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Lessons From a Heroic Implementation – Scott Sharp

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“Within the space of three to five minutes, I had given a user of our system better content and a better option than I ever would have been able to do in the one or two hours of manual work we were doing previously.”Scott Sharp, WestJet

Scott Sharp Widen Podcast

Over the past 22 years in operation, airline WestJet managed to accumulate a staggering number of digital assets. For Scott Sharp and his WestJet creative services team, the writing was on the wall: They desperately needed a digital asset management (DAM) solution. After a rigorous internal buy-in process, Scott and team had approval. They decided on the Widen Collective, and with support from Widen Professional Services they set their sights on a superhero-worthy implementation.

In this Widen Podcast episode, Scott shares success stories from their implementation along with six helpful tips for any organization looking to implement a DAM solution of their own.

1. Establish success metrics.

A little pre-implementation planning can mean the difference between a long, strenuous execution and a seamless, pain-free launch. Setting realistic success metrics prior to implementation is an important planning step. For starters, it helps you understand what’s working and not working, so you can adjust throughout your implementation. It also arms you with the data you need to prove the efficacy of your system. And, when you don’t always have 100 percent internal buy-in from teams, this is powerful information in gaining support and advocacy throughout your organization.

After a nearly five-year process of selling his executive team on the value of DAM software, Scott knew he’d need every opportunity he could get to highlight the successes of their new system. So, before jumping in, he met with the Widen team to lay out an implementation schedule with set milestones. This not only kept their implementation on target but also gave WestJet a defined measure to track their goals against. To determine the best success metrics to focus on, Scott recommends thinking back to the benefits that ultimately sold decision-makers within your organization on a DAM solution. For Scott and team, this was better risk management and operational efficiency. Therefore, he made sure to lay out success metrics related to these executive-level values.

2. Put the right people in place.

To get the most out of your DAM system and ensure a smooth implementation, you need to build a network of people that can help inform and guide your system decisions. Organizations accomplish this in many different ways but most start by putting together a team that consists of existing or potential power users — or “DAM heroes,” as Scott calls them.

To get his DAM-hero team in place, Scott met with a range of department managers and asked them to identify the people on their teams that used digital assets the most. In Scott’s mind, these were his DAM-hero frontrunners, as they likely knew what worked and didn't work with WestJet’s current DAM processes. After getting his team in place, Scott set out to educate them on the benefits and capabilities of the Collective. To help, he adopted a playful, superhero-themed communication approach that engaged and won their attention. Let’s just say, it wasn’t unusual for Scott to put out the “bat signal” to rally his team in their “fight against the evil of unmanaged digital assets!”

3. Focus on the most effective assets first.

As more and more organizations turn to digital assets to tell their brand story and engage audiences, it’s not uncommon for businesses to accumulate hundreds, thousands, or even millions of digital assets. WestJet was no exception. When they scanned their network of servers, they uncovered around 4 million digital assets!

Given this astounding number, the WestJet team knew that it wasn’t realistic (at least initially) to manage every single asset in the Collective. To focus their efforts, they started by getting logos and other basic brand assets into the system. From here, they prioritized the most popular and quality assets. For this, Scott turned to his DAM heroes. Via a survey, he solicited feedback that identified stock photography and aircraft beauty shots as the highest priority for digital asset users. Turns out, they were right on the money! These assets were not only expensive, but the reuse rates for them were low because WestJetters could rarely find them when they needed them. The Collective and its search and organization capabilities would surely help.

4. Build a strong system structure.

There’s a common misconception that a DAM system runs itself. However, this belief couldn’t be further from the truth. To truly benefit from a DAM system, you need to take the time and set up a solid backend structure. This includes many components, but most importantly you need to configure and organize your system in a way that supports both searchability and governance.

For WestJet, this meant bringing on their very own “data ninja” to establish governance rules and build the taxonomies and metadata logic that would keep their system organized, safe, and searchable. The benefits were two-fold. Users could now quickly and easily find the digital assets they needed. And, on the flipside, WestJet could protect their brand by controlling permissions for how people used the system and its digital assets. Recalling a lightbulb moment, Scott talked about the time a colleague came to him with an asset request. He spoke to the efficiencies that the Collective brought saying, “Within the space of three to five minutes, I had given a user of our system better content and a better option than I ever would have been able to do in the one or two hours of manual work we were doing previously.”

5. Understand how DAM fits into your technology stack.

Understanding how your DAM system should integrate with other technologies across your organization is another core structural element that needs attention upfront. As organizations bring on more and more technologies to help them work better and faster, this step becomes increasingly important. Early in your implementation process, consider the role that your DAM system plays across your entire ecosystem of technologies. How can it help you eliminate duplicate efforts, improve global workflows, and automate activities between departments and systems?

Out of the gate, WestJet identified three systems that would benefit most from an integration with the Collective — their human resources information system (HRIS), content management system (CMS), and marketing automation platform. These integrations allowed them to easily share data and digital assets between systems. For example, since many of their photos feature WestJet employees, they were able to reference their HR system to automatically identify people in their digital assets. And, through their CMS and marketing automation integrations, they could seamlessly share digital assets to their website or pull them into targeted campaigns. They’ve seen such success with these integrations that they’re even considering a chatbot integration, so they can automatically respond to conversations on Facebook Messenger with relevant content from the Collective.

6. Plan your launch.

While some organizations try to go live with their DAM system as soon as possible, others schedule their launch to coincide with significant events like tradeshows, conferences, product launches, or marketing campaigns. During the planning stages leading up to implementation, think about your business goals and how your launch approach can support them. Then determine the launch approach that’s best for your organization. There are typically three paths businesses take:

  • A soft launch to a pilot group of users,

  • A phased launch to groups of users over the course of many months, or

  • A hard launch to all users at once.

In the case of WestJet, they decided that before their larger company-wide launch, which would coincide with a rebrand event, they would first do a soft launch with a smaller group of users. Armed with their Widen software implementation lead and customer experience manager, WestJet soft launched via a two-day training event. Their goals were to get their power users comfortable in the system and to gather a few success stories before rolling the Collective out to a broader audience.

For the full story, listen to episode 15 of the Widen Podcast. Episode topics include:

  • Leading groups and managing access during the implementation stage.

  • Tips for sharing and distributing permissions.

  • The role of creative pros in using the Widen Collective.

  • Understanding and evaluating integrations between DAM and third-party systems.

  • Who should be the keeper of your DAM system?

Listen to episode 15

Want to hear more? Listen to our bonus sound bites:

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

Scott Sharp is creative operations advisor and program manager for digital asset management, formerly at WestJet. WestJet was named best airline in Canada and one of the best low-cost airlines in North America, based on authentic reviews from the traveling public on TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel site. They are one of the very few global airlines that does not commercially overbook. Together with their regional airline, WestJet Encore, WestJet offers scheduled service to more than 100 destinations in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, and to more than 175 destinations in over 20 countries.

About Our Host

Bill Banham is a marketing and publishing professional based in Toronto. Bill is 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 Canadian Professional Sales Association (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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