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Summit stories: Their inspiration for a DAM move

by Nate Holmes, October 12, 2016

2016 Summit stories

The journey for digital asset management (DAM) starts with the desire for your people to have access to the assets they need, when they need them. Roughly a third of our customers come from a different DAM system. The remaining two thirds are coming from scattered, unaccessible, or limiting systems. We’ve worked with organizations transitioning from boxes of CDs to internal servers to Dropbox to individual desktops. These systems can work for some things, but marketing and digital teams are coming to us more and more because their current systems aren’t working. The volume of assets being managed and the variety of audiences that need access to the assets becomes too much. They need a better way.

2016 Summit stories2016 Summit stories

During this year’s Widen Summit, two customers, Sharon Doan from Polywood and Deborah Tint from Brooklyn Public Library, shared their journeys of identifying the challenges they needed to solve and the move into their DAM systems to meet those challenges. Both reinforced the importance of understanding the audiences they need to distribute assets to and how they can make it easier for those audiences to find what they need.

Moving to a DAM system for centralization and organization

A central location is the first step in cutting down on time searching for digital assets. When you lose your keys, you ask yourself “Where’s the last place I saw them?” This kind of “retracing your (asset) steps” searching is exhausting. Eliminate that first question and provide one place where your teams know they can find the assets they need. Sharon shared Polywood’s journey of moving into DAM to provide that central source of assets.

Polywood is a manufacturer of outdoor furnishings made from recycled plastic. They’re primarily a B2B company with national e-commerce accounts. These e-commerce accounts are then selling to consumers. The Polywood marketing team provides content for web dealers to sell their products. They don’t just sell their outdoor furnishings, but also sell the sunsets and good times you’ll enjoy in it. Imagery plays a critical role in communicating that experience.

The lifestyle, studio, video, and collateral for all of their products adds up to 11,500 assets. You can understand Sharon and Polywood’s challenge with managing all of that in multiple Excel spreadsheets, folders, and FTP links. And it’s not just their team who uses those assets. Their marketing department was experiencing “internal mass confusion” distributing those thousands of images to their web dealers.

Moving to a DAM system gave their team one place for organizing and distributing their assets. Their team now works more efficiently, selecting and sending images to their dealers in minutes, not hours.

Organize assets for the people accessing your assets

Getting everything in one place is just the start. A centralized dumping ground still leaves people sifting through everything. We need to organize in a way that’s intuitive for the people in the system.

Before their DAM system, Polywood had a folder structure but it lacked search functions. Their organization also relied on internal knowledge and SKUs. The marketing team could navigate the folder structure, but dealers struggled with it. They needed assistance to find what they were looking for, taking additional staff time to walk through the images. 

2016 Summit Stories

As part of Polywood’s DAM initiative, they addressed the inefficient folder structure. The combination of an established file nomenclature and metadata plus a system to facilitate search and filtering drastically improved everyone’s ability to find what they need.

Moving to a DAM system for greater flexibility and control

Even the most organized organizations need a system that’s powerful enough and flexible to execute and manage all the data. The greater the quantity of assets and audiences accessing the assets, the greater the demands on the system connecting the two.

Take the Brooklyn Public Library, a place where assets don’t expire. The library preserves and transmits knowledge, history, and culture. The library had a central location for its assets but it was “frustratingly simple” according to Deborah Tint, Special Collections Cataloger, Brooklyn Collection. Navigating through 23,000-plus photographs and hundreds of years of history requires more than a simple keyword search.

Metadata is more than file tags

Going from a stand-alone folder structure to a system with keywords, search, and filters was a big win. But for larger asset libraries, it’s not enough. The user searching needs more tools to go from the 23,000 assets down to the handful they are looking for.

Before their DAM system, Brooklyn Public Library was using a cataloging platform designed for books. One of the key groups searching for photographs is the public. “People were flopping around, not being able to find things,” Deborah said. With the cataloging platform, the public search was limited to keywords, material type, and date. The library has more information about the photographs but didn’t have the system to support it.

Filtering by location was one aspect lacking in the old system. The places photographs were taken deepen the connection to the community, so that sense of place is an important addition to the metadata. Brooklyn Public Library has created a list of the 110 most often used Brooklyn/NY place names. With this addition to the DAM system, they have the flexibility and control to offer more powerful searches, giving the public a way to find and filter based on locations.

Pushing DAM systems further

There’s plenty to celebrate once you’ve moved your organization into a system that helps people find what they need. Once this key challenge is met, it allows your team to explore other opportunities for improvement — opportunities to provide even more value to your organization and your stakeholders. You may focus on optimizing your DAM system to improve internal efficiencies or on extending your assets outside of the DAM.

Improving communication of assets

Sharon’s next big DAM initiative is improving the communication of assets to Polywood’s dealers. The volume of assets various dealers need access to can present a challenge — for admins and dealers. Polywood is focused on providing what the dealers need, organized in a way that makes it even faster for them to access.

With this external audience, presenting assets in a customizable, visually stimulating, and brand way supports their Polywood branding initiatives. She will solve this challenge with the new portals functionality offered in the Widen Collective.

Topics: Widen Summit, Customer Stories, DAM

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