Building DAM Systems on Paper – Robert Noble

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 Building DAM Systems on Paper – Robert Noble | Widen Podcast

“The first thing you want to do when starting the implementation is simply build it on paper...a combination of drawings and spreadsheets, so you know from every angle what it should look like, what it should feel like, what its properties are, what it would do if you poked it with a stick.” –  Robert Noble | KEEN footwear

In early 2018 KEEN footwear was searching for the right digital asset management (DAM) solution, and the right person to implement and administer it. “I was hired sort of hand in hand with the signing of the contract with Widen,” said Robert. “My background had two Widen implementations right in a row, following dozens of DAM implementations for other software companies and other production companies.” So although he had no previous background at KEEN, he was hired for the job and hit the ground running. In this podcast, Robert shares his advice on how to successfully implement a new technology at a large organization, even without any previous institutional knowledge.

Full interview topics include:

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The need for digital asset management at Keen

Before the Widen Collective® and Robert came to KEEN, employees relied on ftp software to share files with external partners and vendors. Robert said, “FTP is fine, generally, however, there’s no searchability, there’s no taxonomy, there’s no tagging, there’s no anything. You really just have to go grab a big folder and then hope that the files don’t corrupt if your telepresence goes up or down during the transfer from ftp to your local desktop – and then you open it up and you don’t know what you’re going to get inside really.”

And this is the essence of why KEEN chose to invest in a DAM system. “That’s why they wanted a DAM. It’s why DAMs exist…so you know exactly what you are getting. Instead of just getting a big cardboard box with the word FOOD scribbled on the side in sharpie, you can pick over a plate of hor d'oeuvres and say I’d like one of these and two of those and some of that but none of this.

Addressing implementation fears

Robert said he has two big fears with any implementation, “One is the present fear, and one is sort of a forecasted fear.”

  • “The present fear is that you are just going to design it wrong,” he said. “All good DAMs are built on paper first, a combination of whiteboarding and excel documents...the first fear is simply that you’re going to make your initial sketches in the wrong direction and everything will be built out from that wrong direction.”
  • “The second fear – which is a forecasted fear for later – is just that people won’t get on board with it,”  he continued. “It is sometimes very difficult to get individual people, or larger departments, or even a company mindset, on board with a new kind of technology. Not just new technology, but a new kind of technology, to do a new thing.

So how does Robert address these fears? He said that the concern around building the DAM incorrectly is tackled through due diligence. “A good DAM admin, with solid, completed, whiteboards and strong, completed excel docs already has the DAM built in their mind. It’s just a matter of adding flesh to bone once you actually start the implementation.”

And then ultimately, he said, “The implementation itself is almost anti-climactic, because you’ve built it and taken it apart, and built it and taken it apart on paper and in your mind so many times before you actually do the work, that when you finally do do the work, it’s like oh, this again.”

And he approaches the challenge of user adoption by creating and spreading excitement. He said, “We have to get people excited for this. We have to reassure them, hold their hand, find the people who would be good advocates and then sort of groom them early on to evangelize to other people that they are in contact with, so you spread this excitement. That’s totally separate from how you design and build a DAM, it’s how well you prepare the people who will be using it, for it.”

Doing the work

Robert had his work cut out for him when he arrived at KEEN in the spring of 2018. He needed to define how digital asset management could support various workflows across the organization and then how to structure the DAM to best meet users’ needs. Oh, and he had to create metadata for over 50,000 legacy assets!

Fortunately, he was able to spend 100% of his energy on the DAM system, and the metadata creation could happen over the course of his first year. He set a 12-week schedule to design, build and implement the DAM, with a soft launch date in August and official launch in September. And with that deadline in place, he did the work to meet it!

The art of DAM system governance

KEEN’s approach to DAM system access relies heavily on portals, which allow them to share assets with hundreds of thousands of people. In addition, Robert tailors the permissions and accessible content for each of his users — which he caps at 100. He said, “If you have a username and a password to get into our cloud-based DAM vault, chances are it’s going to be a custom and bespoke experience for you.”

Their system governance structure is further complicated by the need to share assets with their large, international network of distributors, who are not KEEN employees. For example, do the distributors in New Zealand need the same permissions as the distributors in Australia? Should they have the same role, or separate ones?

Robert created a tiered access structure that he likens to a highly-textured tapestry. “If you stand back, you can see it as just a great big impressionist painting, but if you get up close, you’re like, my god — look at all these small, interconnected parts!”

Ongoing site maintenance

Robert began the implementation process by engaging roughly ten stakeholders from legal, IT, and creative. Today, he is the sole administrator. The site stores approximately 150,000 assets that occupy roughly seven terabytes of space.

One important part of his system maintenance is user training. He says he begins sessions with new users by asking if they’ve used a DAM system before. They usually say they haven’t, and then he’ll point out that if they have purchased something on Amazon.com, they have used a DAM system. Or if they have used youtube, they have seen how streaming media works in DAM technology. “Using those analogies, people very quickly get on board with the idea that it’s what we are going to be doing with the KEEN footwear content,” he said.

Words of wisdom

Drawing upon his experience with numerous DAM implementations, Robert has three key pieces of advice for other admins who are approaching a DAM implementation:

  • Trust your implementation partner. “I have yet to meet anyone at Widen that does not know how to do their job…so please put faith in the people at Widen that you are talking to. It has helped me tremendously.”
  • Do your due diligence. “Be a good student. Show up with your homework finished...find out what it is you’re going to need metadata-wise, what you’re going to need category, asset group role wise,” and then have this all ready for your weekly meetings to keep the project on schedule.
  • DAM work is never done. “Remember that if you build your DAM correctly, it is a living, breathing thing. It is like a garden. It is alive. So it will change...there is no point at which we can say, we’re done. You will never be able to say it’s finished. You will only be able to take a snapshot of that day, and say, here’s what it looks like now.”

In a nutshell, find a good DAM partner, spend time planning your DAM implementation, and then do good work!

About the Widen Implementation Podcast

The Widen Implementation podcast is about helping customers prepare for and execute their DAM roll out. Each episode will involve conversations with people who have implemented the Widen DAM solution. It's our hope that each episode will help future Widen customers by giving them a few tips regarding the implementation process.

About our guest

As a video post-production workflow and digital distribution specialist, Robert Nobel leads projects to assimilate, analyze, and present technical information for inter-departmental needs. He is the Digital Assets and Media Manager at KEEN, where he handles all aspects of digital asset management strategy for the organization. KEEN is a values led, independently owned outdoor footwear brand with a mission to responsibly create original and versatile products, improve lives, and inspire outside adventure.

About our host

Bill Banham is a marketing and publishing professional based in Toronto. He is the founder of the HR Gazette and Iceni Marketing as well as the co-founder of the WorkingTech show and the InnovateWork event series. Bill hosts several CPSA podcast shows on topics including social selling and tech, business strategy, and sales strategy.

Listen to more episodes from the Widen Implementation Podcast series.

Topics: Widen Podcast, DAM Implementation

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