection for a selection of brands, including the Campbell Soup products, Pace, Prego, Swanson, and V8, among others. I work closely with the Design and Marketing teams, as well as external partners and agencies to ensure that Campbell’s brand assets are accessible throughout the digital supply chain.

How did find out about DAM systems as a way to deal with digital assets?

While I had worked with many types of databases while earning my degree, it was while earning my Post-Master’s certificate that I learned about “digital library” and “digital archive” systems that are used to store, manage, and preserve rich digital media.

Researching career paths for digital librarians, I stumbled upon the world of DAM. I quickly realized that DAM systems, digital library systems, and digital archive systems are similar beasts…they all have the same core information management system components, but with different modules.

From a librarian’s point of view: Why is digital asset management important?

A long, long time ago, librarians and archivists learned that the most effective and efficient way to manage a collection of content that needed to be shared was to centralize, structure, and describe the content within it accurately and consistently for access, retrieval, and distribution. Rigorous standards were applied to the practices of cataloging (a.k.a. applying metadata), classification, and indexing, using various types of metadata.

Today, DAM systems serve the same purpose – to centralize, structure, standardize, and distribute digital assets so that users can find and use the content they need, when, where, and how they need it. You can have the fanciest technology available, but without structuring, classifying, and describing your content appropriately and consistently, you might as well just keep using file folders on your servers.

Investing in a DAM system without investing in information architecture and governance is like buying a beautiful set of stationary, then sending a carefully crafted letter off to the post office with no stamp (access/permissions), no mailing address (descriptive metadata), and no return address (administrative/preservation metadata). It’s not going to get where it needs to go, and you’ll have an awfully difficult time finding it again. Crazy…but this is done every day.

From a business person’s point of view: Why is digital asset management important?

DAM is critical to businesses today because information drives business decisions. If you don’t have your content centralized, structured, and described effectively, you simply won’t be able to find, repurpose, and analyze your content to support business operations and decisions.

DAM alone won’t do this for you, of course. DAM involves rich media, but this is only one type of content; it is only one spoke in the enterprise information management wheel. Both data and content need to be stored, described, managed, secured, preserved, and distributed efficiently and effectively across the enterprise in order to be of maximum use. That means stepping back to look at the big picture – how does data and content flow throughout an organization? Where does it come from, and where does it need to go? DAM needs to be integrated with knowledge management, records management, document management, data management, web content management, archives, and other information management initiatives within an organization. And then there’s external data and content to contend with…

Although not a small undertaking, the rewards are substantial. When digital assets are enriched and embedded with quality metadata, and those assets flow through integrated systems (collecting metrics along the way), DAM becomes a foundational strategy for building collective intelligence. What business today doesn’t need a wellspring of actionable information?

What is the best thing about DAM?

Of all the content management disciplines, I love DAM because it keeps me close to the creative process. I like being close to the source of content creation, but also being able to facilitate the management and reuse of that content downstream. As someone who is well familiar with creative deadlines, approval bottlenecks, and versioning headaches, a well configured and integrated DAM system is a creative’s best friend.

I love to see how effective DAM practices save time, money, and effort across the board. One of the reasons I became interested in information management is because I can’t stand doing the same thing over and over if it’s ineffective and inefficient -or simply because information wasn’t available when and where it needed to be. I am all for collecting and sharing information, and using technology to automate as much repetitive work as possible so people can move on to more interesting endeavors!

What is your biggest challenge as a DAM champ?

By far, the easy part of DAM is the information and technology facets. It’s the people and processes that are challenging. We have effective ways of structuring and describing data and information for retrieval within information systems. Convincing executives of the need to invest in managing their content is the biggest challenge.

Next comes the challenge of navigating culture and politics to create an environment that can successfully support and sustain an enterprise information management program. Add to that the change management aspect, which cannot be underestimated. Last but not least, there’s the issue of allocating enough budget, time, and resources.  

Having said that, advocating for the need to invest in technology that is fit for purpose is often a huge challenge as well. Many organizations are not thinking long term…they often go with the cheaper option or try to fit a square peg into a round hole with the systems they already have, rather than investing in a system that is more appropriately matched to their use cases that, while more expensive initially, will provide greater returns in the long run.

What advice would you give to people who are trying to get a digital asset management system in their organization?

I would say that you need to build a solid business case backed by metrics and aligned with your organization’s mission and goals – as well as the pain points experienced by employees due to inefficient information management practices. Do your research on DAM vendors, DAM systems, and integration points so you can demonstrate the ROI your organization can expect after implementing a DAM system within your organization. Also, it helps to come to the table armed with case studies from direct competitors!

Do you recommend any resources, conferences, forums, or new sources for people looking to learn more about digital asset management?

Well, of course, I’m going to recommend the DAM Directory…it’s a digital library of resources related to DAM, created by and for the DAM community. Pretty much every resource I would recommend as a starting point is listed there (including digitalassetmanagement.com!).

Also, I would recommend joining a DAM Meetup and the DAM Guru Program, reading DAM News, and joining SLA’s new DAM Section – which has an open listserv that non-members can join for networking and discussion on topics related to DAM.

Are you a DAM Champ or do you know one? We want to talk to you! More info here.

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