“We had such a problem with finding assets. It could take us days to find an asset in the past, because...the file could be on multiple hard drives, and then it wasn’t in any sort of structure. Now that it’s in Widen we can find the asset immediately, within seconds.” – Marc Marsocci, The Mariner’s Museum and Park
The digital services team at The Mariner’s Museum found themselves in a difficult predicament: they selected and implemented a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system, only to discover that it did not work as advertised. The gap between their workflow needs and the system’s functionality was so great, that they decided to invest the time and energy necessary to find and implement a better solution.
In this Widen Podcast episode, the director of the digital services team, Marc Marsocci, shares lessons learned from their extended DAM journey, with tips for any organization looking to implement a DAM solution of their own.
The need for the right DAM solution
The digital services team at The Mariner’s Museum provides internal staff and external patrons with digital access to the museum’s collection. As the director, Marc also takes care of the technology systems that support the collection, including... “our digital collections management system, our mass storage, digitization, anything that revolves around our collection and digitizing our collection.”
Before migrating their data to a DAM system they had approximately 250,000 digital images and 1,500 videos, all of which were extremely unorganized. “We had assets all over the place. We had been collecting digital assets for probably 15 to 20 years, so they were on multiple hard drives, they were on our internal server, and they were not in a folder structure that made sense.” Marc said. Their need for a DAM system was abundantly clear, and Marc led the search for a solution.
However, things didn’t initially go as well as they had hoped. “We started…working with another company to implement DAM throughout the museum. And we got a year into that and realized that we couldn’t continue with that software. It was just so difficult to use, difficult to configure…it still was not working how we needed. So, we realized that we needed to start looking for another company to go with. And so when I found Widen, they did check all of our boxes as far as what we were looking for in a product.”
Preparing for migration
Marc and his team spent an enormous amount of time preparing for the migration of data into the Widen Collective. Because their existing organization strategy was completely inadequate, they went through all of the files individually to weed out duplicates and group them into categories. This effort reduced the number of files by nearly 50%!
Mark shared, “we had a manageable chunk of images that were fairly organized and would allow us to continue to organize them. If we didn’t do any preliminary sorting of those images, I think it would have been extremely difficult to weed through them once they were loaded into Widen. It would have been overwhelming, and it would have made for a system that would have been very confusing from the start, for people to use.”
Once they selected Widen and began the data migration, things began to fall into place. “Widen was very helpful…[they] just took me step by step through the whole process, and it was very smooth. I have to say that of all the companies I’ve worked with, the onboarding process with Widen was the smoothest to date.”
A series of soft launches
Because the people on the digital services team were going to be the most frequent users of the DAM system, they built it and began using it first. Marc said, “we focused just on getting everyone in digital services to use the software, and we used it for probably three months before we opened it up to any other department. So we put it through its paces, we worked out all the bugs, we refined the system so that it worked for us and that it was a smooth process for everyone within digital services.”
This approach positioned them for a series of soft launches, by department. “Once we all felt comfortable with the system and knew it backwards and forwards, then we felt comfortable launching it to other departments. Because if they had questions, then we would be able to answer them. And we wanted to make sure that we really knew the system well before it was launched to other departments. And we didn’t want them being frustrated or stuck. We wanted to be able to move them forward with any of the requests that they had.”
Marc created training that was tailored to each department’s needs. He shared, “Some departments are more interested in being able to share assets, some are more interested in just being able to look at them. For instance...we do cataloguing on a daily basis of our items here at the museum, and what was happening in the past is the cataloguers were only being provided low-res images. And some of the images they needed to see detail. They needed to be able to zoom-in on the detail of a ship to possibly read the name of the ship in the photo. And so with Widen, they are now able to zoom into that image to read details on the images, where in our past processes you couldn’t do that.”
He hopes these training sessions will be on-going, to highlight new system features or functionality. And in all training sessions he collects feedback to inform modifications and improvements to the system.
A little advice for tackling permissions and roles
Marc didn’t sugar-coat the process of defining system governance, but has some practical advice. He said, “It is complicated. And understanding the different types of permissions in the system can be daunting because there is a lot of options. But I found the best way is to set up a test account and actually create a role and start actually using it, and see if you turn off a feature, how does it effect that role or that account. And then you start to learn how the system works and how the features are mapped. So that ended up working well for me.”
Plans for the future with the API
In their search for the right DAM system - the second time around - Marc said that the vendor had to have an API. They hope to use it to connect the Collective with their collections management system, which holds all of the metadata about the museum’s physical objects. Doing so would allow them to greatly enhance the search capabilities of the DAM, without building and maintaining two databases with the same data.
“So what we would love to do in the future is to have a primary key or a way to link the images in our asset management system with the images that are in our collections management system...to feed some specific fields or some specific data back into our Collective so that it will aid in doing searches.”
They would also love to use the API to connect the Collective with their website, which allows users to search all of the objects in the museum. An integration could make the high-res files in the DAM available for download, online.
Words of wisdom: do your research
Looking back on both of his DAM implementations, Marc advises others that are currently selecting a system to research their options as thoroughly as possible.
“Even though we did do an intensive search, there are so many different options out there and there are so many different features…we went with a different one to begin with, and that didn’t work out so well. But as far as going with the Widen product, I don’t have any regrets...other than I wish we would have found that first, because that would have saved us a lot of work.”
For the full story, listen to this episode of the Widen Podcast. Episode topics include:
- The need for the right DAM solution
- Preparing for migration
- A series of soft launches
- A little advice for tackling permissions and roles
- Plans for the future with the API
- Words of wisdom: do your research
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
Marc Marsocc is the Director of the digital services team at The Mariner’s Museum and Park. Located in Newport News, VA, the museum aims to connect people to the world’s waters, because that is how we are connected to one another. With one of the world’s most extensive maritime collections, it is committed to the preservation and conservation of more than 32,000 objects and several million library and archive materials. It also includes 550 acres of privately maintained, naturally wooded property that offers a serene place to walk, run, or picnic.
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.