Jeff Lawrence

Jeff Lawrence

Jeff Lawrence

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I have worked in the DAM/MAM space for more than 20 years. I implemented the first DAM solution for Knight-Ridder Newspaper Wire Service in 1998 as technology director. It was a Software Construction Company Media Server platform that started off as a basic DAM, but quickly evolved into an advanced multimedia workflow that included more than 500 automated ingest and distribution channels. The channels automatically added metadata to the files based on the source and converted content to meet the client’s specific distribution requirements.

Additionally, I provided digital media strategy, assessment, platform selection, and enterprise-wide implementation of digital media solutions – specifically enterprise search, content management, and digital and media asset management – for nonprofit, education, entertainment, and media clients such as The World Bank, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Channel, PBS, AAMC, The Virginia Lottery, and George Washington University.

  • I led the National Geographic Society’s initiative to unify information sources across multiple asset management systems
  • I led a workflow efficiency project to ingest National Geographic Magazine photographer-generated videos into the Avid InterPlay MAM system.
  • I developed the content migration strategy for The George Washington University Brand Unified Web Presence (UWP) Project. As the content project manager and facilitator, I was responsible for managing information across client stakeholders and was instrumental in driving the end-to-end successful migration, development, and enhancement of more than 5000 content pages
  • I led an assessment project for a new Digital Asset Management (DAM) system to integrate with MyPBS, PressRoom, Broadview, IPMAM and other existing systems.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

It’s a great question. A well-implemented, intuitively designed DAM that is efficiently managed and maintained will drive cost savings and efficiency for an organization. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

What if your team could quickly find the assets you need to complete a project, produce a presentation, or quickly deliver a campaign? Think about the cost savings and time savings of not needing to hire or assign a resource to create a new digital asset. So often valuable assets are lost or are difficult to locate. Often times, an asset found may not have the proper metadata needed to determine if it can be reused or properly credited.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

Wow, I am not sure I can stop at just one important thing to know about DAM. Let’s provide a couple things to consider.

It’s an old saying, but very true, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” If you are setting up a new DAM, take the time to curate your assets. Make sure that everything that will be ingested has complete and consistent metadata.

Use common tools like Adobe Bridge to standardize the metadata and apply the metadata consistently. Avoid creating custom fields whenever possible and stick to the standard fields, such as IPTC. This will ensure that when you migrate to a new system, everything will easily transfer. The less customization, the better.

If you are migrating to a new DAM, take the time to perform a content audit. Some basic queries using SQL can quickly locate bad data, such as typos, that can be easily fixed before moving the data into a new system.

Take the time to understand every aspect of the workflow. Challenge everything to ensure you build an efficient, intuitive workflow. Start with the “must-haves,” but leave yourself options to easily add additional features at a later time.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

It was truly “on the job” training. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, which is a painful but great way to learn. Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeve and try things until you get it right. As an early adopter of DAM, there were only a few vendors on the market. As such, I developed a close working relationship with our DAM vendor that helped drive innovation. I would identify clearly a new enhancement, feature, or fix to improve our DAM platform. I would then work with the vendor to provide a new release. In some cases, we paid for the new features; in other cases, it made sense for the vendor to develop the feature to offer to other clients.

Fortunately, today there are many great resources for people interested in learning DAM, such as DAM News. Many vendors also provide great educational material to help understand DAM best practices and the features of their particular solution.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

DAM technology continues to evolve rapidly. One of my challenges is staying up-to-date with the latest technology and anticipating future emerging technologies.

Another challenge is the consolidation of DAM vendors, many of which are being purchased by larger companies. On the other hand, it allows smaller players to receive the funding needed to enhance their products. With that said, I am also concerned it will stymie innovation in favor of mainstreaming features.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

DAM will continue to evolve to provide wholistic, integrated digital media enterprise solutions that embrace all digital media, including eXtended Reality (xR). These DAM will be fully integrated online and in the metaverse.

In 5 years, there will be further consolidation of DAM vendors by major software and consulting firms. There is an opportunity for new emerging vendors to appear in the marketplace, filling the need for eXtended Reality (xR) DAM solutions.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Painting myself into a corner.

Despite the best planning and trying to understand the most efficient process, you can still end up going down a path that makes it difficult to pivot as requirements evolve. In some cases, it requires a lot of effort to rewrite or reconfigure the DAM in order to accommodate a new requirement.

My recommendation is to try to build a flexible system. Do not customize unless there are no other options. It’s much easier to modify or change a configuration.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

I have had some really great success stories with implementing efficient enterprise DAM solutions. Here are a couple interesting success stories:

I led a digital media strategy to unify digital content across multiple disparate asset management systems (DAM, MAM, CMS, LMS, DRM, DMS) and divisions by integrating the existing platforms with an advanced AI-enabled enterprise search tool. By linking the asset management systems together and leveraging some AI magic, the related content was quickly associated based on metadata. This allowed the researcher to quickly and easily find all the content they needed with a simple search. The tool reduced time to market from a week to less than an hour to research and produce a story.

I led a large categorization and metadata enhancement project that, combined with a Web scrapper robot tool, allowed us to fully automate an editorial and delivery workflow. The robots scrape content from more than 500 contributing Web sites. The software automatically enhanced and normalized the Web site’s scraped stories, adding business industry codes and ticker symbols and converting the story into an XML format with inline XML markup. The enhanced story was passed along to a custom-built categorization tool, “AutoSlotting,” to determine routing and delivery of the story. This application then converted the story into any format required by the client and automatically distributed the content based on industry codes. The “AutoSlotting” project categorized stories that were submitted and “slotted” the stories into the appropriate section or department (news, sports, etc.) in our Data Asset Management (DAM) system. The internally developed application automatically slots more than 84 percent of the stories with greater than 96 percent accuracy. The success of this project virtually eliminated the need for manual slotting of stories, improving our efficiency and timeliness of story delivery to customers.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

I have always been a visual storyteller, so I would be traveling around the world meeting interesting people capturing images and writing about my experiences.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

The DAM field is evolving quickly. At one point in time, DAMs were purely considered an archive system until innovative DAM professionals identified the potential of DAM assets. Now DAM platforms include everything from creative automation, collaboration, project management, product information management, brand management, marketing resource management, content management tools, and more.

As we leap into the metaverse, I would like to learn how DAM vendors are planning to evolve to accommodate the broad range of emerging technologies such as eXtended Reality (xR), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), 360 images and video, NFTs, Spatial Audio, AI, WebAR, and others.


Jeff Lawrence is President of Visual Continuity, a digital media consultancy focused on helping clients achieve their vision.  You can also connect with Jeff on LinkedIn

This interview was published on DAM News on 7th September 2022.  For more DAM News interviews, see the interviews index page.

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