The Widen Summit is coming soon. The 2018 edition promises to bring together the largest gathering of the Widen community — people who work in the trenches planning, analyzing, strategizing, and managing digital content across the entire content lifecycle — to see what’s new, discuss industry best practices, learn what other customers are doing, and go back to work with actionable takeaways.
Ahead of the big event, I got a chance to interview several past attendees and get their take on reasons to attend, what to expect, and what separates the Widen Summit from other DAM communities.
In terms of networking with and learning from peers, how useful is the Widen Summit? How does the collaboration at the Widen Summit compare to other events?
Leah Hammes (formerly Carlson), Global Digital Content Manager at McCormick & Co. and formerly Applications Support Analyst at National Cattlemen's Beef Association (where she also regularly used the Widen Collective): “I think it's a completely different experience. Widen does a really great job of setting up touchpoints throughout the summit to allow you to network with your peers and fellow admin. For one, they have several fun networking events around the city of Madison that gives you a chance to meet and get to know other customers. You can also join breakout sessions throughout the event where round tables are set up with specific topics to talk through any specific challenges that you might have. And there's also keynotes that you can attend to listen to other admins talk about their projects. I always try to get business cards and reach out to the different people that I meet when I return after summit.”
Jason Kuhl, Senior Graphic Designer at Daktronics: “I would say, as an admin, obviously, it's pretty good. I've been to two so far and we're working on seeing if we can get some additional employees to come, maybe more user-based, just to see kinda what we're working on too, in terms of digital asset management. But the collaboration, once you're there, just with other DAM admins, and even with developers of our tool itself is great and really just provides an experience for us to meet with everyone at the company there. Also share ideas with other customers that might be in a similar industry as us and see how they set up their DAM to help their users and share their assets with everyone in their industry and see if that can work for us or we can provide insight for them and just collaborate and make each other's DAMs all the better.”
Jane Leuchter, Content Librarian at the Institute for Functional Medicine: “I found it extremely useful. I've been for the last two years, so every Summit that's happened since we purchased Widen and started implementing it. The first year, I was a newbie. We were still in the middle of implementation. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew I would probably get something out of it. I managed to convince the company to let me go, and it was amazing. It was so great to be able to meet other administrators and not just necessarily other users of Widen, but the other people who are in the admin side and who are setting up the taxonomies and who are dealing with user engagement and that kind of stuff.
It was also really great to be able to meet all of the Widen people that I had been emailing with: the support teams, the product teams, my customer experience manager, everybody. They're so happy. They love talking to us about everything, and they really put it on for admins, so that it's useful for admins. It's been really great.
The second year, I actually presented, so I competed in the best DAM contest. Five of us got up and showed off our DAMs and then the audience voted. I actually won the best DAM, and I got a trophy, so that was really fun to take back to work and say, look, all the hard work we've been doing for the past year and a half, two years, has really paid off. Everybody agrees we have the best DAM.
It's really fun, even if you're not presenting and you're just going and taking in all the information and listening to all the sessions. I think it's really, really helpful as an admin to be able to go to a place that's Widen specific. There's a lot of other DAM conferences or librarian conferences or marketing conferences, but it's really nice to be in a place where you know that everybody's using Widen. When you're starting from that, I think you can get a lot more done in a conversation.”
Richard Carlson, Marketing Applications Administrator for Masco and Behr Process Corporation (Behr Paint): “In my particular situation, I'm sort of a one-man show where I manage the DAM by myself. In our company, there's really no IT support for it so I, you know, that's me. I handle all the users, I do everything in it. At times it can feel like you're a one-man show and going to an event like the Widen Summit was good because you're talking to other people who are also a one-man show and it's very comforting that you could talk on the same level with other people. You can commiserate, you know? They each can share stories, horror stories and good stories.
There are sympathetic ears all around and like oh hey, don't you hate it when your users do this or oh hey, I noticed you talked about this a few minutes ago. This is how we dealt with it. It makes you feel like you're not alone in your problems. That was probably the biggest for me. Just the nature of my job being alone, it was great to talk with other people who have specialized in this. It was really affirming. It was really educating. I really got a lot out of it.
Comparing it to other conferences ... It compares to other conferences very strongly that the educational sessions I had were great. There are varying degrees of technical expertise available if you're just starting the stuff or if you're in the middle, if you need advanced stuff. When I initially went to the Summit, even though I was there for three months, I tried to focus on some of the advanced stuff because we had already gone through the implementation and I wanted to know what I didn't know. I kind of focused on the advanced stuff.
There was incredible entertainment. It's not just all learning and class and stuff like that. There was also like social elements to it that I think ... The first night I was there, there was an event sort of like a scavenger hunt thing at the children's museum. They rented out the children's museum after hours and we walked over there and we had all these different events in the different rooms. It was kind of fun and it kind of gets you talking to other people. There were alcoholic beverages served so that definitely helps lubricate the process.
I got to meet different people that I wouldn't have normally met, working for Widen and also customers. You make contacts in the company and outside the company so the entertainment was great, the people were great, even afterward… (the Widen team) really went out of their way to make sure their customers and potential customers were well served.”
How important was it to get face-to-face time with your CXM? Did it help both sides keep updated, on track and know what's happening with the roadmap for the next 12 months?
Jason Kuhl: “The one-on-one is pretty crucial. When I was first there, during our implementation, we obviously communicated with our CXM over the phone very frequently. I would say three months later was the first Summit, so it was pretty shortly after that I'd been talking to my CXM on the phone and now I get to meet her in person, and schedule times to actually have a more lengthy conversation with how stuff is going. Obviously, the second year go-around I was looking forward to that as well, just to see that we can shake hands and put a face to the voice in the phone and work through and talk through any other problems or bring up any issues that we might be experiencing with them directly. Every chance I've had, at least in the two years that I've been there, they're very responsive. My CXM was very open to, "Let's solve this while you're still here" almost. Then she was quickly setting up additional meetings with the necessary people also at Summit to see if we could troubleshoot and get stuff straightened out for us even before we left.
… If you want to, or you choose to, look into that future planning state, that they provide a good roadmap for you while you're there. I'm kind of like that, I like to look far ahead and see where we can take things. I'm always trying to make things better and improve it, just within my own workflow and see how I can do what I do faster and easier. When they show you what their pairing and what it could look like and how it does affect your process and your workflow, it's hard not to get excited for it and kinda see ‘How can I apply this? What can I do?’”
Richard Carlson: “It was very valuable. It was the first time I was able to meet our representative at the time, Meghan. She was very great and very friendly. It wasn't like a sales call. It was like hey, how's it going, what do you think? She kind of like flushes out how it's going and what potential problems am I having? She's really just helping me to sort of guide my experience. Like are you sure, do you have all the classes that you need? Do you need to talk to anyone? It was very helpful to speak with her and any of the other technical representatives that I spoke with, they're, I mean I said it in my previous podcast, but like the level of customer service from Widen is excellent.
You could literally go up to anyone and they're going to be very friendly and they're gonna be very helpful. When I got to meet with her it was like oh wow, this is cool. I think everyone at this company is very friendly. It really means a lot to me. I've dealt with different vendors in different companies that I've worked with and it's always great to be met with someone on the other side who's like really does a great job in representing their company, is very friendly, you know.
As far as the Summit though, I met with Meghan and she walked me through some of the suggestions. We sat side by side, we were looking at my DAM and then she's showing me stuff on here, oh yeah, check this out. It was very helpful. The whole process was very helpful, especially meeting her and she's getting a sense of where we are, where do we want to go, how can she help us get there? I just can't say enough good things about the customer service reps there.”
Leah Hammes: “I think it's a great opportunity because first and foremost, it allows you to build a relationship with your CXM and get to know them better, but you can also touch base on any of the pressing projects that are in the works on your DAM … the nice thing too is you can talk to the Widen employees afterward if you have additional questions and they always gear you up with resources so that when you return, you can stay on track with their Trello board and the summit portal that they put together.”
Jane Leuchter: “It's been really important for me. I keep lists of things I want to talk to my CXM about, and we do have regular meetings online and over the phone. Those are very helpful, but I will say there is also something to be said for that serendipitous just sitting down next to them or sitting down within earshot of the project manager, or product manager, or customer support team, or whoever would just immediately be able to help. There's really something in being able to just sit down and look at the same screen together in the same room, and then see what questions come out of that.
The first year, I set up a meeting with my CXM, and then I walked in and I was like, ‘Well, I don't really think I planned any questions. I don't ... maybe I don't have anything.’ We ended up talking for an hour and a half about the system and how I used it and how I could use it better and things like that.
For me, it was really helpful to be able to see them face-to-face and to be able to say, ‘Well, I don't have a plan, but here are some things that are ... that I'm just thinking about that are on my mind,’ with no agenda, and then be able to see what comes out of that.”
Any interactive sessions you attended which you particularly enjoyed or left an impact on you for any reason?
Richard Carlson: “I remember the one that made the most impact for me just because of our particular situation like in our area when we rolled out the metadata, I don't think we had a firm understanding of the, you know, there's the asset security. It was asset groups, there are categories, there's metadata and we didn't really have that buttoned down perfectly, this was before I started, so what they did is they had just one really long metadata form applied to every asset and you just filled out the part that was applicable to the asset.
If it's ... A photography image like there's irrelevant stuff in there, but maybe it's in the middle, maybe it's at the top, maybe it's at the bottom. It was very hard to use and it was confusing. The class that still sticks with me is like keep it simple. You want to try for ideally ten metadata fields for it and you can have different metadata categories. I set up an asset group for photography and then a category for photography and then if you line everything up with photography then you only need to have ten fields. We have another category for logos so then you know, there are ten fields that apply to logos.
Separating it out that way, it was way less confusing. It was hugely beneficial. Not everyone that's using the DAM is Mr. Computer expert. There are executives that have been with the company for 30 years that are a little bit older and a little bit less technical savvy. Some things that we take for granted like we know how to use the terminal. We know how to do very technical things on computers.
I can't assume that everyone that uses the DAM will have that level of proficiency. Simplifying it so that anyone with any level of technical expertise can use it is huge. It reduces the amount of support you need to go or reduces the amount of questions that help people find things on their own. It has many benefits. That's the one that stuck with me the most.”
Jane Leuchter: “One of the sessions I attended last year was about how to clean up some of the metadata in your DAM. If I recall correctly, I think the main focus was on switching from an open text field for keywords, switching that to a controlled vocabulary field, but in order to do that needing to clean up the language a little bit so that red and maroon weren't two separate options when really they could be one option.
What I got from that was because most of my fields are already controlled vocabulary - I don't want people just entering whatever they want to in those fields - the way they did that, the way they went around how to export that metadata, which I already knew about, but then how to play with that data in Excel and then run a search in Widen based on those file names that could then bring up all the information you wanted, that was really, really helpful for me. It was really just copying the file names and pasting them into that multiple assets search, which I'd never really looked into prior to attending that session. That really, really helped because then I could pull up all of those assets immediately instead of running a number of searches and comparing my file names and things like that.
Then just the idea that I could export everything into Excel and look at it in Excel, to make sure that the metadata was what I needed it to be. Sometimes it's a little easier to spot those patterns of if something's different. It's easier to spot that in Excel than it is if you're just clicking through the assets in Widen. Both of those were really valuable, and I'm really glad I showed up to that session.”
Jason Kuhl: “The sessions I went to were interactive in that they were pairing us up with the other people in our industry and really promoted the conversation of how we utilize our stuff, really were able to get us to come to a conclusion or say that we're doing it the right way, and we would like to mimic the way that they're building their setup. That was helpful.”
Leah Hammes: “I've got a couple of different examples for you on that. My most recent session, an interactive working session that I attended was last year and this was a more of a mind-mapping session where we worked through our content workflows from creative to distribution. We were split up into teams where we all sat at the table together and it gave us the ability to compare and contrast our different workflows. The second part of that interactive workshops, we broke out into those teams and we determined the different jobs, gains, and pains in our job profiles. I love both of these exercises because they aided in strategy planning and conversation ... Summit I attended when I was on the National Cattlemen's Beef Association team, I was looking at rolling out the DAM for the first time. So I attended a working session on governance. We worked through a template ID worksheet that helped frame up all of the necessary pieces of governance and when I returned back to work after the summit, I was immediately able to put those plans into action.”
What are your top reasons why you feel other users of the Widen Collective should attend the Widen Summit?
Leah Hammes: “First and foremost, it's a great opportunity to get inspired about the work that you do and most of all, meeting your fellow DAMsters and making those connections is really just a valuable experience. And like you mentioned earlier, learning about those product releases is so important to knowing what's upcoming for the next year and finally you get hands-on help with your challenges and learn about projects in ways that you can improve your own DAM by learning from other people's experiences.”
Richard Carlson: “Number one I would say would be education. Number two, networking. Number three, getting an idea of where the software is going and four, well maybe three and four be switched. Three would be like technical expertise, asking very specific technical questions and four would be generally getting an idea of where the software is going and being able to prepare for it.”
Jane Leuchter: “I think the top reason I would say is being able to meet and talk to and learn from other admins, and then the second reason would be the same but with Widen people. Being able to talk to the Widen employees in person and being able to see what they have to share and the kinds of stuff that doesn't always come across in a planned one-on-one quarterly type meeting. They really plan the whole session around how they can help administrators and how they can help users. If you're looking to just learn more about what Widen is and how to administrate your DAM, if you're feeling a little nervous about being able to be a successful administrator, so is everyone else. It's nice to all get in the same boat together and really just talk about it and see where the conversation goes.”
Jason Kuhl: “The main reason that a new customer or pre-existing customer should probably attend Summit is just to see how maybe other companies just like yours are utilizing the software and see if they're doing anything better than you, or you didn't even think about doing. There are tons of opportunities that they offer for you to see how other companies are doing, what they're doing. You also get to see how Widen is almost customizing DAM solutions per customer as well. They are very open to that, just like I stated earlier with our connector tool. They are very open to developing it how it best fits our workflow and modifying things on the backend to make it easier for us to do what we do. You wouldn't get that maybe with a monthly phone call.
You need to get there in person and meet with the appropriate people to kinda just relay, ‘This is what we do and this is how it would be better.’ Everyone I've talked to so far is really open to exploring what they can do to make it better for us. That's probably ultimately one of the reasons why we chose them a couple years ago. I just think that it's been great so far, so you should continue the in-person visits as often as you can.”
The 2018 summit takes place Monday, October 8 through Wednesday, October 10. The summit is for all Widen customers, whether you're brand new or have years of experience. It is for those who are passionate about DAM, including digital asset managers, librarians, marketing managers, graphic designers, content strategists, marketing technologists, and all team members in between.
We hope to see you there!