John George

John George - Digital Asset Manager

With an MLIS degree from the University of Washington, George is exercising his education in information sciences to make sure Holland America Line stays efficient.

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

I scored my current job at Holland America Lines (HAL) straight out of school.  I attended the University of Washington’s iSchool with the goal of working in digital asset management. In the two years that I’ve been at HAL, I have managed a database of marketing images and design assets.  We launched a new system in my first months there, which was a great and exciting challenge.  Since then, I’ve grown the collection to include nearly 35,000 images, including images from a sister organization and from other departments in the organization.  I also manage more than 500 users worldwide and on both sides of the company firewall.  (See Greatest Challenges for more on users.)

My job includes training (and re-training) users; managing users and user permissions; creating and maintaining workflows for ingestion, cataloging and reporting; ensuring findability of assets through strong metadata control and cataloging; and serving as a librarian to assist users. I also interface with IT and business to make sure the collection is serving the company well.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Since I work between the business unit and IT on a daily basis, trying to describe my job in terms that non-tech/librarians understand is constant.  When I meet someone socially, my elevator description is something like this:

I manage a database of 35,000 images, logos, maps and other digital files.  I make things easy-to-find by managing the metadata, the tags that are attached to the pictures.  Users want to find images with specific ships or of specific locations, and I make sure that is all that information is referenced to the image so they don’t have to spend a long time searching.  I also track licensing and usage information so we don’t violate any legal agreements or copyright.  Then the toughest part of my job is managing the users. We’ve got more than 500, and I have to make sure that everyone has permissions to see what they can legally use – and only what they can legally use.  It’s a details job, and I spend a lot of time putting things in buckets and making sure the right people can get into those buckets.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Interfacing with IT and getting the support we need to keep the system running smoothly is a constant challenge.  I think IT is probably under-resourced at most companies.  Everyone in the company has IT needs, and IT has to prioritize them.  The reality is a photo database is not high on that list, so I have to poke people in the ribs a lot to keep things moving forward.

On top of the purely technical aspects, I also have to work with IT to manage users.  The users in our active directory are easy to manage. These are HAL employees who have credentials and permission to access the network server.  The more challenging group is our vendors, international employees and other partners who access the database through the LDAP.  These users have to be manually updated every three months for compliance – IT doesn’t want unauthorized people to have access, so I have to make sure that everyone is still with our partner organizations and have the correct permissions.  It’s a big headache that I would like to get past.  However, that will take a lot of attention from IT and, as I noted above, IT support is hard to come by.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I want to know more about the workflow integrations and versioning controls that DAM systems have.  I’ve done some research on different products, and have been amazed by the plug-ins, widgets and out-of-the-box features that are offered.  They’re obviously supposed to make managing the assets and the processes easier, but I’m not convinced.  I see the potential for increased confusion and problems when changes made to an asset will affect other projects that use the same image.  So, I’d like to see real world examples of how this works for a company with users around the globe who have different needs.

This interview originally appeared on DAM Guru on Mon, 03 Feb 2014. For more DAM News interviews, see the interviews index page.

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