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Trailblazing lessons from the 2017 Widen Summit

by Nate Holmes, October 24, 2017

Widen Summit Digital Asset Management Panel

With the sixth annual Widen Summit behind us, we walk away yet again with lessons gained, connections made, and gratitude for the knowledge and dedication of our digital asset management (DAM) community.

This year’s event was all about exploring new trails, and with over 200 DAM professionals in attendance, there was no shortage of trailblazers eager to share their DAM adventures, advice, and creative solutions.

Here’s what we learned!

Dare to dream dangerously

Michael Shattuck speaks about making DAM driving value across the entire company

Michael Shattuck, global brand imaging manager for New Balance, was this year’s keynote speaker. Michael spoke about the organization’s turbulent journey with two failed DAM systems and how their courage to “dream dangerously,” or think big about the possibilities of DAM and act on these ambitions, led to their eventual success.

When the New Balance team positioned their DAM solution, the Widen Collective, at the core of their operations, they found that they could drive value across the entire company.

Here’s what Michael learned along the way:

  • Perspective is everything: Establish a corporate culture that views failure as an opportunity for growth and learning.
  • Lay a foundation: The three T’s – timing, team, and tool – are essential to establishing the best infrastructure for DAM deployment and iterative improvements.
  • Light the fire: Involve and listen to your user base, inspire internal influencers, help teams reach their goals, and repetitively communicate the benefits of DAM.
  • Fan the flame: After you deploy your DAM software, you’re just getting started. Keep the conversation going and work to reset bad habits within your organization.
  • Keep dreaming together: Continue to think about how DAM can take your organization where it hasn’t gone, and as Michael said, “Let’s not dream alone; bring others into the dream.”

Make it theirs!

Time and time again, speakers, panelists, and participants mentioned the importance of listening to and engaging the folks that actually use your DAM system. After all, if your user base isn’t getting what they need from DAM, what value is it driving?

In the words of Megan McGovern, digital asset manager for Sherwin-Williams, “The whole idea of a DAM is to make people not think; it should be intuitive.”

Widen Summit Megan McGovern

Even the most organized DAM system will fall short unless administrators incorporate logic and structure that is reflective of the way users think and engage with the system.

Here’s how the experts get into the minds of their DAM users:

  • Observe: Watch how users search for assets, analyze the data tracked in Insights, and measure user response to system changes.
  • Be visible: Make yourself available, proactively engage with users, and figure out how to be part of day-to-day workflows.
  • Build excitement: Educate users on how the DAM can make their job easier and build enthusiasm about existing and future possibilities.
  • Communicate: Talk to your users, build relationships, vocalize system changes, be transparent, and reassure users that you hear them.
  • Be a resource: Educate users with webinars, training, a governance policy, and ongoing support.

Commit to radical focus

Widen CEO Matthew Gonnering kicked off day two of the Summit with a reflection on his commitment to focus, as inspired by Christina Wodtke’s book, “Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results.”

Widen Summit Matthew Gonnering speaks about radical focus

Regardless where you are at in your DAM journey, you can improve your productivity by setting realistic and measurable goals. In other words, resist the urge to bite off the whole DAM thing at once!

A few tips to keep the overwhelm at bay:

  • Build a team: A human support system is crucial to the success of DAM. Construct a diverse team with varying perspectives, experiences, and motivations. Define the roles and expectations of all individuals and ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.
  • Set expectations: When first launching, educate your leadership about the importance of a planned, phased, and chunked approach that allows time for training, building metadata profiles, and uploading assets in the system.
  • Be focused but agile: Remember that DAM isn’t static. Each week recalibrate priorities and shift your focus based on the evolving needs of your organization.

Embrace change

Summit participants shared countless stories about the importance of evolving your DAM strategy alongside the ever-changing needs of your organization.

During an action-packed session, “Best DAM contest,” five Widen customers competed for the best DAM, highlighting their system, users, structure, and creativity during a round of lightning talks.

Jennifer Tyner, digital asset manager for Progressive Insurance, said, “It’s our job as DAM admins to make our DAM systems well-oiled machines.”

Widen Summit Jennifer Tyer shares during the Best DAM Contest

In the face of constant change, this can be challenging, but contestants and Summit participants were quick to offer advice:

  • Follow the north star: The needs of individuals, departments, executives, and partners can vary, but let the core mission, priorities, and goals of your company guide your decision-making.
  • Inform change: Use data and user feedback to identify trends to steer your content strategy and micro- and macro-level decisions.
  • Balance: Listen and consider all user feedback, but assign weight to requests of critical mass. If 50 people ask for an asset group, versus one, this could signal a greater need.
  • Hold partners accountable: Just as you are expected to adapt to changes in your organization, so should your partners. That’s why we are “Widen-ing” our offering to include full-service support, image recognition and auto-tagging options, a U.K. office, extended support hours, new Workflow and Templates apps, and much more!

Technology alone will not get the job done

Technology today is impressive, especially considering the advancements in DAM from artificial intelligence to customized user experiences. But for tech to live up to its full potential, Summit-goers believe that there must also be a human component.

Attendees and speakers continually debunked the notion of “if you build it they will come,” emphasizing the critical role that authentic human interactions play in getting people to use your DAM solution.

Widen Summit Nina Brakel-Schutt shares Widen Connectivity Report

And we agree! Here are a few research findings we presented:

  • 2017 Widen Connectivity Report: Seventy-six percent of interview participants believe that the most successful collaboration happens in person. It turns out that a tool is only a tool and that people want to connect with others!
  • Widen customer analysis: Widen customers with a dedicated DAM admin use two times more content than those without a dedicated individual. Yet, only 20 percent of our customers have at least one person who dedicates more than 50 percent of their time to DAM. Talk about a disconnect!

Have DAM fun

From sunrise yoga, volunteering, and biking to a drawing party, scavenger hunt, brewery tour, dueling pianos, comedy show, and more, we had fun at the Summit.

Widen Summit dueling pianos

But we also learned how DAM practitioners are using fun and creative ways to get their users engaged with and enthusiastic about DAM.

Here are a few of the fun-sparking ideas they shared:

  • Site scavenger hunts and games
  • Contests and rewards for power users and system advocates
  • Casual drop-in DAM office hours
  • Parties, high fives, and pizza to celebrate milestones and successes
  • Clever name and branding across your DAM site
  • Team-building excursions and activities

Until next year!

For those of you that joined us at the Summit, thank you for exploring new trails with us. Having the world’s leading DAM professionals together under one roof is inspiring, informative, and insanely valuable. We look forward to the 2018 Widen Summit, which takes place October 8-10, in Madison, Wisconsin. Be the first to hear about Summit news and announcements by subscribing today!

Topics: Widen Summit

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