What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?
Since the founding of Pica9, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the best-known distributed brands in the world, including
- Adecco International (world’s #1 staffing agency)
- Chick-fil-A (world’s #1 most profitable QSR franchise)
- Dell Computer (world’s #1 supplier of PCs and enterprise-class information hardware)
- More than 100 other national and global brand organizations.
In the vast majority of these cases, my role has been to determine how to deliver brand-compliant marketing assets to the edge of the marketing-partner ecosystem in an intuitive and scalable way, so that brand-management teams are freed from the burden of responding to one-off requests, and instead can concentrate on higher-level brand strategy and creative assignments.
How do you describe digital asset management to others?
I often liken digital asset management to the real-world issue of “logistics”. Everybody understands that Fedex has the job of getting a package from point A to point B in a safe, reliable, cost-effective, and trackable way. When it comes to marketing assets, that’s our job as well.
What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?
That’s a tough one, because there are so many foundational concepts to keep in mind. But if I had to choose one, I’d say it’s this. A DAM is like a garden. Once you’ve planted the first seeds, and organized your first flower beds, the DAM needs to be tended. This is work—really interesting, enjoyable work. It can produce amazing experiences. It can produce surprising returns. But be prepared to roll up your sleeves, to work shoulder to shoulder with your vendor, and to keep on investing time and energy—at least a little bit—every day going forward. The people who do this, often have a measurable impact on their organizations. The folks who don’t? Not so much.
How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?
Gartner and Forrester have great research and content on DAM. CMSwire as well. For conferences, you can’t beat Henry Stewart. And frankly (no flattery intended), look to Ralph Windsor and Digital Asset Management News for honest, no-BS assessments of buzzwords and hype in DAM. You don’t want to fall prey to some of the glib promises that have been bandied about over the decades, and Ralph is as honest a broker in this business as you’re likely to find.
What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?
15 years ago, I would have said reliability and performance—but then came the cloud. Ten years ago, I would have said search relevance—but then came Lucene and Elasticsearch. Five years ago, I might have said orchestrating asset-transformations at scale—but along came Beanstalk.
Nowadays, I would say the greatest challenge is a user-experience that can serve the needs of our most sophisticated users (graphic design and video production professionals of the highest caliber), without overwhelming the hundreds of thousands of users who need to access the DAM once or twice a week and get what they need—while having little to no background in marketing or creative production at all.
What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?
In the next five years, DAM will do two things that might seem contradictory. First, it will occupy its rightful, foundational place not just in the martech stack, but across multiple disciplines (HR, finance, et al) within the enterprise. And at the same time, the classic DAM interface will, for many people, completely disappear—because the assets that the DAM serves are being viewed at the point of use through the lens of dozens, maybe hundreds, of different applications.
What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?
Stemming from my earliest days in the business, I underestimated (kind of drastically), the vital importance to customers, and the stubborn complexity, of generating, displaying, updating and securing thumbnail images of DAM assets. I mean, thumbnails, right? Sounds so simple! But without naming names, my first cavalier approach to the issue got me into trouble back in the early aughts with the legal department of an enterprise that values and protects its murine mascot with incredible zeal! (Apologies, Walt, sincere apologies!)
What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?
Credit for this one goes to the Pica9 team, not to me—for a project that integrated two enterprise-class DAMs with a legacy CMS dating back to the 1990s (anyone remember Vignette?), and delivered an end-to-end web-page authoring system for one of the busiest ecommerce sites on the planet in just 12 weeks—complete with 5,000 active users one month after launch. All credit to my intrepid partners, Chung Lau, Bhavana Lakkalapudi, Amrapali Pawar, Chung Lau, David Elkins, and project manager extraordinaire, Jean Campbell.
If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?
I’d probably still be playing congas on Fisherman’s Wharf, where I once earned $100 in a single sunlit Sunday morning—before San Francisco’s finest gave me my walking papers!
What more would you like to learn about DAM?
At the risk of being featured on www.ill-informed.ai, I’d like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can be combined with constantly evolving corporate taxonomies to help make much shorter work of asset-tagging and updating—without encountering some of the embarrassing side-effects we’ve seen with the first much-hyped implementations of AI in DAM.
This interview was published in DAM News on 19th May 2021. For more DAM News interviews, see the interviews index page.Share this Article: