DAM Champ: Laura Fu part 2

This is Laura Fu’s second time around as a DAM champ. Check out her first profile here.

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.

Digital asset management (DAM) champion Laura Fu part 2Tell me about your background and how you got into DAM.

I have a Masters in library and information science. I’m technically a librarian but I’ve never worked with traditional books.  I started out in television production and I created media libraries at TV news stations. I was always cataloging and in a way creating a digital asset management solution where people could search by keyword or date or topic and find a video clip for their newscast. 

In 2011, I got my first real taste of using a DAM at Sears Holdings Corporation. They had just started up their first DAM, so something was in place but they needed someone like me to help keep it organized. I got to learn a little of everything, implementation, management, automation, integration, customer success. I did that for 4 years. Almost exactly a year ago I came here, I’m on the vendor side and I help other companies basically do the same thing.

How do you start to move your data from disparate sources when you’re dealing with a lot of assets?

I think the first problem is finding those sources. I sometimes refer to it as the digital disorganization dilemma. Every company – no matter who you are or how old you are or what you do – has digital content, digital assets out there. Without a centralized hub or solution, you might not even know what exists. You know what your team uses, but how do you know about the team down the hall or maybe in another branch of your corporation. They might have great photography for a campaign that you could use, or a more updated logo.

The first step is finding out what is there and then trying to get everything together. 

I wish I had a success story for the best way to do it but normally it’s ‘hey everyone here is an FTP, give me all your stuff’. Once you identify those disparate sources you have to find a place to put them. I don’t necessarily mean put them in the DAM, you have to organize them before you ingest them. In my experience, we have used FTP’s and shared drives where it’s just a folder. A librarian-type person will have to go through it looking at file names or embedded data and really figuring out what’s there, before the next step of ingestion.

For the data that you’re looking to move, is it only the files themselves or is metadata included?

Just imagine you’re starting at a company and they say, “We have stuff, we need to figure out where the stuff is.” There’s no information governance, so there’s no standardized way of naming things, there is nothing. People might refer to things in the file name with a number or acronym that means something to them but nothing globally or enterprise-wide. So unfortunately in most cases, I see that there isn’t a lot of accurate metadata. Maybe you’ll get general information like a photographer or a campaign name or brand name maybe a year or date reference.

Let’s say someone said here’s some images of t-shirts that we need to upload into the system. I can tell by looking at it that it’s a men’s t-shirt, that it’s blue – but I don’t know the SKU. A lot of that does not come with assets. Sometimes you get lucky and people having embedded XMP or something that gives you a number that you can look up other data, but often times it’s just “Here –blue shirt 001.TIF.” 

What are some of the other types of formats you’re dealing with?

Mostly it’s imagery — TIF’s JPEG’s EPS, PSD — logos and photography but don’t limit yourself.  There are also audio and video and even text files like PDF and Word documents. That’s all very useful information in enterprises and that can still be retained in the same solution. 

What are things to think about when doing project planning?

A lot of it is communication and advocacy. How do you reach out to your potential users? Or patrons, if you’re going along the lines of the library example to say ‘What do you have that we can use and share?’ You have to educate people on why they need to share.

How do you weed out duplicates?

You can weed out duplicates with a lot of automation workflows. My experience is with Dalim, it can look at the data and say ‘Hey we think we found something that looks the same.’ It could be another version so you have a TIF and a JPEG, but it’s a lot of manual effort in reality. 

How do you decide what you’re going to move?

For me being more of the librarian, it’s not really our decision, we rely on the content providers. Sometimes I would use the phrase garbage in, garbage out. It’s just like with your library, if you go to the library and the publisher had a misspelling in the author’s name, you can’t blame the librarian. In terms of what we should move, we look a lot at the metadata, especially dates. If we need to delete something it’s based on how old it is. A lot of the automation relies on that metadata, the content providers need to give us accurate information or give us the direction as to what should be included.

When you start to move things do you move the most current things first or do you go back in time?

It depends on the customer. The most common request is let’s get the most current things in there because if you’re about to deploy a new solution you want the current assets, the most up to date logos and the most recent photos available. 

How do you ensure the assets are vital to your business?

If you are aware of your own company and your campaigns, let’s say you work in retail and right now it’s January, I would be thinking about jewelry and Valentine’s Day. Be prepared to support what is vital to your business based on what you know about your business.

It depends on the content providers. No DAM team or brand asset management would go out there and say, “Hey! Look at this really cool logo that I found on someone’s desktop! I’m going to upload this and let everyone know.” Just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s relevant or up-to-date. You also have to think about permissions. You find a great photo of a child wearing a winter coat you can’t just add it and say hey everyone look at this. Do we have permissions to use it? So in terms is it vital to the business, we don’t always know. 

How do you handle lifecycle policies?

My experience is all from retail, and retail is a great example to highlight life cycle and expiration dates. The things you see for sale right now you probably won’t see next year at that store because not only do seasons change, fashions change. So in a lot of places, the lifecycle is based on consumer needs.

I don’t think anyone should ever create a lifecycle policy without understanding the business and consumer needs for your industry. In retail, a lot of it might be talent and model related, so it’s date based. You might have permission to use their likeness for a year, that will coincide with the next season and then there’s a new winter coat so that one from last year is out of date.

What about in a corporate environment, what kind of advice would you give another type of company that is setting up lifecycle policies?

A lot of things might be on an individual file level basis. You might not be able to create a policy for everything, but rather for this campaign or this image. Maybe even metadata based, so anything that is this brand, or this color or shot by this photographer. You can create automation in workflows for receiving, removing and archiving assets based on meta properties. You can have hundreds or thousands of things being moved around on a given day via automation, so the metadata needs to be accurate. 

How do you segment your assets and how do you group data for different access?

A lot of managing segments of assets comes down to users, groups of users, permissions, and meta property management. I can’t speak for every solution, but you create permission profiles, permission groups so let’s say anyone that is a Super Admin can edit, anyone who has the title of marketing manager can edit, but only things that are for their brand. 

Within every system you can create restrictions. For example, general users can view but cannot download based on permissions. Maybe there’s a watermark that says the something is unreleased but someone might need a placement only image. You can set up the permissions so you get the information out there searchable and findable, but not yet usable to the full extent.

How long should assets stay in circulation?

One thing that comes to mind is logos. You’ll find great stories out there about logos. The Google logo I think was actually the same for 8 years, so there’s no set rule as to when a logo expires or when it’s been updated. 

So how long should assets stay in circulation? You might just think of yourself as the librarian, we just manage the assets, but you need to have a relationship with your users as individuals and as a team.  So we knew all the businesses (teams at Sears), footwear, jewelry, toys. They would tell us about a new logo or give us a heads up, hey next year we’re not going to use this company anymore because we don’t have a relationship with them anymore, so we need to get rid of that logo.

I think there are some key topics that repeated themselves a few times, but they are very important in talking about life cycles and moving into a DAM.

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